What qualities should an entrepreneur have

what an entrepreneur needs to be successful and what is entrepreneur personality
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PatrickWood,United Kingdom,Researcher
Published Date:16-07-2017
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WHO’S THE ENTREPRENEUR? The BizFizz Story: Unleashing the passion, transforming communities Prologue A second look at Toxteth Stefan Nichols “Money is a by-product of entrepreneurial success, and very welcome it is, but it isn’t the heart of it. Entrepreneurs change the world first, even in very small ways. They see something new that others don’t. They imagine the world differently.” Anita Roddick “BizFizz gives you what you need when the other advisors just give you the same information they give everyone who comes through their door. For the others it’s just a job they are paid to do – and at the end of the meeting, they reach into their drawer and pull out a load of forms that they have to give you.” BizFizz client in Toxteth Two stories The judge was summing up. From where we sat, sideways on to the proceeding, things looked hopeless. You could actually hear the dis- tinct sound made by the closing of the prison door. The rattle of keys followed by metallic clank as the door closed, which was followed by the final jangling of the warden’s keys, the sliding of the viewing flap back and forth… and then silence. The opening sequence of Porridge with Ronnie Barker sprang to mind. The awful reality of a waste of this precious life, of unfulfilled potential, of what could have been possible, began to sink in. “I have reviewed the submissions from the various contributors”, said the Judge in a softly spoken but unmistakably authoritative voice, “and in passing sentence I should let you know now that because of your BizFizz coach and the strong supportive statement he submitted, you will not be going to prison.” The audible gasp from the client’s support- ers and friends sitting around me will remain an endearing memory. The client walked free with an order to seek support from a local men- toring service. BizFizz has continued to support this client and over the past months he has gone on to build his business and to date 5employs eight local people. His community, seen as isolated and insu- lar, has begun to place some trust in BizFizz. A three-page business plan fit only for the bin was all the client had to show from 18 months of mentoring and support from a national busi- ness support agency. He was distraught, his dreams in tatters, his life wrecked. “I thought of ending it all, I was so low”, he said at our first meeting. He was angry, raging actually, his emotions pouring out of him in a torrent. That day we began the journey of what was possible. During the journey the client hit the bottom again and again, and each time he got up for more. Slowly we developed the plan. We found some great people working in agencies and pooled our skills and sup- port. If this client could make it, just get into business, then anything was possible, anyone else seeing this happen would know that they could make it, too. Long-term unemployed, on disability allowance, black, bad credit rat- ing, no assets, surviving from hand to mouth with not enough money to even get to the next meeting, written off by people as a dreamer and a no-hoper the client inched forward, stuck to his values and prin- ciples, accepted the hard road, and refused to turn back when even I thought we were drowning. He had drive, passion, energy, determina- tion, anger, values, and principles and he used them all to reach out for the dream of starting his own business and creating a different future for himself. On 22 March 2006, with the support of some courageous people – many of whom had gone out on a professional limb – the client ordered his executive travel vehicle from the United States of America. His dream had come true; his future had become another journey. A short film is now being made of this man’s struggle to own his own dream. George Cover is a local hero and an inspiration to all. He embodies the Toxteth entrepreneurial spirit. 6The Toxteth Story A quarter of a century ago this year, Toxteth acquired for itself an unen- viable reputation for urban hopelessness and violence. The first week- end in July – just three weeks before Prince Charles’s wedding, and following the Brixton and Southall riots – Toxteth witnessed scenes that have, in the words of the local MP, “never been witnessed in a British city under the rule of law this century”. At the height of the destruction, when rioters burned buildings to within 200 yards of the Anglican cathedral, geriatric patients had to be evacuated from their homes by taxi. Looters – some of them as young as five years old – queued to get into the shops, and police lines faced a bizarre attack by a stolen fleet of Unigate milkfloats. It marked the first time that CS gas had been used in a mainland city in Britain. “Walking around the streets of Liverpool afterwards, I saw what living in the inner city really means,” said the then Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine, minister responsible for cities. “But amid the per- sonal tragedy and public disorder, something good emerged, because we were forced to rethink our strategy for the inner cities.” Having appointed himself Minister for Merseyside, Heseltine described conditions there on television in shocked tones. “Dreadful, dreadful,” he said. What emerged out of this and subsequent visits was the Merseyside Task Force, the Merseyside Development Agency, the Liverpool Garden Festival, and a whole alphabet of