Lord Sugar, Richard Branson and Bill Gates – three of the top responses we received when we asked further education students to visualise enterprise. In fact, 59% of respondents associated enterprise with how entrepreneurs are defined in the media – high-profile, innovative individuals of extreme wealth – and just 5% identified local and regional businesses, small shops and near-by start-ups as enterprising.
It’s true that the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker no longer define our high streets, and a return to the town centre of the past looks increasingly unlikely. With a net total of 987 shops disappearing from the high street in 2014, almost three times the total 2013 figure, our town centres have changed beyond recognition. But with challenge comes opportunity.
And it is an opportunity for young start-ups. Town centre managers and current business owners on the high street need young people to be engaged in the future of our town centres, and support them more than ever. Only they truly understand the products and facilities a town centre can offer which will appeal to the next generation of consumers, and secure their purchasing power.
For this reason, placing young people at the heart of town centre turnaround is a key part of our new Carnegie Position on Enterprise. We believe that local authorities, educators, entrepreneurs and policymakers should come together to help young people interested in entrepreneurship to see towns as innovative hubs and hosts of their future start-ups. And that their enterprising spirit should be at the centre of plans for town centre regeneration.
Because when young people are given this opportunity, the results speak for themselves. In 2013, TestTown, our town centre retail competition for young entrepreneurs, doubled the footfall on the traders’ streets and the teams took £10,000 in 20 hours of trading.
So as the UK Government asks us to celebrate the Great British High Street, we would add that we should celebrate the UK and Ireland’s young entrepreneurs, and that policymakers and existing start-ups alike should welcome them to our town centres.
As an author of start-up books, I get very jaundiced when I start reading others. It’s professional jealousy and it’s childish. Most of these books (if not all) are better then mine, which reinforces my jealousy. I was prepared to be unimpressed by Entrepreneur Revolution – How to Develop Your Entrepreneurial Mindset and Start a Business That Works by Daniel Priestly, but after reading it I wasn’t.
The book is superb. Straight talking. Nothing complex about technology, social media or strategy, but some very simple home truths that are very difficult to argue against.
The book’s starting point is that the industrial revolution is over; the information technology revolution is about to be over; and we are entering the entrepreneur revolution. We are moving from hands and heads to hearts. The future is customer intimacy, delivered by entrepreneurs who deliver amazing value, love what they are doing and get paid for it.
New technology allows everyone to follow their passion, heart and dreams. And following your passion makes you able to compete against the “big boys”. It also allows you to be in charge of your own destiny without being controlled by “The Man”.
The key question here is whether you are a clinger (ie wasting your life, holding on to the industrial revolution-type of living, living in the past, etc) or a surfer (ie someone who follows the joy, opportunity and empowerment).
Daniel’s book introduces the term “Global Small Business”, because technology now enables you to go global overnight. And then he explains how:
Once you have that set up, you have to lean in, go for it with all your being and start building your reputation. And because you are enjoying yourself, the spark, the energy, the curiosity and passion will bring the rewards, one way or the other.
The icing on the cake is how Daniel gives you a business model that works. It’s called the Ascending Transaction Model and consists of a gift, a “quick-win product”, a core product and a logical next step. Each step has increasing revenue potential, with all steps having great emphasis on excellence, customer delight, client success and sales.
To quote directly from the book:
“Secretly, many small-business owners have a negative association to selling and they wish they could simply do extra marketing, extra servicing or extra networking rather than having to have the sales conversation.”
“Unfortunately, this is fantasy. Omega, Ferrari, Google, HSBC and Apple all invest in sales training so their staff know how to have structured sales conversations with prospective buyers.
“If the world’s biggest brands, with the world’s hottest products, need to have sales conversations, then so does every small business.”
Daniel leaves the best for last, by providing a few home truths:
This book gave me a jolt. It forced me to look at our business model, reinforced my belief in entrepreneurship and taught me a few new things – all the things you want from a good book.
I had always thought that the word “entrepreneur” sounded so glamorous. The truth is that you are “it”, from key decision maker and strategist to garlic peeler. When people ask me what my position is in my company I laugh - I’m the CEO and the cleaner.
If you decide to start your own business without your finances completely sorted and you can’t afford staff, you are in for a difficult time trying to do everything. Even if you have a business plan that maps out incomings and outgoings, there is always that extra marketing opportunity that you don’t want to miss, or that packaging that you had to buy etc... spend, spend spend. I left my job early on in the planning of the business to throw myself fully into the project - maybe I should’ve been more patient and kept my salary for a bit longer.
Having said that, somebody said to me at the very beginning of my business journey that I should just go for it and borrow £100k from the bank. Thank goodness I didn’t do that. Yes, life would’ve been so much easier, I'd have a budget for machinery and packaging, maybe one or two part-time staff and a salary, but I wouldn’t have known how to spend it as well as I do now. Now, I have proved a concept, I understand which things worked or didn’t work and I know exactly what I need to do next. The only small detail missing is the cash itself.
So, this week has been about focusing on raising finances and boosting my sales. I'm looking after my key customers and revising my business plan so it reflects what I know now to allow me to get to the next stage. I’m off to the bank today and, hopefully, the bank manager will like it and believe that I can make it work. Hopefully I will be able to raise the finances and afford to pay a member of staff and the machinery I need. Feeling positive. I’m not superstitious.
You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com