Business Connections

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.

Small Talk: Problems ahead but the tax revolution looks a winner

HM Revenue & Customs is as adept as any commercial organisation at presenting changes to its practices as "improvements", no matter what additional expense or hassle they cause. So it is with real-time information (RTI), about which David Gauke, the Treasury minister with responsibility for HMRC, tends to be evangelical.

Small Talk: Flawed, but scheme to help start-ups still has lots to offer

How many people have begun January by resolving to make 2013 the year they finally strike out alone and start their own business? Social market research invariably shows self-employment is hugely appealing to many people – over and above the increases we have seen in the past couple of years (one suspects many of these newly self-employed people have been forced into this status by the double-dip recession).

Small Talk: Sorry, but it's time to end the misery of these zombie firms

Here's the thing about zombies. As every horror movie fan knows, the fact the undead are invariably victims themselves – typically of some awful pandemic – they still pose a threat that must be countered.

Small Talk: Lots of funding initiatives but precious few achievements

The patchwork quilt of different measures designed to fund the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises is at last being knitted together. But goodness, progress is slow.

Small Talk: Volume may be a problem for investment trusts

The investment-trust industry, which has long been the poor relation of open-ended funds such as unit trusts, is rubbing its hands with glee at the prospect of the retail distribution review. The regulatory shake-up of financial advice, which takes effect on 1 January, will ban providers from paying commissions to advisers who recommend their products to clients. Investment trusts, as quoted companies, have never been able to do this and blame commission bias for the fact financial advisers neglected the sector in favour of open-ended funds.

Small Talk: Osborne prolongs the great business rates robbery

All Chancellors give with one hand only to take with another – that's the job – but for far too many small businesses, George Osborne's Autumn Statement only prolongs the agony. For all the talk of targeted help for small businesses, the great business rates robbery will continue.

Small Talk: Stalemate over new bank is disappointing

Wednesday's Autumn Statement looks set to see another chance to boost small and medium enterprises go begging. Despite months of discussions, it's almost certain George Osborne will not be able to unveil the blueprint for a state-backed business bank. The Chancellor and his officials have apparently failed to reach agreement with Vince Cable's Department for Business on the detail. This is unhelpful, for the arguments over bank lending to SMEs have reached a stalemate.

Small Talk: Why the seed enterprise scheme fell on stony ground for the Treasury

Sometimes, you can't even give your money away. That must be the feeling among those ministers who have had a hand in the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme.

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