The March speaker event of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation took place on Thursday 21st March, the day after The Chancellor’s budget statement. The speaker panel of Sir Charles Dunstone, founder of The Carphone Warehouse, Sir John Parker, Chairman of Anglo American and Oliver Pawle, Chairman at Korn Ferry Whitehead Mann and Founder and Chairman of The New Entrepreneurs Foundations was facilitated by author and journalist Mike Southon.
The panel’s reaction to the budget covered a wide range of topics but Sir Charles Dunstone set the tone by advising young entrepreneurs that they really shouldn’t worry about the details of budgets. His advice was to ‘get on with building your business’, translate the playing field you are given and go ahead and ‘just do it’. His view was that recessions are the best time to start businesses for three reasons:
- Good quality staff are more available
- Office and other premises are a lot cheaper
- Corporates are re-trenching and unlikely to start investing in new things
Sir John Parker was more optimistic that this budget was more encouraging for the Economy and that the infrastructure investments would help more traditional manufacturing industries such as the motor car and aerospace industries. He was pleased to see that these industries are making a comeback in the UK and are important for growth as they create many new jobs.
Oliver Pawle felt that the Chancellor had little room or money to manoeuvre and most of his measures will have to be through managing inflation. He thought that the EIS and the extended SEIS scheme would encourage more private investors to invest in start-ups as they benefit from significant tax advantages.
The panel were asked for their views and advice on the ‘dos and don’ts’ of starting your own business. In summary their advice was:
- Recruit the right people and then guide them. Always recruit people smarter than yourself. Hire as few people as you can, especially in the early days. That way you make sure that everyone has ‘perfect knowledge’ of what the company is trying to do and how you intend to do it.
- Keep your investment in central overhead as low as possible as you will be at risk of having to give away too much of your company at an early stage
- Choose your business partners very carefully as they will be as important as your personal relationships whilst your business is growing
- Ensure that you have integrity in your business and you demonstrate consistent behaviour
- Set a clear strategy and set clear goals that everyone in your team can understand
- Remember the old Chinese proverb: When the best leader’s work is done, his people will say ‘we did it ourselves’
- The best CEOs demonstrate humility and understand their strengths and weaknesses. Oliver Pawle stated that there is new research that shows that the best share price performance is from companies that are led by humble CEOs.
The panel fielded questions from the audience ranging from how to get a mentor to NEF’s plans for regional expansion. The evening ended with one ‘gem’ from each panellist and the facilitator:
“Remember that everyone wakes up and comes to work wanting to do a good job. If they fail, don’t blame them, blame yourself” (Sir Charles Dunstone)
“Manage your time because if you can’t do that, you can’t do anything else” (Sir John Parker)
“Persevere – If you fail, keep trying” (Oliver Pawle)
“Money does not make you happy, but it makes misery so much more bearable” (Mike Southon)