Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bah Humbug - why I won’t be celebrating Christmas…(as much as my employed counterparts)

Its that most magical time of the year again when everyone who’s fortunate enough to be in employment gets invited to ‘the works do’ - a chance to relax with colleagues and friends, reflect on the highs and lows of the year just passed, and generally make merry. A time to be encouraged and re-invigorated.

But not for me. Not because I’ve not been invited to others’ works do’s (‘cos I have, but have had to turn them all down owing to other clients needing me to support them fix problems when those parties are taking place - I’m afraid that for the time of life at the moment, the choice of earning money to pay bills always has to come first), but because as a sole trader, the tax office discriminates against me being able to have my own celebrations in the way that my employed counterparts can:

You see, the tax office allows for a spend of up to £150 per employee in respect of Christmas parties (so if your boss is saying they can’t afford anything more than limp sandwiches and  1 bottle of cheap plonk between 15 people, you can set them straight!). But this only applies to people who are in the employ of others - not those who are self-employed. Any celebratory costs I incur on behalf of myself and others I‘m fortunate enough to work with and might choose to partake of a mice pie and sherry with, I have to bear the full costs of at my personal expense after tax…

Given that the growth of the business population seems to be increasingly rooted in people like me: the self-employed, surely its time for HMRC to review these rules so we don’t have to miss out on the festivities that others are enjoying…?

But this is Christmas time - not a time to be melancholic and upset, but a time to try and spread goodwill: so to all my fellow sole traders, you can hopefully draw some moral comfort from this in that you’re not the only one to feel you’re missing out on the egg nog and turn under the mistletoe;
to everyone else-  warmest wishes of the season to you and your loved ones;
as for me - I’m off to seek what’s on special offer at my local off-license, find a limp sandwich and pull my cracker by myself…

Thursday, December 6, 2012

are we all missing the real point of social franchising?

Social Franchising is seen by many as a Holy Grail or magic bullet to so many: depending who you speak with, it’s about:
  • ·      scaling your enterprise for even greater impact (Unltd)
  • ·   generating even greater impact in addressing social ills in society and communities throughout the country (various government policies and politicians)
  • ·      the way to increase the number of successful social enterprises to ‘critical mass’ (Social Firms UK)

and lots of other reasons, all of which are broadly in keeping with the sentiment that social franchising is talked about as a growth strategy for existing social enterprises to achieve more of the good they deliver.

But I’m wondering if everyone’s missed a really obvious trick here, and actually missed the point of what social franchising is actually really doing in practice: it’s a way of fast-tracking the creation of consortia within the sector without all the time and energy usually needed.

There’s lots of interest in consortia for all sorts of reasons (easier to procure larger contracts, greater purchasing power, saving costs on shared back office functions, etc), but consortia development always begins with the assumption that there are a number of existing groups who identify some common shared interest.

And surely Social Franchising offers the same things as consortia: a larger scale of linked activities through which it might (amongst other things) collectively more easily procure larger contracts, share administrative functions to reduce overhead costs, greater purchasing power,.... The difference is that the consortia that emerge in this way would do so without the need for the usual time-consuming and costly negotiations that are otherwise needed. They would also emerge more in line with current real market trends and opportunities rather than simply because “it seems to be a good idea...?

I for one would therefore like to see some dialogue happening between the various sector bodies that are currently encouraging and facilitating consortia and social franchises in completely separate ‘silos’ to each other. It may be that nothing comes of such chats, but it could perhaps unlock a new way of approaching both the development of consortia and how successful social enterprises look at how they franchise themselves...