Standing up for Scotland’s microbusinesses

Microbusinesses form the fabric of Scotland’s business landscape.

 

 

NS

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that there is a huge community of entrepreneurial “microbusinesses” which make up 94 per cent of all Scottish firms. Typically, a microbusiness will have fewer than nine employees and a turnover of less than £500,000 per year. Microbusinesses span all sectors, from retail and hospitality to marketing and construction.

As the biggest lender to small businesses in Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland is constantly investigating and developing new ways to support this vital community of business owners and the future business leaders of tomorrow. Earlier this year, we conducted our most in-depth analysis of microbusinesses in Scotland, looking at the motivations and unique challenges that they are presented with day-to-day. Our aim was to build our understanding of the realities of working in a microbusiness, to tailor and pave the way for recognising the contribution which these organisations make for our economy.

While it is obvious that microbusinesses work hard, it also became clear that flexibility was the primary factor for those surveyed on what motivates them to start their enterprise. Only 28 per cent of the people surveyed were driven by financial reward, compared to 71 per cent motivated by a desire for greater flexibility, 36 per cent to fulfil a passion, and 34 per cent because they had spotted a gap in the market.

The survey results suggested that although microbusiness owners enjoy the freedom that working within a microbusiness provides, there could be long-term problems ahead due to the pressure of working longer hours. Over a third of microbusiness owners work more than the traditional five-day week and the same number logs in excess of eight hours a day. They also feel unable to take any time away from their job – almost half haven’t taken a sick day in the last year. Although these statistics suggest that this could potentially become an issue in the future as people could suffer burnout or stress, the microbusiness community has a very high job satisfaction rate with 59 per cent saying they wouldn’t ever work for someone else again.

Imposter syndrome is rife… but not holding women back in the workplace
The survey also delved into female-led microbusinesses and identified that, shockingly, a third of those surveyed admitted to having experienced imposter syndrome during their career. Imposter syndrome, a term coined in the late 1970s by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, is the feeling that your achievements are not real, or that you do not deserve praise or success.

Encouragingly, the experience of imposter syndrome is not putting young women off starting their own businesses, and RBS research identified the growth of a new, driven group of entrepreneurs who are young, female and well-versed in having an online business, with almost a third of female microbusiness owners starting their business before they turned 35.

Socially savvy, these female microbusiness owners are largely millennials and digital natives. The internet and technological innovations are essential to the running, promotion and advancement of their microbusinesses. Being comfortable with new tech and digital helps female microbusiness owners in the day-to-day running of their business, and 46 per cent find their business advice online from online forums, and 35 per cent from social media.

Just under half of the female Scottish microbusiness owners surveyed also consider themselves a “multi-hyphenate” as they have another job or source of income.This flexibility when it comes to income streams is a far cry from the business landscape for females 100 years ago. This year marks a milestone for women across the country as it remembers the historic conquest of 1918 and 100 years since women were granted the power to vote. During 2018 Royal Bank of Scotland will join with other businesses in recognising the contribution of women to our society.

Case study: Jemma Crag, Meraki Concept Studio, Edinburgh
Meraki Concept Studio is a full-service studio that oversees strategy, design and production across all platforms. Jemma Crag said: “I set up Meraki because I wanted the flexibility to run my own business, and I wanted to work and support other small businesses in making them as successful as they can be. Edinburgh is such a buzzing, creative place to live and work at the moment, so I really wanted to get involved in the small business scene here and support these businesses in a valuable way.” Although with vast experience working for global organisations, Jemma said that she has suffered from imposter syndrome, especially working in a male-dominated creative industry.

She explained: “I think that it’s so difficult, as a woman, to combat imposter syndrome. When we win a big account or deliver a successful piece of work I sometimes pinch myself that these positive things are happening to me. It’s almost like I feel I’m going to get ‘found out’ – which is madness. I work hard, and do great work, so to have those feelings that I’m not worthy can be damaging.”

Supporting 100 Women
At Royal Bank of Scotland, we understand the strength of the female community and in particular the businesswomen of tomorrow. We have a network of 60 Scotland centric Women in Business specialists, accredited by Chartered Banker Institute and certified by Everywoman.

We’re committed to building networks between women, organising 300 female-focused events and engaging over 11,000 across the UK last year. In 2018, we will continue to offer a support network to inspire female business leaders through our 100 Women events. These will take place across Scotland’s largest cities in August and September 2018 and will offer an open platform for businesswomen to be inspired, whether they are microbusiness owners themselves or think they might set up their own business now or at some point in the future. Designed to empower and educate, the bank will be inviting keynote speakers to talk about their experience of building an empire from scratch and what they’ve learned.

Ultimately, all of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s support networks exist to create an entrepreneurial environment where female-led businesses can grow.

Marcelino Castrillo is managing director of business banking at Royal Bank of Scotland.