Business Skills

Small Business Survival Techniques

These are hard times for small businesses. Whether it’s the banks not lending or the customers not spending, small businesses are having to find ever more inventive ways to protect themselves from the state of the economy.

This is a view backed up by recent research published in the latest edition of Business Factors Index by Bibby Financial Services. Out over 4,000 small and medium size businesses questioned, nearly one in four (24%) believe that trading conditions are worse this year than last year, and over one third (35%) expect the economy to take at least three more years to recover.

Edward Rimmer, chief executive of Bibby Financial Services in the UK, said: “With murmurs of an impending second ‘credit crunch’ rife, UK businesses are still in for a bumpy ride. The second quarterly Index shows businesses are a long way from recovery and, although turnover is stable, there is a danger of negative growth turning into a backwards slide towards recession.”

Business Survival

Cutting costs, not corners

The research also discovers that almost two thirds (59%) of business owners are planning on cutting costs, while half intend to manage their suppliers more carefully in the face of continuing  economic challenges.

It is understandable that businesses are looking to cut costs wherever possible. But business owners would do well to do this in a rational and measured fashion, rather than just slashing costs which seem surplus to requirements today but could prove invaluable in the future. Insurance costs are an expense that should be reduced if possible but not cut altogether. Unlike Employers Liability Insurance, or Employees Liability Insurance as it sometimes goes by, Public Liability Insurance is not required by law and some rash business owners might be tempted to allow theirs to lapse.

However, the more sensible course would be for them to cut their insurance payments by seeking a more competitive Public Liability Insurance quote online. There are lots of insurance companies eager for business so a good deal is highly likely. That way, a boss can cut their costs without coming a cropper if a member of the public makes a claim against them.

Advantages of SIA Training and Licensing

There are many methods that you can use to better your chances of being hired in large organizations or better your stand with your current employer. Today, if you are security personnel, the best thing that you can do is get SIA Training. This is a step that will increase your chances to a better pay and position within a fraction of the time. The only thing that you need to do is find the right institution and enroll. There are many advantages that you reap from the training.

To start with, the training will give you an upper hand when applying for a job. When it comes to reputable organizations, the number of job seekers is always overwhelming. As a result, the employers use intricate methods to narrow down. One of the ways this is done is by looking at the most qualified individuals. When you have the SIA Licence, your chances of being shortlisted are high.

Second, proper training can help you get a better pay or promotion. This is simply because the training makes you adept in a specific field. The interest that you show by taking the training is what will compel the employer to give you better responsibilities that will help you make better money.

Lastly, with the Security Training, your reputation will be improved. This is especially so when running a private business. When you show your license to your clients, they will be compelled to get services from you. This is because the license helps in building trust.

Skills in Context

The Centre for Enterprise (CFE) produced Skills in Context 1.01 to stimulate a conversation around public policy in the area of skills, enterprise and economic development. When Skills in Context 1.0 was drawn to our attention, we were impressed by
the extent of the research it drew upon, its logical approach and its challenging, but tactful, presentation. We felt that the issues it raised and the conversations it sought to stimulate should be discussed in a Scottish context. Our Expert Briefing series provides the vehicle to share and debate this work.

We asked Michael Davis and his colleagues from CFE to update Skills in Context in two ways; to incorporate the outcomes of the Leitch Review and to include more Scottish-specific evidence. CFE’s paper starts with a restatement of the importance of skills. Skills matter. But the focus quickly moves to the discussion on ‘How much do skills matter and where do they matter most?’

The paper reviews the importance of skills in terms of explaining the moderate productivity performance of the UK. A number of crucial points are made along the way:

• productivity performance is not determined by skills level alone. Indeed, much of the UK’s productivity gap with America, France and Germany is for reasons other than skills
• skills are often a lower-order concern in company decision-making, behind product market strategy and the organisation of the production process
• a purely demand-led approach might not lead to the Government’s stated desire for a highly skilled workforce. Some employers can choose a low-skill route which is profitable for their business

The paper takes a pragmatic approach. The demand for improved skills is driven by the existence of an economic opportunity or the fulfilment of a personal or social goal. In Scotland, we are well-placed to understand these drivers, as the Scottish Executive’s Lifelong Learning Strategy highlights that learning and skills have value outside the economic arena.

