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How political parties can win over business and triumph in the general election

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As we embark on a general election year, I shall, as will many other entrepreneurs, be looking for the political party that has the most enterprise-friendly strategy.

For the past 20 years, I have run Enterprise Nation as a growing business support resource for thousands of start-ups and early-stage businesses. It has given me a pin-sharp view of what it takes to create the ideal conditions not only for enterprising individuals to dream about starting and growing their own business but also to take steps to make it happen.

I know that for any party to succeed, supporting and championing entrepreneurs at every stage must be a clear and central policy. Don’t just take my word for it. Research we did earlier this year found that one in three working-age adults is thinking about starting a business in the next 12 months. That rises to 54% for the 18-to-30 age group.

Entrepreneurship should be broadly factored into policymaking; from introducing the concept of enterprise in schools to small-business-friendly budgets, right through to enabling newly created start-ups to bid for, and win, government contracts.

Here are some pointers for the parties:

Introduce enterprise at an early age

It sounds simple but ensuring the topic of “starting your own business” makes it onto the school curriculum is fundamental. Research suggests young people leaving school or university now will have around 11 jobs in their careers, as well as periods of self-employment or running their own business. Rather than sending them out unprepared, having an intrinsic understanding of entrepreneurship earlier could help more of our young people to succeed and thrive. The next government should seriously consider repositioning the careers service into a ‘careers and enterprise service’ to support individuals whether they want a job or to build their own livelihood – or both.

Make tax simple

Once up and running, business owners can get bogged down in admin, and paying taxes is just another thing on a long to-do list. The advice we offer early-stage founders is to outsource accounting to the professionals from the get-go. This is why we believe HMRC’s making tax digital strategy should be extended at pace. It makes founders adopt cloud software which makes accounting more straightforward and removes the tax hurdle. It also means they are more likely to embrace technology to increase productivity and efficiency, something the UK lacks compared to other nations.

Buy small

While this government has committed to buying more from small firms in the Procurement Act that comes into effect this autumn, it is still missing some very fundamental support to develop an active ecosystem, and therefore helping firms make the most of this amazing opportunity. This could be through introductions to bid-writers, supplier-readiness training and connections to tier-one suppliers which are increasingly looking for SMEs to collaborate with on bids. My community welcomes recent frameworks and central government contracts that focus on buying from small firms, via larger strategic suppliers – and hopes these are seen as successful and so make the case for extension.

Offer continuity

Small businesses have faced a changing landscape of funding provision and accessibility of support since Brexit. It has led to a confusing postcode lottery of options dependent on where your business is based and the type of support provision there. With the UK Shared Prosperity Fund ending in March 2025, start-ups need some kind of tried and tested programme of support, such as maintaining the government’s ‘Help to Grow: Management’ training course and making it an accessible long-term professional course.

Champion entrepreneurs

Sing it from the rooftops! One of the most powerful assets at the government’s disposal is the ability to shine a media spotlight on hot topics. This power can be harnessed to reference the strivers, do-ers, and makers in speeches, on billboards and across government plans. This builds existing founders’ confidence and encourages others to follow in their footsteps.

With small businesses as a powerful voting constituent, the party that gets its small business and enterprise strategy right is likely to be the party that gets to govern.

Emma Jones is the founder and chief executive of Enterprise Nation

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