Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Right Advice Means Sink or Swim

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Right Advice Means Sink or Swim

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAHAM ROBB

THIS is my 20th year in business and given the declared policy of the Government that we need more new businesses, I have been reflecting on the journey I've taken.

Two weeks ago official figures showed that even during this difficult time in the economy there has been an unexpected surge in new entrepreneurs, with more than 1,000 businesses being created every day. According to the data, over the past 12 months more than 395,000 businesses have been registered at Companies House.

Some were here in the North East, but not nearly enough.

The Government's position is straightforward: the private sector must grow to provide the millions of new jobs needed in the 21st century economy. The last Government said the same thing and established a sort of 'business welfare state' to try and achieve it.

But in my experience, growing the private sector isn't that complicated. I quit a well paid and secure job with the BBC to start my own public relations firm. I did not apply for a grant or a bank loan; in fact, I mischievously ran the business through a personal bank account for a couple of years.

I started from my bedroom with an old Amstrad word processor, a fax machine, some guile and two contracts born out of some ambitious cold calling. My wife and I had young children at the time and looking back, it now seems extraordinarily reckless to start a business in the recession of the 1990s. But I was only in my 20s and sometimes the young know no fear.

Today, the business provides employment for 15 people, and has advised some of the North's top firms and leading names. Like many smaller business owners, I get mildly irritated when I see large scale concerns, like Nissan, persuading the Government to open its chequebook and spend my taxes on big grants.

However, before anybody suggests I'd like to stop business support from the state, I'm not blind to the reality that the United Kingdom is involved in a competition with other governments to see which can offer these firms the best deal. …

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