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Matthew Hancock, Minister for Skills and Enterprise, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

As a Government, we are working to make life easier for small businesses. We are simplifying regulation, and, where we can, cutting taxes. But I need your help.

As accountants and finance professionals, you have a hugely important role to play in supporting small business. As trusted advisers, I’m asking you to help communicate the changes we’ve made, and the support available to small businesses, to encourage firms that start-up in the UK to scale-up in UK.

December saw small businesses in the spotlight as the UK celebrated its first Small Business Saturday and government published Small Business: GREAT Ambition – our commitment to make it easier for small businesses to grow.

We are also working hard to simplify employment processes and reduce red tape. These are the issues that small companies regard as obstacles to their growth ambitions and we are doing all we can to address them, including introducing a £2,000 relief on National Insurance bills from April 2014 and making it easier for businesses to calculate their income tax and expenses. But simplifying a regulation reduces a burden only when a business knows the requirements on them have been reduced. That’s where you come in.

The Small Business Saturday campaign did a great job in encouraging the UK to support small businesses. Nearly half of all consumers in the UK were aware of the campaign, and of those over half (57 per cent) shopped at independently owned businesses. It’s vital that we don’t lose this momentum.

We’ve listened to small businesses to better understand their growth ambitions, with most telling us they aim to increase in size. Small firms have told us they need help at critical points and new measures announced in Small Business: GREAT Ambition is making it easier for them to grow.

The new offerings include; broadband vouchers to help small firms access faster and better broadband connectivity, a fairer deal on energy for small businesses, access to £230 billion of public sector contracts and new measures to tackle late payment.

The British Business Bank also received an extra £250 million to support alternative lenders and challenger banks in releasing capital to growing small businesses. This is in addition to the £1 billion already allocated.

Small Business: GREAT Ambition is part of the wider Business is GREAT campaign, which points small businesses to sources of advice and support that can help them grow, and celebrates those that have grown with the help of government support.

There is a new entrepreneurial spirit sweeping across local communities which will help our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business.

Small businesses are essential to the overall health of the economy and we want them to start benefitting from these changes now. By working together we can ensure small firms understand the support on offer, and have access to the most up to date information, so they can get on with the crucial task: to grow and create prosperity and jobs.

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills would welcome your thoughts and any further ideas you may have to help small businesses make the most of government support available. Please contact stakeholder@bis.gov.uk

“The talent agenda is vital” says Richard Moat FCCA, Chief Financial Officer at Eircom Group and Chair of ACCA’s Accountants for Business Global Forum, in this latest video about the changing role of the CFO.

He adds: “To be an effective business partner, finance people have got to understand the commercial realities of the business – have to have a strong commercial link as well as experience in finance.”

Richard also talks about how managing cost, rather than growth, is a big priority for CFOs today.

The Changing Role of the CFO report explains how the financial and business landscape is changing: greater uncertainty for the global economy, fluctuating energy costs, rises in commodity prices, currency fluctuations, government deficits and cost cutting.

By Faye Chua, head of future research, ACCA

Labels such as ‘constant flux’, ‘change’ and ‘uncertainty’ have often been used to characterise the global economy over the past few years. And no matter what course of action is taken or the level of appetite for public sector intervention, it seems that volatility is here to stay having become the new normal.

Over the next decade, the global landscape will constantly be reshaped by a number of drivers. Those that will have the greatest influence are market volatility, continued globalisation and innovation, shifts in wealth and power, economic uncertainty and political transitions. These trends will be magnified by rapid advances in science and technology, demographic changes and the emergence of new business models.

So how flexible and agile does one need to be to weather these shifts and volatility? Businesses will need to do more than simply adapt. They will need to be constantly innovating and re-inventing themselves in order to survive and thrive.

You will remember, back in the old days of dial-up modem, when ICQ was one of the coolest internet instant messaging services available. It was then overtaken by MSN Messenger when broadband became conventional. A few years later and large strides in mobile technology raised the stakes and brought us Facebook and BlackBerry messenger 24/7. And today the majority of us are ‘tweeting’ and ‘pinning’ as well. The pace of technological advance has led to the demise of many businesses while a handful of survivors have prospered.

There is no doubt that technological developments are dominating strategy discussion for many businesses of all sizes. As businesses will need to pursue technological leadership, embrace IT advances and leverage technology effectively as well as develop the capabilities of their employees to work with, adapt to and getting the best out of a multi-location, multicultural and age-diverse workforce. Additionally, new mindsets and approaches to technology management are also crucial in maximising value in the next decade.

But there’s more. Technology isn’t the only answer.

