Listen up, Vince: A 10-point charter for supporting small businesses

With the government and the CBI in agreement that entrepreneurs will be the UK economy's saving grace, and chancellor George Osborne getting ready to dust off the trusty red suitcase for his second appearance at the Dispatch Box next month, now seems like an ideal time to tell the government what it could - or should - be doing to support small businesses.

The interim management community has done just that. Interim management provider Russam GMS asked its network of 11,000 managers how business secretary Vince Cable could best help small businesses in their efforts to drive the economic recovery, and got a panel of judges including John Philpott, chief economist at the CIPD, and professor Russel Griggs, chair of the CBI's Small Business Council, to judge the responses.

The exercise resulted in two prize-winning tips for Vince, and a 10-point charter for the business secretary. The first of the two winners said Cable could best serve small businesses by sending a message of hope and optimism, and lifting the spirits of the UK workforce, adding: "The 'cut, cut, cut' strategy has eroded energy levels, spirit and the creativity needed to drive performance and results".

The second winner argued that boosting skills levels would drive economic regeneration, and that the UK should play to its strengths by investing more in training in areas such as science and design: "We should promote, train and invest in those work activities that we are genuinely good at and in which we feel comfortable in performing in industry."

According to Charles Russam, the firm's chairman, interim managers "operate at the heart of the UK economy and as serious small business owners", making them ideally placed to offer Cable a few words of wisdom on the support small businesses need to drive economic growth.

Here is their charter in full:

1. The SME sector is going to play a key part in the salvation of the UK economy, but it needs as much help as it can get. SMEs need better and continuous advice, particularly around strategy, risk and general management.

2. The UK needs to build on its export markets and end the reliance on Europe.

3. The demise of manufacturing in the UK is a major problem and the UK needs to provide incentives for manufacturers to improve efficiencies - which doesn't mean making cuts.

4. Government needs to address UK productivity, which lags behind the US, France and Germany. The government needs to get business leaders passionate about addressing productivity for this to improve.

5. Train people in key areas where the UK excels such as law, teaching, science, design and engineering, the arts and pharmaceutical manufacturing, and develop our service industries.

6. The demise of RDAs and Business Link has prompted a need for alternative support organisations for UK SMEs. There needs to be funding for SME advisers and business mentors.

7. Grants for research and development need to be made more readily available to SMEs.

8. Prepare young people for business and sow the seeds of entrepreneurialism at school.

9. Invest in people in good times and bad; the 'cut, cut, cut' mentality is sapping energy and creativity from business.

10. Immigration is necessary - particularly where there are clear skills shortages. It should be viewed as such, rather than as a social inconvenience.

What would you add to this list? Is there anything else the government could be doing to support entrepreneurs and help get the economy back on its feet? Tell us below.

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