Coffin Mew’s Mark O’Halloran acts for some of the region’s most entrepreneurial businesses and their owners. Here he reflects on entrepreneurship and what needs to be done to further support these engines of the economy.
Brighton is a hotbed for entrepreneurial talent. It may not have the same pull as Oxford or Cambridge, or perhaps the fizzing reputation of London’s TechCity, but it boasts more than its fair share of world-class businesses and successful entrepreneurs.
It is reckoned that some 1,500 new digital and technology businesses have been started in the city, giving rise to the name ‘silicon beach’. Yet the region’s entrepreneurs encompass a broad range of traditional manufacturing, property, retailing and the service industries.
Irrespective of the sector in which they operate, many entrepreneurs share common characteristics.
Entrepreneurs often tell me that they consider themselves unemployable. They are used to constantly pushing boundaries and questioning everything. The constraints often imposed by big business do not sit comfortable with the way they like to work.
Entrepreneurs are very adept at understanding their own weaknesses and will surround themselves by good people filling those gaps. They also tend to be natural leaders, with the charm and charisma that draws people to them.
Surprisingly, many entrepreneurs are not particularly good with numbers and, as long as the business is doing well, often do not care about them.
The motivation is often in building the business, not making a lot of cash to retire with a yacht.
Creating a new business in the UK is, compared to many other countries around the world, very easy. That, and the irresistible rise of technology, is seeing people deciding very early in their lives to work for themselves.
But also with people being asked to work much longer, into their late 60s, or not wishing to retire, there is an increase in the silver entrepreneurs.
The Government recognises the importance of entrepreneurial businesses and has introduced many favourable tax breaks. But there is more it could do.
People still remain one of the biggest costs for a business. Whilst this may not be a problem for start-up and small businesses, it does become a very real issue as they grow.
It is perhaps with education where government could do more to deliver real benefits.
Whilst entrepreneurship is not something that can be taught, schools and colleges must do more to prepare our young people for the workplace. Fourteen to 18 year olds really do need to understand how money works and the skills needed for business. Watching Dragons Den is just not enough.