Small businesses in Milton Keynes ‘must be aware of big social and political change’

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An Open University professor says even operators of small businesses and start-up companies in Milton Keynes must try to stay aware of changes in politics and society in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Professor Thomas Lawton was speaking at the Open University Business School’s breakfast briefing on Tuesday (September 24) on the subject of how organisations can take advantage of changes in the political and social environment, including at a local level.

Professor Lawton said: “It’s a different ball game for SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises).

“It’s never easy when you are trying to survive but it is useful to have some awareness of what is happening that might affect a business.”

He added that some trade associations were becoming more savvy when it came to keeping their members in touch with things coming up that might affect the membership.

His point was that if companies know what is coming up from government in terms of regulations or how customers are changing, they can adapt and “turn it into a source of differentiation and advantage”.

He gave examples of how philantropists like Arthur Guinness, a Protestant in Catholic Ireland, had adapted to demands for Home Rule to create the famous drinks brand. He also built houses for his workers and paid higher wages to create an environment where everyone wanted to work for Guinness.

Lufthansa, the airline, has created a Brussels office to take its message straight into the heart of European decision making and was seen as a “go-to” airline by policymakers, Professor Lawton said.

He said to be effective, awareness of the political and social scene must be right at the heart of decision making. And he said this strategy could be used to “re-engage at a local level in a meaningful way.”