acronyms and grant mechanisms that have made up the background to the lives of those trying to improve run-down neighbourhoods over the past quarter centu- ry. In short, Toxteth’s travails – by far the worst of the 1981 riots – gave birth to an industry in its own right: Liverpool’s regeneration industry. A great deal has changed since that time. The original causes of the blight that lay behind so many of the 1981 riots – most of the riot zones were designated for inner urban motorway schemes that were never built – have been removed. There is a greater understanding and intolerance towards racism. Regeneration is a profession where practitioners can become national figures on large salaries, and spend their entire careers in the sector. So we have to ask – and this is the question that lies behind this book – why, even after all of the regener- ation money that has poured into Liverpool and other similar areas, has so little of the fabric of these places actually changed? Why do they continue to be awarded the Government classification of deprived areas? 7King James’ ancient hunting park, known as Toxteth, has certainly been through its share of hard times. It is immediately south of Liverpool city centre, and has fantastic views over the River Mersey and the Welsh hills, but it remains a synonym for urban decay and unrest. Toxteth has received just about all of the regeneration funding initiatives that successive governments have announced over the last 20 years, yet there is still little difference in how the area looks. One key characteristic of this community is its fragmentation. Toxteth’s black community is one of the oldest in the country. More recently a Somali population and a Yemeni community have moved into the area. These remain distinct and rarely meet, with people from one street never mixing with people from another. There is also suspicion in Toxteth of outside regeneration agencies that ‘move in and then back out’ with short-term programmes that make little difference, at least none that lasts. There are some roads with new housing association homes, but there are also several streets where the majority of the housing is boarded up. The physical decline is matched with social statistics – the area has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country. Toxteth has by far the highest unemployment rate in Liverpool City at 13.3 per cent. Liverpool was ranked first in the 1998 Index of Local Deprivation and the Toxteth wards within the area are some of the most deprived in the city. But when you put aside statistics for a moment, which neither describe the people nor the place very accurately, and look at what is really there, then the paradox of British urban regeneration becomes very clear. There is another side to Toxteth, which is very different. Indeed, it has probably always been so. If you read the statistics, you might be forgiven for believing that the flyblown buildings and peeling paint are somehow a reflection of the people who live there. You might imagine that successful regeneration is somehow a matter of outsiders parachuting in and setting up busi- ness or simply paying the bills. In fact, one of the most valuable but lit- tle-understood resources in Toxteth – and in similar neighbourhoods all over Britain – is its people; to be more precise, its entrepreneurs. There may be a shortage of money, at least below agency level, but there are plenty of entrepreneurs in Toxteth, some of them operating in the informal economy, but many people just wanting to earn a living 8from doing something they enjoy. Take Toxteth TV for example, set up by a group of dynamic entrepre- neurs to provide a creative hub right in the middle of the area on Windsor Street. It is a striking building with coloured, striped brickwork and built with low cost materials on the site of a shut pub. There is workspace for small businesses, studio and production facili- ties, courses and meeting space. It is a hotbed of new talent and cre- ative energy. Four of the founding entrepreneurs invited a BizFizz coach to operate out of the Toxteth TV building, so it is also central to the story that this book seeks to tell. This book tells the story of another way forward for regeneration, and the peculiar tale of the hidden entrepreneurs that are beginning to make an enormous difference to the places where they live – includ- ing Toxteth. It is about this hidden resource, these innovative people operating below the radar of government statistics, often attracting deep official suspicion, and what they mean for regeneration. They are people who see the world a little differently and are prepared to put that vision into practice. They are as much a headache for official regenerators as they are a resource. While one official agency is trying to prevent them claiming benefit or receiving any other kind of busi- ness support, another official agency is trying to force their business ideas into shapes that fit the agency’s particular targets. The BizFizz Story This is the story of a business coaching idea called BizFizz, the people behind it, and how they set about finding a way to provide genuine support to those who can really transform their communities through enterprise, and turn the rules of regeneration on their head. It is a story of an approach that eschews marketing of all kinds and deliberately avoids all forms of promotion except word-of-mouth. It is an approach that puts relationships at the heart of what drives them and refuses to be bound by government targets. Believing that the key to business success is who you know rather than simply what you know, it builds teams of support