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The Soap Box

Securing a successful future

Harry Mottram listens to print’s most influential trade associations and bodies as they consider key industry challenges and the steps print companies can take to secure a successful future

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The budget has given a boost to small businesses

Speed dating, the Budget and SMEs

Who do we think we are?

Sidney Bobb,


The Government regularly issues statements emphasising how it is they are helping business start-ups and SMEs. It does appear that there is growing focus on the importance of the SME sector. However, there is certainly one major issue—there is not a finite definition of what constitutes a small or medium enterprise. For tax relief purposes in respect of Research and Development, HMRC defines an SME as a business of not more than 500 employees and an annual turnover not exceeding £100million. The rest of the UK Government does not use this definition. For the purpose of collecting statistics, the Department for Business defines SMEs as companies with less than 250 employees. For accounting purposes Companies House defines a small business as employing less than 50 people and a turnover under £6.5 million and a medium business as less than 250 employees and a turnover under £25.9 million.

It doesn't get any simpler as other parts of the UK Government use the EU definition of an SME. This states:

Micro Business—less than 10 employees and turnover under £2 million

Small Business—less than 50 employees and turnover under £10 million

Medium Business—less than 250 employees and turnover under £50 million

All this means that as an SME you could have anywhere between 50 and 500 employees with a turnover between £6.5 million and £50million

All this means that as an SME you could have anywhere between 50 and 500 employees with a turnover between £6.5 million and £50million.One common agreement point is that everybody agrees that SMEs account for more than 99 percent of UK business and they employ more than 12 million people.

There are approximately 5.15 million micro businesses in the UK employing 33 percent of total UK private sector employment and accounting for 18 percent of all private sector employment.

This all highlights that whether a business is classed as an SME or micro, it makes a major contribution to the country’s economy, so such enterprises are important. Even if you are a small cog in a big wheel you are a key part on what keeps this country going. All the more reason to use every tool at your disposal to ensure that you thrive and survive. Trade associations such as the BAPC and other representative bodies exist to help—they have their fingers on the pulse and are aware of business trends, industry developments and technological advances. Contact us today on 020 8736 5862—you have nothing to lose.

Why Speed Dating is back!

Marian Stefani,
chief executive officer,

The modern way to meet someone is through social media or dating web sites that promise to match you to a future partner for one night or forever.  These sites are all about looks, profile pictures and persuading someone you have never met to connect with you—I wonder how often the reality when you meet is a let-down?

Before the rise of social media and dating sites there was speed dating —the difference was that you had to actually meet someone and see them face to face—no way of presenting a false picture or pretending to be taller, shorter, younger or thinner than you were.

Print businesses of all shapes and sizes will be meeting trade buyers with a wide range of requirements

So that is what our Meet the Trade Buyer event will be doing at St Georges Park on the 19th of November.

Print businesses of all shapes and sizes will be meeting trade buyers with a wide range of requirements—15 minute sessions that give both sides the chance to match their services and needs and more importantly make personal, face to face connections.

We know there have been some very long relationships that started at this event years and years ago—so I am delighted we have brought it back into the calendar and hope that some of these meeting really are marriages made in heaven.

If you want to know more or would like to get involved please look at the detail on our website www.ipia.org.uk/event/meet-the-trade-buyer/

Untangling the Budget

Charles Jarrold,
chief executive officer,

Philip Hammond’s third Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer felt somewhat scattered, assisted by higher tax receipts but with the elephant in the room—Brexit still uncertain in its form. We were very pleased to see concrete action on productivity in the shape of an increase in the Annual Investment Allowance and very modest action to assist apprenticeship investment. There were re-announcements of measures pledged earlier in the year, cheap but immediate spending injections across disparate areas and a lack of big giveaways and crowd pleasers.

Here’s our first glance at the measures most likely to affect the print industry:

We were very pleased to see concrete action on productivity in the shape of an increase in the annual investment allowance


It’s welcome that productivity is still a priority for the Government (see the Federation’s response to their recent Productivity Review at www.britishprint.com/industry-involvement/lobbying). When it comes to firm-level factors that affect it, trade bodies are perfectly placed to help their members improve. But Government must also play its part to support productivity across the board. We have asked for measures to help companies invest in equipment, skills and improvements in their processes. The increase in the Annual Investment Allowance from £200,000 to £1m is welcome. Investment in the UK lags behind other leading economies, so this is a step in the right direction. The extra £1.6bn specifically for R&D is positive—many of our members have already accessed R&D tax relief for their innovative work.

SME access to dispute resolution and redress

Thanks to the efforts of Kevin Hollinrake MP, a vice chair of APPG Print, access to the Financial Ombudsman Service will be expanded to small and medium businesses with a turnover of up to £6.5bn. This will give SMEs an option other than potentially costly court action to resolve disputes. We’ll be communicating the details to our members over the coming months.

The cost of business

Retailers with a rateable value of below £51,000 will see their business rates cut by one third for two years, a welcome boost for the revitalisation of our high streets. Increasing the Annual Investment Allowance from £200,000 to £1m for plant and machinery is also good news. For an industry in which costs are often well over £200,000 for a single piece of equipment, this is a welcome move which should provide a quick helping hand to investment.


The co-investment rate for small businesses will be reduced from ten percent to five percent (at a cost of £240m). Employers will pay less, but in real terms there won’t be much difference—for example, from around £300 per year to £150 per year for a Level 3 apprentice. With apprenticeship starts currently so low, and travel costs often cited as a disincentive to take-up, perhaps proposals to reduce bus and train fares for apprentices might have seen this quarter of a billion better spent? More generally we would like to see the government engage on understanding why take up of apprenticeship training remains somewhat disappointing.

Public Notice:

  • Welcome news in the budget
  • Small businesses keep the UK's economy going
  • Meet the Buyer on November 19th

To find out more about the issues discussed in this article please contact the relevant organisation via their website:
www.bapc.co.uk, www.britishprint.com, www.ipia.org.uk


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