Google is gross. Amazon is atrocious. Starbucks is scum.
That’s what the media and commentators are shrieking. The big multinationals are shirking their tax responsibilities and squeezing out small businesses. Down with that sort of thing!
But here’s the thing: my (admittedly limited) knowledge of tax law tells me that these companies are working within a system that encourages this type of behaviour. Rightly or wrongly, moral or immoral (or amoral): that’s the way it is, and that’s the way the system works.
Perhaps the system needs changing; apparently it was set up in the 1920s, before the age of multinational corporations… I don’t know. I do know that Google, Amazon, and Starbucks are doing what any sensible company would do: maximising their profits and minimising the tax they pay.
The question of paying tax isn’t a legal one, as far as I understand it; it’s a moral one. And the problem with that is that there’s no one person in these businesses who’s involved personally enough to feel any kind of twinge when it comes to shuffling all their profits out to Bermuda.
Anyway, all that aside – because people can and will argue about this until someone’s head explodes – the point that really grated my carrot this morning while I was listening to Radio 4 was this: small high-street bookshops and cafés are suffering because of Amazon and Starbucks.
Well I’m sorry, but I call bullshit.
On the face of it, if you can’t be arsed to actually put any thought into the situation, it looks like small local businesses are being destroyed by large multinational ones. But when you dig a little deeper, you find that in fact there’s a ton of opportunity there for the savvy small business owner to clean up.
I don’t know of any UK equivalents of Amazon. Not who provide a service in the same league. And do you know what? I’d pay more for a superb delivery service – like Amazon’s – from a smaller UK business. I’m positive I’m not alone in that, either. I’m “special”, sure; but I’m not that special.
In fact, there are a couple of booksellers who could do amazing things, but they won’t. Not can’t; WON’T. AbeBooks does a moderate job. They sell all manner of second-hand, interesting, rare, and unusual books and I buy from them every now and then.
But they could winkle a fortune out of me if they wanted to. How? Send me emails every day. You see, I love books. I love the look, feel, smell, and bookness of them. I love ebooks, too. I Just. Love. Books. So I would happily read an email every day from these guys. Instead, I get sporadic emails from them. When I do get an email, I tend to at least go on a book hunt, if not actually buy from them.
So imagine how many other book-lovers out there like me would spend a bloody fortune on books with AbeBooks if only they’d alter their marketing a little? I’d love to get my hands on their marketing, for sure. I know for a fact I could massively increase their profits if they wanted to do so.
The thing is, any business can do this. Blaming the economy or big multinationals is an absolute cop-out when it comes to struggling in business. I don’t give a shit how harsh that sounds, and I don’t care if I’ve offended anybody’s delicately held (but wrong) opinions. This ain’t got nothing to do with the moral question of whether big companies should pay more tax; that’s neither here nor there.
It’s got everything to do with what a small business owner is willing to do to improve their own lot. Because, believe me, there’s a metric fuckton of opportunity out there. And although there’s a bunch of exciting stuff you could that requires investment – like direct mail, podcasting, videos, and the like – you can start doing it right now for free.
With email marketing done the Superheroes way. Want to know more? Grab yourself a copy of my book and find out. Just remember to take action on what you read.
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.