Britain has a problem with success. Our public discourse champions the underdog, and vilifies profit and wealth. That means that big businesses, both British and multinational, find themselves in the media and political firing line on an almost daily basis. This week’s Labour Party conference was no different, unveiling policy proposals that would hit energy companies, house-builders and businesses with more than £300,000 in profits with increased costs and regulation. Yet big companies, like small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), are critical to Britain’s success. They are major investors, generate significant employment, and offer some of the best training to staff and to young people. Without them, many of our entrepreneurial SMEs would lack customers, and our already precarious overseas trade balance could worsen. Britain needs to learn to love both if our economy is to go from good to great. Adam Marshall is director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce.
Businesses in the UK often enjoy good relationships with their customers, with many people joining loyalty schemes or building up relationships with their favourite brands online. And many big businesses are working hard to get it right. But consumers also have justified complaints with how they have been treated, and businesses must respond to customer needs if they are going to improve the confidence of UK consumers. The payment protection insurance mis-selling situation rocked some customers’ faith in banks – with just 19 per cent of people thinking that the institutions are well run. Even now, years after the products were mis-sold, some are still battling to reclaim their money. Energy companies have made progress with solving their own mis-selling problems. The Big Six has agreed to stop all doorstep selling, following widespread complaints from customers about misleading sales pitches. Gillian Guy is chief executive of Citizens Advice.