Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Will I return to the Dragons' Den?

One of the questions I am most often asked these days - especially given the new series which has just started on BBC2 - is: Will I ever return to Dragons' Den?
(Apparently people believe my re-appearance would introduce a slightly more feminine and compassionate element to the panel.)

The answer is, of course, no!

Firstly, because most of my work these days is in the small business sector, inspiring, motivating and helping entrepreneurs on their business journey - and I don't feel that the 'coliseum entertainment' nature of the show is conducive to encouraging entrepreneurship in the UK.

Secondly, because I'm still in financial re-build following the meltdown of Red Letter Days and not currently undertaking any angel investment.

And thirdly because I'm sure the BBC would never invite me back!!!

But I do agree that the show has become too formulaic and that the panel is in dire need of a shake-up...

But, hey, why ruin a good formula for 'entertainment of the masses' in favour of a show which is more representative and supportive of British enterprise?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Lunch with DLOG

As you can imagine I get emails daily from people asking for my help and advice and I try to provide assistance where I can.

But just occasionally I get email bombardments asking for a one to one meeting so insistent and relentless that I occasionally succumb - usually if accompanied by the offer of lunch and a couple of glasses of white wine. And so it was today that I enjoyed lunch with an entrepreneur in the City and provided my insights on where to take his family business.

During the course of our conversation it became evident that the entrepreneur in question was none other than DLOG who regular followers of my blog will know is a regular comment maker.

I guess it just goes to show that persistence (one of the great traits of the entrepreneur) pays!

Most impressed by HSBC...

If you follow my Blog or have read my book Business Nightmares you will know that I have something of a love-hate relationship with banks. At last week's parliamentary session looking at ways we can encourage enterprise in the UK the crucial role of banks in supporting the business sector was discussed extensively and it is clear that banks have a huge role to play not just in providing support with initial funding but also providing positive help when a business encounters hard times.

Therefore I was delighted to be asked by HSBC for the second time to be part of a training programme yesterday for their small business retail team (this time the West Midlands region), to talk about the mindset of the entrepreneur and ways they can proactively support their small business clients. What an amazing, highly enthusiastic and dedicated group of people, under the charismatic leadership of regional director Leon Marklew.

My own business banking is with HSBC and I have found them to be absolutely fantastic. They are also in the wonderful position of having perhaps the best liquidity of any UK bank which means ( unlike many other major names) they actually have money to lend. If you are looking for a bank for your new business venture or are currently struggling with another bank, I really recommend you give HSBC a try. It could be the best business decision you ever made!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Giving Evidence

Further to my last post, you can hear the entire audio recording of yesterday's parliamentary committee session by clicking here.

Doug was very vocal, particularly given that he has just finished a somewhat scathing report on the current state of business support in Britain, but I did manage to get a few words in edgeways!

The key outcomes were:
- If we truly want to encourage entrepreneurship in Britain then enterprise skills need to be woven throughout the educational curriculum.
- Formal enterprise qualifications (like an MBA for entrepreneurship) sponsored by the government could be put in place. Not intended to be compulsory, but banks and other backers might be more willing to finance individuals who have undergone proper business training. Such a qualification would definitely reduce the level of early start up failures.
- What businesses most need is customers. Therefore not only open government procurement to small businesses but also provide incentives/programmes where entrepreneurs can create products/services to solve areas of concern in the UK - for example energy innovation.
- The role of banks needs to be reviewed, not just to encourage more support for start ups but also their role in frequently 'pulling the plug' on businesses which could otherwise be saved. They need to be made as culpable as directors in any post business failure review performed by DBERR.
- Improve the EIS scheme to give 'friends and family' type investors bigger tax breaks for putting up funding for small business. (For example, under Thatcher's Business Expansion Scheme you received 100% tax relief for investments in small business)
- As in the US, your home should not be at risk if your business fails.
- As in the US, a 'Chapter 11' type provision should exist to assist companies in difficulty protect themselves while they restructure.
- We need to change our attitude towards business failure which is still considered a stigma in this country - towards an attitude like the US where failure counts as your 'stripes of experience'.

All in all it was a fascinating process to be part of - let's see if any changes emerge!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Qualified by Experience

Yet another bitchy article in The Telegraph, this time criticising the Parliament's Business and Enterprise Committee for selecting James Caan, Doug Richard and myself to give evidence this week on how Britain can create a 'higher added value economy', on the basis that James and I have experienced the failure of a business and the fact that Doug has stated he admired Eos, the business class only airline which subsequently failed.

Not sure if the author Jonathan Russell has been living under a leaf for the past few months, but given the number of businesses which have already failed so far this year, and the number likely to crash and burn over the next year or so I would have thought ways to assist and support business survival would be pretty high up the agenda for any enterprise review.

Something like two thirds of all UK business start-ups fail within their first two years (with huge numbers of associated personal bankruptcies), and less than 10% of businesses will survive more than a decade. It's not only market conditions which are to blame; the current insolvency laws - which allows ailing companies to essentially phoenix themselves through an administration process, emerging next day with pretty much identical directors & shareholders, but wiped of their debt - are a huge contributor to the statistics.

How could one of the elite few entrepreneurs who has never experienced tough times in business (and believe me, there are very very few) possibly be able to give meaningful comment?

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Queen for a Day

For someone who used to run an 'experiences' company, my life seems to be full of them!

I was very honoured to be asked to crown the Bakewell Carnival Queen and lead the carnival procession at the weekend - here I am with the Mayor of Bakewell Carol Walker.

Unfortunately the Classic Car we were riding on over-heated towards the end of the route but two very kindly gentlemen ran out from the crowd and pushed us for the rest of the way! It could only happen in Bakewell...

My thanks to family friend Alan Fern for taking this photograph - he's based in Chesterfield and if you need a high quality professional photographer for any reason his number is 07966 546684.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Yeah Baby!

The fabulous thing about my life is that I never know what is going to happen next!

I recently went to a book signing for Business Nightmares in Derby only to have Austin Powers lookalike Emilio Federico turn up with champagne and a lovely cake to thank me for helping inspire him to start up in business. He is an avid follower of Dragons' Den and decided to create his company Groovy Entertainment after watching the show.

He doesn't have a website yet, but if you would like Austin Powers to add a bit of mojo to your next party/product launch/whatever then you can contact him on 07971 556935.

Wow, how wonderful it is to have such great 'fans' !!!