What is so wrong with “Lifestyle Businesses”?
Yesterday the Government finally announced that it will be scrapping Business Link. Over the years, WiRE has met some fantastic business advisors and support staff, working with them to provide targeted and much needed business support, we wish them luck and are sad to see them go. The announcement was no great surprise, what really rankles is the reason given for why…
“The Government said the £154m cost of the Business Link network of offices was “high” and the “generalist nature” of the advice often “poorly targeted” towards “lifestyle businesses that have no aspiration to grow”.
Over the years “Lifestyle Business” has come to mean anything that is too small to be a SME, that is probably based at home, that provides an income and wages for the owner, that doesn’t and probably doesn’t aspire to employ anybody else and that has limited potential for growth. It is a mystery why this has somehow become a bad thing, there are literally millions of these businesses; the WiRE network is just one example with its 10,000 members (1,500 of them paying for additional services) it generates at least that many jobs and the businesses average a £30,000 turnover – the figures quickly begin to add up.
For women and in rural areas particularly with limited employment prospects, the need for flexible working patterns and poor transport “Lifestyle Business” is often the only choice. They not only employ themselves and collaborate actively with other businesses, help boost the economy of the local area but they provide a positive role model for the new entrepreneurs the Government is so keen to foster.
Where will these businesses go to find the support they need; the website for technical and structural help yes, but everybody who has ever worked in business support knows that it is not about downloading a PDF, effective business support is complex and about much more than the “theory”. The White Paper for the Local Economic Partnerships, also launched yesterday, talked little about support for this sort of business apart from that ubiquitous national website, and the committee leading the Advisory Group for the Regional Growth Fund features no representation of small business. It is a great opportunity to create an effective and cost effective model for supporting the sort of business that underpins local economies – lets not let it get lost in the rush to grow big.
We must stop at best ignoring an at worse demonising “Lifestyle Businesses” and support new start ups and give them help to move forward and grow (even if that doesn’t mean employing others). Let’s start celebrating our Lifestyle Businesses and move away from the outmoded idea that the only good business is big business.
“Lifestyle business” is the patronizing term used by many big businesses and investors for businesses that are unwilling to pursue growth at the expense of a) the quality of their product/service and/or b) the happiness of their employees. The term is often applied to businesses that don’t want said investors’ money. www.jacksonfish.com/blog/2009/03/13/lifestyle-business-defined-in-under-140-chars/