This recession is hard. But it's like the monsoon season following a drought that gets rid of the old parched landscape and replaces it with new shoots of growth.
For me recession hasn't come a moment too soon. We're a sophisticated civilisation (our own opinion, of course, which isn't particularly objective) that has made enormous advances, particularly in relation to technology over the past 20 years. But for all this innovation and expertise we've yet to understand the basic economic principle that if we spend more than we earn we're in trouble...
So I welcomed last week's announcement that the European Commission is introducing a European Entrepreneurship Action Plan "to encourage more entrepreneurs and break down some of the structural, administrative and cultural reasons that put a break on enterprise creation."
But I wonder whether the public consultation is aimed more at bureaucratic reform than stimulating entrepreneurship. For it takes someone very special with many hidden qualities to be an entrepreneur: self-starter; 'get on with' attitude; smart (not hard) worker; visionary; resilient; have trust and integrity; a love of work and creativity; want to make change and a difference. You don't learn to become an entrepreneur. You either have the flare or you don't. Not everyone can be successful. It often sporns an unconventional life that can get in the way of normal family life.
Entrepreneurs understand supply and demand and want to make money! But money is seen as a dirty word for many and an excuse for class war against capitalism. Unfortunately the recent banking scandals have fueled anger against money-making machines and executive bonuses. But money does make the world go round and until confidence in spending returns the green shoots of recovery will remain unwatered. To have consumer spending you need growth and entrepreneurs prepared to take responsibility and put their necks on the line!
But, I'm not convinced that the culture of entrepreneurship is one that most civil servants understand. This is not a criticism, for there are some highly capable people across a necessary public sector whose challenge is to work within a budget. But having money made available to you and having to earn it are two very different things. And earning money is not about pleading your case before the finance committee! We know it's been too easy for government projects to be unsustainable or overrun their budget - it's always been thus (e.g. the Humber Bridge and London 2012) but needn't always be so!
Bureaucratic reform must be a top priority following this consultation. Entrepreneurs are simply not interested in red tape but they do understand that certain rules need to be followed. Let's not also forget that governments are also quasi businesses especially when selling public sector information and could learn from entrepreneurs so long as culture does not get in the way of innovation. One of the worse jobs I ever had was working for a local council in London where clock watching and the lack of anyone making any real management decisions was rife. What really astonished me was that the political correctness (e.g. equal opportunities) so championed by public authorities was blatantly abused every day. Too many restrictive rules just destroyed any feel good factor that I would want in a work place.
The consultation seeks to identify possible measures which could usefully contribute to the goals of such an Action Plan. Progress in attaining the goals of this Action Plan will be measured through the recommendation and monitoring processes of the Annual Growth Survey and the Small Business Act and its Review.
The Entrepreneurship 2020 Consultation is open until 1 October