around entrepreneurs. It is an approach that looks at the supposedly hopeless corners of Britain – those which have provided secure incomes for a generation of regen- eration officials but remain the development deserts they originally were – and sees and mobilises the hidden assets that economists 9and policy-makers so rarely recognise. It is an approach that is about very little things – the equivalent of a butterfly’s wings flapping over China that are famously supposed to change the weather over here – that make an enormous difference. To understand this story, you have to see Toxteth differently: not through the distorting prism of its reputation, or of the network of inter- connected official institutions and agencies, pouring money into the area but so crippled by targets that they are often useless, competitive and occasionally deeply destructive, but underneath where you will find a hotbed of talent and creativity where passions focused on busi- ness are being unleashed. The BizFizz story is about what can happen when official targets and jaded institutional bias are put aside; when support agencies, instead take a coaching approach that focuses support on the individual client, build up the necessary trust and credibility to enable people to follow their passion. By unleashing this passion and the resourcefulness, cre- ativity and entrepreneurial flair of the people who live in these places we see a flow of self-confidence and a solution-focused approach to life that is at the very heart of transforming these communities. Please don’t misunderstand. The agencies are necessary, and so are the resources they can access. The problem so often is that they are hidebound by the way they are controlled. We are not advocating the kind of freewheeling buccaneering concept of enterprise where, if only the government gets off the backs of the people, then everything will come right; there are structural problems in places like Toxteth that have prevented that for generations. Nor are we advocating the kind of bogus entrepreneurialism where the wealthy and powerful simply move in and push out everyone else. We are saying that places like Toxteth have vital resources that have become the object of suspicion in the mainstream regeneration industry – the people of Toxteth. The BizFizz story is also about the development of a whole new kind of regeneration professional – a business coach who has no targets or boxes to tick; who is completely client focused; who is absolutely independent of strings or official agenda; and who does whatever it takes to support local people to achieve their dreams. So let’s take a look at Toxteth though the lens of my experience as a BizFizz coach there. After nearly two years, and without advertising or 10marketing my services – in other words solely by recommendation – I have been approached by more than 100 potential entrepreneurs looking for support. This number is rising daily. People only come back if they want to and if their experience is a positive one. This model of regeneration is mysteriously different from the official one. It includes a coaching relationship between two equals focused on meeting the needs of the client. It accepts that the client is natural- ly resourceful, creative and whole, borrowing as much from the exper- tise of counselling as it does from business schools. It addresses the client’s whole life. The client makes the agenda, which starts from where they are. As well as the coaches and clients, there is a volunteer panel of local experts drawn from all sectors – people with their own expertise and networks, people who want to help others succeed. Through this panel, coaches can open up a world of positive options, market intel- ligence, and temporary teams who can support local entrepreneurs through the various stages of development. Through this unusual alliance – coach, client and local panel –problems can be solved, contacts can be made and more opportunities can be opened up. The coach does not motivate, initiate or chase up clients. Clients take responsibility for their own decisions. With no targets or outputs to deliver, the coach can concentrate on the client, helping them to develop useful networks. The coach does not have to cling to clients to meet targets – clients can be referred to other agencies and still continue the coaching relationship. After a while, clients start to join in the panel or network, and after two years there should be a healthy informal network across the community, which is now experiencing a growing culture of enterprise. What is more, as in Toxteth, clients have started trading with each other so that the work benefits the local area. The key to working in Toxteth is to build up real trust. One of my first clients was Bangladeshi, and after working with him intensively for five months, he started to introduce me to his friends who are business owners. I started working with a Somali client who has since referred four other clients from the Somali community. A client referring other clients is an important indicator of success for BizFizz. Being based in the community there is nowhere to hide, we have clients because, and only because we are providing good support. 