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.

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In the 1980s, I went to a rally where Labour Party speakers shared the stage with men in balaclavas

The links between the Labour left and Irish republicanism are worth investigating.

A spat between Jeremy Corbyn’s henchfolk and Conor McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, caught my ear the other evening. McGinn was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, and he obligingly revisited the brouhaha for the listeners at home. Apparently, following an interview in May, in which McGinn called for Corbyn to “reach out beyond his comfort zone”, he was first threatened obliquely with the sack, then asked for a retraction (which he refused to give) and finally learned – from someone in the whips’ office – that his party leader was considering phoning up McGinn’s father to whip the errant whipper-in into line. On the programme, McGinn said: “The modus operandi that he [Corbyn] and the people around him were trying to do [sic], involving my family, was to isolate and ostracise me from them and from the community I am very proud to come from – which is an Irish nationalist community in south Armagh.”

Needless to say, the Labour leader’s office has continued to deny any such thing, but while we may nurture some suspicions about his behaviour, McGinn was also indulging in a little airbrushing when he described south Armagh as an “Irish ­nationalist community”. In the most recent elections, Newry and Armagh returned three Sinn Fein members to the Northern Ireland Assembly (as against one Social Democratic and Labour Party member) and one Sinn Fein MP to Westminster. When I last looked, Sinn Fein was still a republican, rather than a nationalist, party – something that McGinn should only be too well aware of, as the paternal hand that was putatively to have been lain on him belongs to Pat McGinn, the former Sinn Fein mayor of Newry and Armagh.

According to the Irish News, a “close friend” of the McGinns poured this cold water on the mini-conflagration: “Anybody who knows the McGinn family knows that Pat is very proud of Conor and that they remain very close.” The friend went on to opine: “He [Pat McGinn] found the whole notion of Corbyn phoning him totally ridiculous – as if Pat is going to criticise his son to save Jeremy Corbyn’s face. They would laugh about it were it not so sinister.”

“Sinister” does seem the mot juste. McGinn, Jr grew up in Bessbrook during the Troubles. I visited the village in the early 1990s on assignment. The skies were full of the chattering of British army Chinooks, and there were fake road signs in the hedgerows bearing pictograms of rifles and captioned: “Sniper at work”. South Armagh had been known for years as “bandit country”. There were army watchtowers standing sentinel in the dinky, green fields and checkpoints everywhere, manned by some of the thousands of the troops who had been deployed to fight what was, in effect, a low-level counter-insurgency war. Nationalist community, my foot.

What lies beneath the Corbyn-McGinn spat is the queered problematics of the ­relationship between the far left wing of the Labour Party and physical-force Irish republicanism. I also recall, during the hunger strikes of the early 1980s, going to a “Smash the H-Blocks” rally in Kilburn, north London, at which Labour Party speakers shared the stage with representatives from Sinn Fein, some of whom wore balaclavas and dark glasses to evade the telephoto lenses of the Met’s anti-terrorist squad.

The shape-shifting relationship between the “political wing” of the IRA and the men with sniper rifles in the south Armagh bocage was always of the essence of the conflict, allowing both sides a convenient fiction around which to posture publicly and privately negotiate. In choosing to appear on platforms with people who might or might not be terrorists, Labour leftists also sprinkled a little of their stardust on themselves: the “stardust” being the implication that they, too, under the right circumstances, might be capable of violence in pursuit of their political ends.

On the far right of British politics, Her Majesty’s Government and its apparatus are referred to derisively as “state”. There were various attempts in the 1970s and 1980s by far-right groupuscules to link up with the Ulster Freedom Fighters and other loyalist paramilitary organisations in their battle against “state”. All foundered on the obvious incompetence of the fascists. The situation on the far left was different. The socialist credentials of Sinn Fein/IRA were too threadbare for genuine expressions of solidarity, but there was a sort of tacit confidence-and-supply arrangement between these factions. The Labour far left provided the republicans with the confidence that, should an appropriately radical government be elected to Westminster, “state” would withdraw from Northern Ireland. What the republicans did for the mainland militants was to cloak them in their penumbra of darkness: without needing to call down on themselves the armed might of “state”, they could imply that they were willing to take it on, should the opportunity arise.

I don’t for a second believe that Corbyn was summoning up these ghosts of the insurrectionary dead when he either did or did not threaten to phone McGinn, Sr. But his supporters need to ask themselves what they’re getting into. Their leader, if he was to have remained true to the positions that he has espoused over many years, should have refused to sit as privy counsellor upon assuming his party office, and refused all the other mummery associated with the monarchical “state”. That he didn’t do so was surely a strategic decision. Such a position would make him utterly unelectable.

The snipers may not be at work in south Armagh just now – but there are rifles out there that could yet be dug up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in Sinn Fein knew where they are, but one thing’s for certain: Corbyn hasn’t got a clue, bloody or otherwise. 

Will Self is an author and journalist. His books include Umbrella, Shark, The Book of Dave and The Butt. He writes the Madness of Crowds and Real Meals columns for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser