“Negotiating is fine. Squeezing is not”

The business community needs to stick together: I’m making an impassioned plea to all of you. This plea follows my comments at the Real Business Entrepreneurs Summit last week, when I asked Betfair’s Ed Wray and Clapham House Group’s David Page what they thought of the current fad for "cost reduction".

Clearly, asking a supplier to change/lower their rate in exchange for something in return (such as longer term contract or commitment to more orders) is OK. Throwing your weight around and demanding that a supplier cut their fees mid contract just because “times are tough, don’t you know” is not OK.

Both scenarios have happened to us recently. One company even refused to pay their second instalment at all unless we reissued the invoice at a lower amount despite us meeting all our contractual obligations! We all know we should treat others as we wish to be treated. It seems in business this can often be forgotten, however. Negotiating is fine. Squeezing is not.

The Make Your Mark with a Tenner Awards took place at the end of April. The founder, Oli Barrett, has truly done an incredible job: this year 16,000 young people were given £10 and one month to see how much money they could generate via any legal means. One kid called Henry from St Thomas’ Church made £736 profit.

What I found fascinating from meeting many of the participants was that "Tenner" reaches all parts of our society. Rod Aldridge said something to me this week which stuck in my mind. It was that most kids in school who get any kind of special treatment are either those who excel or those who are in clear need of help be it educationally, behaviourally or emotionally.

There are many who just go through the whole education system effectively unnoticed because they’re steady or well behaved or quiet. Rene Carayol explained on the day that research he’d been involved with showed that 49 per cent of entrepreneurs are dyslexic and 59 per cent come from deprived backgrounds. Schemes like this are vital. They have the power to give youngsters from all backgrounds in every corner of the country the encouragement they need to do something enterprising.

This is why I’m so passionate about promoting business in schools and it’s why I strongly urge you to consider getting involved in this in some way next year either by giving a few tenners or, better still, by offering your time to pop into a school and give the kids some inspiration and motivation.

Finally, in a time when access to finance is clearly limited, it was exciting to hear that Chemist Direct has secured £3m in exchange for a minority stake from the investors behind Skype. Not only are they giving the traditional high street pharmacies a run for their money but Mitesh Soma, the founder, is surely one of the nicest people in British business. Please join me in giving him a huge proverbial high five/warm handshake!

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