Small business employers are missing a trick! The fools? It’s right under their noses.

Incredibly, there are 5 million businesses in the UK. Even more incredibly, 99% of them are SMEs (small or medium sized enterprises). Collectively, all the SMEs together employ many more workers than the big corporations, in fact, two thirds of all UK workers (18.5 million) are either self-employed or work for an SME. Another interesting fact you should know is that only 25% of all UK-registered business actually employ anyone. In other words, 75% of the SMEs have just one worker – the self-employed boss, salesperson, project manager, business strategist, secretary, ops manager, invoice chaser and bottle-washer – all rolled into one.

It’s not difficult to see why new business startups fail on such a spectacularly massive scale. That only one in three new businesses is alive to see its third birthday. It’s not only that starting a new business needs a brilliant new idea at the right time and at the right place. It’s also not only because starting a new business takes money and time (time also being money for the entrepreneur between salaries). I believe it is largely because, as a sole trader or a micro-business, there are simply not enough skills and experience in the business to enable it to operate to its full potential.

Big businesses have divisions. In each division they have departments. In each department they may have business units. Each business unit will have one or more managers, each with a team of multi-skilled and experienced people at his/her disposal, each with specialist job roles. Each team will have administrative, secretarial, financial, HR and other support staff at their disposal. Imagine what a micro-business could get done with that sort of human resource muscle.

Instead, small businesses spend most of their time delivering products or services to their clients. They typically don’t have enough time to do their marketing, and certainly very little time to strategise. They’re too busy achieving service delivery excellent, fire-fighting and chasing payments. And they certainly don’t have the money to build a multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled and experienced team. Or so they think.

The vast majority of small businesses grow their staff (profits permitting) in increments of permanent specialist employees. The founder’s first plus-one would typically be the sales manager or the office administrator, employed on either a full- or part-time basis. This might be followed by a personal assistant or financial controller or ops manager. Hiring is expensive and spending a minimum of £10K to £15K per annum for each part-time specialist skill quickly adds up to a large annual wage bill, made even larger by tax, National Insurance and additional overheads. How can a small business generate enough extra revenue to cover these costs, and is it sustainable, i.e. is the new team able to deliver more than the sum of its parts?

Along with technology and communications advances which make operating a small business cheaper and easier, and the recent innovations of ‘Agile’ and ‘Lean’ startup approaches, small business also need to embrace a much more flexible approach to building a dynamic impactful team capable of rapid and sustainable growth. After all, in the modern business world, the cost of human capital is the greatest single business cost. Period. Imagine if small businesses and business startups could build an effective multi-disciplinary team with all the skills and experience they need, and could do so affordably. Wouldn’t that give them the best chance of success? Wouldn’t it enable them to grow and achieve their full potential? Of course you agree, but I also hear you say that it would be nice if it rained £20 notes too.

The reality is that this is achievable. You just need to know where to look and what to look for. Let me pose some questions to you:

  • Would small businesses benefit from skilled, committed workers? Obviously.
  • Would small businesses benefit from highly experienced workers offering discounted rates? Sounds too good to be true.
  • Would small businesses benefit by only paying for these workers when, and for as long as they need them? Clearly.
  • Would small businesses benefit from hiring more self-employed, contract or freelance staff? Yes, provided bullet 1 above wasn’t jeopardised.

Well then. Here’s the answer.

Skilled, experienced, flexible, dedicated, committed and wise: the Plus50 workforce!

Demographic shifts have opened up a new population group – and an amazing opportunity for small businesses. When retirement was invented, people went straight from a career into old age. Now, as life expectancy has moved towards 90, a 10- to 15-year healthy life space has been created between the full-time career and older age. Research has indeed proven that people in this space are as productive as those in their twenties. People coming into retirement now are IT literate (many have been emailing and internetting since their 40’s, and Facebooking along with the rest of us). They’re as likely as not to be able to out-hike, out-jog, out-crosstrain, out-swim many half their age. They are also more positive, balanced, emotionally intelligent and resilient than younger workers. And typically they’re not looking for full-time careers – just to keep active, stimulated, keep their hand in, and give something back. They’re also usually available flexibly and at short notice, and equally happy to be employed, self-employed or work as a freelance contractor. It’s amazing the early-retired skills available on your doorstep – offering 30, 40 years of work experience.

Build the team of your dreams. Make your business awesome. Tap into the plus50 resource pool today. It’s common sense!

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My left hip replacement – isn’t that for old people?

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10 knee-raises every hour the physio says. The first one’s the killer. My 15 cm glue-sealed scar looks like a shark wound –  a neat one though, like he had braces as a kid. Thankfully it’s still numb. The spinal block and other in-op painkillers are keeping the wolves at bay. It’s plus 17 hours now. 17 hours with my new ceramic-and-titanium left hip.

This has been coming for 7 years. First the twinge when jogging, then the occasional shooting pain when hiking, eventually limiting walking to 20 minutes and preventing me playing with my kids. I am 45.

When I told people I needed a hip replacement they invariably replied with, “But you’re so young!”. My surgeon reassures me that there are many young people, even as young as 18, who undergo hip replacement, but a brief visit to the National Joint Registry (njr centre.org.uk) informs me that the average age of people undergoing the more than 80,000 hip replacements in the UK every year is 68.

What is young and old? There’s no clear line. Some people are young, but behave old. Some older people behave young. It’s a complex thing. Mental, physical, behavioural, attitudinal. What makes healthy people act old, and old people appear young? I feel young, but my hip’s been making me act old for years. It seems to me it’s all about how one approaches things. How one is internally self-motivated, and how this is communicated to others on the outside. Youth is more about how you go about fulfilling your potential than it is about chronology. It’s what you do, how you represent yourself, and how you’re perceived by others.

Since starting Trading Times last year, I’ve been inspired by the vitality, motivation, commitment and drive inherent within plus50 Britain (people traditionally labelled as old, or getting there). Inspired to want to change the way this enormous demographic resource is viewed, embraced and utilised. Not inspired for pity’s sake, inspired by a genuine new-found respect. We need to change the descriptive language and attitudes, as well as the role the ‘young-old’ play in our economy and society. Redundant, old, elderly, pensioner, retiree must all be replaced by some other language that occupies this new space between middle- and old-age.

43% of the UK population is over 50. By 2024 it will be 50%. People are living longer and healthier. A typical 60 year old possesses 40 years of work and adult life experience, and is still young and driven. Old age happens later. There’s so much we can do before we get there. With more than 50% of children born today expected to reach 100, let’s not shortchange ourselves and give up two-thirds of the way through. Let’s not live a life half-lived. Let’s keep pushing, creating, persevering, inventing, challenging.

So back to my hip. It might be just relief (and some traces of narcotics) talking, but it’s now day 2, and I’ve just done stairs.