A small matter*

*This is not a blog about Napoleon’s height, his syndrome, nor the state of his severed penis now in a private collection.

napoleon21Napoleon was right. Britain really is a nation of shopkeepers. Or at least it is in the sense that we are a nation of small business people. Of the 4.3 million businesses in the UK, only 6,000 have more than 250 employees. That means that 99.3 per cent of all UK businesses are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). These SMEs account for around 58 per cent of all UK employment and around 51 per cent of business turnover. Even within the SME sector we find a dramatic split in business size. Only 26,000 UK businesses have more than 50 employees. Around three quarters of the UK’s businesses have no employees at all, but still manage to turnover around £200 billion per year. 

Not that you’d be able to recognise the importance of such firms if you were to rely on the mainstream business media for your information. The business pages of daily newspapers are almost totally devoted to large corporations. This distortion of reality was reflected in a recent leader in The Economist, the author of which felt comfortable making the claim that ‘companies are larger and more multi-national than they used to be’. Well, far be it for a humble commentator and small business owner like me to argue with the high-flying professional journos at The Economist, but that really is a load of old shite. If anything, firms are smaller and more local than they used to be and you shouldn’t judge the British economy solely on the activities of the kinds of companies that find their way onto the cover of the Financial Times. And who also are the very same corporations who have dropped the rest of us in it but are the focus of government economic policy while the rest of us are left to pick through the wreckage.


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