We recently ran a survey asking over a thousand business owners their views on what the government is or isn’t doing to make their lives easier and encourage new enterprises. The results are interesting and will be released soon…but if you recall some of the questions then you’d be forgiven for wondering if GCHQ are monitoring our SurveyMonkey account.
At the launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week on Monday morning, Michael Fallon (taken over from Mark Prisk as Minister for Business and Enterprise) announced the creation of two new roles at BIS.
They’re hiring two entrepreneurs-in-residence to help the department get insight into the challenges faced by people starting and growing businesses. In order to gain different perspectives, they’re looking for two very different people: A seasoned serial entrepreneur, and someone in their first year of starting a business (so I don’t qualify as either). You’re expected to commit to one day a week and in return you’ll be paid £10k a year.
I suspect the second person will be harder to find a quality candidate for. There’s no shortage of serial entrepreneurs willing and able to tell the government what they think (and raise their own profile at the same time). But what person that’s really serious about building a business can spare a whole day a week? There’s also the risk that startup founders enamoured by the idea of celebrity status will apply so they can pimp their app; the position will doubtless open doors to some attractive opportunities.
It was refreshing to hear a minister being so honest about the fact that no one in his department has a clue what it’s like to start a business, hence the creation of these roles. I’ve seen a lot of government machinations from close quarters over recent years. I’m chaired and mentored by Lord Young, the PM’s Enterprise Advisor. Based on what I’ve seen and heard from him (and other politicians), I hold the unpopular view that the vast majority of politicians are well intentioned and understand the real world, rather than – as many would have us believe – out of touch and self-serving.
Recently, I’ve also some dealings with MoJ (instigated by them) over my post about all of the entrepreneurs in prison. The experience can be summed up in one word: frustrating. The public sector moves at a very different pace to the private sector, and the difference in speed and agility is even more pronounced when compared with the quick-moving world of startups.
Then there’s the language barrier – I love to do business with people who say what they mean and mean what they say. Many civil servants lost this ability a long time ago. So if you are thinking of applying for either of these roles, do bear that in mind. I’m optimistic that the department will listen to their new recruits, and that their views will make a difference. But they should be prepared for a very different world to the one they’re used to.