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In this, the first of a monthly column – a must read for all those interested in Guildford business – Claire Dee asks why the government does not back successful Surrey more…
She who shouts loudest…
As a local business owner and resident, I have known for some time that Guildford carries the title of most competitive UK town/city outside of London, and that the south east is justifiably considered the engine room of the country’s economy given the number of large and small companies it has and the amount they contribute.
What I didn’t realise until more recently, is exactly how many and how much.
According to the Guildford office of PKF, Surrey houses around 450 principal employers employing around 180,000 people and has more organisation and company headquarters than any other county in the UK. And Surrey Chambers of Commerce data shows that in recent years over 6,000 new businesses were born in the county, and Surrey’s organisations boast a net contribution of £6 billion to the exchequer (again, second only to London).
Allow me then a quick soapbox moment. Why is our county and county town not praised more and encouraged further in its quiet quest for business and economic excellence?
Back in 2010, Chancellor George Osborne announced a National Insurance Contribution (NIC) tax break for start-up companies in a bid to revive the small and medium enterprise (SME) business community. Great, I thought, more recruitment means more jobs and more growing businesses like my own. And then I read the small print: not including the south east… It seems the government considered us as successful and lucrative enough and therefore not in need of their attention.
While I appreciate the situation elsewhere in the country is, in places, quite different and therefore requires more government-backed schemes and incentives, my message is clear: ignore your best people at your peril.
As an ex-City senior manager, I worked with some fantastic people in my team who showed huge promise. I therefore took time out to teach and develop them, and as they grew in confidence and experience and added considerable value to the company, I continued with that praise and recognition. I would not have dreamt of ignoring them or taking them for granted for fear they would seek appreciation and employment elsewhere.
And perhaps that’s part our undoing here in Surrey; we get on and do it without too much fuss – running great businesses doing great things and quietly filling the chancellor’s purse with several billion pounds. Now and again we might make our voice heard (as I am doing) but by and large, to coin a phrase, we just do it: albeit very well.
So here’s my challenge to you all, how about we raise our voices just a little as she who shouts loudest is, after all, heard.
Claire Dee runs her own communications consultancy near Guildford, and is an active member of the local business community including sitting on the Surrey Chambers of Commerce council.
To learn more visit: www.clairedeecommunications.com