Kristy Dorsey: Don’t depend on autumn windfall

On Wednesday Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the Autumn Statement. Picture: Ian Rutherford
On Wednesday Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the Autumn Statement. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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AS ANY decent self-help coach knows, one of the biggest obstacles many people face in the pursuit of happiness is an inability to accept the limits of what they can control.

As the familiar invocation goes, it requires wisdom to spot the difference between that which cannot be helped and those things that must be changed.

Successful individuals tend to concentrate in the first instance on their own limitations, and seek ways of improving. Those of a pessimistic disposition are more likely to blame external factors for whatever difficulties they face.

It’s the same for businesses, particularly smaller firms overshadowed by the outlook of a few at the helm.

On Wednesday, Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the Autumn Statement, his last before next year’s general election. Previously a rather trivial event, it has in recent years been used as a platform for unexpected packages such as 2012’s cut in corporation tax, or the public sector pay cap unveiled in 2011.

As such, this year’s update on the government’s plans for the economy has prompted calls for an array of pro-business measures. As ever, cutting red tape, assistance with exports, overhauling business rates and access to finance are prominent.

At the large end of the scale, the Chancellor is unlikely to reverse the course of corporation tax, which is due to fall to 20 per cent from April of next year in a bid to attract big business. But it’s unclear what, if any, concessions there might be for firms in the small to mid-sized range.

There is a subset within the SME sector that researchers at Albion Ventures have dubbed “threshold” businesses – those on the cusp of moving into the big time. Highly ambitious, they are far more committed than most to growing their headcount. Those within this group who are seeking finance will probably use the money to expand rather than just to pay day-to-day bills.

Such firms could go a long way towards helping the UK meet commitments made earlier this month in Brisbane, where Prime Minister David Cameron and other G20 leaders agreed measures to boost global output by 2018. But there are fears that these pledges – and particularly the needs of threshold businesses – are being lost in the din of the UK’s increasingly turbulent political climate.

Anything to assist these energetic firms is to be welcomed, but it’s worth noting that one defining characteristic of this group is their ability to make their own luck. They are more likely to recognise and address internal limitations, and are keen to get advice from experienced mentors.

Business lobbies exist to create the best trading environment possible for their members by pressing for those things that can be changed. Individual firms, on the other hand, must focus on shoring up their own weaknesses and accept that a utopian business setting is never forthcoming.

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