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What entrepreneurs need to know and why you shouldn't watch The Apprentice

By Helen Dugdale.
Stuart-Kellock Owner

Over the last 12 months, Stuart has developed a penchant for public speaking and has entertained and inspired audiences across the UK on everything from print, packaging, and branding, to manufacturing, leadership, innovation and creativity. (He’ll also happily comment on what you should put on your cheese board and the best places to stay on Airbnb.)

He recently discussed openly what he really thinks about how the UK can develop more entrepreneurs.

Where should start-ups look for their early stage finance?

My honest advice is don’t. Borrowing money is too easy and can become a bad habit, fast. Which may sound flippant, but if it is kit you need then save up, buy second hand tat and do it up, or borrow someone else’s. If it is stock, then be entrepreneurial and get some cash up front from your customer, but avoid borrowing. Too many times I speak to people about setting up in business and they honestly believe you can’t run a business without a 3 Series Beamer. They are convinced that their client’s are impressed by the car they drive.

The problem with borrowed money is it is too easy to spend on the non-essentials, like food. Food should be bought out of the money you make, not the money you are paying to borrow. Revel in your own poverty and use it as a motivator. Nothing motivates original thinking and hard graft, like an empty wallet and the prospect of a Pot Noodle for tea.

How do you create an entrepreneurial culture?

The first thing you need to do is ignore anyone who describes themselves as entrepreneur. True entrepreneurs do not recognise it in themselves, for them what they do is no different from breathing. It is what they are and what they do, most entrepreneurs assume that everyone else thinks and acts in the same way as them and is genuinely surprised when it dawns on them that their way of thinking is slightly peculiar.

Those muppets on The Apprentice wouldn’t recognise an entrepreneur if they walk up to them and slap them in the face with a wet fish. They demean what it is to be truly entrepreneurial, with their brash money grabbing, back stabbing “me, me, me” attitudes and the sooner they are consigned to the annals of TV history, the better.

Entrepreneurs are inquisitive and creative, they look in the dark corners for ideas and today’s educational system does nothing for them. It is no coincidence that a large proportion of them are Dyslexic. If you aren’t going to pass exams the educational system very quickly discards you and then you are left to develop your own learning methods and build your own time table in subjects, like: The Art of Trial and Error; Ignoring the Norms and Trying Something Different; and Just Getting on With It. Unfortunately these subjects are not going to make you popular with the rigidly strict process of modern education and many great future leaders are destroyed under the boot of the OFSTED exam machine.

A change in culture must start with the young and unless we start to explain to kids that FAILURE IS GREAT then we are never going to get to a truly entrepreneurial society.

How important can mentoring from more experienced entrepreneurs?

This is essential, when all the professions, accountants, solicitors and bank managers are trying desperately to get you to operate inside their accepted norms, it is imperative that you have someone who will give you permission to break out and challenge yourself. Someone who like naughty school children you can break the rules with.

How can entrepreneurs keep the initial momentum and excitement going as their business takes off and grows?

  • Find other people to take on the detail work. People who love that stuff and are great at it.
  • Find away to share your passion and to talk about it.
  • Embrace the fear of failure. Most Entrepreneurs are not heading for something they are running away from something and that thing is normally failure, you need to learn to embrace that feeling and use it to motivate you.

Do individuals who establish their own company find it challenging to later bring outsiders on board to strengthen their management team?

Yes, the truth is nobody quite does it the way you would do it or to the same level, or that is at least what you tell yourself. Unfortunately it was the hardest lessons I had to learn. Lots of people are better than me I just don’t like them being better. Once I had accepted this I was on my way, all I had to do was find them and convince them that working with an indecisive neurotic with ideas above his station was a good idea, and that is harder than it sounds.

Is it wise to go it alone with your ‘big idea’ right from the start, or should you look to establish your business using a partnership model?

NO go it alone! There are two people in a partnership, one is a free loader and the other is a coward with a great idea, (That may be a little bit of a harsh generalisation). A true entrepreneur wouldn’t dream of sharing it is just not in their make up. They are single-minded people and two single-minded people is just a punch up waiting to happen. The only exception being married couples where there is a common cause and clearly defined roles, where it is perfectly acceptable for one of them to be the supportive free loader.

How do entrepreneurs with a burning desire to succeed avoid making basic mistakes, because they are so eager to get ahead of potential rivals?

Arrrrrghgghhhhh, this question misses the whole point. They don’t, they make the mistake they learn they dust themselves down and have another go. A large proportion of entrepreneurs come from tough domestic backgrounds the worst that can happen to them is they go back to being broke and hard up, it doesn’t scare them in the same way it scares those from more middle class backgrounds. They have far less concern for what they have than what people think of them. Many of them are quite needy in terms of peer respect but don’t have a clue how much they have in the bank.

A change in culture must start with the young and unless we start to explain to kids that FAILURE IS GREAT then we are never going to get to a truly entrepreneurial society.