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Celebrating success as well as failure – a blog by Philip King FCICM

5 October 2017

First announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2015, the Enterprise Act 2016 paved the way for the introduction of the Small Business Commissioner and this week, after a number of delays, the appointee was announced. Paul Uppal has 20 years experience as a small business owner in the real estate sector, and was a Conservative MP from 2010 to 2015.

The government press release is clear on its expectations: “As Small Business Commissioner, Mr Uppal will lead an independent office tasked with empowering small businesses. The role will be crucial to supporting small businesses resolve disputes with larger businesses and will help drive a culture change in payment practices. Mr Uppal and his team will provide general advice and information to small businesses on matters such as resolving disputes, including signposting small businesses to existing support and dispute resolution services, which will be delivered through the commissioner’s website.”

Laudable intentions, and I hope Mr Uppal will be as successful as his counterparts have been in countries such as Australia. It’s a big task, and he’ll face many challenges of which, perhaps, the largest will be cynicism and a resulting reluctance by small businesses to raise issues with him. As administrators of the Prompt Payment Code, the CICM knows well that businesses are often afraid to stick their heads above the parapet and challenge bad behaviour. But unless they do, the likelihood of real culture change happening is reduced.

I’m hoping to meet with Mr Uppal early in his tenure so I can share with him what we’ve learned from our experience. We’ve seen some major successes and the Small Business Commissioner should be vocal in helping to publicise these and encourage more businesses to make the commitments set out in the Code. It’s also vital that the Commissioner’s activity collaborates with the Code and the two complement each other.

The Small Business Commissioner has an array of tools at his disposal. As well as the Prompt Payment Code, there is also the existing and long-standing late payment legislation, and the new Duty to Report requirement for large companies that will start seeing data lodged from next month. There are also various alternative dispute remedies, and a rising number of ‘best practice’ examples from larger companies leading the way on a more responsible approach to supply chain relationships.

I hope Mr Uppal will recognise the importance of sharing good news stories as he evangelises his role. I hope also that he shows a similar willingness and eagerness to collaborate that will enable him to make the role a real success.



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