This week’s column is a very personal one for which I make no apologies as I sincerely believe this country is at a critical crossroads with very limited decision choices. While not professing for a second to have any special financial skills, the mere fact that I have been in essence, an entrepreneur since the age of 13 for more than five decades gives me some insight to the world of commerce.
Before leaving school I sold new but slightly imperfect shirts from market stalls at the English towns of Chelmsford and Romford and the famous Petticoat Lane in the then ‘notorious east End of London’. Rather than spend those earnings on ‘bling’ or childish acquisitions, it was used to buy household wares which I sold, door-to-door from a small suitcase.
Among my illustrious customers at that time was the mother of the infamous Kray Twins, who from memory, was a lovely kind lady that probably only used to buy my offerings because she either felt sorry for me or just admired my tenacity.
Without wanting to brag, before my 21st birthday, I was the majority shareholder and Managing Director of four companies with a total annual turnover in the millions (Sterling).
Coming from a family of three brothers who were abandoned by our father at the age of seven meant that we learnt and adapted quickly,more than anything though, we grew up to appreciate everything that came our way and acquired a real sense of money and values.
My oldest brother was clever enough to win a scholarship to attend one of Britain’s best public schools and went on to become a doctor. The other went into the merchant navy and over subsequent years built and ran some of the most visionary businesses in various parts of the world.
Personally I have never considered myself successful, at least strictly in any monetary terms, an observation, which was recently publicly highlighted by a regional hotel mogul. To me that word success is not about owning private jets and yachts, but that’s a personal view and it may motivate others.
If I have ever achieved anything approaching success it is because I have been lucky enough to attract like-minded souls who have helped achieve a common purpose.
From a tourism perspective, we have many clever, talented, determined young people out there, who have the ideas to get on the first step of hospitality entrepreneurship and live their dreams, but who are met with a barrage of frustration, red-tape and negativity. I applaud one of our banks who have put their support and funds into encouraging the growth of small businesses, but more has to be done.
Almost every day we are witnessing larger enterprises, downsize or in their mind, right size, trying to adapt to the current trading situation, so am firmly convinced that the road to fiscal survival and recovery will come from our small company sector. While banks repeatedly remind us that they are not in the risk business there has to be a better way, where seed funding is made more accessible.
Almost half a century ago, I came to the conclusion that entrepreneurs and bank managers live on a parallel planet. The two groups are motivated, enticed and driven by completely different ideals and objectives so it is small wonder that meaningful communication is often difficult.
Perhaps every senior and aspiring bank official should serve a learning internship with a small business to help create a better understanding?