Business Connections

Small Talk: Have we got the right target if Aim shares can go into an Isa?

The big issue is whether investors should go into a market that is often illiquid and volatile

Small Talk: It will take years to solve the zombie problem – if it exists

There are two contradictory ways to look at the latest statistics on corporate insolvencies for England and Wales, which fell sharply during the first three months of the year for the fifth successive quarter. They either make a nonsense of the idea that an army of zombie companies threatens to undermine the economy's recovery, or confirm our worst fears.

Small Talk: Tackling late payers is a question of culture, not law

Which industry is worse than any other at paying its suppliers on time? The answer will not come as a surprise to readers who have followed recent efforts of companies such as Selfridges and John Lewis to squeeze more margin out of their supply chains. Retailers, it turns out, are the only companies who are paying more tardily today than a year ago.

Small Talk: Time for suppliers to stand up to bully boys

Next time you buy something in Selfridges, feel free to tell its staff you're happy to pay the price marked on the goods but that if they want the money there and then, you expect a 5 per cent discount. After all, that's effectively what the department store chain has just told its suppliers.

Small Talk: Firms that have cash are finding it tough as well

In a nation obsessed with home ownership, savers have long been let down by policymakers' one-eyed focus on mortgage interest rates – never more so than today in this era of unprecedented monetary stimulus when millions of savers are earning negative real rates of return on their money. But while personal savers are beginning to build up a head of steam as they protest at the raw deal they're getting, who is looking out for the interests of small businesses who hold money on deposit?

Small Talk: George Osborne's Aim lifelines may not be a help to UK small firms

Aim's decline has damaged the once-buoyant broking sector in the City

Small Talk: Here's how Osborne can make a big difference to the SMEs

Almost exactly a year ago today, George Osborne arrived at the Federation of Small Businesses annual dinner with an inspiring message. "I know that with the energy, creativity, innovation and courage of Britain's small businesses we can take on the forces of stagnation and win," the Chancellor of the Exchequer told his audience, inviting small and medium-sized enterprises to take the lead in driving economic recovery.

Small Talk: It's vital firms take steps to defuse the stress time bomb

David Prosser feels it's time to thaw your business relationships

Small Talk: Entrepreneurship as a force for social good

One doesn't hear so much talk of the "big society" these days, but that is not to say it isn't out there. The rise of social entrepreneurship has largely gone unnoticed by the mainstream business community – or policymakers for that matter – but thanks to the support of some organisations that might surprise you, this is a movement which is definitely in the ascendancy.

Small Talk: Save the schemes that find finance for our small firms

Treasury minister David Gauke was in congratulatory mood at the EIS Association's annual dinner at the House of Lords last week. The enterprise investment scheme, through which investors get tax breaks for putting money into smaller companies, is "the most successful and widely respected venture capital relief scheme in Europe", Mr Gauke told his fellow diners.

Small Talk: Scandals can become a silver lining for the smaller retailer

If you're a butcher who can explain the provenance of every piece of meat, shout about it

Small Talk: It's vital to remember that not all small firms are the same

Chuka Umunna, Labour's high-profile shadow Business Secretary, is trying to stick to a new year's resolution that may surprise you: he has promised not to utter the phrase "small and medium-sized enterprise" (or even SME) during 2013. It's not that Mr Umunna and the Labour Party aren't interested in small business; his argument is that the phrase is so generic that it is both meaningless and misleading.

Small Talk: Watchdog has left door open on interest-rate swap cases

The emails began arriving within minutes of the announcement by the Financial Services Authority that tens of thousands of small businesses have been mis-sold interest-rate swaps by the banks. Within half an hour, no fewer than six "claims management" firms had got in touch offering their views on mis-selling and, naturally, their services to small businesses that might be due compensation.

Small Talk: Unity is strength when it comes to beating late payers

How do small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) deal with persistent late payers that damage their cashflow and jeopardise their very survival? A new piece of research from Barclays Bank suggests many SMEs are getting tough with late payers – if that's the case, it's not before time.

Small Talk: Taxman is cracking down hard on the small companies with very little hope

Is the taxman getting tough on small businesses struggling to pay their bills? HM Revenue & Customs' own figures suggest this may well be the case.HMRC's data, crunched by Wilkins Kennedy, the accountant, reveals that in the 2011-12 tax year, it presented 57 per cent more petitions to wind up companies with unpaid tax bills than in the previous 12 months. It sought to liquidate just over 5,300 companies last year, up from about 3,400 in 2010-11.

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
News
The story of Georgiou’s alleged fraud snugly fits the victim narrative so beloved of the country’s government, says Jim Armitage
News
The law on annuities will be changed from April 2016
Could pension providers’ loss be small businesses’ gain? David Prosser finds out
News
George Osborne was accused of a ‘roller-coaster’ approach to public spending
No ifs or buts, says David Blanchflower: last week’s mean-spirited heartless roller-coaster Budget was designed to smash the state and make the poor poorer.
News
What a shame that Next doesn’t do more to share that success with its employees, says James Moore
News
Spring breakers enjoy a pool party – but some fear that university debt will soon cripple the US economy
The cost of going to college has fuelled a $1.3trn debt bubble that some experts fear could burst just like the subprime mortgage one did. Andrew Dewson reports on how a degree may no longer be the route to an affluent lifestyle in the US
News
Now that George Osborne has finished throwing his confetti of numbers down the aisle of the House of Commons in an attempt to prolong his marriage with a weary nation’s finances, James Moore asks an important question: do they add up?
News
People queue at a currency exchange office in Geneva on 15 January, after the shock move by Switzerland’s central bank
The spread-betting giant IG has admitted that it may never claw back most of the £18m lost by its clients after the Swiss scrapped their currency ceiling – and now its credit controls are under scrutiny. Russell Lynch investigates
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Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor