Business Connections

Small Talk: Who should we thank for falling unemployment? SMEs. So we must do everything we can to help them carry on the good work

Who should take the credit for Britain’s jobless rate falling back below 7 per cent? Well, while policymakers argue about the politics of lower unemployment, let’s look at the figures: since 2010, 84 per cent of job growth has come from small and medium-sized enterprises, while almost nine in 10 people moving out of unemployment have either started their own business or been taken on by someone else’s small company.

Small Talk: Incentives are generous for social enterprises although the patchwork of schemes can make the search for help complicated

Remember the famous Google motto, “do no evil”? The giant search engine has found it difficult to maintain an unblemished reputation as a force for good as its business has grown, but the principle remains important to Google’s founders. And if nothing else, they’ve proved that the pursuit of profit does not have to be a business’s only goal – capitalism and social conscience do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Small Talk: Controversy as the $2bn sale of Oculus in the US could have a dramatic impact on Britain’s crowdfunding scene

Here’s an ethical dilemma for would-be tycoons. Having got your business off the ground thanks to the financial contributions of well-wishers, what would you owe them if the company is eventually sold for a small fortune? Nothing? Their money back? Or a share of the profits?

Small Talk: An opportunity for reform must be taken. Small firms need as much help as consumers in winning a better deal from energy suppliers

The Government increasingly recognises that high and unavoidable fixed costs are holding many small businesses back – hence the further help offered on business rates in the Budget. But having assisted with one of the two biggest costs for many small firms, what can it do to mitigate the other one – their rising energy bills?

Small Talk: The Chancellor has given exporters his backing. But is it a lack of funding that has stopped firms selling overseas, or a lack of nerve?

Do Britain’s small firms share the ambition of the Chancellor for exports? George Osborne set Britain a target in the Budget: he wants to get 100,000 more British businesses exporting by 2020 and he’s putting his money where his mouth is – in particular, with a doubling of the funds that UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) can use to support overseas sales through loans to purchasers of UK goods (plus these loans will now be cheaper).

Market Report: Glencore is close to selling Las Bambas copper mine to the Chinese

Glencore Xstrata is close to selling a major Peruvian mine to the Chinese, with shareholders expecting a significant windfall.

Small Talk: The big banks, far from helping small businesses, are blocking their attempts to find finance

The Office of Fair Trading may not have put it in quite these terms, but its latest pronouncement on the big banks’ attitude to small businesses effectively accuses them of behaving like the nasty boy who says “it’s my ball and you’re not playing”.

Small Talk: Britain can learn a lot from Canada in the global race to woo the entrepreneurs vital to creating jobs

If you took a drive last year out of San Francisco down Highway 101 towards Silicon Valley, you would have sped past a giant billboard emblazoned with a huge red maple leaf. Its sales pitch, “H-1B Problems? Pivot to Canada”, was an appeal to international entrepreneurs who have moved to Silicon Valley but run into problems with the US’s H-1B visa programme for high-skilled workers.

Online gambling operator 888.com is a client of XL Media, which specialises in driving internet users to its site

Small Talk: Trailblazer Legal & General is helping SMEs find an alternative to bank debt in tough times

Pension funds and insurance companies need a very particular type of investment in order to run their businesses.

Market Report: It is hard to imagine what could prevent a test of the Footsie all-time highs

Mergers and takeover excitement on Wall Street pushed stocks up stateside helping the Footsie to a 14‑year high yesterday.

Small Talk: Long after the news cameras and politicians have moved on from the flood-hit areas many small businesses will still need help

For now, small businesses affected by flooding are getting plenty of help. A £10m scheme unveiled by the Government last week follows previous announcements of official support, ranging from business rates relief to extensions of the deadlines that normally apply for filing company accounts.

Small Talk: Memo to satirists of sexism - that joke isn’t funny. Consciously or unconsciously, female entrepreneurs are still being held back

Terry Simmonds of the UK Small Business Directory says he was misunderstood. He insists a recent online post was a spoof inspired by a conversation he’d had with another male website entrepreneur rather prone to sexism – and not the insult to female businesswomen it was widely interpreted as being.

Small Talk: The Prompt Payment Code is proving a case of too little, too late as large companies continue to play for time in settling invoices

New year, same old story. Despite endless government promises to crack down on late payments, it looks as if many small businesses will spend a good part of 2014 chasing larger businesses for money they are owed.

News
European Union flags fly outside the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium.
Business backs the Tories. That’s the message more than 100 business leaders wanted you to hear with their open letter. James Moore is sceptical
News
While about £7bn has been cut from working age benefits by the Coalition, spending on pensioners has risen by a similar amount, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies
Most bosses don’t want to get directly involved in commenting on party policies, not least because they may have to deal with whichever party prevails at the election, says Ben Chu
News
Chief executive Tidjane Thiam received £11.8m, an increase of more than a third over the previous year. James Moore reports
News
Alliance Trust’s shares closed flat at 523.5p
Help, help, the wolves of Wall Street are after us! At least that’s how Alliance Trust is telling it, says James Moore
News
Tax on a typical North Sea oil field is now 50 per cent – as it was in 2010
Financial markets have generally assumed lower oil prices are good for asset prices, resulting from the positive effect on growth and lower inflation which extends the period of low interest rates. In reality, the large movement in oil prices has the potential to create significant financial instability, especially in debt markets, says Satyajit Das
News
Philip Smith quit RSA in November 2013, calling the internal investigation ‘fundamentally flawed’
The former chief executive, Philip Smith, is taking the insurer to a Dublin employment tribunal for constructive dismissal. Joe Brennan reports on the scandal that triggered the biggest sell-off in the company’s shares for almost a decade.
News
‘Too much delay’: Louise Ellman, chair of the Commons Transport Committee
Holey Corporate Governance! is how one law firm describes professional services outfit Quindell, in a nod to the classic 1960s Batman TV-show, writes James Moore
News
The Louis Vuitton store in Austria had its windows smashed by protesters last year
If there is any lesson to be learnt from the high-profile arrest of the billionaire gas tycoon Dmitry Firtash, it is this: watch where you do your luxury shopping in Vienna, says Jim Armitage
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
There has been progress in boosting female entrepreneurship in recent years, but nowhere near enough, says David Prosser
News
Ben Bernanke said deflation was usually caused by a collapse in demand
It seems likely the UK will become the 23rd European country to catch the deflation disease, says David Blanchflower
News
A piece of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in Donetsk
Last year was more expensive for air disasters than any year since 2001. Jamie Dunkley examines the cost to the underwriters of aviation risk
News
The rise in the number of whistleblowers is impressive whichever way you look at it, says James Moore
News
The institution is now controlled not by a co-operative but by hedge funds, where these sort of payments are par for the course, says James Moore
News
The Treasury Select Committee will today take one of its last chances before Parliament’s dissolution to bowl another bouncer at the chest of the Financial Conduct Authority. James Moore on why we must watch over our watchmen
News
Princess Anne talks to Anthony Constantinou at the London Boat Show
Anthony Constantinou’s infancy was shattered by tragedy, but he went on to build a multimillion-pound City of London  business. Yet now the shadow of the law hangs over the boss of Capital World Markets, reports Jim Armitage
News
USC was put into administration by Sports Direct and was bought back immediately also by Sports Direct, with its £15.3m debts to staff, suppliers and landlords wiped clear
We’ve known for a while that Sports Direct sails close to the wind in terms of its business practices. After the performance of its chairman, James Moore says a more apt metaphor might be that it has been dancing with a hurricane
News
Ben Chu has the answers
News
MP Stella Creasy
Picking a team is fun, says Mark Leftly
News
The law on annuities will be changed from April 2016
History has shown that if you propose even a modest reform to the UK’s pension market you’re guaranteed a migraine from the bellyaching, notes James Moore
News
Ticket signs at Victoria Station on January 2, 2015 in London, England. Increased rail fares averaging 2.5% come into effect today, pushing the cost of some commuters annual rail fares to more than �5,000. Earlier this week, Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said that he would not be receiving his annual bonus because of the major rail disruption passengers faced over the Christmas period, which was caused by engineering works that overran.
Far from relieving the pressure on trains, the 16 per cent increase in seats might not even be enough to cope with the growth in passenger numbers, says James Moore
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Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

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The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

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