With reference to the recent UK policy debate on skills, the point is made that taking the economic evidence out of context can lead to oversimplified policy recommendations. CFE’s technique of ‘fishing in the footnotes’ reveals how simplified headlines in the skills debate mask the complexities and nuances of the underlying analysis. In summary, overly-simplistic headlines and any resultant policies can be counter-productive as they seem far-removed from our understanding of how the labour market works.

We need to adopt a forward-looking approach. Yet looking to the future is a difficult business. The perils of forecasting are spelled out in the paper and we can empathise with these, perhaps more than most. The future is uncertain and to pretend otherwise in public policy risks much. But this must not be an excuse for inaction. The paper concludes that we cannot plan in detail for an uncertain future, but we can ensure that any system we design is inherently adaptive to changing conditions.

So, what might we do? The paper concludes with a restatement of the importance of skills in personal, social and economic terms. It suggests that any strategy for skills needs to ensure that the supply of skills is capable of adapting and  responding to demand; it also highlights the importance of creating the conditions which encourage employers to demand more highly-skilled workers.

Michael and his colleagues have produced a challenging analysis, placing skills in context. The paper is a strong stimulus to the ongoing debate in Scotland, suitably referenced to allow interested readers to delve further into the source. The paper should be warmly welcomed by all those with an interest in a thorough and well-evidenced debate on Scotland’s skills and labour market performance.

Futureskills Scotland Expert Briefing: Scotland’s Incapacity Benefit Claimants

The purpose of the Expert Briefings Series is to make available to our colleagues in Scotland the knowledge and experience of people who are expert in their fields. The series covers issues concerning the labour market, education and training and their links to the economy.

Each briefing involves an invited expert providing a personal briefing to an invited audience under Chatham House Rules and the publication of the briefing paper. In providing this service, we are pursuing two of its aims:

  • to improve the availability, quality and consistency
    of labour market information; and
  • to analyse the Scottish labour market to inform policy making.

The views expressed in the briefing papers are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Futureskills Scotland.

The second Expert Briefing was given by Professor Steve Fothergill of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University.  The topic of the briefing was “Scotland’s Incapacity Benefit  Claimants”.

When considering the level of Incapacity Benefit claimants in Scotland, a number of key facts should be borne in mind:

  • There are more Scots in work today than at any point in the nation’s history.
  • The number of jobs is 15 per cent higher than in the mid-1980s.
  • Unemployment is one-third lower than ten years ago.
  • Although the evidence confounds it comprehensively, the myth of skill shortages persists.
  • Scotland’s employers are recruiting migrant workers in record numbers.

From these perspectives, the labour market is ‘tight’. If Scotland had a labour market ‘problem’ it would be one of supply not enough people rather than the demand problems which led to historically high unemployment in much of the 1980s and 1990s.

But there is more to the story than this. Although unemployment is low around 80,000 on the Job Seekers’ Allowance measure and 140,000 on the International Labour Organisation definition a substantial number of people are not in work and receive benefits.  By far the largest among this group are people claiming incapacity related benefits. One in ten working age Scots around 300,000 people receive incapacity benefits (IB). Across the UK, the number of people claiming IB has risen four-fold since the 1980s.

The proportion of people claiming IB varies markedly across Great Britain and within Scotland. It is higher in Wales, the North East and the North West and lower in the rest of Great Britain. In the South East, fewer than one in 20 working age people receive IB.  In the city of Glasgow, one in six working age people claim IB compared with one in 20 in Orkney and Shetland. In general, the IB claimant rate is highest in and around Glasgow although it is also high in Dundee and Clackmannanshire and lower in the rest of the country.

Steve Fothergill’s paper draws on research he and colleagues at Sheffield Hallam University have undertaken over more than a decade1. It also presents new data for Scotland. Professor Fothergill’s work was prompted by what didn’t happen in labour markets following the closure of coal mines: in general, unemployment did not go up by as much as might have been expected, and certainly not by as much as the number of jobs that had been lost. Some people found jobs locally, others commuted to work elsewhere and some people moved house. But a major component of the ‘adjustment’ in the labour market was an increase in the number of people on IB.

The core of Professor Fothergill’s argument is that a substantial proportion of IB claimants are ‘hidden unemployed’: variations in the proportion of people claiming IB across the country seem best explained by variations in the level of demand for labour.

He presents explanations for the rise in IB numbers and the variation in claimant rates across the country, as well as outlining options for bringing down the numbers. It is a challenging analysis and a welcome contribution to the debate in Scotland.