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

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Two referendums have revived the Tories and undone Labour

The Scottish vote enabled the Conservatives' rebirth as the party of the Union; the Brexit vote has gifted Theresa May a project to reunite a fragmented right.

In the final week of the Scottish independence referendum campaign, as the Union appeared in peril, David Cameron pleaded with voters to punish his party rather than Scotland. “If you are fed up with the effing Tories, give them a kick,” he said. Cameron’s language reflected a settled view: the Conservatives were irredeemably loathed by Scots. For nearly two decades, the party had no more than one MP north of the border. Changing the party’s name for devolved contests was discussed.

Since becoming Conservative leader, Theresa May has pursued a hard – she prefers “clean” – Brexit strategy that Scots voted against and the Conservatives have achieved a UK-wide poll lead of 20 points.

Yet rather than regressing, the Scottish Conservatives have resurged. On 22 April, a Panelbase poll put them on 33 per cent in Scotland (a rise of 18 points since 2015). A favoured Labour barb used to be that there were more pandas (two) in Scotland than Tory MPs (one). The poll would leave the Tories with 12 seats and Corbyn’s party with none. Tory aides confess that they were surprised by the figures but declare there are “no limits to our ambitions” in Scotland.

The roots of this recovery lie in the 2014 independence referendum. The vote, and the SNP’s subsequent landslide victory in the 2015 general election, realigned Scottish politics along unionist and nationalist lines. Led by Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservatives have ably exploited the opportunity. “We said No. We meant it,” the party’s official slogan declares of Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for a second referendum. Under Ruth Davidson, the Tories have already become the official opposition at Holyrood.

Labour is torn between retaining unionists and winning back nationalists. It has been punished for its equivocation, as it is being punished over its confused response to Brexit. In April 2016, the Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, said that it was “not inconceivable” that she could back independence if the UK voted to leave the EU (and earlier suggested that MPs and MSPs could be given a free vote). Jeremy Corbyn recently stated that he was “absolutely fine” with a second referendum being held.

“For us it’s a badge of honour but there are some people in Scottish Labour who are quite queasy about that word [unionist] and I think Jeremy Corbyn would be very queasy about it,” Adam Tomkins, a Conservative MSP for Glasgow and public law professor, told me. “Don’t forget the Northern Ireland dimension; we’ve all seen the photos of him rubbing shoulders with leading republicans. The Scottish Union is very different to the Irish Union but the word migrates.”

The irony is that Corbyn allies believed his anti-austerity, anti-Trident platform would allow Labour to recover in Scotland. Yet the pre-eminence of the national question has left it in a political no-man’s land.

In contrast to the rest of the UK, Scots backed Remain by 62 per cent to 38 per cent. Far from protecting EU membership, as David Cameron had promised in the referendum campaign, the preservation of the Union now threatened it. Theresa May has since yielded no ground, denying Scotland both a second independence referendum on terms dictated by the SNP and single market membership. But polls show no rise in support for independence.

Conservative aides believe that Sturgeon miscalculated by immediately raising the prospect of a second referendum following the Leave vote last June. Families and communities were riven by the 2014 contest. Most had little desire to disrupt the uneasy peace that has prevailed since.

Nor are the politics of Brexit as uncomplicated as some assume. Thirty-six per cent of SNP supporters voted Leave and more than a third of this bloc have since turned against independence. As elsewhere, some Remainers have accepted the result and fear the instability that secession would cause. Scotland’s trade with the UK is worth four times as much as that with the EU. Davidson, who was one of the most forceful advocates for Remain, says that pursuing independence to counter the effects of Brexit would be “stubbing your toe to then amputate your foot”.

Theresa May, who spoke of the “precious” Union when she became Prime Minister, has devoted great attention to Scotland. Cabinet ministers are instructed to develop a “Scottish plan” when they formulate policy; buildings funded by the UK government now bear its insignia. Davidson’s influence was crucial to May’s decision to retain the 0.7 per cent foreign aid commitment – an emblem of compassionate conservatism.

After a decade of SNP rule, Tory aides believe that their rival’s poor domestic record, most notably on education, is “catching up with them”. More than a year has elapsed since the Scottish Parliament passed new legislation. “We’ve got a government that simply isn’t very interested in governing,” Tomkins said. “I thought that Nicola [Sturgeon] would change that. I was wrong.” What preoccupies the SNP is the constitutional question.

Shortly after the remarkable Scottish polls, a new survey showed the Tories on course to win the most seats in Wales for the first time since 1859. For some former Labour supporters, voting Ukip is proving a gateway drug to voting Conservative.

Two referendums have now realigned politics in the Tories’ favour. The Scottish vote enabled their rebirth as the party of the Union; the Brexit vote has gifted May a project to reunite a fragmented right.

Before the 2015 general election, Labour derided the Tories as a southern English force unworthy of their official name: the Conservative and Unionist Party. Partly through accident and partly through design, May and Davidson are now reclaiming it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Cool Britannia 20 Years On

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