In praise of the “Young Ones”

Lord Young’s appointment as enterprise czar is a vital step in ensuring that SMEs’ views are heard within Whitehall, and more importantly, that something is done quickly to address the many burdens that businesses are carrying, which act as obstacles to growth.

As the government announced the findings of its Spending Review, it was heartening to hear George Osborne address where UK growth will come from. Just the previous week, I was privileged to judge the Entrepreneur of the Year and Young Company of the Year categories for the Growing Business Awards, and much of what Osborne said truly resonated with me.

Growing Business Awards

We need to back the winners and those who have the potential of becoming winners. The types of businesses which will drive the economy forward and create jobs aren’t typically large blue chip companies – it’s the “Young Ones”.

The SME businesses that we reviewed as part of the Growing Business Awards selection process had many of the attributes that should help revitalise our economy.

They’re the ones who are disrupting the old ways of doing things: they use technology innovatively, are driven by passion and vision, and create intellectual property that isn’t bound by geography. In fact, their products usually have great export potential.

Some of the businesses we judged were truly inspirational. I was particularly impressed by those that had started in the shadows of the credit crunch, and which, despite the usual obstacles, are quickly building sustainable, successful, profitable businesses in both existing and new emerging sectors (ie green energy).

But these examples are the top quartile: there are many more thousands of SMEs that, whilst not reliant on government, are being hampered by red tape. We recently ran a survey among our 60,000 SME customers and the findings – not unsurprisingly – showed that the government shouldn’t focus on what it thinks is right, but what businesses are saying is right.

More than payroll, statutory reporting, health and safety or any other area of business, the biggest source of frustration for employers is employment law. If the government is serious about reducing red tape for small businesses (particularly the very small ones), then it should start with employment law – and quickly.

Attracting foreign wealth creators is hugely beneficial to our economy, and we need to be very careful that immigration caps don’t stifle business growth. At the moment, there are simply too many signals pointing them elsewhere. They, too, have a role to play in Britain’s growth story.

The Growing Business Awards are being held at the London Marriott Grosvenor Square on November 25. Places are going fast, so book your place now for the chance to meet and network with some of Britain’s top entrepreneurs.

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