Put a bunch of entrepreneurs in a room and you’re guaranteed a lively debate. So it was again last night at the Hub in London’s Kings Cross, where the third Enterprise Manifesto Bootcamp took place. The theme was how to make the UK a better place to start and grow a business. In keeping with entrepreneurs’ optimistic tendencies, discussion focused on the fact that the UK was already quite a good place to do both, even if official World Bank stats suggest that the UK is a far easier place to do business (for which we are ranked fifth in the world) than to start one (for which the UK is ranked 16th).
Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, and champion of the so-called “five-to-niners” (people who start a business in the evenings while holding down a full-time job), pointed out that although it is easy to start a business in the UK, the constant emphasis on raising money and the burden of risk prevent many people from doing it. Jones felt more media airtime could be given to lower-profile entrepreneurs who turn a hobby into a means of earning enough to live on.
Examining the start-up culture involves a discussion of fairly dry issues, such as taxation and regulation. Here, the message from the entrepreneurs was loud, clear and simple: “Get out of our way, tax us less and let us get on with wealth generation”. There was support for the idea of a simpler tax system and fewer punitive taxes on wealth creators. The suggestion that government might provide full back-office systems for start-ups was met with disbelief and even derision. In short, the message was back off, not back office.
There were also plenty of positive, culture-changing suggestions. There was widespread support for the idea of a one-stop website that not only provided advice to new entrepreneurs, but more importantly took them through the start-up process step-by-step, allowing them to set-up bank accounts and register with all appropriate government agencies in one go. This would require greater collaboration between government agencies, something that could only result in a more user-friendly approach and a stronger focus on customer service.
While Business Link was created to be just such a one-stop shop for advice and support, inconsistency of delivery standards continues to bedevil the service. But Lisa Newton, founder of bookkeeping service Boogles, reported a positive BL experience. “Even though they didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, it was reassuring to hear what they had to say,” she said.
There were several other ideas for encouraging younger would-be entrepreneurs into enterprise. These included the idea of doubling the current child trust fund for those who use it to invest in entrepreneurial activity. It was also suggested that an enterprise passport be established, linked to national insurance number, against which enterprise points could be accrued for those undertaking accredited entrepreneurial activities (including learning experiences and events such as Young Enterprise). This passport could effectively act as the means of assessing a person’s enterprise credentials, and encourage increased entrepreneurial activity.
The evening may have been short on details, but it was bursting full of the sort of positive energy that entrepreneurs thrive on. And with so many opportunists in the room, it’s likely that at least one of these ideas will soon launch from a kitchen or spare room near you.
To have your say on the best ideas presented, visit the Enterprise Manifesto at www.director.co.uk/manifesto