Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How start-ups can improve the UK’s image after Brexit

Whether you’re for or against Brexit, it’s a fact that the vote to leave the EU marks a turning point in our national history. The Government is still negotiating how to extricate the country from the EU. Until they provide clarity, we just don’t know how this will affect our economy and the way we do business.

Either way, we are still on the edge of a brand-new era for the UK. Our global position is changing all the time at the moment, and how we work together following Brexit will determine how we’re perceived. UK start-ups will have a meaningful role in shaping the UK’s brand when we have left the EU.

A positive opportunity for UK start-ups

Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of start-up investment projects. I’ve met many entrepreneurs, innovators and start-up owners, and I know how passionate they are about their future. This energy is priceless, and show be harnessed to take the country forward post-Brexit.

At the moment, the UK remains fifth largest economy in the world, but whether this will be the case after Brexit remains to be seen. The Government is working to secure trade deals and presumably make the transition as smooth as possible. In the meantime, there has been speculation that other countries could replace the City of London as the global financial capital. However, the UK has a quality that other countries don’t – the ability to directly influence foreign investors through its culture, history and traditions.

How is the UK perceived around the world?

Every year, the British Council conducts a survey called From The Outside In, which shows how young people who live in other G20 countries perceive the UK. Results from the 2018 survey show that the generally positive impression enjoyed by the UK has remained relatively unchanged since the vote. More than 71% say that they still think the UK is an attractive business proposition.

Interestingly, the survey shows that the UK’s power lies in its people, not its Government or institutions. More than half of respondents are unaffected entirely by the vote, while 14% say they’re more likely to want to do business with the UK. Just 19% say that it has affected their opinion in an adverse way.

Start-ups should utilise information like this to really understand the position they hold not just in the UK’s economy, but the wider global business sector. We have a really strong foundation in the UK to work from post-Brexit. Intelligent communication, branding, marketing and an open, trustworthy position can capitalise on this.

What should UK start-ups do?

Lots of people underestimate the role UK start-ups could have in the global economic community. By using the same tactics as established multinationals, start-up owners can grow their client base and their influence. By attracting investment and being agile enough to adapt to the changing needs of the global economy, UK start-ups are ideally placed to create brands, services and products with a human face.

     1.    Prove your product or service really works.

Our business infrastructure is admired around the world, and our position in the global economy combines to create a generally favourable impression from overseas. And while the UK Government may seem slow to react to situations, the external perception of the UK is still positive.

We benefit particularly from the impression that ‘British-made’ means quality. The expectation that companies and products from the UK will be exemplary does add some pressure, but also gives an opportunity to prove it’s true. This covers everything from the product or service itself, to how you sell it, your online presence, advertising, customer service and social media.

      2.    Use cultural codes in your communications.

The UK still has the reputation of being mostly polite, well-mannered and trustworthy. Small start-ups should capitalise on this and use it in communications, whether with customers or suppliers. Demonstrating calm, rational, polite customer service and selling techniques can enhance a UK start-up’s reputation overseas.

     3.    Show you are welcoming and open-minded.

A negative consequence of the perception surrounding Brexit is that the UK is intolerant to foreign people and businesses. Show this isn’t the case through your marketing, as well as the product and service. Use a language in your communication that is subtly open and welcoming and doesn’t alienate anyone. You can also use design to create something accessible, welcoming and appealing to everyone in your target market. This will engender feelings of acceptance within your target demographic and show you are open, inclusive and welcoming.

There is not doubt that UK start-ups can meaningfully contribute to the future of our economy. Working together holistically with overseas customers from all around the world will help to build an impression of a UK that’s open for business and happy to work with everyone. Start-ups could form the backbone of the UK’s economy after Brexit and improve the way we are seen by other countries.

Monday, February 18, 2019

How will Brexit affect UK small businesses and entrepreneurs?

We are in the midst of a constantly evolving political landscape, and ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit. This makes it difficult for UK small businesses to plan ahead.

Many now believe that a no-deal Brexit is inching closer, particularly following the resounding defeat of Theresa May’s deal in Parliament. Whatever the final outcome of Brexit, UK SMEs and entrepreneurs have no choice but to prepare for potential scenarios. I’m going to discuss the current Brexit scenario and lay out what small businesses and entrepreneurs can do as we wait to find out what will happen.

