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Entrepreneurs confident about the future

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A new survey of UK entrepreneurs – the Investec Entrepreneur Confidence Index, conducted by Investec Specialist Private Bank and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization – shows that nearly nine in ten entrepreneurs expect to grow their businesses’ revenues this year.

Seven leading entrepreneurs gathered at Investec’s London headquarters yesterday to discuss and give insight into the survey’s findings, which recorded a higher-than-expected optimism about the future:

-83 per cent believe the economy will not get worse over the coming 12 months-63 per cent believe it will actually improve-89 per cent believe they will grow their revenues (only 4 per cent predict a decline)

“The survey tells you as much about Britain’s entrepreneurs as anything else,” comments Peter Selkirk, chief executive of Egbert H Taylor and Company, Britain’s largest manufacturer of commercial waste and recycling containers.

“We are insanely optimistic – we have to be,” adds Bill Liao, co-founder of social network Xing.com and CEO of Finaxis AG. “The UK could gain from a better awareness of the benefits that entrepreneurs bring. Entrepreneurialism is good for everyone.”

Entrepreneurs often thrive in adversity, finding opportunities in niche markets, says James Layfield, founder of Never Ever Limited and The Lounge Group.

Indeed, 72 per cent of entrepreneurs said they believe the economic climate represents an opportunity for them.

“Launching a business is about finding a niche,” he explains. “There are phenomenal opportunities out there for those who look for them.”

Keith Curran, a mobile communications veteran and serial entrepreneur who has established five businesses in the past 12 months, agrees: “It’s about looking at things in a different way.”

At the same time, less than half of Britain’s entrepreneurs – 46 per cent – are investing in innovation. It seems that the majority of entrepreneurs find the tax and regulatory environment in the UK is just not conducive to innovation, and will even be a “limitation” on business growth.

With one in ten looking to move their residency and operations offshore, steps need to be taken to make the UK more entrepreneur-friendly.

“If measures aren’t taken to encourage people to stay, there are so many other places which are more attractive,” says Michael Conway, founder of Quayside Group, a high-street clothing importer. “Technology has made it so much easier to run a business from anywhere in the world.”

Xing’s Liao agrees, saying “punitive tax policies and short-term thinking are hurting the UK”.

“At the end of the day, the inspirational side of business needs to be developed,” adds Robin Smith, founder of Host Universal, an ethical communications agency. “We need more passion, conviction and belief.”

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