Piers Linney, Former Dragon’s Den Judge: SMEs Cannot Ignore A Tech Fuelled Recovery

Unfortunately, small businesses were some of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and for many of those that survived, that struggle is still ongoing. The latest major blow for this sector came with the end of the furlough scheme, piled on top of a cross-sector recruitment crisis, rising taxes, rising inflation, increasing costs of fuel and energy, and now new Covid-19 variants. But all is not lost. There is still an opportunity to bring the micro businesses of Britain into the 21st-century economy with a tech fuelled recovery. As an independent nation, our ability to embrace technology and innovation will be key to our economic success.

Although expected, the end to furlough support in September put huge pressure on small businesses up and down the country – in the same month, Britain registered the highest number of business insolvencies since the start of the pandemic. The financial lifeline that this scheme provided SMEs since March 2020 protected businesses and employment. Now it has been removed, it comes as no surprise that many business owners are hugely concerned about the 80% increase in staffing and wage costs given the ongoing uncertainty.

A real thorn in the side of SMEs is productivity. In 2018, the government provided £18.6m of funding to Be the Business to help SMEs become more productive through better management and increased use of technology. However, with the pandemic, much of this push was derailed. Now is the right time to start looking seriously at how small businesses need to adopt tech to truly level up their productivity.

The government’s announcement of a ‘Super Deduction’ tax break is certainly a step in the right direction. This now allows companies to cut their tax bill by up to 25p for every £1 they invest in hardware or machinery, ensuring the UK capital allowances regime remains amongst the most competitive in the world.

However, while tax breaks like this do often give businesses a glimmer of hope, this is not enough, nor is it specifically applicable to the small businesses that need support significantly more than big corporations. It is going to take a lot more than tax breaks to secure a nationwide economic recovery and to also ensure that businesses of all sizes are receiving equal opportunities for growth.

What is more, Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s promise to improve productivity by enabling workers’ access to “machine equipment”, as he called it at the Conservative party conference, does not wholly reflect the digital world we live in. Sunak’s optimism about the government’s plan to commit £500 million to renew job support programmes is also a positive sign, but the battle is far from won.

The future of small business recovery and growth needs to be centred around technology. Technology can be on the frontline of business recovery by augmenting the time-consuming tasks that are arduous and demotivating for employees.

As it stands, they continue to be disconnected. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that digital proficiency and appropriate tech adoption are both going to be integral to overall performance and risk management.

With this in mind, investment in the right tech and tools is going to be essential to maximise SME productivity. Small business owners need to have access to objective guidance so that understand all of their options and make better-informed purchasing decisions.

There is never a better time than now to get your business into shape by reviewing how technology can increase revenues and decrease costs. This is the same for businesses with many employees or sole traders who need to focus their limited time on what creates the most value. It is no longer acceptable to ‘not understand’ your tech options – apathy towards technology that could aid your day-to-day business now equates to self-sabotage.
Written by Piers Linney, a former Dragon’s Den judge and Founder and CEO of Moblox.
Piers Linney (@pierslinney) / Twitter