Theo Paphitis: Let's teach entrepreneurialism

The Ryman chairman and former Dragon’s idea to secure Britain’s ambition

Read Securing Britain’s Ambition online now: London business leaders’ game plan to cement economic growth

My key idea: We must teach young people how to be entrepreneurs while they are still in school. We need to prepare youngsters to consider entrepreneurship as a serious profession and educate them to take into account all the hazards and risks before setting up shop. I am convinced that if we get our education right, the success rate of businesses in the UK will grow leaps and bounds.

Napoleon famously called us “a nation of shopkeepers” in 1794. Today, there are over 5.2 million businesses in the UK which employ 25.2 million people, and have a combined turnover of more than £3.5 trillion.

This just shows that the UK has always been very entrepreneurial.

But then why do more than half of new businesses not survive beyond five years? And why do 61% of UK start-ups lack confidence in their ability to achieve three years of consecutive growth?

Speak to any successful entrepreneur and they’ll tell you that there is no set formula to predict the future of a business. Often lack of funding, poor understanding of markets and business models, and fierce competition can lead to business failures. The constant chatter about economic doom and gloom doesn’t help either.

My advice to entrepreneurs? Never take risks. Yes, you read that right – I don’t want people to take risks. I want entrepreneurs to take calculated and carefully-thought business decisions after doing their homework and research thoroughly.

So what does the UK really need to build successful businesses? The government, through initiatives like Growth Vouchers programme and Funding for Lending scheme, provides a plethora of help to businesses. But we need to start earlier than that.

We need to start teaching entrepreneurialism in schools. We need to get over the notion that running a business is only about buying and selling stuff. Entrepreneurialism requires an education. We need to get entrepreneurialism in the psyche of kids and give them the confidence to produce multi-million pound businesses in this country. From cash flow to profits, youngsters should have a clear understanding of all the pillars of business.

I am an ambassador of the National Enterprise Challenge, a competition where over 25,000 students from 160 schools compete to win two enterprise days to deliver a real life enterprise challenge. The initiative helps school kids develop entrepreneurial skills including leadership, teamwork, time management and more importantly, coming up with creative ideas. We need more initiatives like this to show kids that entrepreneurialism is also a viable career option.

I am convinced that if we get our education right, the success rate of businesses in the UK will grow by leaps and bounds.

Also, entrepreneurs who’ve built successful businesses should reach out to budding entrepreneurs to encourage them and give them a pat on the back for making their contribution to the UK economy. I do my bit by inviting small businesses to get in touch with me on Twitter on a Sunday evening between 5pm and 7.30pm. I come across some great businesses every week, out of which I pick six to tweet about the next day.

We also have to give it to TV shows like Dragons’ Den that offer start-ups and fast-growing businesses an opportunity to showcase their business ideas and talent. Through programmes like this, media has played an instrumental role in helping entrepreneurs get the right funding and mentors to grow their business. Getting airtime for your business, even if you don’t manage to get investment, helps businesses gain visibility without spending any money.

All in all, we just need to prepare youngsters to consider entrepreneurship as a serious profession and educate them to take into account all hazards and risks before setting up shop. I want all entrepreneurs to remember that Great Britain is a great place to be an entrepreneur and to do business. Let’s encourage them to make Great Britain even greater.

This is an excerpt from LondonLovesBusiness.com’s Securing Britain’s Ambition - read the full publication online now

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Securing Britain's Ambition

SECURING BRITAIN’S AMBITION - London business leaders’ game plan to cement economic growth

Game-changing ideas from Sir Martin Sorrell, Theo Paphitis and many more

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