Dan Buckley from Cognexo

Dan Buckley, founder of Cognexo:

“As an SME business, my hopes for the next government are centred around addressing the real challenges we face daily. It’s alarming to see the increasing failure rate of small businesses over the years. Nearly one in five don’t make it past their first year, around 60% fail within three years and about 70% fail within ten years (Finder UK). These stats underscore the urgent need for policies that help small businesses thrive.

“The government should focus on reducing financial burdens through tax incentives and breaks, cutting red tape, improving access to funding and helping us navigate post-Brexit trade complexities. It’s these policies that will foster growth and sustainability in the SME sector.

“Here are the areas I believe the government should prioritise:

  • Access to funding: I am sure this would be first on the list for any start-up or SME. Enhanced funding options are crucial, especially amid rising costs and economic uncertainty. I would like to see ease of access for SMEs to obtain loans and grants allowing business to expand, innovate and compete, driving economic development and job creation. Beyond traditional loans and grants, I believe SMEs also need access to alternative funding sources such as venture capital and crowdfunding. Creating government-supported platforms and incentives to attract these types of investments would create critical financial lifelines.
  • Tax reforms: Implementing tax incentives and reducing the overall tax burden on small businesses is much needed. For example, increasing the VAT threshold and reducing National Insurance contributions would significantly ease financial pressures on SMEs.
  • Improved access to international markets: With our growing international client base, policies that facilitate access to global markets are key. This includes trade missions and agreements and most importantly, simplifying international trade regulations, to make it easier for SMEs to compete globally.
  • Making public procurement accessible: Simplifying the process for SMEs to bid for government contracts, ensuring fair competition.
  • Late payments: Introducing legislation to tackle late payments is vital. Late payments can cripple our cash flow and with up to 90% of small business failures attributed to cash flow problems, timely payments are critical. Labour’s plan to unlock £20 billion in unpaid invoices by enforcing stricter rules on late payments is a promising step.
  • Skills and training: Investing in skills training tailored to small business needs. This involves developing skills that directly impact small business operations, such as digital marketing, financial management and customer service. Tailored training can help SMEs stay competitive and innovative.
  • Mental health and wellbeing support: As a core pillar of our business, we help our clients develop solutions to support employee mental health and wellbeing. I’d like to see government policies that fund mental health programmes, stress management resources and initiatives that promote work-life balance. This will be crucial for maintaining a productive and healthy workforce.

Focusing on these areas will go a long way in creating a supportive and thriving environment for small and start-up businesses, ultimately driving economic growth and innovation.”