Championing real-life entrepreneurs

Championing real-life entrepreneurs

November 16, 2011 by Mike Southon

It was depressing to see Business Secretary Vince Cable quoted as saying that the economy was in worse shape than under the previous administration and that a double-dip recession was a distinct possibility.

While the opposition immediately seized upon his comments, it could be argued that this was rather hypocritical as the current debt crisis and poor bank regulation were a direct result of their own policies.

The feeling of most entrepreneurs is that government is essentially powerless to influence the economy at the grass-roots level. Rather than decreasing regulation as they always promise, any intervention on their part, however well meaning, always seems to create even more obstacles to enterprise.

The solution to our economic challenges is clear. Rather than sit on our hands and complain, now is the time for entrepreneurs to get out there and sell our way out of the recession, bringing the rest of the UK's economy along in our wake.

But this will need to be the UK's real-life entrepreneurs, not the get-rich-quick chancers we see in the media, an image actively fostered by offensive and unrepresentative programmes such as Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice.

And while it is always a joy to inspire young people into a path of entrepreneurship, this is a long-term policy rather than the immediate help that the UK's economy needs.

Real-life entrepreneurs first felt the effects of the recession in 2008. Those that have survived followed the best practice that all businesses should follow. This includes the banks, which are always quick to criticise small businesses for their lack of planning.

Successful entrepreneurship involves reducing risk wherever possible by concentrating on the core business of the organisation and, wherever possible, finding the most profitable niche or vertical market. While cost-savings are important, the main focus should be on generating revenue and reducing the length of the sales cycle.

Rather than chasing brand new customers who promise big orders from exotic locations, the place to find immediate revenue is always your existing customers. They may be equally affected by the recession but willing to discuss mutually beneficial outcomes with people they trust.

It is also a myth that there is no money out there. This is the strong message I have received across the spectrum of industry, from private equity and venture capital companies, angel investors and those companies who have managed to grow successfully in the last few years.

You only need to scan the regularly published lists of fast-growth companies to see which industries have thrived in a recession; all of these companies and others like them have money to spend with the right suppliers.

I am also determined to do my bit to help the UK's entrepreneurs. Starting on November 1st in Essex, I will be presenting at twelve branches of the Federation For Small Businesses (FSB), events that are open to everyone.

The FSB recently launched a new initiative “Championing The UK's Real Life Entrepreneurs”, which focuses on the key issues facing its members. These include increasing the routes to finance, improving cash flow, adopting a new approach to regulation, reducing and simplifying business tax, incentivising job creation and opening up export markets.

The FSB's Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Andrew Cave explained to me that the campaign is designed to galvanise the small businesses in the UK to take a forward-looking and positive attitude towards the economy by increasing their revenue and taking on staff, especially the increasing number of unemployed young people.

He argues strongly that the opportunities and skilled, hard-working people are out there; all it needs is a positive attitude.

Originally published in The Financial Times. Copyright ©Mike Southon 2011. All Rights Reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.

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