Business Connections

Small Talk: Small businesses are failing to hire more female directors

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that young, fast-growing and innovative small businesses are likely by their very nature to be less conservative than their larger and more staid counterparts. But it’s always a mistake to jump to conclusions, as a study of some of Britain’s best private companies reveals: it turns out these businesses are way behind when it comes to the number of women they employ at board level.

SME: The Chancellor fights for bank bonuses but not for mis-selling victims

Interest rate swap contracts proved disastrous for the finances of many small businesses

SME: Start-ups are getting support, but it is falling away far too early

The smallest and newest companies by and large make a relatively small contribution to the economy

Small Talk: Other sources of money for young businesses don’t mean banks can’t – or shouldn’t – help

The retailers Sir Philip Green and Mike Ashley top an intriguing ranking just published by Start-Up Loans, the government scheme set up to offer new businesses finance, advice and mentoring. The “Rags to Rich” list features entrepreneurs who started with a relatively small cash sum and turned the companies into large and successful enterprises.

Market Report: Travel agents and airlines cruise higher

As half-term gets under way City folk have holidays on their minds.

Small Talk: Many are making thousands from their hobbies, thanks to the web

Hobbyist traders contribute £8bn to the economy mint images

Small Talk: Small firms are missing out on the advantages of switching banks

Complaints by small businesses about their banks have tended to focused on credit – or the lack of it – in recent times, but what do these customers think about the rest of the service they receive? Are they happy with the way their business current account is run, and are they getting a fair rate of interest on the often sizeable amounts of cash they hold?

Small Talk: What about trying someone a little older, Lord Sugar?

So here we go again. Television’s annual tribute to the great entrepreneurial spirit of Britain arrives on our screens this week. And it is no wonder that the country’s small business start-up rates are running at an all-time high, given the quality, determination and, above all, passion of the candidates making their bid for glory on The Apprentice. We can expect every single one of them to give, at the very least, 110 per cent.

Small Talk: Many employers face penalties over pensions auto-enrolment

Britain’s small businesses are sleepwalking towards a pensions disaster. Thousands are missing the legally binding deadlines by which they must introduce occupational pensions for staff – and many will face expensive fines and penalties as a result.

Market Report: Shouts on the streets of Hong Kong are being heard in Paternoster Square

The shouts on the streets of Hong Kong are being heard in Paternoster Square. As protesters took to the streets of the former colony’s business district to call for democracy, traders in London were hitting “sell” on companies that do business in Hong Kong. HSBC was the worst hit, with its shares falling 15.2p to 635p. The emerging markets specialist Standard Chartered ended 19p lower at 1,155.5p as both banks were forced to close their offices in Hong Kong.

Small Talk: The banks are still not following their own guidelines for lending – starving creditworthy businesses of cash

Banks are still making thousands of poor decisions about whether to lend money to small businesses, according to the banking industry’s own adjudicator.

Small Talk: A seat at the top table for small entrepreneurs would help to stop muddle and inconsistency in Whitehall

With barely a breath taken following Scotland’s independence referendum, policymakers have rushed headlong into party conference season, pursued smartly by every pressure group imaginable. The Federation of Small Business (FSB) is no exception – today it publishes its manifesto for the small business sector – and deserves a fair hearing if this government and its successors are serious about putting entrepreneurialism at the centre of economic recovery and growth.

Small Talk: Small-company fat cats paying themselves almost as generously as big counterparts

Britain’s listed smaller companies are catching up with their larger counterparts in one worrying regard: they’re just as likely these days to be handing out whacking pay increases to fat-cat directors, irrespective of whether they’ve added sufficient shareholder value to merit such awards.

The pros and cons for small businesses are finely balanced

Small Talk: After two years of debate the effect on small businesses of a Yes vote in Scotland remains a guessing game

With less than two weeks to go until Scotland’s referendum, small business leaders appear to be sanguine. In March, 90 per cent of them told the entrepreneur network Ingenious Britain that they knew how they would vote, with 48 per cent concerned that independence would hurt their business. But by the summer, two-thirds of small and medium-sized business reckoned independence would make no difference to them, according to a survey by the networking group Vistage.

‘Missing our deals will haunt you’ – Phones 4U’s TV ad came back to haunt it
It seemed bad enough that a popular retailer could be allowed to collapse simply because its suppliers suddenly decided to pull the plug. Now Simon Neville reveals who got their money back – and who didn't
Tesco’s new boss Dave Lewis has decided to buy out Euphorium completely. Jim Armitage reports
Bernanke’s move does show the more subtle side of the Washington-Wall Street nexus, says Jim Armitage
For Britain’s multinationals, a global economic recovery looks to be under way, says Jim Armitage
There is no reason to expect secular stagnation – even if it is hard to see quite where growth will come from, says Hamish McRae
Margrethe Vestager wants small businesses to have a fair representation on search engines
Margrethe Vestager, the EU's new competition watchdog and one of the most prominent and well-liked figures in Danish politics, has taken on the technology giant over its alleged abuse of the market. Oscar Williams-Grut reports
A Lehman Brothers employee leaves the bank’s European headquarters
Ben Chu asks: has the industry really absorbed the fund segregation lesson? And are regulators succeeding in enforcing the rules?
David Cameron unveils the Conservative party manifesto in Swindon (PA)
The OBR was told by the last government not to audit the election manifestos. Jamie Murray on why that should change.
Margaret Thatcher with the new owners of a property in Essex which was sold for just over £8,000 in 1980
The Tories want to revive and extend Margaret Thatcher’s flagship housing policy. Ben Chu looks at what the possible consequences could be
Tony and Cherie Blair on the day he was elected
Mark Leftly with Parliamentary Business
British Gas announced yesterday that it will cut bills – but only by 5 per cent, and not until the end of next month, when the coldest weather is likely to be over
But shareholders in Centrica will take heart. Even as customers may brace for  the worst, says Jim Armitage
Paper trail: Deidre has a crack team of letter-writing lieuten-aunts, armed with cups of tea and a bank of good sense
Just when you thought banker bashing might finally come to an end, another hideous toad crawls out from under a rock to stir the public’s justified indignation yet again. Jim Armitage takes a peek
Shopping on Oxford Street: the new year begins with a rise in VAT, which will impact on high-street spending
There’s something perverse about the Competition and Markets Authority’s decision to block Poundland’s attempted takeover of 99p Stores, says Simon Neville
Ferdinand Piech, the chairman, at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany
Ferdinand Piëch, the powerful chair of VW, has fallen out with his chief executive and protégé Martin Winterkorn. Tony Patterson lifts the bonnet and examines what’s going on at the German automobile giant
The Conservative party is ahead of Labour in the polls for the first time since 2011, with the NHS likely to matter more to people than the economy when they decide how to vote in the general election (EPA)
Be sceptical when you hear tales of impending financial panic during election campaigns, warns Ben Chu
China’s size and complexity frequently obscures its reality, says Satyajit Das
Max-Hervé,  a Frenchman who lives in Switzerland, does not immediately strike you as a financial terrorist or a man who might be a billionaire by the end of the decade.
The Frenchman could end up destroying, or owning, the company which runs the pension funds for hundreds of thousands of people. John Lichfield speaks to him
Labour says higher corporation tax would be used to finance a cut in business rates. David Prosser reports
The trade deficit has worsened amid difficulties in export markets
The UK’s trade deficit worsened by much more than had been expected, says David Blanchflower
Number 16: ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson, his company is the world's biggest oil and gas producer
Even taking Exxon’s recent chest beating about its appetite for deals Jim Armitage thinks it's unlikely
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Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...