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The Entrepreneurial Exchange

Great Opportunity To Ride Hard Times

One of the biggest obstacles in working through this recession seems to be the relentless flow of negative media comment - this study and that study (often produced by vested interests such as insolvency practitioners) predicting a record number of business failures and the ever increasing length of time before the economy turns.

We have seen examples of perfectly well run young businesses almost paralysed with fear that the end is coming. Until, that is, they spend time with the experienced entrepreneur and realise all is not lost.

When it comes to pulling out of a recession it is the spirit of entrepreneurship that comes into its own, with risk-takers leading the way back to a healthier economy.

Just how well entrepreneurs have fared over the downturn is tricky to quantify but months ago the Entrepreneurial Exchange undertook a survey among its 450-plus members which drew interesting results.

The report, Challenges and Opportunities: How Entrepreneurship Exchange members are faring in the Current Economic Climate, is by Professor Colin Mason of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde.

Concluding that the outlook was mixed, Professor Mason wrote: "A significant minority of respondents appear to be under relatively little pressure as a result of economic conditions. In some cases this is linked to being prudent in the past .

"Another significant group appear to be under some pressure, but are coping. However, there is a very small proportion of respondents who are clearly in great stress.

One respondent had to close down the business at least temporarily and another has gone out of business, blaming the bank." He continues: "There are also a handful of respondents who have been able to exploit opportunities and so can report - in some cases with a hint of embarrassment - that they are growing in spite of the economic conditions (e.g. 'we are growing and faced with the challenge of trying to meet the demand from our customers. We are moving to larger premises .. we are recruiting and have grown by 50 per cent in the last six months.' "This is an important conclusion. Contrary to the prevailing 'mood music', it is by no means all 'doom and gloom' amongst the Scottish entrepreneurial community.

Indeed, several respondents highlighted the dangers that arise from the flow of negative stories in the media, which has a negative impact on business confidence and, in turn, will lead to a deeper recession than is necessary." In his report, Professor Mason stresses the importance of staying positive and this was a theme at the Entrepreneurial Exchange's recent Spring Conference at Gleneagles.

There was an air of positivity amongst the 230 delegates - realism about the conditions but a sense of opportunities waiting to be seized. The experienced entrepreneur has been through a recession before and has instinctively been taking the steps necessary to get their business in the best possible shape to ride out the tough times.

The Exchange was the perfect antidote to reports of doom and gloom around us. Add to this general flow of negativity the budget announcement about the 50 per cent tax rate and the changes to capital gains tax last year and you would be in danger of believing that this is not a country that believes in entrepreneurial spirit and reward for hard work and calculated risk-taking.

At the Exchange we take the contrary view.We have plenty of entrepreneurial role models who are more than willing to share their experiences; a generation of young people in Scotland who are coming out of our schools, colleges and universities with a better understanding of the opportunities for the ambitious business builder; emerging technology companies coming from our research institutions; an increasing availability of risk capital from the business angel community and an economic development framework that is fit for purpose.

We are in a good position to emerge as a stronger economy - if we stay positive.

Entrepreneurship above all is a state of mind. Entrepreneurs who have been working on the basics and keeping in shape will see opportunities that others will miss as they focus internally and forget their customers.

Time after time, at the conference or talking to experienced entrepreneurs within the Exchange generally, we hear the same message - there are great opportunities out there so don't waste the recession!'When it comes to pulling out of a recession it is the spirit of entrepreneurship that comes into its own, with risk-takers leading the way''We are in a good position to emerge as a stronger economy - if we stay positive'

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