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Entrepreneurs’ Summit 2013 live: Keynotes

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09:10am: Ed Cottrell, head of growth & acquisition finance at Investec is on stage now. 

“The companies in this Hot 100 account for £14bn revenue. And I haven’t even talked about the people these businesses have employed. If that’s not significant to this country, I don’t know what is.

“Successful entrepreneurs innovate, work harder, think harder than the competition, who are often significantly bigger than they are. They take risks, calculate and understand them. And they have real courage – entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.

“We are inspired by these traits.”

Mr Cottrell says that a number of companies Investec is backing are attending the Summit. “Thank you on behalf of Investec for being here today.” He also gives a thank you to the Hot 100 companies: “You are truly impressive and inspiring companies.”

09:20am: Matthew Fell, director, competitive markets, CBI on stage now.

“UK SMEs are the people who will lead us out of tough economic times.” Mr Fell says the CBI is proud to be supporting SMEs. “Too often in the past the CBI has sometimes been seen as the voice of big business, and that’s just not what we’re about.”

09:25am: Lord Young, enterprise adviser to the prime minster, is on stage now.

“I started life as a lawyer; but I gave up after less than a year. In 1961 I went on my own and since then I spent my life either as an entrepreneur or in government. There’s been an enormous revolution in this country since the day I started. I left school at 16 to become a lawyer – that year was a 50-week year, a 48-hour week – that’s over the double the hours that people work today. The reasons for that is that we’re much more efficient.

“The economy was terrible. We were in decades of decline. Those of us who worked through the 70s can remember how bad it really was.” But thorugh the 80s, the economy was transformed. “When we set our mind to it, we really get down to an efficient economy. Today, 95.5 per cent of firms in this country employ fewer than five people. The number of sole traders is going up year after year.”

Lord Young speaks of the rise of outsourcing, helping firms grow. The glaring difference between the UK and the rest of Europe is employment: “What is the one thing in common that all large companies have? They adopt new technology and as a result employ fewer people.”

“For the last two years in government we’ve been looking at how we can improve the volume of business we can give to small firms. Because smaller firms in some areas are ore competitive and more efficient.”

How will this help the Hot 100 2013, who are not in those 95.5 per cent? “Government has a clear responsibility to get the climate for business right. We have to get rid of as much regulation as we can. It’s important to get spending down and it’s proving very difficult to get spending down because it went up so much in the decade before the coalition came in. I still think income tax itself is far too higher and as soon as we can it will come down.

Lord Young says he has an open ear for business. “If there are any problems, anything you think government could do something about it, let me know. I’ve got plenty of time. It’s only by lifting these imperfections in the system that we have, we will continue. we are a great country because we have the English common law – it says you can do anything you want until the law says you can’t.

“I for one am confident that we will see the growth path go on. We saw this in the 80s and we will see it again. Therefore, I face the future with considerable confidence.”

10:45: Richard Reed from Innocent Drinks on stage now (a little later than planned)

Mr Reed says he’d like to think that they have sold Innocent in an innocent way (the business was bought by Coca-Cola).

“As three guys with a business plan and no idea what we were doing we found ourselves in a fast-growing business. And because it had always grown we just assumed it would continue to grow.” That changed in 2008. “The price of fruit skyrocketed and we lost more money than ever. That’s when we started fundraising.”

Growth spurts don’t last forever. When the business was in decline, Innocent decided to begin fundraising the very day Lehman went down. “We were days from losing everything. But when the trough was over [and the business was bought by Coca Cola] we doubled in size, so there was a happy end to our story.”

“Coca Cola had been ringing us since our second year in business because they want to be number one in every softdrinks category and they needed a good juice company. They could see beyond the numbers and valued appropriately.” The VCs, on the other hand, “smelled blood” and wanted control. “Coca Cola treated us as partners.”

“A deal is beautiful when your values align and you trust each other.” Reed says that the original founders will keep some shares. “It’s an innocent takeover. Not a single person lost their job.”

His last piece of advice: “Don’t give up control until the day you’re done.”

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