Spotlight On is showcasing local business owners and the great things they are doing for the community. This week Woodingdean in Business meets Malcolm Harvey, Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Brighton and Hove.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is a members organisation that started in 1974. I owned three shops at the time in Brighton, Worthing and Horsham and a warehouse in Bradford and I learnt to fly planes to get between places.
We are a non-trade and non-area specific organisation which many other organisations aren’t. We’re attracting a lot of professionals – lawyers, doctors, vets – as well as ‘general runner businesses.’ About 50,000 FSB members work from home.
When FSB started in ’74 I was active in the Chamber of Commerce in Worthing mostly because my first shop was there. But progressively it filled up with bank managers and chain store managers and they didn’t seem to have as much hassle fighting with the banks, fighting to keep ahead of paying staff and improving the business. Then the FSB came along and it sounded much more akin to the life I had. It provided the answer with a very small subscription fee, because it is non-profit making and non-political. It appealed to me. The major thing for me was that it took away the worry of getting picked on by Inland Revenue or by Health and Safety, things that now you have to be ever so aware of when running a business. And they dealt with it all for nothing.
There is a huge range of resources available to members of FSB. FSB provides core services in VAT, Health and Safety, Legal services, PAYE and much more which prevents members from having to worry about things that could potentially really jeopardise their business. We even have a free healthcare service for all FSB members now, which is amazing. I had prostate cancer last year and a lady phoned me up and said “I’m a prostate cancer specialist nurse and I have been assigned to make sure you’re aware of what’s going on; if you’re worried about anything you can give me a call”. That is a staggering advantage for nothing.
We have about 14,000 members in Sussex which is a huge amount. Most people in business, including me, don’t join things. We’re terribly independent know-alls who run a business. Most members just join for what it gives them rather than getting involved in running it, but latterly since I retired I became a membership secretary and now I’m the Chair of FSB in Brighton & Hove.
Now in Brighton we have a very interesting Ladies Supper event every month which is really enjoyable. 30-40 female business people get together to share any concerns they may have within the business community. FSB puts on events that are attractive to young people, too. We’ve got young members but we are trying to reach out to more.
We’re beginning to attract people like dentists and doctors who are very good at being dentists and doctors but not very good at dealing with contracts, health and safety, revenue etc. That’s where we come in.
We have an online member’s directory which I use a lot. If I want something done in my house or garden, I start with the FSB member directory. Fundamentally, they do a good job for me and I pay them; we are both satisfied.
Most politicians, both local and national, have very little business acumen and that is a big worry. You’ve got to know what effect you have on a business if you make all these rules and regulations. Anyone that creates a requirement or a law that affects business needs to be aware how much time someone in business has to devote to complying with the regulations.
We meet with members of government every month, like George Osborne and regularly make them aware what is needed in the business community to keep us going.
If I was giving advice to someone who was thinking of starting their own business, I would say: do it.
To learn more about the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) visit their website:
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Caricature by Tony Parsons of http://www.twistedportrait.co.uk/
Malcolm spoke to Siobhan Wight.
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