Advising UK small businesses
In my capacity as an investor, I aim to give entrepreneurs and small business owners information that can help in real ways. While Brexit has slowed investment in the UK, and according to the Financial Times, the UK economy has shrunk by approximately 1.5% since June 2016, planning ahead is vital.

Let’s look at some Brexit issues directly affecting UK small businesses and entrepreneurs. I’m using the Prime Minister’s proposed deal as the basis for analysis, and will also discuss the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

The Irish border

One of the most discussed parts of the proposed plan involves the Irish border. At the moment, SMEs based in Northern Ireland can trade services and goods between Britain and the Republic of Ireland with few restrictions. This is because both the UK and Ireland are still in the single market and EU customs union.
If the UK leaves the EU, then this would change. This would affect an enormous number of small businesses. Statistics from the Government in Northern Ireland show that businesses based in Northern Ireland exported more than £3.4 billion services and products to the Republic of Ireland in 2016. And most of this was done by small and medium sized enterprises.

This shows the number of businesses that would be adversely affected in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The UK and EU have stated that they want to avoid this and both agreed a ‘backstop’. This is basically an insurance policy, allowing Northern Ireland to remain aligned with the EU’s custom rules and standards if no new trade deal is secured by the end of the transition period.

Tina McKenzie, Northern Ireland policy chair for the Federation of Small Businesses, says: “The backstop is a significant step back from a cliff edge which would result in a chaotic no deal Brexit that would be deeply damaging and dangerous for our small firms.

What rights will EU citizens have post Brexit?

Another aspect of Brexit that concerns many is the effect on EU citizens living in the UK. Therese May’s deal says they would keep their right to study and work in the UK. This is good news for industries relying on people from Europe. However, if this deal doesn’t go ahead, the no-deal effect is unknown.

There has been a decline in EU migration since the vote of 2016, according to the Office of National Statistics. The number choosing to move to the UK is at its lowest since 2012, and down 28% year-on-year.
It’s likely that Brexit will create new opportunities in the long-term, and while industries that have historically relied on European workers may no longer have the same supply of talent, there will be an opportunity to encourage young people to join these industries.
What does the ‘transition period’ mean?
The agreement says the UK won’t be independent of EU customs and rules immediately on 29 March 2019. Instead, there would be a transitional period of 21 months to sort out trade agreements and other loose ends.
If, by July 2020, there is still no trade deal, then both the EU and UK could agree to extend the transition. This would significantly decrease limit the disruption to supply chains. We don’t yet know whether Theresa May’s deal will somehow go ahead, or something very like it. We could be heading for a no-deal scenario so it’s important to look at how this could affect small businesses.
What can small businesses and entrepreneurs do?
As Brexit is still very much up in the air, despite only having two months to go, it’s difficult to know exactly what to do. However, small business owners and entrepreneurs in the UK must plan ahead as much as possible.
The Government has released some advice for small businesses on their options should a no-deal Brexit occur. They also say that HMRC will contact small business owners some time before ‘spring 2019’ with more detailed advice and information.
Steps SME owners should take are to follow the rules in place for businesses that currently trade with countries outside the EU. These are likely to be roughly similar to the new rules that would be instigated. Information on this can be found found here and includes information on excise, customs and VAT. 
Whatever the outcome of Brexit is, small businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the UK should remain positive in outlook, diligent in planning and aware of how it may affect them.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What will happen to UK entrepreneurs when the EU money runs out?

How will Brexit affect UK entrepreneurs?

We are rapidly approaching the date set for Brexit, and UK entrepreneurs are still largely in the dark about what will happen when EU funding ceases.

The referendum vote in 2016 didn’t mention much about European funding structures, and it’s unlikely that the average voter knows about them. But they have a huge effect on the UK’s SME sector, and when the money stops coming in, we could have a tricky transition period.

UK entrepreneurs unclear on funding

An average of 2.5 billion Euros has been pumped into the UK annually from EU funds between 2014 and 2020. Funding structures like the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) and the European Investment Bank have been propping up the SME sector for decades.

UK Government figures show that the biggest percentage of the money coming into the country goes towards funding UK SMEs. Similarly, the European Investment Bank has paid about 117 billion Euros to projects in the UK. This money goes towards innovation and funding small businesses and entrepreneurs. The European Investment Fund goes towards venture capitalists. There are other funds, such as Horizon, that specifically support innovation.

