Welcome to One Minute Monday, our brand new interview series in which we talk to some of the most influential figures in UK business.
To kick off our new feature, we sat down with Mike Cherry, policy director for the FSB, the UK’s largest campaigning group for small businesses.
We find out how Cherry became inspired to help SMEs, his love for classic cars and what frustrates him most in business.
Tell me about your role at the FSB. What are you trying to achieve?
I am very fortunate to have been elected to the position of policy director to help our small businesses by taking their issues and helping to engage directly with policy makers on their behalf.
Small businesses have huge challenges, not just in starting or developing and growing a business but having someone to support their aspirations and give them a voice, and that is where the FSB comes in.
What inspired you to become involved with small businesses?
Having run my own business for many years, as a manufacturer we have faced all sorts of issues whether it be regulatory burdens, access to finance, late payment, and many others.
My role gives me the opportunity to give something back, and I am absolutely passionate in trying to help policy makers understand the quite different needs of SMEs, and to reduce the burdens they face on a day to day basis.
Who do you think small business owners should be looking to for inspiration?
Of course the Richard Branson’s and James Dyson’s of this world always spring to mind – both of whom started as very small business owners and have created great companies.
However you also need to recognise all the unsung, yet successful small businesses in every local area, who support their local communities in their own and often unique ways.
What’s your favourite quote?
While there are many quotes to inspire the one item that often comes to my mind is not a quote, but a motto – ‘Per Ardua Ad Astra’, which is the motto of the RAF. Translated, it means ‘through adversity to the stars’.
What are the biggest challenges for SME owners in 2015?
There are many – for the smallest it is simply making their business work and achieving their aspirations, despite the problems they will encounter on the way.
How do you relax when you’re not at work?
With difficulty as I’m always thinking of new things, new ideas, but I am fortunate to enjoy classic cars having always been fascinated by them from a very early age – I remember learning to drive at ten, simply because I could and I enjoy nothing more than getting the most out of a piece of machinery, or reading a good historical book.
Who are your biggest role models?
As a country we don’t recognise the genuine contribution that most small businesses bring to our communities, so all those leaders of business who have the ability and enthusiasm to achieve over the long term – not just the start ups, but all growers and achievers.
Do you think there are enough women in business?
No, I don’t think there are, only 20 per cent of UK SMEs are female led yet they contribute an estimated £75 billion to economic output.
More needs to be done to really empower women. Vocational education is one way we can help more women start a business career, but they also need long term business support to help them succeed and grow.
If women set up businesses at the same rate as men, there would be another one million entrepreneurs – think what that would do for the economy.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Being the youngest commissioned officer in the reserve forces at that time, having left school at 16, was a very big achievement and a very proud moment for me personally, as it helped develop my personal skills.
Who is the best person you’ve ever worked with?
It has to be my wife and family. The support they give enables me to commit so much to the roles I am elected to do.
What frustrates you the most in business?
Bureaucracy and the sheer waste of time spent in resolving sometimes even the simplest of things.
Take broadband for instance. It should be an absolute necessity, yet we still cannot get super-fast broadband being just a few yards from the box, which itself relies on old copper wiring, to the idiotic regulations that do cost time and money unnecessarily,
If you made a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
Liam Neeson. Someone with similar ideals around self-worth, achievement, treat others as you would yourself, and sheer dogged determination. Anyone can achieve if they really want to, with a little luck, help and support.