Norman Small FSB Face for BusinessScanned copy of Norman Small article from FSB 2014 Conference

Face for Business has been a member of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) for a few years now, and has benefitted hugely from the services they offer to support small businesses.  At a recent Free2Network event we met Selwyn, and he told us all about the founder of the FSB, Captain Norman Small.   Norman created the federation to help small businesses lobby the government.  He held the very first meeting at The Grand Hotel in Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire.

The Federation of Small Businesses is today the largest business association with more members than the Institute of Directors and Confederation of British Industry put together. If you are a small business, and indeed, if you are an entrepreneur thinking of starting up joining the FSB is a must.

We hope you enjoy reading all about Norman Small, in the words of Selwyn, and the great work and support the Federation of Small Businesses offer.

Captain Small’s Big Business Idea (FSB)

What do you know of his character?
Norman Small was forward-thinking for his era. During Norman’s time working as a salesman, many retailers were complaining that the Labour Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan, was raising National Insurance contributions for small businesses, and this created a huge backlash. To answer the pleas of these disgruntled businesses, Norman thought it would be a good idea to create a federation, to help these businesses lobby the government.  Because this was a new idea, self-employed business at the time wanted to hear what Norman’s plans were, as there was nothing like it in the country. His article in the Manchester Guardian, attracted other businesses in the UK to his ideas, and created the catalyst to start the ‘FSB’ ball rolling. The very first meeting consisted of six business owners meeting at The Grand Hotel in rural Lancashire! That very day they decided to establish the business group.

grand-hotel-lytham-st-annesGrand Hotel, Lytham St Anne’s, 1970’s

First FSB meeting in Lancashire
Its first headquarters was in Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire, and in its first year 12,000 small businesses joined the FSB, together with a number of self-employed MPs.  To put Norman’s character into perspective, he was compared to Billy Graham, the American Evangelist, who would draw in great crowds of people to listen to him. Norman Small was quite a large and confident character. In North Wales when Norman was arranging public events they were always sold out.

At the time, how did small businesses promote their services/products?
Mostly via newspaper articles and advertising, public speaking and talking to owners of trade. The internet was not invented, and there was no social media. So the press/radio/TV and cinemas were the main outlets to promote businesses.

Federation of Small Business through the years and member benefits

How has the FSB evolved since 1974?
It has taken 41 years for the FSB to get to the standard of today. There are 33 regions in UK, with approximately 150 branches.  There are major offices in all the principal cities and towns and press and parliamentary offices in Westminster, Glasgow, Belfast, and Cardiff, and a fully manned office in the heart of the European Union – Brussels.   The FSB membership has expanded from 60,000 to well in excess of 200,000, with services being expanded enormously. Proof of this expansion can be seen via the FSB hosted National Policy Conference (which was televised live). This was held in the Midlands last March 2014. The event was televised to 24 countries across the globe.   The FSB does have an international presence, but it is predominantly a UK organisation. They have a Branch in Gibraltar, with over 1,000 members.

To date, the FSB is the largest business association with more members than the Institute of Directors and Confederation of British Industry put together.

Given your experience of working with rural businesses, what would you say are the main constraints of starting a business in these areas? How does the FSB help small businesses which fall under this category?

Previous FSB lobbying to the Welsh government has been very successful. The FSB is fortunate that they have a very good Welsh Policy Group in Cardiff, and in North Wales the Regional Organiser Michael Learmond (whose work is phenomenal). He organises all the press work and public events which helps to get any messages across to FSB members. Michael is also responsible for FSB campaigning in the Welsh Assembly Government and has helped to reduce business rates to an acceptable level in Wales. To date there are 3000 members in the North Wales and Chester Region.

The FSB works very well with the six local authorities and the local enterprise agencies in North Wales, presenting opportunities to small business, and to support them with restarting their businesses, if necessary. We can advise them what to do, how to join the FSB, and provide them with opportunities to set businesses up.  Furthermore, we have a huge young enterprise programme, where we give talks to senior students, at higher education schools, throughout the North Wales Region about opening up businesses.  I would say that you can start a business anywhere these days – you have the internet with a global audience, listening and watching what you’re doing. There are no problems at all in starting your own business.

What do you think are the best features/benefits of being a member of the institution?
The FSB is a credible and highly respected organisation. Its support services are second to none, membership fees are small, there is free banking for businesses, and we pay a raft of legal expenses. The lobbying side of FSB is really envious across the whole of the United Kingdom. The North Wales membership has 2717 businesses involved, giving an indication about how strong the FSB is in the Region.

Entrepreneurship in today’s society and advice

What would you say to entrepreneurs of today? Do you have any traditional values that you think are transferable to entrepreneurs in today’s social and technological society?
Businesses can succeed in today’s society – they can tap into a global audience, they can use the different media channels to market themselves, and there are opportunities through all organisations such as the FSB, who look to the government for business support and grants.  Success in the early days was dependent on whether you were a self-starter and could motivate yourself. You need to attract as much business as you can by being assertive, challenging yourself and to believe that there are no barriers. If you can do that, you are a winner.

Given your vast knowledge and experience with the FSB and advising small businesses, what’s the best advice you could offer?
Small businesses really need to research where their market is going to be, finding out what the competition is like out there, what their pricing structures are and dovetail their business plan to incorporate these factors. Barriers can be removed. If you join organisations such as the FSB, they can open doors that were closed to you.


Selwyn Williams, North West Wales Membership Advisor, Federation of Small Businesses

Inspiration, Information and Insight!
Face for Business hopes that you have found this interview both informative and inspiring, and that it spurs you on to look to the Federation of Small Businesses as well as giving you an insight into the benefits and voice that the FSB can give you. The FSB started with one man and his powerful vision and passion to get the pleas of small business heard – you could be just like Norman Small.

If this interview has provoked you into pursuing your own business please do feed back to us. We’d love to find that we have helped you making that first big step into starting your own business.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank Selwyn for his time and insight into the Federation of Small Businesses.

FSB New Logo

The Federation of Small Businesses has just undergone a branding exercise to reflect the UK’s small business sector – please visit their new and refreshed website here.

FSB New Logo Face for Business

[We published this article as part of our Lancashire Day promotion as the very first FSB meeting was held in Lytham St Anne’s. This article is also part of Face for Business’ ‘Big Business Influencers’ Blog Series’].


Federation of Small Business Website
Federation of Small Businesses Anglesey Branch
Wikipedia on Norman Small
Visit Lytham St Anne’s Website
Lancashire Day Website
Small Business Saturday UK

Image Source.

To get in touch with Selwyn Williams to discuss any aspect of FSB Membership please call him on 07757 011843.
Address: 5 Chapel Street, Menai Bridge, North Wales, LL59 5HW