Funding structures like this go right to the centre of the entire EU debate – whether the UK is best off out or in. Either way, when we leave the EU, the money will stop. And it’s unclear how this will affect entrepreneurs, despite some Government plans being announced.

How will it affect investment?

There’s little doubt that Brexit will affect investment. The EU funding programmes that support entrepreneurs by maintaining a trade environment, clearly play a large part in decisions made by venture capitalists and angel investors.

As an investor, when it comes to deciding what to do with my own money, it’s helpful to have a secure infrastructure informing my decisions. We are leaving the EU on 29 March 2019, and whatever the final deal is, there will undoubtedly be a transitional period for investors as well as entrepreneurs. We’ve already seen the kinds of impact it will have following the EIF freezing funding for VCs directly following the referendum in 2016.

Regional differences in the UK

A greater number of leave voters come from regions such as the Midlands and the North East. CEO of the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA), Jenny Tooth says: “The irony is that these are the regions that will suffer the most from the withdrawal of EU funds.”.

What is the Government doing about the effects of funding withdrawal? They have set up some institutions aimed at lowering the risk of problems due to no EU funding. These include the British Business Bank and an agency named Innovate UK, which will give funding to the tech sector. Less specified help has also been announced for the ‘regions’ through the Industrial Strategy. Despite these measures, there will be a tricky transitional phase for entrepreneurs in the UK.

Family businesses affected

Funding problems don’t just apply to start-ups. Family businesses have also expressed concern in a survey by finance provider Capital Step, which shows 40% of respondents think that Brexit could “break family businesses.”

Whatever happens to the final deal, both entrepreneurs and established businesses in the UK are facing an unspecified period of uncertainty. When a deal is ratified, trade talks will follow, and no one is sure what that will mean for the UK.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Do you have what it takes to take charge of your start-up?


Over the years working with start-up entrepreneurs, I have seen and heard many ideas that are worth taking forward. However, many of the best ideas get left behind, due to anxiety over disruptive projects and a lack of effective skillsets.

When start-ups soar, it’s easy to forget the disruptive ideas that began their journey. And when start-ups fail, it is often down to a leader who doesn’t have the right skillset to constantly iterate.

Why start-up ideas can fail

Many of the best ideas come from the abstract. That is, services and products that don’t fully exist yet. Instead, they are in the ‘thinking’ phase, and need the right kind of leadership to move them through to fruition.

With no laid-out roadmap or tangible product, teams can fall by the wayside and ideas that should have been great fail to gain traction. Dealing with innovation and disruptive business ideas requires a unique, and often rare, skillset. Managers who have it are distinct and vital to the success of a start-up.

Functioning with negative capability

Recently, Nathan Furr, assistant professor of strategy at INSEAD introduced a concept he calls ‘negative capability’. Co-author of ‘Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future, Furr says that what is often missing from a team is negative capability, which he defines as the ability to effectively function in the abstract.

To grasp what he means, let’s examine ‘positive capabilities’. Bristol Business School’s Robert French outlined these and says that they are usually linked with successful general management. He says they are:
positive capabilities generally linked with successful general management as:

·         Being able to understand complex new ideas.
·         Being able to manage the implementation and execution of these new ideas.
·         Being able to manage different roles within the start-up in to execute new ideas.

These charateristcs are usually technical, and involve maintaining discipline, leading teams and managing the organisational structure. They’re valuable skills for company managers, and particularly so for any company working within an innovative, disruptive environment. However, alone they’re not enough to guarantee success. 

New ideas distract team members from their ordinary work. As they are now in uncharted territory, this often invokes anxiety. Teams in this position “tend to move toward avoidance tactics – defaulting known structures, which then lead to the collapse of the new project.”

A disruptive start-up must have a leader who is able to handle uncertainty and the unknown. The necessary entrepreneurial skillset for entrepreneurs to thrive also includes the ability the adapt and change tack. Here are three other vital skillsets:

     1. Divergent thinking

Effective start-up leaders must be able to take in lots of different ideas and connect information that are usually poles apart. Furr refers to this as “divergent thinking” and maintains that the leader must focus on the end result while also processing a lot of contrasting information.

