Has there ever been a more important time to talk about community? What brings communities together, what makes them stick, what grows, supports and nurtures them? How do communities come together when the going gets tough, and how do they celebrate and grow?
I know without a moment of doubt that it is small businesses, up and down the UK, forming the glue for these communities. From the smallest of micro businesses to the 500-year-old family firm, small businesses are part of the fabric of communities and make the difference between making a town a home or tumbleweed rolling down the streets. This is not of course just about the high street, but service businesses, digital businesses, b2b businesses, manufacturing, R&D, all those small organisations contributing towards a stronger community.
I launched the Small Awards this year because we, in my organisation, believe that great things really do come in small packages. The heart and soul of a business beats louder than the bottom line can ever do. Small businesses sit at the heart of our communities - serving, employing, supporting, training and most of all of course, surviving. The continuity of small businesses creates stability both in the economy more widely and in local culture and employment.
Go to any town fair or village fete and small businesses are at the centre of them. Go to any school or hospital and local businesses are leading the fundraising and events. Look for those hiring apprentices, supporting those with mental health problems, hiring and training the homeless, reducing food wastage and cutting carbon emissions - small businesses are right there in the beating heart of it all.
While on the night of The Smalls, we celebrated - loudly, enthusiastically and often on our feet - the incredible contribution of these small businesses, we also remember that it is in fact the small business you turn to in a jam - The printer that stays open late to help with the deadline; the accountant that makes the difference between packing up and keeping going; the hairdresser that washes your hair when you break your arm or gets to your house at 6am on your wedding day; the coach that gives you the confidence to reach for the stars; the plumber that fixes your leaking radiator on Christmas Eve; the baker that says, don't worry you can pay me for that next week....
While other awards look just at the bottom line, judging businesses purely by their financial contribution, we look at the whole of the contribution to society. Businesses, particularly small businesses, really can deliver significant good to society and that needs to be recognised, celebrated and ultimately encouraged in others. There are a phenomenal number of businesses doing great things across the UK - millions of people, employees and ideas - and we celebrate the lot of them. Big business, government, and individuals, we can all learn a lot from small business - we just need to take a moment, and take note.