Last night when my train was gliding through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside on a 4.5 hour journey back to my hometown, I summarised a very impressive and inspiring morning session for you from the MADEfestival in Sheffield. Ministers of Parliament and famous and inspiring entrepreneurs fired up an audience of small and medium business people, students and business moguls in the making. ‘A passionate dreamer with a mentor’ seems to be the kind of person most likely to succeed in realising their business plans. Read on to get the tips from the likes of our Mark Prisk, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Peter Jones, Emma Harrison and Wilfred Emanuel Jones.
‘Hello I’m from the government; I’m here to help you’
These were Ronald Reagan’s most feared words according to Mark Prisk. He explained that the British government sees its role as an advisor to businesses and outlined some top priorities the government has in this capacity:
- 1. Reform the tax system and to make it simple and easy and non-bureaucratic.
- 2. Cutting out red tape.
- 3. Making the unemployed self-employed.
- 4. Ensuring businesses have real financial choices.
- 5. Offering business support. Currently resources are too scattered they need to be available online in one place.
- 6. Encourage mentoring - as real world experience makes a lot of difference.
Peter Jones and the Great British Dream
After Mark Prisk, dragon Peter Jones CBE took to the stage.
Michael Hayman, the chairman of the festival, started the conversation with a reference to the successful ninth series of Dragon’s Den in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of experienced business people in a bid for funding & advice. ‘ I haven’t watched it, I find it hard to see myself on TV unlike Duncan and Theo who invite people around to watch it’ joked Jones. He is positive about the rejuvenated image of entrepreneurs thanks to TV programmes such as Dragons Den and The Apprentice. ‘It’s great young people want to be an entrepreneur opposed to a footballer’ he says.
The topic shifts to ‘the British Dream’ (as a variation of the ‘American Dream’) ‘I’d like to inspire a cultural shift. Of all of us who want to start a business in the UK only 5% do’. According to Jones it is a cultural thing pointing out that whereas States-side trying a few things that fail aren’t anything bad, in Britain it quickly comes back to bite you when you try to get a business loan for example. ‘We are inspirationally reserved’ he puts it ‘there is a national business knowledge gap to bridge’.
Best business advice from Peter Jones: Having your own business is freedom, freedom to express yourself and make your dreams come true. Nothing is more satisfactory so follow your dreams.
Have passion and be positive
Wilfred Emanuel Jones, also known as The Black Farmer is yet another business man who brings home the importance of having a dream and a mentor. Jones tells how he came to England with his family from Jamaica in the fifties which in itself was an entrepreneurial thing of his parents to do. Jones’ role in the family’s life was to tend to their allotment and he loved this so much that he wanted to have his own farm from a very young age. This dream encouraged him and kept him focused . After after a period of having worked in TV for the BBC he got his farm and launched the food brand ‘the Black Farmer’.
Best business advice from Wilfred Emanuel Jones: ‘Passion is the antidote of fear, be focused and have a positive attitude (nobody helps a miserable git). Also don’t hesitate to question the status quo’.
David Blunkett - Labour MP and former Home Secretary, gave a moving introduction to fellow Sheffield citizen Emma Harrison CBE. President Bush said ‘The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for ‘entrepreneur’ – he really said that! In Sheffield we do – it’s Emma Harrison’.
Emma says she always wanted to be an engineer. Her career advisor at school (apparently an old lady with thick ankles - I can sort of picture her quite vividly) said ‘don’t be silly – nobody will marry you’ so she became an engineer ignoring the advice of Thick Ankles. When a lot of steel workers in Sheffield were made redundant she became passionate about improving as many people’s lives as possible and subsequently spent more than 20 years helping individuals and families in the most disadvantaged communities to get work, regain ambition and improve both their lives and the lives of those around them.
Best Business Advice from Emma Harrison: ‘You need lots of passion as a lot of people will try to discourage you. Follow your passion, have a clear idea of what you want to do and tell as many people as possible about this. In leadership inspire, educate and lift the people around you. Finally, however busy you are: do four things every day to tell the market what you do.
The morning concluded with a panel discussion . The main tips from the discussion were:
- Disrupt the market, do something different with personality (James Lohan from Mr & Mrs Smith)
- Use social media move relations from stranger to friend to follower
- It’s not all about branding, a good product creates its own buzz, word of mouth is invaluable (Will Butler-Adams, Brompton Bicycles)
- Go only into business partnerships where you are both adding skills – with identical skills you fall out
- The greatest problem is fear, passion makes you crack on!
So there you have it! There seems to be more consensus on what makes a successful entrepreneur than I thought there would be and what an inspirational advice it is to follow your passion, dreams and to find a good mentor . The flipside of this is that if you have skills to offer, as a senior business person or as a peer you should consider helping others too. StartUpBritain currently likes to match businesses that have time to advice others with those in need of advice. If you’re interested tweet #countmein @startupbritain or register online.
Microsoft, which was a sponsor of the event, also likes to help small and medium businesses and we were in Sheffield to talk with you. Check out Office 365 which can help you save time and money and free resources with the strengths of cloud technology or get £30 free credit to have a first go at Pay -Per Click-advertising on adCenter and advertise on Bing.