      2. Convergent action

These disruptive leaders must be able to take the information and “execute on new ideas in order to create something tangible.    

      3. Influential communication

The leader must also be able to communicate in an influential way. Without this the disruptive idea can fail. They must: “inspire other leaders and decision-makers to believe, support, and act on a novel idea or opportunity.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Up and Coming Artist of the Week: Matt Small

If you’ve read about me in my past interviews you will know that one of my passions and hobbies is collecting art, as well as vintage cars and wine. Every chance I get I make time to attend art shows, with the intention of increasing my art collection. Although over the years I have collected art from the world’s famous artists, I’ve also looked for undiscovered artists with world-class talent.
One artist who is not yet popular in the mainstream but that I predict soon will be, is the artist known as Matt Small. Immediately I saw his work for the first time I collected a few for my apartment. I appreciate anything great, so please
check out more of his work from:
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Interview With Eventual Millionaire: Need an Investor for Your Startup?

Freddie is a serial entrepreneur and investor. He goes into exactly where you need to be to find funding and gives tips on scaling a business. Plus he wants to invest in 20 businesses by 2016 – so he gives you the opportunity to pitch him!
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Featured Interview With Guest List Network:

We sat down with serial investment tech entrepreneur and investor Freddie Achom for an exclusive interview.  Mr. Achom is known to be private but in this chat with him he opens up on what it takes to run a diverse range of businesses in the luxury market sector from Wine, consumer goods to also owning the prestigious clubs and restaurants.
Within this interview we get a chance to find out what it takes to build a successful business empire from scratch, his challenge to invest in 20 start-up companies by 2016 and at the same time find out what it is like to be recognised as one of the nation’s most influential individuals. Freddie has graced the “Power List” of Britain’s most influential Black people multiple times and Evening Standard’s London most influential people.
You proposed to work on investing is 20 businesses by 2016 do you think that’s possible?
Yes I do, I believe its possible being that now the entry barrier to starting a business has gone now due to technology, that’s why more entrepreneurs are emerging.
Currently we have invested in a wide range of businesses from tech, media platforms to solar power projects.
When starting or investing in a business, what are the key factors you look for?
It depends on the type of business sector, each sector is different, but generally the key factors I look for are good leadership skills, a vision for the company and clear sight to revenue / value creation.
What would you say to a budding entrepreneur with a good idea but without the connections or network?
To be honest there are no excuses anymore, the Internet has made possible for anyone to research potential investors and to participate networking events.
Would you recommend aspiring entrepreneur to ditch the employment route and jump straight into business?
No not necessarily, because the mistakes you make as a budding entrepreneur can be avoided by learning through employment, that’s how I got my start, I worked for a commission sales based company before I started in business. Also there’s nothing wrong with working on your business part time.
Do you think the United Kingdom has made it easier for young people to go into business?
The assistance you get in the UK is great for the fact that you have the ability to have access to resources through government agencies and government initiatives.
Would you say the Internet has made becoming an entrepreneur easier or harder because of the competition?
It has made it easier for entrepreneurs and those with great ideas to come together and to achieve their goals and their success.
The great thing about having access to the Internet is that you can start a tech company from your bedroom with little resources.
What advise would you give to budding entrepreneurs that are afraid to go out of their comfort zone?
I always say go into places you shouldn’t be in, that’s what I love most, I love being in a room that I shouldn’t be in.
How important is networking in becoming successful?
I would say networking is 60 to 70% of most businesses but of it also depends on what sector your in. Access to a good network can assist a business to expand or gain traction more rapidly.
How does it feel to make the 2015 Power List Britain’s most black influential people?
It’s always humbling to be recognised for my work in business even though I believe I still have far to go. The most important thing I’m proud of is how they acknowledged my giving back to society, even though I plan to give back more in the future it’s always good to help effect change.
How can anyone send a business idea?
You can send it via the
Freddie Achom gives his top 10 secrets to business success;
  1. Choose a business that you are passionate about and is scalable
  2. Make an effort to network regularly
  3. Surround yourself with a smart team
  4. Always remain humble no matter how successful you become
  5. Cultivate your will power
  6. Pursue your goals with boldness
  7. Think long-term
  8. Never take “No” for an answer
  9. Live life as an optimist
  10. Follow your plan of actions
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