Every business, whether it is a multinational, a corner shop or somewhere in between, undertakes its activities within a social context. Even if the business is not selling its products or services to the public, it will employ staff and have interfaces with a range of different people.
The owners and directors of businesses have a social responsibility. Most successful business owners are tuned into the values that society sees as being right. Recently we have witnessed the most unusual situation of people who were once seen as being business heroes, and having been lauded for their success, falling from grace and being portrayed as villains. Perhaps Sir Fred, now Mr Goodwin, is one of the most extreme examples of the public’s, and politicians’, shift in values during a period of intense turbulence.
Business people are by their nature opportunists. Business strategy is all about finding ways to exploit a niche or develop a relationship, having a view to the resources, aspirations and challenges faced by the organisation. Inevitably as any organisation grows it needs to have an eye on the political landscape.
Next year, 2015, is an election year in UK and there is likely to be a change in the Government. Some of the larger cities in the UK now have elected mayors, and all areas of the UK have elected councils and representatives who speak on behalf of the general public. Such people have an influence upon the business landscape as they either buy services and goods from business and/or take money out of the business community through taxation and rates.
Just as politicians want to influence the behaviour of the business community by such means as tax and rates reliefs, enterprise zones and interest rate policies, so too will business leaders wish to influence politicians.
All the great cities of this country have been built up around business and industry. Whilst many of those earlier industries have now fallen into decline many of the buildings and landmarks that are symbolic of those earlier days still exist and are now being used by new, vibrant businesses. The ability of enterprise and business to reinvent itself, to generate wealth, and to act as a creative force in society is one of the most remarkable aspects of the free market system.
In order for this creativity to emerge business needs government to provide a stable, intelligent and fair systems to allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to flourish. In essence the relationship between government, in all its guises, and business is symbiotic.
We have been fortunate in the past few years to have had a Government which has introduced a number of tax reliefs that have stimulated the investment in new business ventures. SEIS, EIS and R&D tax credits have all played their part in encouraging investment and enterprise. This has been coupled with low interest rates and low inflation. But for how much longer will that continue?
Hopefully over the coming months we shall start to see what changes different political parties will want to introduce should they take control of Government. These coming months will also a chance for business to voice what it wants from Government so that together we can build a sustainable and balanced economy, where the risks and rewards are fairly distributed across all participants.
Photo: Markus Spiske / www.temporausch.com