Britain's entrepreneurship "ambition drain" and how entrepreneurs can get better at leading and managing their companies to generate more sales will be the key themes of a major government-commissioned review, the author has revealed.

Speaking at the Enterprise Research Centre's State of Small Business Britain Conference in London, Tim Dafforn, the government's chief entrepreneurial adviser, said the review, due out later this autumn, has taken a wide approach to the age and size of businesses covered.

"We went broad. Nail bars to biotech", he commented.

Dafforn was appointed to carry out analysis of existing business support and look for what else is needed as part of the government's industrial strategy.

He said after several consultation sessions with business groups including Enterprise Nation and company owners themselves, two key themes were leadership/management skills and the ambition of Britain's SMEs. 

Dafforn said many bosses won't admit they're bad at leadership but when the consultation delved deeper into the reasons behind the factors that keep them awake at night, finance came out high with many admitting: "if I can lead and manage my company well, the cash will flow."

Dafforn stressed that he was keen to avoid "initiative-i-tis" by creating new schemes, but business owners' learning styles need to be looked at to work out how successful programmes such as accelerators and incubators in the technology sector can be applied to other industries and help slower growing firms.

On the ambition of UK business owners, he said "it isn’t as strong as it should be although it's hard to know if it's a transient effect because of changes in the business environment such as Brexit or a longer term issue". 

How government interacts with businesses is important here, he said. "Complexity sucks for business owners" so if Whitehall could reduce and symplify the complexity of beaucracy, red tape and form filling, it could "reduce the ambition drain".

While not revealing the full details of the review, Dafforn said he was keen that the recommendations are carried out on a local level. "It's a national review but my true belief is that it has to be deployed locally."

Collaboration of existing business groups such as local enterprise partnerships, growth hubs and membership bodies in local areas is key.

Dafforn highlighted Bristol as a good example of a successful ecosystem of pre-start-ups, start-ups and more established businesses.

"I experienced pre-start-ups in a pub coming to hear from start-ups. That behaviour should continue throughout business. Get in there early."

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Have your say

Daniel Hurst
Daniel Hurst

It would be great if red tape were reduced - this would help my Property development and building company a great deal with growth. When I use sub-contractors I have to go through the CIS scheme which means I waste my time collecting their NI numbers and tax numbers, then I pay my accountant to pay them plus pay HMRC plus produce pay slips which I then have to give to them. I also have to check that this has happened correctly. I could be using this time to check on the quality of the work they have produced, check my clients are happy, carry out other marketing activities such as tweeting about the wonderful work we are doing and be out there winning more work. I have an idea that is much simpler than the CIS scheme - sub-contractors do the work, invoice me, I then pay their invoice - job done - more time for growth!

Harry Harris
Harry Harris

This is exactly what we have been trying to do. However, the government keeps throwing money at enterprise agencies who focus more on targets than actually providing value led small business help. We have, and are living small business. We have the real world, academic and training skills to provide real help. It breaks my heart to see nascent, and early start ups being given poor advice, and then left after the grant funded hours run out. Established businesses that are failing to grow are being left to fend for themselves. Stop messing about, fund those with the real skills to help, and put the resources into real projects that provides value, not ticks boxes!

Harry Harris
Harry Harris

This is exactly what we have been trying to do. However, the government keeps throwing money at enterprise agencies who focus more on targets than actually providing value led small business help. We have, and are living small business. We have the real world, academic and training skills to provide real help. It breaks my heart to see nascent, and early start ups being given poor advice, and then left after the grant funded hours run out. Established businesses that are failing to grow are being left to fend for themselves. Stop messing about, fund those with the real skills to help, and put the resources into real projects that provides value, not ticks boxes!

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