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The Entrepreneurial Exchange

Business On Fast Track For Growth

Who would enter the political arena following the battering politicians have taken the length and breadth of the country? Clearly the persuasive powers of our Prime Minister convinced Alan Sugar the timing was right to become the 'Enterprise Tsar' for the UK. The media had a field day claiming it to be an 'ego-driven' PR stunt, the last roll of a crumbling government.

Regardless of your views, Alan Sugar is one of the country's best-known businessmen. While the media question the merits of some of his business successes we'd all trade our bank balance for his.

The dilemma is this: why is it necessary for the Government to require a 'Sugar' to create the phoenix to help lead them out of the current economic maelstrom? Clearly an opening question must be 'do our politicians have the requisite business experience to call upon? Why else would he be called upon?' Of course the appointment of Sir Alan momentarily became the front page splash diverting attention from the plight of Government but, what now one month on? As the banks look like remaining 'ours' for the foreseeable future - every UK household will have more than s3,000 invested in the banks, said UKFI on Monday. How do we start to build the economic bricks to climb out of the abyss? In Scotland we have the example of a worldclass company Diageo taking clearly difficult business decisions regarding how best it can remain competitive on a global stage. Recent media coverage has of course centered on the proposed loss of jobs but the company is also proposing to invest s100million and create 400 new jobs.

Scotland and for that matter the UK must be seen to be open for business and welcome firms who wish to invest without being drawn into a political minefield - other options may become more attractive for their investments.

The Entrepreneurial Exchange has around 450 members that employ more than 270,000 people. It is these business and entrepreneurial individuals and others like them who will be first to kickstart the economy.

Entrepreneurs by their nature are risk takers.

Opportunities are seen first by this breed and they are prepared to take the gamble. Of course some fail but there will be further opportunities. We need to stimulate the economy and politicians need to assist those who are prepared to take risks by making business creation easy to do. The lack of available finance is clearly documented but now is the time to make banks help. Only on Tuesday the Bank of England confirmed that s112billion had gone into quantitative easing but is this money coming out to the other end of the system? Only by creating new ventures and expanding existing businesses will we witness a return to economic growth and employment.

So how will Sir Alan help government, what will he put forward? His record as an entrepreneur is well documented and his ideas will no doubt be a welcome introduction to the government's economic process, but how quickly will his input come to fruition? A key concern will be what will happen to the concepts and first-hand business experience he brings to the table. Even with a government nod of approval when will anything come to the marketplace and in what format? Civil servants (who perhaps have little commercial experience) will no doubt water his vision down or take too long to reach a consensual middle ground. To really boost the economy we need to fast-track all opportunities for entrepreneurs and business builders, including public sector procurement, and stop hiding behind European rules. A cultural change is needed.

Entrepreneurs act quickly to gain a competitive advantage and politicians need to understand this urgency. Of course this underlines the need for successful business people to be involved with government to ensure a balance is maintained with those who enter politics as a principal career. Experience of how to start, build, grow and sell on a business is of paramount importance for politicians and civil servants to understand.

The last few months have damaged the public view of the political arena and while Sir Alan is not the first entrepreneur to throw his hat in the ring to help government he is one of the most high profile, maybe others will follow - some of the allure of Holyrood and Westminster may however have gone. We certainly need to ensure there is a crossover between business and politics to make conditions easy for companies to prosper.

Yes there was a PR benefit in recruiting Sir Alan. Optimistically I hope he is up to the task and will be able to draw on his experience and contacts, to ensure he can influence politicians to make the country more conducive to business start up and growth.

If we don't get it right and begin the economic upturn soon there will be many more individuals on the receiving end of Sir Alan's catch phrase - 'You're fired'.

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