If LEPs really focused on encouraging enterprise rather than economic growth how would things change?
If LEPs looked at how they create a culture where enterprise (the ability to act boldly in pursuit of progress) was the norm rather than the exception, a mass participation sport, something that was seen as cool and for everyone, not just those smart ‘entrepreneurial types in suits’ what sorts of things would they be doing?
How would our communities change?
What would happen to our economy?
Another government, another push for another 10 000 small businesses to be created from the ranks of the long term unemployed.
To me it seems similar to what we already have under the Flexible New Deal, unless I am missing something: it may be a tad better resourced. But, I am encouraged that Iain Duncan Smith appears to have a real commitment to social justice, at least, he chairs the cabinet committee on it. Let’s hope that his commitment to social justice rather than newspaper headlines really shapes this New Enterprise Allowance.
So what are the chances of success for the New Enterprise Allowance, and what might be the pitfalls?
To begin with, although I am a big fan of mentoring, I am not convinced that it is the best way to support people with transitions from unemployment to self employment. The best mentors (as opposed to coaches) have ‘been there, done that, seen the film and got the t-shirt’. They can offer sage advice and guidance based on practical experience (usually gained over many years in a specific and relevant industry, and importantly should be chosen by the mentee and not assigned to them by a service provider); Mentors should know what it takes and be available to put in the time and commitment necessary. Let’s also hope that they are properly trained, supported and supervised in the process of mentoring. And mentoring should not be a mandatory component but an option, we have to recognise that folks learn in different ways and for some the thought of being mentored just does not cut it.
So, if we must have a mentoring programme let us run it well. Lets take mentoring seriously. Let’s make sure that we have enough well trained mentors. Personally I doubt that we will. More likely we will find an army of middle managers looking to do some CSR, or rebadge existing enterprise advisers as New Enterprise Allowance Mentors. Plus ça change…probably
I think the enterprise coaching role is, in places where it has not been confused with enterprise evangelism, much more likely to be effective. Non directive, facilitated conversations that give people space to develop their options and make their own choices provides a sustainable route to more enterprising communities. Conversations that don’t use ‘benefits’ and ‘enterprise’ as carrots and sticks to manipulate people to meet government targets and trigger payments by ‘results’. Our industry is riddled with such practice. We need conversations that respect people and their right to choose.
I suspect that mentors will work with mentees primarily on ‘the business plan’. I doubt they will have the coaching skills to really work on developing the person rather than their idea.
Will a decision not to start up be valued and rewarded as highly as a decision to start? I hope so.
Will the New Enterprise Allowance engage ‘the community’ in supporting local people struggling to make the transition to self employment? No sign of community panels and networks to support the formal delivery structures. It is not so much a New Enterprise Allowance that we need in our communities as a New Enterprise Alliance….
Will the scheme be designed to encourage the formation of team based start-ups where complimentary skill sets and personalities ensure that all functions in the business are adequately covered? I doubt it. It will, if history is our guide, take the shortest, lowest cost, route from benefits to self-employment, not the route that is most likely to result in a sustainable business with the potential to grow. While we should be looking to maximise return on investment I suspect we will look to minimise investment. Cost per start-up will be the metric of choice. And the sooner we get the better.
The New Enterprise Allowance will be for long term unemployed who ‘want’ to start a business. Finding the people who really WANT to will be an enormous challenge. Personally I don’t think it is anywhere near enough for someone to want to start a business. It needs to be something that they HAVE to if they are to have a decent chance of success.
We have approaching 800 000 people who have been unemployed for more than 6 months. The New Enterprise Allowance hopes to help 10 000 of them to start a business this year, that is just over 4 in every 500.
- But which 4?
- What percentage of the 800 000 will wish to engage with the programme?
- How many will the delivery mechanism engage with at the start of the process?
- How many of those will make it through to trading?
- What positive outcomes will be delivered to those that engage with the programme but decide not to start a business?
This represents a challenge. To help find the few who really will do the groundwork required and learn what needs to be learned. It is a challenge both for marketing the scheme and effective psychological contracting between service provider and service user..
And the whole scheme reeks of yet more ‘fast enterprise’. A couple of mentoring sessions and three half days with a training company and you will be ready to roll. Well maybe. And maybe not. Where these sorts of schemes prevail they prioritise the most capable and even then have frightening business failure and loan default rates. Good business start ups plan and prepare carefully. They don’t rush it. There is little point in starting 10 000 new businesses in a year if the survival rates are not good. And please this time will someone show an interest in survival rates?
Then there is the cash element. In the transcript of his speech on Conservative Home, IDS is reported as saying:
We will provide business mentoring and a financial package worth up to £2000 to get your business up and running.
Now quite what is meant by ‘a financial package worth up to £2000’ remains to be seen. Cash grant? Loan? Benefits? But clearly in this transcript it is £2000 in addition to the mentoring provided.
But can anyone explain to me the why the magical figure of £2000? How about we teach them to access the finance that they need to give their business a well capitalised start? Whether that is £5 or £5m? If we are serious about teaching people how to run a small business let’s not cap ambition according to the size of our currently cash strapped treasury pockets.
So at first glance it looks to me like wrong pedagogy, wrong curriculum, wrong ‘financial’ package, wrong pace of change and a failure to embed enterprise culture in the community. Apart from that all systems are go. I can already hear the usual suspects sharpening their pencils in anticipation of the invitations to tender.
I hope it is me that is wrong….
What do you think?
Date: Wednesday 21 July
Time: 6.30 – 8.30 pm
Venue: 51b Holme Bank Mills, Station Road, Mirfield, WF14 8NA
(From Mirfield go under the bridge for Mirfield railway station and turn left following the road with the large sign for James Walker Properties.
From Hopton turn right just before the Mirfield railway station bridge and following the road with the large sign for James Walker Properties).
Creative Connections are quarterly events for artists and creative businesses in and around North Kirklees, run by Loca as part of its Creative Business Support Programme.
As well as encouraging the development of a supportive and well connected community of creative people within North Kirklees we are also encouraging people to look at their businesses more professionally and with more of a critical eye. With this in mind we have a very motivational and thought provoking presentation to offer to you.
Mike Chitty is a writer, trainer, coach and adviser on enterprise and entrepreneurship. Despite having a background in physics his work strikes a chord with creative people and artists of all kinds. In this 30 minute session Mike will provide a fast paced, honest and highly practical introduction to The Entrepreneur’s Workshop and introduce us to 10 powerful tools that can help us make sure that our creative enterprises serve us rather than the other way round.
As an extra bonus, we are holding the evening’s event at the new studio of Andrew Warburton, Area Rugs and Carpets where you be able to view inspirational work by Andrew, Dylan Edwards and Amazed Rugs. Andrew will once again demonstrate the production methods he uses to create his bespoke, high quality rugs and there will be the opportunity to have a go for the more adventurous among you.
Creative Connections is a chance to meet informally with other creative people to pick up ideas, information and contacts which may be useful in your work. It’s also a great opportunity to promote your own work and what’s going on creatively in the local area, so please do use it as a platform to let people know about events or projects that you are involved in, or to sound out interest in an idea you’re developing, or to request information. Why not bring along your portfolio, brochures or other visual material to show your work to others and help develop your contacts?
The Loca team looks forward to seeing you at Creative Connections. Please contact us if you have any particular access needs.
Please park in the free car park. Andrews studio is under the barriers to the right. There are three small steps up to the workshop with handrails.
The evening is free and light refreshments will be provided.
RSVP to Loca on 01924 488844 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org