Enemies of Enterprise

Where do the real enemies of enterprise lurk?

This BusinessZone article covers David Cameron’s speech against “the enemies of enterprise” (small ‘e’). He said all the right things – let’s support saving, investment, industry, export and trade. Investment came up again later on, and he mentioned something else a few times too: job creation.

This business of job creation came up at a meeting I attended last night, which had a speaker from the Chamber of Commerce telling us all about the new LEPs – Local Enterprise Partnerships – which are taking over from the RDAs. The thrust of the information coming from government about the LEPs appears to revolve around investment and job creation, with airy comments about million pound investments being really not such a very great amount of money.

Job creation: the be-all and end-all?

Once the stunned silence had passed, conversation exploded about how a million pounds would be an unimaginably vast amount of money for most of the businesses around the table, but also about this issue of job creation. Most of the people attending the meeting were either sole traders, partnerships or family businesses, with just a handful employing staff recruited in the standard way. For most SMEs job creation is not a priority – survival is the priority, keeping body and soul together until a reputation and successful business strategy is established.

Rural businesses and enterprise advice

Conversation then turned to the paucity of proper impartial (ie not bank-based) business funding advice in Herefordshire and that understands Herefordshire. BusinessLink and Advantage West Midlands ran courses in Herefordshire only very rarely, favouring instead Shropshire and Birmingham, with Telford being a popular choice. It’s nearly 70 miles from Hereford to Telford – that’s an awfully long way to go for a morning’s course. Herefordshire has an enormously high rate of SMEs (probably because there are so few, if not no, really big employers), and yet as far as the RDA was concerned, we barely existed. If the information we were given on LEPs last night is anything to go by, that’s not set to change.

So, seems to us that the enemies of enterprise are ignorance of local business needs and simply recognising that the wheels of commerce also grind well away from cities, together with a misguided focus on job creation rather than family-sustaining businesses not looking to get into the complexities of taking on staff without very good reason.

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