“The world is a less safe place,” says Mark Fuller, Chairman of Chief Executives North West, but for creating a more entrepreneurial UK, this might be a good thing. Mark, who is a judge for the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards, has worked with hundreds of businesses in every sector at board level, has some words that entrepreneurs, budding entrepreneurs, and their supporters may want to take to heart.
The UK is not like it used to be – some might say it is better, others may disagree, but talk to entrepreneurs, or those who support them, then you get a far more upbeat tone. The UK is, it seems, far more entrepreneurial than it used to be. Mark put it down to two types, there is your manager, they worked in large corporates and “have been forced, through their own circumstances to give things ago . . .who think that actually I can do this better, and do it better for myself, than being limited where I am."
Then there is what Mark calls the boys and girls: “It is a lot harder for the younger generations to make a living for themselves” he says, and of course “technology has been in their favour. It’s fantastic to see,” he adds.
But Mark has some advice for budding entrepreneurs that many may find surprising – maybe successful entrepreneurs would not be surprised. “It is ok to ask for help and not know all the answers.” Watch a TV show such as the Apprentice, and you could be forgiven for thinking that to be successful you need to be 'a know it all.' “Even experienced established chief execs struggle with this" says Mark, but “it is a strength to ask for help. People are afraid to ask for help; they see it as a weakness.” But it is not. There is a caveat, however. Mark explains: “Ask for help from the right people.”
But being an entrepreneur is not just about setting up a business. These days, even in the corporate world, in this era of disruptive technology, people need an entrepreneurial mind set. Mark works with chief executives, he works with them to “try to get that entrepreneurial spirit out,” not because they are going to set up their own business, “but over time, it has been drummed out of them” but “there is an entrepreneur in all of us,” he says.
It just needs nurturing, or so it seems.
But there is one thing that a successful entrepreneur does need “they all need it in buckets” says Mark and that “is passion for why they are doing it.”
One entrepreneur who does not lack passion is Elon Musk. It is a funny thing, but when you ask entrepreneurs who their entrepreneurial hero is, the name Musk comes up time and time again. Mark is no exception, but then he adds “I have huge amount of time and respect for Alan Sugar and Richard Branson, they have been entrepreneurs and take risks but they surround themselves with people they know who can do a better job than they can.”
What can the government do? And what about banks. Can it do more to support entrepreneurs? Can the banks do more?
There is one snag with being an entrepreneur that not many understand. “They typically pay themselves in the form of dividends, but then it is hard for them to get a mortgage because they don’t have paycheque – that is complete lunacy.”
So that’s the banks. What about the government?
“Fewer and fewer entrepreneurs will have attended university,” says Mark. They are getting younger, it would seem. He talks about the jobs that are set to disappear, and the new jobs that will emerge – a staggering number of existing jobs will not exist in ten, 15 or 20 years-time. The answer to the problem this creates is not obvious, but it is clear that this is one of the biggest issues of the day – if schools and universitiesccan’t prepare today’s kids for this changing world, we have a problem. Mark may think there is an entrepreneur in all of us, but to manage in the fast-changing world, that entrepreneur hiding inside us is going to have to be found. At government level this means we will need some “very serious conversations,” Mark opines. It is hard to disagree.
Mark certainly agrees that the UK is more entrepreneurial these days. The UK is indeed 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