Veronica Bamford-Dean, Managing Director, Work For Good
Work For Good
The Financial Times just last week made the call to ‘reset capitalism’ saying that the traditional principles of what makes ‘good business’ – maximising profits and shareholder value – is no longer sufficient. Editor Lionel Barber rightly stated in his leader that “the long-term health of free enterprise capitalism will depend on delivering profit with purpose”.
Adding value via people, rather than just through profits, is becoming increasingly understood. We’ve seen this coming from the public sector through the Government’s Good Work Plan, which aims to ensure workers have access to fair and decent work, and in the private sector where big businesses are starting to wake up to the importance of valuing people in place of profits and productivity.
But this is not news for the UK’s almost six million small businesses that have always provided value for communities over shareholders.
Do you recall the last time a business went out of their way for you? The plumber that came out on Christmas Eve; the printer that stayed open late so you could meet your deadline; the hairdresser that washed your hair when you broke your arm; the builder that coached your daughter’s football team; yes, you too are a recipient of the good works of our Hidden Heroes.
Every day in communities up and down the UK, small businesses are providing support, training, skills and even financial assistance to the wider community, yet much of this goes unrecognised, hidden from those that value small businesses based on GDP, revenue or the mysterious “productivity”. The challenge of not being able to value this activity is that it leads to the businesses themselves not being recognised for their full contribution, and can lead to policy makers under-estimating the importance of the sector to the economy and culture of the UK.
In order to put a measure on this huge swathe of activity, peak b has today launched its Small Business Community Value report, asking more than 500 businesses to estimate a value on the work they do outside of their day to day business. Aside from much of this activity being “hidden”, the added challenge of sizing the contribution is that small businesses add value in so many different ways: through people, through their support of other community organisations, and their approach to health and the environment. This whole spectrum of involvement demonstrates just how intertwined small businesses are with our lives, our health and our wellbeing.
Just look at how prevalent flexible work is in the small business sector, with 80% of the small businesses surveyed offering this to their staff, actively providing opportunities to people who would struggle to find them elsewhere. Whether that is “returners” – coming back from a long period off work – or staff with mental health issues, small businesses are stepping up to create opportunities where there were few before.
The immense hidden value however is in the work small businesses do throughout the year to support their communities, and it is here where we see real heroes. Businesses on average reckon they spend more than one working day per month (10 hours), supporting their community in some way and value this at a total of £3,240 per year per business. Aggregated up for the whole UK, that is billions of pounds worth of time given freely by businesses to make their communities better.
This is not part of a CSR policy or even for competitive advantage; it is given to make the world a better place for their friends, neighbours, families, colleagues, suppliers and customers.
And it seems that making the world a better place is something we need to work on right now. Many businesses have serious concerns about the divisions that Brexit has caused in their communities. This is not about politics or concerns about deal or no deal; this is about seeing unease and uncertainty, discord and disenchantment permeating conversations and relationships.
What is very promising though is the approach small businesses are taking in response. Rather than be dragged down by negativity, they are redoubling their efforts to bring communities together and fix broken relationships. It is clear that a huge part of recovering from the recent turmoil will be the work and attitude of small businesses embedded in our lives and communities. As Bill Richards, MD of Indeed, says, “in times of uncertainty, small businesses are not only continuing their levels of support in their local communities but increasing it.”
If that is not a reason to uncover these hidden heroes and give them the recognition they so richly deserve, then I don’t know what is. I will be doing everything I can to celebrate and champion these hard-working champions, and I invite you to look around your community and see what you can do, to thank and reward the businesses providing value to your life.
Thanks to the Courtesy of :