I’ve spent a lot of time talking to other entrepreneurs from different industries and parts of the country in recent weeks.
My appearance on Peter Jones Meets on BBC2 a week ago sparked a lot of conversations about entrepreneurialism, which was followed up by my attendance at a family business awards last week. Again, one of the main topics of conversation at the event was entrepreneurialism and how it can be one of the driving forces for the recovery of the British economy.
From all the conversations I had, it has to be said that there was a general air of optimism among people. It may be because entrepreneurs are generally positive people; how else do they make a success of themselves in otherwise tough economic times? Or it may just be because we’ve turned a corner and things are really starting to look up.
The results of my interactions with the business community over the last week or so are backed up by the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) latest quarterly index. The report says that confidence levels among small firms have risen to their highest in three years across all areas of the country and most sectors.
Financial services appear to be the most confident, according to the study, but they are joined by the manufacturing and housing industries, sectors that suffer most in a tough economy.
Okay, it’s not time to get the banners out and have a street part; that can breed complacency. We are walking an economic tightrope where can see the other side, but put one foot wrong and we’ll come tumbling down to the floor with no safety net to catch us.
It’s also worth noting that the FSB’s report also highlighted a lack of credit remaining a concern to small businesses, with four in ten firms that applied for finance in the last quarter turned down.
This is backed up by another report from Bibby Financial, which found that 77 per cent of British businesses that had applied for funding in the last year were refused the amount they required.
Despite these issues, there is a growing level of confidence that can only be good for business and has the ability to affect every level of financial decision making. Apparently, the Bank of England, in its quarterly bulletin, has launched its “uncertainty gauge”. This gauge is based on a number of factors such as market volatility, fears of unemployment and CBI survey evidence. It also uses press articles citing economic uncertainty.
While appearing to put the ball of talking up the economy firmly in the court of journalists, it should also encourage business owners to shout about their successes in the media wherever possible and help the continual spread of confidence across the economy.
Confidence breeds confidence which, in turn, generates strategies for growth. Many of the businesses I have spoken to recently are examples of this. They have started to grow again, and without the help of bank loans too.
As I said, this is not a case of letting the good times roll just yet, but we are definitely on the right track.
Charlie Mullins is founder and CEO of Pimlico Plumbers.
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