Small businesses have been facing one of the biggest economic challenges in history. As the economy starts to reopen and small firms look to rebuild, closing the digital divide will be essential in helping SMEs bounce back more quickly.
It was this message that our UK managing director, Gary Turner emphasised this week during an SME policy pitch event organised by the APPG for Entrepreneurship. Alongside others, Gary made the case to Small Business Minister Paul Scully MP.
Gary argued that cutting-edge tech firms and small business policymakers should come together to help small firms make the most of the right technology.
Technology is a critical tool for firms to get, sell and operate online, to be ready for future disruptions and to build resilience to adjust to changing customer needs. As the economy reopens and small firms look to rebuild, we need to close the digital divide to help small firms recover quickly. As part of this, we are calling for a nationwide campaign from the Government to accelerate this development and help SMEs bounce back.
Gary also called for more initiatives to get unemployed 18-24 year olds into work by helping to support SMEs with their digital acceleration. “If we can create a scheme where we can channel the best, brightest, young minds into the small business economy, that seems like a huge opportunity hiding in plain sight,” he told the Small Business Minister.
If a family-owned business or a small firm could have a mentor come in and work across digital elements of their business – like managing their Shopify account or marketing themselves online, then small changes like that could make a huge impact.
The event coincided with the launch of Xero’s new report with leading think tank, The Entrepreneurs Network, highlighting the need to boost digital adoption amongst SMEs as they emerge from Covid-19. The key findings show that:
- If the 1.1m micro-businesses (0-9 employees) doubled their uptake of key digital technologies, the UK economy would get a £16.6bn boost
- This would restore four-fifths of lost productivity growth since the financial crisis, and enable businesses to bounce back faster post-lockdown
- Over a third (38%) of UK SMEs have very low levels of digital adoption
- As the economy reopens, it is vital that the switch to digital becomes permanent and more small businesses make the most use of the right digital tools
Future employment is not going to come from big business or the government. It’s going to come from the small and medium sized business communities. That’s why it’s so important that we work closely with the government and other stakeholders to help SMEs adopt the digital tools and skills they’ll need to prosper in the future.
You can read the full ‘Closing the digital gap and lifting productivity for SMEs’ report here. And read more about our government asks in Xero’s Roadmap to Recovery, created to help small businesses rebuild and bounce back post lockdown.