20 December 2016 -
This parliament, with its management mindset, could make progress on many of business’s headaches
Jo Churchill MP
Having run a successful contracting business through both boom and not-so-boom years, dealing with customers was comparatively straightforward: your product or service has to be better or more competitive than your neighbour’s, and your workforce competent; your systems and processes must be simple to ensure clarity and that you pay your taxes.
But life for most small-business owners is also challenging: you are your own finance, HR and fleet-management departments. Invariably, you are as adept at cleaning the toilets or making the coffee as striking the right deal.
Most importantly, you need to be aware of legislation as it changes, as ignorance is no defence to non-compliance.
Now, as an MP, when I speak to business owners, I encourage them to feed back about the challenges of running a business, how government can be helpful, and where it needs to improve, to make legislation ‘fit’.
Although easier said than done, legislation could do with means-testing to ensure what is voted for on paper is delivered in the workplace. What is more, I believe it is essential that decision-makers maintain a close relationship with business and industry to understand the future, whether in robotics, tech investment or better use of data.
Or, more specifically, issues in the broader business environment, such as equal representation across gender, class and ethnicity. For reports considered by the Women and Equalities Select Committee, of which I am a member, indicate that the gender pay gap and prospects for women during and after pregnancy are worsening or, at best, stagnating.
Government is trying, but leadership by and throughout businesses and organisations has to be more value-driven to achieve positive outcomes. Yet I am optimistic that a closer relationship between government and business can drive forward positive change.
After all, both business and government must sometimes make difficult and unpopular decisions.
For legislation to be applied effectively, it needs to be implemented much like the workings of a business. It is only through trial and error that we develop and thrive. Government needs to refrain from hesitating when committing to long-term projects. Equally, a short-term approach leads to a lack of strategic investment in our housing, rail and energy security in particular.
At the start of my business career, a wise man said to me: ‘Think about a situation and then make a decision – if it’s right, you’re on the way; if not, at least you know rapidly and can change accordingly.’ As a business-minded government, I want to see more of this management mindset in action.
What better time than now? This new government is more business-minded than ever, with many of the new MPs coming from commercial environments. Taking those skills to government means we must keep up to date in studying our fields, observing the results, reflecting on decisions and looking to improve.
That is why, even if leaving the world of business, we must keep a management mindset.
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