Telling the truth about SME life today

But that doesn’t mean that this year’s Hot 100 entrepreneurs are going to skip off into the sunset with the Labour party. In our survey, a measly five per cent said the government’s recently announced measures would help their businesses. Terry List’s comment that “there are too many quangos and too many ideas that the government comes up with that aren’t thought through” is a view echoed by all the business owners we spoke to.

“I’m not surprised,” says Eales of LDC. “When the government reduced the standard rate of VAT from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent at the end of last year, the majority of entrepreneurs thought it was purely cosmetic and an utter waste of time. It smacked of the government wanting to be seen to be doing something when, in reality, it had very little or no impact.”

Even if the government ties more red tape around the necks of small firms, or even if another economic tidal wave hits, it’s not going to put these entrepreneurs off running businesses. Over three-quarters of Hot 100 respondents said they would still have started up their companies today, even in the midst of a recession. They’re less interested in making piles of money, and more into building – and growing – sustainable enterprises.

Look at 57-year-old Richard Stevens, who co-founded vehicle rescue firm Call Assist (85th) in the late nineties and is still hell-bent on building “a really worthwhile business”. He explains: “I’m not in it for the cash. Consultants always say you need to have an exit strategy in place but we don’t. A decade on from starting up the business, we’re still focused on launching new services, developing our computer system and training our 120 employees.”

Or take Terry List, who’s still running List Group (1st) at the ripe old age of 65 and admits to thinking about the business every minute and choosing to work on a project at home rather than read a book.

There’s no denying the climate has cooled for British businesses. But if there’s a company with the entrepreneurial grit to survive the economic meltdown, you can bet it’s featured in our Hot 100. 


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