My podcast on the Guardian’s Small is Beautiful website

18 November 2009

An interview I recorded a couple of weeks ago has now made it onto the Guardian’s Small is Beautiful website.

The aim of the recently launched section is to show why growing firms are the economy’s best hope.  And to highlight the potential for small business to lead Britain out of recession, by focussing on the issues facing small and medium sized companies.

They have used a comment I picked up from one of our earliest supporters Mandy Haberman, who believes that the Business & IP Centre is a ‘safe haven’ for inventors and entrepreneurs.

Karen Blakeman likes our business essentials wiki

18 November 2009

Photo of  Karen BlakemanI’ve just read Karen Blakeman’s latest blog post which mentions our new business essentials wiki in glowing terms.

This is high praise indeed given Karen’s legendary knowledge and experience of all things related to business information. And the fact her website Business Information on the Internet has consistently come up first on Google, when searching for the term business information.

We have certainly noticed a great deal of additional content appearing since we launched it on 5 November.

Launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) at The British Library

18 November 2009
Peter Jones and Priya Lakhani from Masala Masala discuss enterprise education by Enterprise_UK.

Peter Jones and Priya Lakhani from Masala Masala discuss enterprise education

I spent Monday morning at the launch of GEW from the comfort of The British Library conference centre.

The event was well chaired by Simon Jack from the BBC, and included some light-hearted banter between him and Peter Jones (of BBC’s Dragon’s Den fame). Peter persuaded Simon to spend a day with him in order to experience the world of the entrepreneur from the inside. He also got him to agree to give a plug for GEW one morning during the BBC Breakfast Show this week, so watch this space.

1. Our Chief Executive Lynne Brindley gave the welcome speech and included the intriguing concept that The British Library has more good ideas inside it than any other building in the world. I think it is a line I can see myself using in future.

2. The opening words were from Miles Templeman Director General at the Institute of Directors. Who felt that talent is not enough to ensure success in business – inspiration is necessary to start things off. But what unless potential talent is developed and nurtured business survival and growth is unlikely.

3. Next we watched a short video from Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

4. Then we had a fascinating panel session with Carl Schramm the Chief Executive of the Kauffman Foundation and Jim O’Neill the Head of Global Economic Research at Goldman Sachs.

Schramm acknowledged Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the key driver behind turning the original UK Enterprise Week into Global Entrepreneurship Week, which now includes 88 countries. In order to learn how to teach people to become entrepreneurs to start high growth businesses they have created the Kauffman Laboratories for Enterprise Creation –

Their research shows that entrepreneurship has been the key to recovery of the last seven economic declines. In recessions economists and governments turn back to Keynesian economics and decide that government intervention is the key to economic recovery. Schramm believes government industrial policy is antithetical to entrepreneurship. Instead what we need is government policy and pragmatic coaching skills to support creation of new entrepreneurs. He believes there is a  sea-change occurring, so we now see enterprise as the key to economic growth, and gave the economies of China and India as proof of this.

Libraries and support – Andrew Carnegie created the US public library system – the Kauffman Foundation are looking very closely at libraries as incubators for business.

5. O’Neill who’s claim to fame is having coined the term BRIC nations (Brazil, India and China), stated that entrepreneurship is the future of our and the world economy.

  • He thought it unfortunate that economists have proved why they are known at the miserable profession.
  • The consensus forecast for world economy is 3.7%, down from 5% over the last five years. This is due to continued progress in BRIC economies. The assumption that our recession is reflected elsewhere is not true.
  • Economically speaking China has created the equivalent of 2 UK’s in the last eight years.
  • Brazil is due to overtake Italy in terms of GDP (gross domestic product).
  • In China 13 million a month taking mobile phone contracts
  • Twice as many cars will be sold in China this year than the United States.
  • The expansion of BRIC economies provides opportunities for British entrepreneurs. He gave example of UK football league as an example of world business success.

6. Question time:

The British know how to invent, but not how to market themselves.

Rod Aldrich Foundation –

What is the secret to growing economies entrepreneurship success. Awareness that they have been given the chance to become wealthy. People in Britain like to be regarded as creative, but following it through to economic wealth is a cultural issue.

Over half of the US fasted growing 500 companies never wrote a business plan.

Business academies can’t spark entrepreneurial attitudes, although they can help with best practice.

7. Video from Karen Kanaan the Global Entrepreneurship Week host in Brazil. Their goal was for 1% of the population to become involved (2 million people), but actually ended up with 4.5 million people registered.

8. Panel Session:

Matt Brittin the Managing the Director of Google UK.

  • Google perspective – The Internet allows business to be global. The world has gone digital, so there is a big opportunity for entrepreneurs.
  • Example of purely gadgets digital business. Example of, used internet searching keyword targeting to bring their service to their intention.

David Wei the Chief Executive of, China’s biggest internet business.

  • Entrepreneurship cannot be educated, trained or supported by Government, it can be inspired. We need to take away comfortable safety net to create a culture of entrepreneurship.
  • Who is the new idol for entrepreneurship, why do we still see a video of Richard Branson twenty years on.
  • PowerPoint leaves your power and point on the screen. You end up with no power and no point.
  • The internet is the equivalent of the railways and highways of the last century.

