Dragon's Den is giving young entrepeneurs the wrong idea

On a path to failure.

It has never been easier to set-up a business, but too many are failing. The problem is experience. Sadly I’ve seen so many aspiring entrepreneurs fall short because they do not have the required knowledge in the profession they are looking to break into. The statistics demonstrate this too, with one in three businesses failing in the first three years. While knowledge is a key factor, the way the media heavily focuses on the entrepreneur does not help either. It’s almost as if it has become the new fashion to become an entrepreneur.

You only have to look at the likes of The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den to see evidence of this. While these shows can be great for the right person with the right idea, at the right time, the problem is that too many people watch these shows and think that in no time they can be driving around in a Ferrari and living the life of Peter Jones or Lord Sugar.

In times gone by, what used to happen was that someone would embark on a job and they first focused on learning that job incredibly well. Then, they would gain enough experience to feel confident enough to set-up their own business. The decision to do this could be for a number of reasons, for instance, perhaps they lost their job, perhaps they felt undervalued or maybe they felt that they could do the job better than their manager. The bottom line is that they had gained experience to start something on their own.

Unfortunately, the reality is that young adults leave school with very little experience in their profession, yet they want to set-up their own business. They think it’s glamorous and they think it’s easy. They come up with an idea and they just get on with it without the required knowledge. They lack life and employment experience and because of this they end up making a series of mistakes. However, if they had first learnt their trade then they would be in a far better position to start their own business.

While this situation is largely due to the current climate, in which graduates and school leavers are struggling to obtain a job in the industry or profession that they wish, there needs to be an emphasis on support, and we need to offer these young professionals the guidance they need. For instance, business owners need to be honest with budding entrepreneurs and tell them if they think they have a good idea – and if it’s not, they need to be told too.

I myself have worked with the Prince’s Trust and I am currently working on a project in Guernsey, run by the Chamber of Commerce, which has put together a business club where aspiring entrepreneurs attend. The club discusses business ideas, members have the opportunity to pitch them and they can receive investment if the idea is solid. They are then supplied with a mentor, like me, to help them achieve their goals.

While no one underestimates the hostility of today’s current market, we do still need to recognise the transformative power of start-ups and offer them the support and guidance they need to pursue their dreams. A community of entrepreneurs, mentors and educational resources is the key ingredient in a start-up’s success and I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity, to give back wherever you can. Business start-ups are the lifeblood of the UK and we need to do all we can to help it prosper and thrive.

Shane Turrell is founder of PracticePro.

This story first appeared on economia.

James Caan. Photogaph: Getty Images

This is a news story from economia.

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What it’s like to fall victim to the Mail Online’s aggregation machine

I recently travelled to Iraq at my own expense to write a piece about war graves. Within five hours of the story's publication by the Times, huge chunks of it appeared on Mail Online – under someone else's byline.

I recently returned from a trip to Iraq, and wrote an article for the Times on the desecration of Commonwealth war cemeteries in the southern cities of Amara and Basra. It appeared in Monday’s paper, and began:

“‘Their name liveth for evermore’, the engraving reads, but the words ring hollow. The stone on which they appear lies shattered in a foreign field that should forever be England, but patently is anything but.”

By 6am, less than five hours after the Times put it online, a remarkably similar story had appeared on Mail Online, the world’s biggest and most successful English-language website with 200 million unique visitors a month.

It began: “Despite being etched with the immortal line: ‘Their name liveth for evermore’, the truth could not be further from the sentiment for the memorials in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Amara.”

The article ran under the byline of someone called Euan McLelland, who describes himself on his personal website as a “driven, proactive and reliable multi-media reporter”. Alas, he was not driven or proactive enough to visit Iraq himself. His story was lifted straight from mine – every fact, every quote, every observation, the only significant difference being the introduction of a few errors and some lyrical flights of fancy. McLelland’s journalistic research extended to discovering the name of a Victoria Cross winner buried in one of the cemeteries – then getting it wrong.

Within the trade, lifting quotes and other material without proper acknowledgement is called plagiarism. In the wider world it is called theft. As a freelance, I had financed my trip to Iraq (though I should eventually recoup my expenses of nearly £1,000). I had arranged a guide and transport. I had expended considerable time and energy on the travel and research, and had taken the risk of visiting a notoriously unstable country. Yet McLelland had seen fit not only to filch my work but put his name on it. In doing so, he also precluded the possibility of me selling the story to any other publication.

I’m being unfair, of course. McLelland is merely a lackey. His job is to repackage and regurgitate. He has no time to do what proper journalists do – investigate, find things out, speak to real people, check facts. As the astute media blog SubScribe pointed out, on the same day that he “exposed” the state of Iraq’s cemeteries McLelland also wrote stories about the junior doctors’ strike, British special forces fighting Isis in Iraq, a policeman’s killer enjoying supervised outings from prison, methods of teaching children to read, the development of odourless garlic, a book by Lee Rigby’s mother serialised in the rival Mirror, and Michael Gove’s warning of an immigration free-for-all if Britain brexits. That’s some workload.

Last year James King published a damning insider’s account of working at Mail Online for the website Gawker. “I saw basic journalism standards and ethics casually and routinely ignored. I saw other publications’ work lifted wholesale. I watched editors...publish information they knew to be inaccurate,” he wrote. “The Mail’s editorial model depends on little more than dishonesty, theft of copyrighted material, and sensationalism so absurd that it crosses into fabrication.”

Mail Online strenuously denied the charges, but there is plenty of evidence to support them. In 2014, for example, it was famously forced to apologise to George Clooney for publishing what the actor described as a bogus, baseless and “premeditated lie” about his future mother-in-law opposing his marriage to Amal Alamuddin.

That same year it had to pay a “sizeable amount” to a freelance journalist named Jonathan Krohn for stealing his exclusive account in the Sunday Telegraph of being besieged with the Yazidis on northern Iraq’s Mount Sinjar by Islamic State fighters. It had to compensate another freelance, Ali Kefford, for ripping off her exclusive interview for the Mirror with Sarah West, the first female commander of a Navy warship.

Incensed by the theft of my own story, I emailed Martin Clarke, publisher of Mail Online, attaching an invoice for several hundred pounds. I heard nothing, so emailed McLelland to ask if he intended to pay me for using my work. Again I heard nothing, so I posted both emails on Facebook and Twitter.

I was astonished by the support I received, especially from my fellow journalists, some of them household names, including several victims of Mail Online themselves. They clearly loathed the website and the way it tarnishes and debases their profession. “Keep pestering and shaming them till you get a response,” one urged me. Take legal action, others exhorted me. “Could a groundswell from working journalists develop into a concerted effort to stop the theft?” SubScribe asked hopefully.

Then, as pressure from social media grew, Mail Online capitulated. Scott Langham, its deputy managing editor, emailed to say it would pay my invoice – but “with no admission of liability”. He even asked if it could keep the offending article up online, only with my byline instead of McLelland’s. I declined that generous offer and demanded its removal.

When I announced my little victory on Facebook some journalistic colleagues expressed disappointment, not satisfaction. They had hoped this would be a test case, they said. They wanted Mail Online’s brand of “journalism” exposed for what it is. “I was spoiling for a long war of attrition,” one well-known television correspondent lamented. Instead, they complained, a website widely seen as the model for future online journalism had simply bought off yet another of its victims.