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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 22:41 GMT
Entrepreneurialism: the new rock 'n' roll
By Peter Jones
Investor and serial entrepreneur

Peter Jones
If you want something sexy to happen, ask an entrepreneur
For a year or so now I've been telling anyone who cares to listen that business is the new rock'n'roll.

Got a great idea?

Then get a business plan, some funding, make millions and buy some fast cars and a mansion with a guitar-shaped swimming pool.

It's easy, isn't it?

Sadly, just as there are many popstar wannabes who can lay down some beats and sing a bit, there are plenty of business people with little more than basic skills.

And just as in the world of rock'n'roll, not everyone will make it: building a successful company can be a long, hard slog and it's more than a remote possibility that you could lose your shirt and everything else on the way.

Business is cool

But, despite the challenges, or possibly even because of them, being an entrepreneur is sexier now than ever before.

I've always liked the idea of creating a nation of entrepreneurs
Peter Jones

If you're a successful entrepreneur these days, you're just as likely to combine your chief executive or board responsibilities with some TV appearances, radio interviews and maybe a national newspaper column or two.

Trust me, I speak from experience.

Suddenly, there's a serious appetite for business - and the vast number of TV shows currently based around a business or entrepreneurial theme is growing.

The latest breed of business entertainment programmes, such as Dragons' Den and The Apprentice, and others that have followed, have allowed the world of business to shake off its grey, dull, pin-striped and bowler-hatted image of yesteryear.

For a while yet at least, business really is, dare I say it, cool.

Feed the masses

But what effect, if any, is this having on the spirit of entrepreneurialism in the UK?

Is it just a fad, or are we really on to something good?

For me, I wholeheartedly support anything that helps make business, combined with succeeding in life, a mass-market commodity.

I've always liked the idea of creating a nation of entrepreneurs.

And I'm not alone.

I recently chaired a very lively Enterprise Roundtable, which included a mix of entrepreneurs, representatives of business support agencies and Chancellor Gordon Brown.

The meeting formed part of the government's Enterprise Week.

Apart from the lively banter, it was quite apparent that there was considerable energy in the room for taking entrepreneurialism to the masses.

Entrepreneurial air-guitar

Better still, now people are beginning to focus at last on the heart of the matter - let's teach entrepreneurialism at school.

Peter Jones (on the right) with fellow Dragons Den entrepreneurs
The "Dragons" (from the left) Doug Richard, Duncan Bannatyne, Rachel Elnaugh, Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones

I've been saying the same thing for years.

There's no better place.

School is where you prepare for the world of work, so why not learn how to work for yourself?

Even Mr Brown's on the case with his idea of Enterprise Summer Schools for 14- to 16-year-olds, which he says were in part inspired by the current crop of business TV shows.

What a great idea, but let's hope and pray they're delivered in a way that's interesting and relevant for its target youth audience, something a bit more Kanye West than campfire sing-a-long, if you know what I mean.

For people like me, this is all good stuff.

Suddenly business is on a pedestal, and we have a growing number of icons and heroes to whom the next generation can look to for inspiration and motivation.

I can't yet see the nation's youth replacing air-guitar in front of the bedroom mirror for the perfect business pitch, but we're definitely moving in that direction.

Benefits for all

But, for all the good that has come out of this new wave of fascination with all things entrepreneurial, it's more fluff than substance.

Dragons' Den contestants
Find out what happened to entrepreneurs from the first series

Compelling TV programmes and glamorous business gurus aside, it's fair to say that it's still far from easy to start a company in the UK.

Yes, there are some excellent resources and organisations out there who can offer some great help, but the roadmap to entrepreneurial success is very poorly signposted.

Everything's out there, but it's hard to find and, in some cases, harder to interface with.

That, coupled with a poor focus on teaching business skills in schools, means that we are creating a demand for something we don't have a hope of fulfilling.

I get hundreds of emails every week from people looking for business help, financial support and sometimes just a friendly ear into which they can pour out their woes and frustrations.

With the help of a small team, I do what I can to help out, but it highlights to me the fact that we still have trouble communicating the answer to the simplest of questions: I want to start my own business, where do I go for help?

If we're really going to ride the wave of business being the new rock'n'roll, then we need to get a few key people round a table and agree a more organised, seamless framework and structure to put the UK at the forefront of a truly entrepreneurial and dynamic business culture.

This would ultimately deliver huge economic and social benefits to us all.

Entrepreneur in charge

I hate the idea of creating a committee or a quango for this purpose, but a focussed group with a clear objective to create a new blueprint for entrepreneurial flair in Britain wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Let's bring together the relevant government bodies, private companies, leaders in education and gurus from all walks of life and see if we can find a way of channelling all this energy and interest in business into something productive for future generations.

But if you want something exciting or even sexy to happen as a result, my advice would be: put an entrepreneur in charge.

Catch up on Peter Jones's 175,000 Dragons' Den investment in a new publishing venture in a special programme featuring the original contestants from the Dragons' Den one year on: Dragons' Den: Where are they now?, 7pm, BBC Two, Wednesday 21 December.

Chastening the dragons
19 Dec 05 |  Magazine


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