The UK now has 5.4m businesses, which is a million more than there were before the financial crisis, and the vast majority are small and medium-sized businesses that are driven by an army of entrepreneurs.
These are numbers we should be very proud of, but they could potentially be higher if we reduce the amount of small firms that go bust before they’ve really had a chance to flourish. The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics on business births and deaths from 2013 to 2014 reveals that while the “hatches” rose by 1.2 per cent from 346,000 to 351,000, the number of “dispatches” increased 3.5 per cent from 238,000 to 246,000. Of course, there are hundreds of reasons why businesses go to the wall. From something as simple as the business idea being, well, rubbish, to one of the biggest killers of small firms, strangled cash flow. Some also like to blame others. A new report from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales says that it’s government policy that’s failing to keep up with the rise in small, mainly home-based businesses. According to the body’s report, for every ten new businesses created, six existing ones are closed and it believes that government has a role in cutting that number.
And it’s a role the government is playing with schemes like Growth Accelerator, but we can’t rely completely on Westminster. There are things that can be done to make the journey from startup to established business a little easier, and they don’t all include handing out cash. As entrepreneurs we are part of a community that often works in isolation. But entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavour. One of the trendy business phrases that’s often thrown around is “mentoring” which, to my mind, simply means offering those in need with a bit of help. Every week I get calls, emails and tweets from small business owners, mainly in the plumbing and heating game, who want to talk to me about their firms and how I run Pimlico Plumbers.
Whenever possible I get them into our depot, show them around and listen to their challenges, many of which we’ve all been through as business owners at one time or another. When I started Pimlico Plumbers in 1979 I knew enough about plumbing to make a few quid, but I really had to learn about business quickly and the opportunity to speak to someone who’s been there before or can help knock an idea about with was always welcome. Other ways entrepreneurs can support one another is to trade with each other and refer their businesses to contacts. And it doesn’t have to mean setting up formal arrangements for inter-trading. It could be as simple as swapping a meeting in a Costa coffee shop for a privately-owned café, bar or restaurant like I do at The Cask craft beer pub in Pimlico. I’m happy to put a few quid across the bar because, not only is this little boozer top quality and a good place to sit down and talk business, I’m doing my bit to support enterprise on my doorstep. As Britain moves from being a nation of shopkeepers to a nation of entrepreneurs, we’ve got to look out for each other. We’re the job creators and the wealth generators and our survival and growth is integral to the future of the county.
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