Are entrepreneurs heroes? Name the single most important ingredient for a successful entrepreneur, how do entrepreneurs overcome doubt, and is it too hard to raise money in the UK? This is the second in a two-part series focusing on an interview with a top expert in the UK on entrepreneurs.
Matt Smith is the Director at The Centre for Entrepreneurs, an organisation set-up to promote the role of entrepreneurs in creating economic growth and social well-being. In part one, we asked Matt about ‘how that entrepreneurial spark in the UK was lit? And about attitudes towards failure, the importance of Dragon’s Den and the Apprentice, and for one piece of advice you might give to an entrepreneur.
Today we drill down:
Question: Are entrepreneurs heroes?
Matt: “I would say so. . . entrepreneurs not only create jobs but are driving social revival, they are helping advise governments on some of the biggest problems, through leading reviews. A lot of the progress on entrepreneurship that came into place in the 2010-2015 government were sourced directly from entrepreneurs.” He cites SEIS as an example of “policies designed by entrepreneurs fed through the likes of Rohan Silva and Dan Gorski - [both of whom were government advisors during the David Cameron years) that were executed.”
Question: What is the single most important characteristic of an entrepreneur?
Matt: “If you were to identify just one, it is persistence or determination, the need and the desire to keep going, working through problems, to make yourself and your business a success.”
Question: “Are entrepreneurs held back by doubt?”
Matt: “Every entrepreneur has their highs and lows – the best way to counter this is to surround yourself with fellow entrepreneurs, whether that is a co-working space, a peer-to-peer mentoring group, whether it is finding your own individual mentor, so its connecting with other founders, and being self-critical and opening up properly.”
Question: How important is co-working, has it grown too fast?
Matt: “I don't think there's a bubble, certainly they are all over the place in London but you are only starting to see growth in the UK. Shared offices have been around for decades of course, but co-working space is relatively new. What is interesting, particularly in London, is that co-working brings together quite a wide group of individuals – you've got the self-employed, freelancers, start-ups, but also multinationals. The model will continue to grow in London but more excitingly will continue to grow and create real change in other cities throughout the UK.”
Question: “Multinationals? You said multinationals are setting up in co-working spaces.
Matt: “They are trying to make connections with start-ups.
Question: What can the government do to help entrepreneurs?
Matt: “The tax system needs simplifying, the time spent and the regulatory burden for entrepreneurs in just doing the accounts and filings is overly complex; there has been an accumulation of new regulation recently. Companies are faced with auto-enrolment with the apprenticeship levy, they are faced with extortionate increases in business rates – they need radical reform, yesterday.”
But there was another theme to Matt’s argument.
“I think what the government has not quite acknowledged not only are they not celebrating entrepreneurs like they did during David Cameron’s tenure, new regulations are starting to pile up and that creates real headaches for entrepreneurs.
He also suggested there is a confusion in the minds of the government with the difference between someone who sets up a small business and an entrepreneur, they are not necessarily the same. “The small business minister has now formed an advisory board; there are a few entrepreneurial groups represented on that but it's also mixed with traditional small businesses which is very different.”
Question: “If you are in an elevator with Theresa May and you are going up to the 6th floor and you have to make a pitch about entrepreneurs, what do you say?
Matt: “Reaffirm that entrepreneurs are the heroes, they are the ones that are creating jobs and disruption, giving back to their local communities. Despite very strong support from the Conservative Party under the previous government, they are now feeling a bit neglected; we don't need a shoulder to cry on, but if, as entrepreneurs, we're going to create more jobs, we will grow and solve some of Britain's challenges, you can only do that if we have close collaboration with the government.”
The UK is emerging an entrepreneurial success story – but more needs to be done, and one way to achieve this is to shine the media spotlight on entrepreneurs, their challenges, their failures and of course their successes.
The NatWestGreat British Entrepreneur Awards are currently open for applications, and entrants can apply here