As well as being Andy Burnham's campaign director for the last three months, I run one of the UK's 5million small businesses. I've spent years building it up and experienced all the highs and lows that come with it.
I know what it's like to agonise over hiring that next employee, the complexities and frustrations of navigating how to finance expansion, burning the midnight oil so your customers are happy, and the elation you feel when you land a new client. It's more than simple turnover and profit and, like millions of people, owning a business is at the heart of why I share our Party's great values.
I feel I am part of an exciting community as a small business owner, with small firms accounting for 99% of all private sector businesses in the UK, 48% of private sector jobs and 33% of private sector turnover according to the Federation of Small Businesses.
As small business owners, we pride ourselves not just on the careers that flourish, the tax revenues generated and the impact we have on our local economy. Many small business owners also thrive on creating social value - everything from offering opportunities to under-represented groups and minimising our carbon footprint to paying our suppliers promptly.
I'm confident that under Andy Burnham's leadership, the future for the small business community is in good hands. But importantly, this is not at the expense of side-lining bigger businesses or the self-employed. Andy knows that, for so many small businesses or people starting as sole traders, their aims are to grow into big firms or businesses of all shapes and sizes, and to contribute to our public services and drive forward innovation that can positively transform society.
Through this leadership campaign, I've worked closely with Andy and seen how he listens to diverse views and takes them seriously when developing policy. This includes the views of small businesses. Look at his speeches and manifesto and you'll see that he echoes business concerns, from the desperate need for a skilled workforce (something the CBI says is the biggest threat to UK productivity) to access to finance, a tax system that supports those starting out, and growing a strong economy.
He knows that we need to help SMEs to export by giving them a single point of contact in government, to look at wholesale business rates reform and the importance of tackling late payments. He knows that we need to help SMEs to export by giving them a single point of contact in government and to look at wholesale business rates reform and the importance of tackling late payments.
Andy has put forward his belief that, as a party, we need to rebuild our relationship with the business community. He established, with Rachel Reeves, a business advisory panel at the outset of the campaign, alongside a dedicated business unit in his team, making sure the business community's views are at the heart of his thinking.
Andy understands the concerns that the public have about the future of Labour and the future of the country. It has to be a vote for Andy if you relate to any of what's above and want the only leadership candidate seriously able to achieve the change that SMEs need.