As a transatlantic entrepreneur, what’s the difference between the entrepreneurial climate in the UK and the US?
Richard Branson: The US is more forgiving of failure. To be a successful entrepreneur, one needs to keep trying new things and not be afraid to fail. The US seems to understand this better and sees failure as a learning process. I really believe that this is crucial to building a successful business over the long term. It is also helped by its size and population. It has a deeper and stronger venture capital market, which helps fund a new raft of businesses every year. Look at the innovation coming out of Silicon Valley – first in the internet sector and now in the cleantech space.
And how does UK plc look to the outside world?
Richard Branson: We are already world class in aviation, space and engineering. The government, together with the private sector, should ensure we capitalise on this. I also think it’s important we develop strong skills in low-carbon industries such as wind, solar and next-generation nuclear power. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a country of commerce with a strong financial services industry. This position has been damaged by the recent slump but I’m convinced we can rebuild our reputation.
So, how can we save Britain’s future?
Richard Branson: By making Britain a great place to do business and to set up your businesses. Today’s skilled workforce is very mobile – we need to make sure entrepreneurs are attracted to Britain. Encourage banks to keep increasing their levels of lending. Without that, I worry that businesses and consumers will not be able to expand or spend and we may see a short-lived bump up.
Will the great British public appreciate our efforts, though?
Richard Branson: I think so. There’s a heightened awareness and appreciation of entrepreneurs and business builders in general. TV programmes such as Dragons’ Den and the Apprentice promote business, while myself, Sir Alan Sugar and Brent Hoberman are on the prime minister’s Business Council for Britain representing the nation’s entrepreneurs.
Richard Branson is just one of the UK’s highest profile entrepreneurs speaking out on how to save Britain’s future in the September issue of Real Business magazine, out next week!