First things first. This post was written on Thursday: by the time you read it you’ll have sat up all night watching the results come in or – early on Friday morning – you’ll have smiled with satisfaction. Or wondered if you could relocate to Mexico…
Either way, we’ll have a new government: new policies, new priorities and – as usual – those of us running a business will need to adapt. There are some very definite things that I’d like to see over the next five years and I’ll be writing about them next week. For now, let me reflect on the campaign that has just ended.
…And go back to some words I wrote in July 2014, when Theresa May was Home Secretary, Jeremy Corbyn was a maverick backbencher and the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition could look forward to another 10 months in power.
Seven o’clock the next morning. He’s in his office. A bank of computer screens. Stock market prices, foreign currency exchange – and the production figures from his factories; the sales figures from his shops. He finishes his black coffee, takes his tablets and settles into another high-risk, high-pressure day. Another typical day for an entrepreneur…
That’s the popular perception of the entrepreneur – someone who loves risk, who needs the adrenalin rush from risk, who even goes out of his way to create risk when none exists.
We could well take the stereotype even further. Focused, ruthless, determined to get what he (yes, the “typical” entrepreneur is always a he) wants. Doesn’t care who gets trampled in the process…
One of the things that has most disappointed me about this election campaign has been that both sides have failed to understand the role of the entrepreneur in our society – that the picture of ‘the typical entrepreneur’ has been allowed to hold sway.
To Labour supporters “the rich” (let’s not use some of the other epithets) have been nothing more than a vehicle to be taxed: an inexhaustible supply of cash for the state. But neither have the Conservatives supported our cause: the entrepreneur has taken a back seat as they increasingly see ‘big government’ as the engine of growth.
I know virtually no-one in TAB who fits that outdated picture of the stereotypical entrepreneur. Yes, of course many TAB members and franchisees want to build successful businesses for themselves and their families – but almost none of them have the creation of personal wealth as their sole motivation.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I think entrepreneurs are some of the most important members of our society. They create jobs: in the UK, more than 15m people are employed by SMEs.
They innovate – the iPhone, the Dyson, your computer’s operating system. So much of what we take for granted now was born out of an entrepreneur’s spirit, determination and willingness to make sacrifices.
Entrepreneurs drive economic growth – and they accept risk. Ultimately, nothing is created without someone, somewhere taking a risk. And that person is almost always an entrepreneur.
And entrepreneurs give back. Yes, initiatives such as The Giving Pledge will always attract the major headlines, but I constantly see entrepreneurs working in their local areas without any expectation of reward or recognition, giving back to communities that have given so much to them.
Let me leave you with the story of one entrepreneur. He was born in Hackney: his father was a tailor in the garment industry and they lived in a council flat. He earned extra money for the family by working in a greengrocer’s and then – after a brief spell at the Ministry of Education – he began selling car aerials out of a van he’d bought for £50 and insured for £8.
And in January of this year he paid £58,646,028.44 in tax.
You will have your own views on Lord Sugar. Whatever they are, you cannot deny that he is an entrepreneur who has innovated, created jobs and – ultimately – given back to society.
In the election campaign he was roundly vilified by left wing Labour supporters for suggesting (tactfully, as he always does) that their leader may not be up to the job.
In response to the criticism, he revealed the amount of tax he paid in January of this year. Yes, 58 million quid.
Alan Sugar could undoubtedly have spent his working life at the Ministry of Education: he’d now be quietly retired on an index-linked pension. Instead, he started selling car aerials in Hackney market – and he has just paid the salary of 2,320 nurses…