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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How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.