Can acting local rebuild confidence in business?

Business is good for us: as individuals, as a nation and more often than not, for the community. Business provides us with an occupation that fills our day; a way to earn an honest living and a means to pay our taxes – and, in consequence, keep the country running too. Hopefully, it also provides us with stability and that all-important routine.

I have always believed this – and I always will. I find it hard to believe that there could be a life without business – and no, I am not sad. I am one of those lucky ones that enjoys what I do, day in, day out. And I have benefited from it too: it has enabled me to raise a family, earn some money (although running my own business, not always), learned a lot – and built a good many lasting friendships too – colleagues, clients and business contacts alike.

And then I read a few months ago, the YouGov/CBI Confidence in Business Survey that revealed that only around 50% of people in the UK believe business makes a positive contribution to society.

Now how depressing is that?

10717_GBD_stat_local_1But my heart was lifted – ever so slightly – when I learned that confidence in business is affected by geography.

According to a further YouGov/CBI Confidence in Business Survey, a far larger proportion of us trust local businesses in our own area. The results vary from one region to another but on average, across the UK, 81% trust their local businesses. When the same question was asked in relation to whether we trust businesses nationally, the figure fell to a depressing 57% — just above half.

Some however, remain in the ‘don’t trust’ camp: across the UK, 11% don’t trust local businesses in our area – increasing to 33% across the country.

Now what that says to me is that we tend to trust who we know and because we know local businesses, we trust them.

In short, familiarity does not breed contempt – it breeds trust.

In short, familiarity does not breed contempt – it breeds trust.

Now this is a really important point because I, the CBI, and many others, believe that generating trust in business is important. This is not just a question of altruism it’s actually good for business if our customers and suppliers trust us. It’s good for the standing of business, the standing of our staff – and it plays a big role in business fundamentals such as recruiting staff. Who, I ask, would want to work for a company they didn’t trust?

So where does this lead us?

We must then ensure that we get across that many national businesses are local too.

We need to capitalise on the ray of sunshine presented by this latest poll: that we trust local businesses that we deal with day in day out. We must then ensure that we get across that many national businesses are local too. OK, there will always be one or two rogues in business and businesses are, after all, only human so they will make mistakes – but in our efforts to restore public faith in business I would strongly suggest that we start local, act local and build on the support that we have.

The CBI and YouGov have done us all a favour in producing statistics that measure our confidence in business. We should keep on measuring it – and above all, working to increase our local confidence in business so it spreads elsewhere.

After all, business is good – for everyone.

David Clarke is Managing Director and Head of Consultation & Engagement at PR and communications consultancy and CBI member firm Clarke Associates UK in the West Midlands.

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