By Nick James

On the 22nd April I will be joining a panel of business experts to discuss the eight key demands to post-election government that Doug Richard puts forward in his “Entrepreneurs’ Manifesto and Declaration of Rights”.

Now I’m not sure that any of the Political parties understand the business of government let alone how to approach the government of business. Particularly in these heady campaigning days!

So far we have seen David Cameron launch his manifesto using the music of Keane and David Bowie — seemingly without permission; Keane’s drummer Richard Hughes was “horrified!”. This doesn’t bode well as in the US, ultimately unsuccessful Republican candidate John McCain made a similar gaffe using a Foo Fighters song in his campaign.

Peter Mandelson the current Business Minister has already resorted to ‘mud-slinging’ by suggesting that David Cameron, “looks down his rather long toffee nose at the regions.”

And poor old Nick Clegg launched his party’s General Election manifesto saying it’s, ‘hope married to credibility’ and then heads off to an ASDA store and tries to explain CGT to the shoppers condescendingly saying; ‘that’s income to you and I’.

Guys — none of you have any credibility and quite frankly none of you should be allowed into the world of business.

Personally I’d like to see the next government adopt a ‘laissez faire’ approach with minimal governmental interference in business which would seamlessly lead to the scrapping of Business Link which is one of the major topics from Doug’s Entrepreneurs’ Manifesto.

Scrapping Business Link would make massive savings which could be ploughed into our Universities to ensure that we have the skill-sets available to succeed in a global economy.

I would then pick up on another of Doug’s points which is to ‘mandate government to procure from small UK businesses through a minimum quota.’

The one thing I wouldn’t do though is to make it easier to start a business, it’s not too difficult now and life as an entrepreneur is tough.

After the decline of heavy industry in the 1980's many organisations offered ‘soft’ loans and grants to encourage ex-miners and steel workers to set up in business. However in many cases it wasn’t long until the money ran out, bank loans were taken against security of Director’s homes which in many cases were re-possessed when interest rates rocketed in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

No — let’s not make it too easy for people to start a business but let’s ensure that the support is there to help businesses grow.

In an independent study commissioned by the Conservatives in 2007 the report entitled ‘Enterprising Britain: Building the enterprise capital of the world’ carried out by ESCP-EAP European School of Management showed that;
The quality and speed of growth of new firms is a more appropriate proxy for entrepreneurship than the number of new firms.

• New companies have increasingly struggled to grow in size (the analysis showed that the percentage of businesses that achieve an annual turnover above £1 million 5 years after creation has decreased from 48% in 1997 to 16% in 2006)

• There is a growth threshold — once companies reach a certain size, growth becomes much faster (the analysis showed that it takes on average 14 years for a company to reach a £5 million annual turnover and only 2 more years to hit £15 million)

This struggle for growth was explained by two factors: a mental barrier (business owners not aspiring to expand their businesses) and an environmental barrier (business owners finding it difficult to achieve growth).

Therefore there needs to be a support mechanism, again as suggested by Doug that could look like a ‘Nationwide programme of entrepreneurship teaching and mentoring.’
The delivery of this support should be via something akin to the Chamber of Commerce network in France which is nothing like our disparate and ineffective version.
This support network should be led by successful business people rather than ‘professional’ business support ‘lifers’.
One last thought would be to take a leaf out of the Canadian Government’s book where they pay 75% of a student interns wage and related costs. They do this to support SME’s and develop opportunities for young people — now that’s a great idea!

Let us know what you think — email us at haveyoursay@freshbusinessthinking.com

Join us next week at the Have your say panel.

When: Thursday 22nd April
Location: The Royal Institution, London
Time: Noon — 2.30pm