“Behind every small business, there's a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores - these didn't come out of nowhere”.
These are the words of the US congressman Paul Ryan; they struck home when I read them. At Peninsula we serve more than 30,000 clients across the UK and the majority of these are small to medium sized businesses. Every one of our clients has their own tale to tell about how their business came about, why it was set up and the motivation behind it. Most people never set up their own business, so anyone who does has a valuable story.
At Peninsula our main objective is simple; we help SMEs grow bigger. We do this by enabling business owners to focus on what they do best - that is, running their business. Getting bogged down in red tape and the complexities of employment law or business safety is the last thing any business owner wants to do when they are trying to concentrate on building their corner shop, their restaurant, their hair salon, their gym.
Many SME owners say to us when we first meet them that it’s too early to appoint Peninsula – they love the product and the service but they aren’t far enough established in their own business development to need to worry about employment law. This is 100% wrong. Whether it is your employment law systems, business safety procedures or other professional areas, it’s absolutely vital to get the right foundations in place as early as possible – from the very beginning if you can.
To paraphrase the late Mandy Rice-Davies, I would say that, wouldn’t I? It’s true that I absolutely believe in the value we deliver at Peninsula, the service we provide to our clients and the positive results we get for them. But having built several businesses from scratch, I’m also speaking from experience.
If you get the right systems in place early on it will save you any number of headaches further down the line. I can guarantee that whether it may be one year or five years into the growth of your business, once you start employing people, you will face employment issues. And if you haven’t got the foundations in place to deal with these, such as robust contracts of employment, employee manuals, codes of conduct, clear disciplinary procedures, representation at tribunal and so on – you will get into very hot water. This will be time consuming, will inevitably take your eye off the ball and may, ultimately be very, very costly.
At Peninsula we believe in dispute resolution in the workplace wherever possible; this means trying to find a solution which avoids going down the litigation route. We have an impressive track record in keeping employment issues from escalating to tribunal, which is clearly beneficial. Whilst generally fewer cases are going to tribunal since fees were introduced, it’s worth noting that those which do go onto tribunal tend to come from a stronger and less spurious position, so the awards can be substantial. In that situation, Peninsula clients have the additional peace of mind provided by our insurance guarantee as well as our representation and advice every step of the way.
Many SME owners say to me that they believe setting up these systems protects only the employee and not the employer. Again, 100% wrong. By getting the right procedures in place from the very start you are protecting yourself as an employer against potentially costly and lengthy litigation, which can happen whether you employ one person or 10,000 people.
Benjamin Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It’s never too early to get the foundations in place so you can focus on what matters most to you – building your business, with a story worth knowing.