ADVOCATE COLUMN 2nd WEEK FEBRUARY 2017
Whenever the conversation turns to what makes it hard for businesses to operate or what constitutes a business-friendly environment the focus generally falls on local and central government and the regulatory framework and organisational cultures they sometimes create that make doing business harder than it should be. While it is true that both central and local government have a role to play and can make an important contribution to grow local economic activity by providing ‘business friendly’ services – responsive regulatory and consent regimes, low competitive rates – efficient infrastructure, positive promotion of the local area, attracting tourists and events; they are not the only ones who can bring about change.
Because private sector and the wider community are the ultimate beneficiaries of a business friendly-environment, then it should be expected that they also contribute to the solution. Obviously the wider community has a role to play supporting local businesses, fostering initiatives that develop a sense of place and nurturing young people by providing a safe and healthy environment in which they can acquire knowledge and achieve their personal aspirations. The business community has an equally critical role to play because apart from customers, most businesses have more contact with other businesses than they do with councils, or government agencies and their own behaviour can determine how easy or hard it is for others to do business with them.
At the most basic level this requires the business to identify those things that they do that they could make easier for people dealing with them. An example might be ensuring that it is as easy as possible for their customers to pay for products or services. Does the business make their payment terms clear, invoice their customers as early as possible making sure the invoices have a detailed description on them, e-mail their invoices rather than posting them and do they have a wide range of payment options available to their customers to make it as easy as possible for them to pay.
Many modern business success stories are the result of businesses closely examining what makes it difficult for consumers and business customers to deal with a traditional product and service and then resolving that problem. As well as the business success that accompanies this type of behaviour, comes the opportunity to contribute towards a more business-friendly environment and to set an example for other businesses to follow.