Businesses will need to assume and plan for volatility. They will need to account for turbulence as a very real possibility and develop strategies for a range of different economic and market scenarios will become essential. At the same time, they will need to improve their scanning skills to prepare for a wide range of possibilities, tolerate uncertainty and ‘seeing around the corners’. At an operational level, development of a truly global model is becoming a real priority which will require business to prepare for true globalisation. Finally, for companies to be successful in a fast-changing and increasingly complex environment it is essential to develop a curious, experimental and adaptable mental attitude – a critical success factor.

All this is much more easier said than done. But one thing that I’ll bet on is that the rate of change will only increase quite literally at an exponential rate and definitely beyond historical levels, and this can be scary and inspirational at the same time with difficult to envisage effects across the global economy.

By Ada Leung, head of ACCA China

Being a part of the Accounting for the Future global virtual conference, which was held in October, really helped to push our messages about the green economy in China and Hong Kong.

China’s success in evolving a green economy is in everyone’s interest. It is also in the interest of the accountancy profession – not just in Hong Kong or Mainland China, but globally – to play a central role in helping Chinese business adapt to the changing operational and legislative landscape.

During the conference week, ACCA China launched a report, Greening China’s Economy: Pushes and Pulls on Corporate China, which looks at how an increased focus on environmental and social performance, at international and national levels, is affecting the private sector in Mainland China and Hong Kong.

In seven chapters, the report explores the many factors that businesses need to consider – from government policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions or pollution levels, to demands from customers based outside of the country to improve labour conditions in factories, to calls from investors for greater disclosure on environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics. It’s a wide-ranging report tackling wide-ranging issues.

At our event, we had speakers such as guest of honour Christine Loh, under secretary for the environment of the Hong Kong SAR Government; speakers from PwC Hong Kong and Beijing; speakers from the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEx) and the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), and speakers from businesses such as BASF, Sinopec, MTR Corporation Limited and John Swire & Sons (HK) Ltd.

I summed up the conference in Beijing by saying that sustainability performance one day may well be as important as economic performance. Hong Kong and Mainland China have worked closely like never before. China’s drive towards a green economy could be a challenge, but there are always opportunities as a result of change and as a result of challenges. It is a changing world, no doubt, but it is important for any business to be properly aware of the implications of change, and how to deal with them.

XXII Economic Forum in Poland

accapr —  18 September 2012 — Leave a comment

By Rosana Mirkovic, head of SME policy, ACCA

Between 4 to 6 September European politicians and business leaders gathered at the 22nd Economic Forum in the spa resort town of Krynica Zdrój, southern Poland.

Under the title ‘New Visions for Hard Times – Europe and the World Confronting the Crisis’, leaders discussed current models of integration, the economic system, and the substantial reforms required to tackle the on-going economic crisis. Much of the debate was dedicated to the competitiveness of the region and how its businesses can make greater impact on the global stage.

And as the title suggests, this was a high level gathering, attracting regional heads of state, international organisations and the major regional and global business leaders. Most impressively, there was a feeling of a genuine need for the government, business and the NGO sector to work together to address some of the socio-economic problems that remain, despite the remarkable period of transition the region has witnessed. With such a rich audience, the programme provided a similar tapestry of topics; from health, pensions and the ageing Europe, to future energy sources, technological innovations and the social media.

Inevitably, with the Forum’s host being so close to the Eurozone (currently expected to join the Euro in January 2016), the various angles on the Eurozone crisis were debated at length.

I was pleased to take part in a PwC panel debate ‘CEE Goes Global – the Expansion of Foreign Companies in Central and Eastern Europe’, which discussed the chances and the perspectives of the private entrepreneurs with their efforts to expand abroad and the obstacles they have to overcome in order to conquer new markets. The panel also debated the importance of such enterprises for the growth of their home regions and national economies. With larger corporations usually dominating such gatherings, it was especially pleasing to see that smaller, growing businesses were recognised for their dynamism and their increasing presence in international trade.

There was agreement among the panel that while national governments are keen to help the SME sector internationalise, their efforts tend to be mis-directed. The participants, who included presidents of boards of some of the major Polish exporting firms, agreed that government actions ought to be targeted towards making trade easier and less costly and removing barriers to growth and innovation. Other than that, there was reluctance to promote further state interference, and a real sense that entrepreneurs simply need to be left alone to do what they know best. Most interestingly, the extent to which the international expansion of Polish companies benefits the national economy, and as such warrant government support, was raised a number of times – as well as the effect of the country’s branding in boosting the international prospects of its companies. It’s difficult to imagine that either of the questions would be asked if a similar event was held in the UK, for example.

The overwhelming sentiment to note from the Forum however is the general optimism about the region’s future. Having witnessed moderate but steady growth throughout the economic downturn, some degree of retrospection was a common thread that tied together much of the conference’s programme, showing how far the region has come and most importantly, the role of business in opening up the region’s potential and cooperation even further.