“What you don’t know can’t hurt you” goes the old adage. But is it a truism that applies in the world of entrepreneurship?
Many of the best business leaders were rooted in failure long before shoots of success emerged. In the States they’ve even given it a motif: “The Million-Dollar MBA” – otherwise known as your first bankruptcy – where bitter experience brings with it valuable lessons in entrepreneurial life. But I have always felt that there must be a better way to make progress than learning from your mistakes.
The shape of our economy is changing and we know that it is likely to get tougher in light of the predictions from the Bank of England. But entrepreneurs know a thing or two about turning obstacle into opportunities.
And that’s good news because more of us than ever likely to follow entrepreneurial pathways by setting up our own firms and making jobs, rather than taking them. In 2021, there was a 14 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of new businesses created in the UK, with March of last year seeing more ventures launched than any month since records began.
With the right structures, this new landscape can deliver the next generation of high-performance firms. And I believe that the knowledge and expertise in our business schools can supercharge this.
In the past, business schools have been seen as the preserve of large companies and executive education courses. But in reality, they are the key to unlocking opportunities for a new generation of small firms. These inspiring institutions have immense value as accelerators of performance, providing a collaborative space for founders to develop their business strategies.
Indeed, business schools place a heavy emphasis on peer-to-peer learning, and the professional education offered by the 57 business schools accredited by the Small Business Charter has the potential to transform how entrepreneurs operate.
The business schools accredited by the Small Business Charter have directly supported more than 20,000 SMEs to date and are set to deliver for 30,000 more nationwide through the Help to Grow: Management Course. Backed by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Treasury, through practical SME-specific learning and mentoring, it is helping small business leaders develop the strategic skills to increase their long-term productivity, growth and innovation.
The 12-week leadership programme is 90% funded by the Government, delivered by enterprise experts, and designed with support from industry. It uses real world case studies and, through one-to-one mentoring, guides participants to build a growth action plan tailored to their business.
The Chancellor outlined in the recent Spring Statement how the Help to Grow: Management Course was born of a desire to take our SMEs to the next level. It builds on much of the important work that business schools are doing, addressing a long-standing under-supply of training for entrepreneurs across the country.
It’s a challenge I know all too well. When any founder starts out, the list of things they don’t know is far longer than what they do. I co-founded my business in 2010, and like for so many, the playbook for growth was the one we made up along the way. From day one I looked for ways to learn. Business schools can provide that.
The good news is that there is an opportunity to take the best of that ‘can do’, learn on the job spirit, and combine it with the depth of knowledge in our business schools, to prepare our economy for the entrepreneurial age.