Emma Harrison the founder A4E

  • Started an illegal tuck-shop at school.
  • Elected as a school governor at 15, but was still truanting from school.
  • Failed her A –levels, so went back to college to get engineering qualifications, put learner plates on a motorbike and drove to Universities to get places.
  • Joined her dad in business who left after 18 days and learnt how to survive in business.
  • Advice – find your own path, find a mentor, every day find four ways to market your business.

9. Panel discussion

  • Intro from Lord Davies, Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Small Business.
  • 4.8 million SME’s – we are a nation of entrepreneurs – appealed to the press to celebrate our success, not to concentrate on failures.
  • Peter Jones wants to introduce entrepreneurship into every school in the UK. He believes entrepreneurship can be taught.
  • Julie Meyer – entrepreneur country . net – We need to become a nation of believers (not a religious belief). A surprising lack given this country produced Winston Churchill. Business success is a like a drug, once successful they will want to help others build their success.

Panel Discussion by Enterprise_UK.

In conversation with Lord Sugar

18 November 2009

Lord SugarTonight was definitely one of the highlights of Global Entrepreneurship Week for me. Our event in the British Library conference centre In conversation with Lord Sugar was full to bursting.

As time is short and it is now after midnight, I am going to post my notes of his gems and leave it at that.

Is now a good time to be setting up a new business?
Lord Sugar’s route into business was by learning business skills by working in a company and then applying these to his new business.

He is concerned that people wake up one day and decide to start a business, but don’t have the relevant skills or experience to make a go of it.

Opportunities currently exist in the property market if you have the money, but the banks will not be interested in lending.

His move into computers was a natural development of his business selling transistor radios, rather than a revolutionary move.

What is the best piece of business advice he has ever taken?
He used his bank as a barometer in his early days in the 1960’s to find out how fast he could and should develop. This is in contrast to more recent times when the banks give too easily and freely.

He encourages youngsters to start small with their own money and grow from there.

I have not been very successful in investing in the property market. I took all the money I earned from technology and put it into safe and boring properties. There was no rocket science in what I did.

What do you think about MBA’s in entrepreneurship
You can’t train entrepreneurs, you either have the spirit or you don’t. Business training is important but not a substitute for an entrepreneurial spirit.

Has reading business books been useful?
No, not really, I last used one for a wobbly table.

How important is a business plan?
The key point is the business idea any good. For instance if it is a service it is all about the quality of the person providing the service. No excel spreadsheet is magically going to make it work.

There is no point of any business support unless the idea is any good.

How important are work teams?
The team found Lord Sugar rather than vice versa.

Tell us about challenging periods and mistakes made.
Over 40 years in business made less mistakes than good decisions. You learn by your mistakes. He encourages young business to do a weekly health check. What has gone right this week and what has gone wrong?

How do you use sweat equity?
I’m a thick bloke from Hackney, so keep it simple. I don’t understand what you are talking about.

Advice on partnerships
When you need to add a level of expertise to your business you can either add a partner or find a suitable employee.

Can government employees give help to small business when they read them from a computer screen?
Business Links centres have the tools to take some of the burden away from business people with practical advice on employment law, tax regulations etc. They are not giving business advice, but practical help.

Common attributes for entrepreneurial spirit?
(Exasperated) I wish someone would give me an answer to this one.

Have you had a mentor?
Yes. In my business career my mentors were people I aspired to. In my family there was only my uncle. Later on my supplier of electrical equipment became my mentor. Grew beyond them on to the likes of Lord Weinstock at GEC and Rupert Murdoch. Looked, listened and tried to replicate what they were doing.

The role of PR
Differentiates the role of business PR and personal PR. Editorial on a product or service is worth more than advertising. Has a lot to do with connections with media. PR companies who don’t specialise are not as successful as the ones that don’t.

Selling and the art of closing a deal
I the person running the business is not a good sales person then why are they in business. This is another art that can’t really be taught. If you can’t do it, employ someone who is.

How do you like people to communicate in Business?
Very openly in my place, everybody shares the story and knows what is going on.

I admire people who have reached contentment with their lives and know how to enjoy themselves.

How challenging have you found this new Business Champion role?
This is not a challenge, I’m not looking for a headache. I won’t don’t it if I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to give something back to young people

Do you invest outside of the UK?
We have in the past with electronics. I don’t have any at the moment. There are problems with investing in Africa. It is a difficult market. It needs some African entrepreneurs to create the new markets and some business traffic.

What is the main cause of the 95% of business start-up failures.
Should do a weekly health check. Immediately you know where you business is going. Do not lose track of the basics. Do the simple maths every week.

How do we encourage an enterprise culture in the UK? Rachel Elnaugh – ex Dragons Den
Programmes like Dragons Den and The Apprentice have provided a great service to this country to spread the message that there are no free gifts or free lunches. That you actually have to do it yourself. There is too much of a culture that expects to be spoon fed.

If someone could invent a positive journalist then this would encourage people. Get away from this blame culture.

I don’t like the way we have changed to a knocking culture in recent years.

What could schools do to improve things for business?
We need to make plumbing cool again.

Do you set yourself goals?
Right at the beginning it was just to earn more money than in the job I had just left. If by Wednesday I had achieve £60 of net profit then I had achieved my goal.

I never had a five year plan. In the electronics business this is bullshit. You can’t see that far ahead.

Ideas have to be endorsed by a third party, it is no good getting your friends and family to say how great it is. You need a wake call.

You make people believe in your potential by your past successes.