Business Connections

Small Talk: Eurozone is the best choice for taking first step in exports

It has become fashionable to urge British companies to look beyond the struggling eurozone

Small Talk: SMEs which can't get off the ground are the real headache

As former regulator Sir Andrew Large begins yet another inquiry into whether banks are starving small businesses of credit – in his case, specifically Royal Bank of Scotland – it is worth asking whether we are worrying most about the right people. The small and medium-sized enterprises that believe they have been unfairly turned down for lending may complain this is inhibiting their growth potential, but at least they were able to get off the ground in the first place. The next generation of SMEs may not be so fortunate.

Small Talk: Crowdfunding can flourish but it still needs a watchdog

Raise your glasses to BrewDog, the Scottish brewery company in the middle of a £4m growth capital campaign. It is raising the money from equity investors through a private share sale and looks likely to hit its target with no difficulties at all – £1m came in on the first day of the share issue.

Small Talk: It's time SMEs got a better deal on banks competition

The financial crisis may have sent economic growth into a tailspin, but it has been a major boon for one cottage industry: there is no end in sight to the inquiries and investigations into banking that the crisis has prompted. Still, the latest of these inquiries, an Office of Fair Trading investigation into competition in banking for small and medium-sized enterprises, represents an important opportunity.

Small Talk: Your data may be safer in the clouds, despite the latest security furore

While the furore over the US data surveillance programme Prism raged last week, Microsoft published a little-noticed research note that suggests too many small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK may be missing out because of their anxiety about data privacy and security.

Small Talk: It's a misconception that we're tying ourselves up in red tape

Having been embarrassed by yet another set of disappointing figures on bank lending to small businesses last week, Government ministers were understandably keen to get back on the front foot. So Business Minister Michael Fallon must have been delighted to be able to make a set-piece announcement about a crackdown on all the ghastly red tape preventing small and medium-sized enterprises getting on with the day job.

Small Talk: Rowing back on tax relief cuts for VCTs will lift SMEs

Small businesses' difficulty in accessing bank finance is routinely cited as one of the major obstacles holding back growing companies. No doubt that's true, but the focus on bank debt has overshadowed other funding pressures on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), notably the huge problems encountered by many small companies which are looking for growth capital.

Small Talk: Small firms find justice hard to come by in swaps scandal

Banking analysts often draw parallels between the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal and the continuing controversy over interest rate swap contracts wrongly sold to small and medium-sized enterprises. There are certainly similarities – not least in the avaricious behaviour of banks' sales staff who peddled both products – but a crucial difference in the regulatory response means many SMEs may find it much harder to get redress than PPI victims.

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.

News
‘Pragmatic’ reforms may not be enough for the tax campaigners who protested outside Barclays’ AGM
Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
News
Tesco has been audited by PwC since 1983
James Moore: Change the incentives and you change the behaviour – that’s the theory
News
Athens is attempting to negotiate a better deal with its creditor nations in the European Union
Hamish McRae thinks that there will be a deal that enables the government to continue functioning in response for concessions that it can argue are just about within its red lines
News
There are good reasons to think it will be a temporary bout, but we are not home and dry yet, says Ben Chu
News
Nothing Thomas Cook could ever do would bring back the two children killed by carbon monoxide poisoning on a Greek holiday in 2006. But the firm’s handling of the case has been a lesson in how not to manage a crisis. Joanna Bourke reports
News
Research showed that one individual lost more than £13,000 in a gambling session lasting more than seven hours
Having meandered rather aimlessly for a couple of years, the awkwardly named Bwin.party suddenly finds itself cast in the role of Portia in The Merchant of Venice, beset by suitors on all sides, says James Moore
News
The chief executive of advertising giant WPP writes exclusively for The Independent
News
BrewDog, now Scotland’s largest independent brewer, has a great tale. David Prosser tells it
News
Chancellor George Osborne says he has a mandate for more austerity
So we are supposed to believe wage growth, productivity and GDP growth will not be impacted by the austerity that is to come, even though they were last time? David Blanchflower doesn't think so
News
The Bank of England Governor wants to ‘dampen down’ the idea that migrant workers, such as these fruit-pickers in Surrey, are an economic problem
Claims have abounded this week that new migrants are to blame for weak pay growth in Britain in recent years - but the evidence suggests otherwise, says Ben Chu
News
Verizon made the purchase in order to compete with the likes of Google and Facebook
The pop star Prince is enjoying something of a career revival in the United States. And, fittingly, Silicon Valley is also partying like it’s 1999. Andrew Dewson reports
News
Bob Diamond raised $325m for his African venture in 2013
Zeus seems to have chucked a stray thunderbolt at the financial titan that is former Barclays boss Bob Diamond. Will he and his Atlas Mara now have to hold up the heavens as punishment, asks James Moore
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Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine