From the top · 24 November 2016

Small Business Decision Makers 2017: The 30 business influencers leading future policy and enterprise promotion in the UK

Business influencers 2016
The second outing of our Small Business Decision Makers list includes some under the radar names

The last year has produced unprecedented economic, political and social change around the globe, and it’s fair to say that the world we take into 2017 will be very different to the one 2016 inherited.

The UK has been no stranger to change, with a vote to leave the European Union made in June, a new prime minister appointed in July and economic predictions looking different with each passing month.

Because of this, it has never been more important to know who is in the position of being an influencer – those directing small business policy from both within the government and outside of it. That’s where our second annual Small Business Decision Makers list comes in. We’ve pulled together the 30 individuals who are widely respected and looked to for guidance and advice when it comes to deciding on the best rules and regulation for young enterprise.

We’ve stripped out the redundant names from last year and injected the fresh faces that we believe will have a profound impact on how policy decisions are made in 2017 and beyond. Once again the list is broken down into distinct segments, this time government, finance, supporters, lobbyers and champions. And as a new addition, the Business Advice team has also included a “one to watch” for each segment.

While many rankings will include successful entrepreneurs and investors, we have only included those we believe will have a fundamental impact on the direction of small business policy and your ability to execute on ideas. Including those in senior positions at the likes of Google and Facebook is a reflection that these firms form crucial components of the infrastructure you build around your company early on.

Over the coming months we’ll be interviewing the members of Small Business Decision Makers, finding out what their roles entail and how each believe the future British business environment should look to best serve a nation of entrepreneurial enterprise builders.

We hope you find our ranking informative and enlightening, and we’d encourage you to get in touch via editors@businessadvice.co.uk to share your thoughts.

Government

Greg Clark – Business secretary

Greg ClarkAs secretary of state for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Greg Clark is going to play a key role in shaping domestic business policy as the government negotiates its way out of the European Union.

Clark has history in business policy. In his last role as local government minister, he set up the Local Enterprise Partnerships that replaced the British Growth Service.

Clark has touched on his commitment to small UK enterprise, previously speaking of his intention to bring small companies into the supply chain for the automotive industry.

The MP for Tunbridge Wells used his first major speech as head of BEIS to confront the Big Six energy providers and is expected to outline the government’s industrial strategy before the end of 2016.

David Davis – Brexit secretary

David Davis

The newly appointed Brexit secretary is leading the country’s negotiations with the EU to provide the best deal possible for Britain in leaving the union.

Small business owners will need to be reassured that they will be effectively represented in any trade deals signed by the government in the process.

Davis has already been challenged by shadow chancellor John McDonnell for cutting “sweetheart” deals for big corporations – with car manufacturer Nissan receiving government assurances – while side-lining smaller firms.

Davis’ new relationship with businesses got off to a frosty start, after UK retail bosses snubbed last-minute invitations to join a roundtable meeting to discuss the impact of leaving the EU.

Many small UK firms – particularly those in the hospitality and services industries – rely on access to the European workforce, and many small business representatives have campaigned for residence rights of EU citizens to be guaranteed by the Brexit secretary.

Margot James – Small business minister

Margot James MPMargot James was appointed as small business minister for Theresa May’s new-look government at the end of July. One of her early movements was to side with small business on one of the most pressing business issues – late payments.

Co-authoring a letter to 1,800 UK businesses, James fought the case for small firms, stating that “prompt payment can make all the difference to small business owners, boosting cash flow and allowing each to invest in growth for the future.

James hopes that the Prompt Payment Code (PCC) will create a “culture change” in the treatment of small companies by so-called “supply chain bullies”. In previous roles, James has supported a reduction in business rates and praised the New Enterprise Allowance.

James announced a consultation to examine the role of the small business commissioner – a vacancy yet to be filled since first announced in July 2015. The position is dedicated to handling the complaints procedures for small business owners.

Sadiq Khan – Mayor of London

Sadiq Khan

When he beat Zac Goldsmith in the London Mayoral Election in May 2016, Sadiq Khan wanted to let business owners in London know that he understood the “responsibility” of running a company. Khan pledged to be the most pro-business mayor that the city had ever had.

He has united with 40 retailers and business groups in the capital to fight against an increase in business rates.

Businesses in London have been told by the government that the average increase is 11 per cent, but other figures have suggested some areas are braced for a rise of 150 per cent in rates. Khan is using his position to argue that the rates will be detrimental to profits and growth in the city.

Khan most recently appointed a night czar to support London’s nightlife. While the position was welcomed by the capital’s small business community, the London branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged the czar to not only support revellers, but also night workers and businesses to help create growth.

Matt Hancock – Digital economy minister

Matt HancockMatt Hancock is a business influencer who has been filling ex-digital economy minister Ed Vaizey’s shoes since July, coming into the position with a reputation for understanding the needs of small businesses.

In his first months at the helm of digital policy direction for the government, Hancock has pushed for Britain’s digital infrastructure to be driven by pure fibre and 5G broadband access.

His work appears to have paid off, as chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his Autumn Statement a full-fibre network as part of a £1bn investment package for the UK’s digital infrastructure.

Jimmy McLoughlin – Business relations advisor

Jimmy McLoughlinPreviously an aide to Theresa May, Jimmy McLoughlin replaces the popular Dan Korski – David Cameron’s business relations advisor.

With a background in policy he comes into government from the Institute of Directors (IoD) with something to prove. Will his allegiances lie with big business over small enterprise?

Upon entering his new role in Downing Street, McLoughlin’s former boss at the IoD, director general Simon Walker, said that he “was sure Jimmy will be a champion for startups”.

In his previous role McLoughlin campaigned for people to invest in startups and new businesses, highlighting how crowdfunding and alternative finance benefited investors and consumers.

One to watch: Bill Esterson – Shadow small business minister

BIll Esterson
As the Labour Party’s shadow minister for small business, Bill Esterson has the role of holding the business secretary and small business minister to account on matters affecting entrepreneurs in the UK.

Esterson may not yet appear on everybody’s radar, but he’s spoken out regarding the importance of single market access for small companies, as well as campaigning against late payments. His agenda going into 2017 is very much the small business cause.

Esterson has been outspoken on the small business commissioner role, arguing that it is “watered down and lacking in teeth”. He is concerned that the commissioner will simply signpost off complaints to external mediators and not provide an effective solution to late payments.

Keep reading to find out whether Facebook has done enough to remain among the most prominent small business supporters in 20116.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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