Time for entrepreneurs to step to the fore

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It is beyond question that these are the toughest and most daunting economics time any of us have witnessed – and one can only hope that any of us will ever witness. It's also undisputed that the current chaos has been caused by the fiscal insanity, greed, irresponsibility and mismanagement of a small coterie of reprehensible business leaders.

With the rest of us left to deal with the fallout of business downturns and redundancies, maybe it's time for a revolution? Does the irresponsible action of a few mean that the rest of us are incompetent poor managers? The answer is an emphatic NO.

What is certain is that here in the UK, we have a vast latent pool of first-class business skills and talent, and we also have a rich heritage of innovation, creativity, conception, design, and inventiveness.

World-beating British inventions have included;- cats eyes, computers, electric motors, the internet, the iPOD, jet engines, light bulbs, sandwich, telephones, televisions, toilets, tyres, vacuum cleaners, and even James Bond and Viagra. Not a bad record of accomplishment. Even if it's not Viagra, how many of these other inventions have touched your lives?

Evidently, we have skills a plenty, we have creativity and imagination in abundance, we have huge numbers of people that can identify and recognise opportunities, and we certainly have the energy for entrepreneurs to rise from the ashes of our old economies. So, what's missing?

During uncertain economic times, entrepreneurs emerge because uncertainty presents a wealth of opportunities to be exploited. A good example is the heightened creativity that emerges during times of war and conflict. Between 1939 and 1945, for example, we went from string-clad biplanes to jet propulsion.

However, to fulfil the entrepreneur expectation, there needs to be complicity from the government. If the UK government is 'truly' committed to the enterprise vision of making the UK the world's most enterprising economy, and the very best place to start and grow a new business, then words must be translated into immediate actions. Put simply, government must support and encourage entrepreneurs by offering economic support and well-being.

The magnitude of economic gain is truly immense. If we were to 'just' consider encouraging free enterprise and women entrepreneurs to a level equivalent to our US counterparts, then to quote the UK's Trade and Industry Secretary, Alan Johnson in 2006; "If women in the UK were as entrepreneurial as their US counterparts, the UK would have 750,000 more businesses".

To put this in perspective, only 38% of new US start-ups are headed by women, compared to forward-looking economies such as South Africa (70%), Russia (64%), and China (48%). If we were to 'merely' match the US levels of female entrepreneurship, how many new jobs would this create? What would it add to our national GDP? One can only speculate, but it would undoubtedly be a thumping great shift from our performance today.

The reasons for countries, the UK amongst them, being lacklustre at promoting entrepreneurship (and female entrepreneurship in particular) are multi-fold however, with the lack of government support coupled with poor female take-up of business training at schools and universities play a prominent role.

Government policies must step to the fore in stimulating free enterprise and encouraging confidence in young women to start new business. In many countries around the world, female entrepreneurs are appearing in unprecedented numbers, with women starting new enterprises at 3-4 fold the rate of their male counterparts. This gap is expanding at a startling pace, with women in the US creating 75-80% of all new enterprises.

What's needed is for Government to seize the initiative and strive to create a vibrant entrepreneurial economy where women are as fully encouraged and stimulated to start new enterprises as their male counterparts. Government policies must stimulate free enterprise and encourage confidence in young women to start new business.

An example could be introducing stimuli to reach inside corporates long before they consider laying off swathes of skilled people. By encouraging them to adopt policies of 'semi-employment' instead of mass redundancy, staff could be offered flexible contracts that retain them on a part-time basis.

This new deal would allow the right people at a professional level to become 'semi-employed' and have the time to start their own business. Our research has identified that 60% of managers and professionals would like to work for themselves.

Such schemes are absolutely not a second best option for hard times. If people choose this voluntarily, it can become the most attractive way for tens of thousands of people to work in the future. Semi employment gives people freedom but also increases their accountability for results.

In these uncertain times, we need a Government with entrepreneurial thinking and flair – a Government that's willing to think out-of-the-box and consider genuine new deals for encouraging start-up enterprise.

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