There’s an important new free report from the Royal Society of Arts, Disrupt Inc. (March 2013). Here’s what I took from it…
This qualitative report interviewed many young under-30 entrepreneurs, who strongly criticised the UK’s business advice industry’s approach to supporting small startups. Especially the standard advisor routine of: have a chat; write a 20-page business plan; get a start-up finance loan; attend some training talks; find an older semi-retired business mentor; and join the local Chamber of Commerce. By the end of the first year of trading, often at a critical time when they are considering taking on an employee or two, many young under-30 entrepreneurs find themselves left without much support. Large numbers cease trading after one year, something that other nations don’t have a problem with on the same scale.
The RSA also notes another report from the Sutton Trust, which shows that older mentors can do more harm than good. They question the need for older mentors in many cases…
“the deafening noise [from the mushrooming salaried advice industry] about the importance of having experienced mentors distracts us from supporting all those young people who prefer informal assistance from peers.”
The RSA finds that most young people are not in tune with the fossilised ‘cocktails and dinner suits’ middle-class mindset, something which still permeates many local business membership groups and which effectively acts as a class barrier.
Many young people prefer to build their business slowly “on a shoestring” — finding a way forward in the market with the aid of their peers, incrementally adapting prototypes, product ranges, and marketing over time.
The report also criticises the stale and off-putting “language and imagery of entrepreneurship” which permeates the advice industry’s training materials and publications. “Challenging crude stereotypes” will be key part of a necessary “re-engineering [of] enterprise support” says the RSA.
There are many other excellent changes suggested in the report. Along with reasons why these are needed sooner than later, such as the UK facing strong competition from around the world. For example, in the USA 14% of all under-30s are now actively engaged in their own “early stage entrepreneurial activity”. Even with all the help currently on offer here, only 3.6% of the UK’s under-30s are doing so.