11According to Elizabeth Cox, Head of Connected Economies at nef, and BizFizz project manager, at the heart of the BizFizz approach there are fundamental values that drive its success and are further expand- ed upon in the chapters that follow:  Operating on a trust relationship  Supporting passionate entrepreneurs  100 per cent client-focused support  Developing support networks  Mobilising support and resources from within the community The difficulty is that many of the government agencies dedicated to regeneration regard these hidden resources as extremely unwelcome. In a place like Toxteth, many of the most innovative business ideas start off in the grey economy, and those that start them often want to formalise them – only to be put off by their contact with the official world. There is a genuine fear among people who want to move for- ward about exposing themselves to officialdom. They are afraid that any probing into their personal circumstances will lead to an even worse financial position, or worse still, accusations may be levelled that impact negatively on their tenuous hold on the economic ladder. Most feel that it is better to stay on their own side of the desert, and remain in their comfort zone. However desperate this may look to out- siders, it is based on hard-learned lessons of economic survival. Mainstream business advice services are not much better. After a humiliating encounter with an ‘expert’ where one of my clients was made to feel that business support was intended for successful entre- preneurs, rather than those like her who were single and on the dole, my client felt she “… might as well go on the dole and become a drug dealer”. This misunderstanding about the nature of entrepreneurs has remained a problem for us throughout the project, and for the people we have worked with. As if ambition only belongs to those who can afford it. As if entrepreneurship was just about business success rather than vision and flair. As if it could only be taught at business school. Somewhere between Liverpool 8 and Liverpool 3 postal districts, the language of support changes. It is clear that there is little understand- 12ing or appreciation of the impact a different use of language, vocabu- lary or style can have. And of course, everyone who turns away from business advice with a bad experience will tell ten others not to go there. What price a formal enterprise culture then? There are exceptions, of course. One of the most unexpected in Toxteth has been the Inland Revenue. Once the scariest people on the planet, they have moved mountains to improve their support for business. The Inland Revenue Business Support Team has spoken to my clients, with a sensitivity and appreciation for their circumstances that left them all with a positive feeling. The trouble is that the current system is fixated on monitoring and not on people. It is just not possible to monitor and measure what is really important in regeneration to the community members themselves – emotions, culture, levels of trust, passion, circumstances, pride, fragili- ty, ego, levels of respect. You have to get in, gain trust and credibility, and do what it takes to support people to move forward. In practice, local people trading together in the formal economy build community cohesion and trust. If that starts to happen, then communi- cation increases, crime drops and fear of crime begins to melt. Other things happen, too. Laurence, a client, wants to convert an old pub on Lodge Lane into a café with space for musicians to play, as well as office space upstairs. He says, ‘Lodge Lane still has a bit of vibrancy about it – although most of Toxteth is still suffering from the reputation of the riots. But if we could attract more small businesses to locate on Lodge Lane it would be great for regenerating the area. There are a lot of businesses in Toxteth but most of them work in isolation. That is why I want the café and the workspace to bring people together and be a meeting place for the community.’ Through BizFizz, Laurence has already found a network of talented people in this area, including an interior designer and a local filmmaker to produce a promotional video. The truth is that Liverpool 8 is actually full of entrepreneurs, and there is no shortage of passion and desire to achieve. Unleash this vibrant pool of life, and Liverpool will genuinely have its capital of culture. This tremendous creative force, below the radar of mainstream agencies, and dangerously subversive to many of them, is also overwhelmingly human. 13I was asked once what one thing I would change to improve the prospects of budding entrepreneurs. I said that I would put more of the human back into the system, depend less of the processing of people, and adopt a coaching approach based in the heart of the community. That is also the real meaning of being an entrepreneur, not the mythi- cal drive for hyper-wealth the media has told us about. ‘I don’t want to be rich – I just want to provide stability for my daughter. Money does- n’t matter that much to me. I just want the freedom of having my own business,’ said one of my clients. ‘I have always been creative and I want to do what I am good at and do it well.’ Being an entrepreneur is not really what we have been told by a gen- eration of business school alumni. It is about imagination and humani- ty, and – although the official mind can be suspicious of such resources – these resources are there in abundance in Toxteth, as they are everywhere else. 14Chapter 1 At the edge Paul Squires “A Good City is home to an above average number of entrepre- neurs.” Bishop of Newcastle’s Good City hearings, 2004 “If we receive funding next time, we’ll know that our business support project has been a success.” Anonymous business advisor “Nobody in their right mind could call me a Marxist,” said Sir Richard O’Brien, chair of the Church of England committee that produced the ground-breaking Faith in the City report in 1985. He was responding to anonymous Government briefings warning that the report was going to be wildly and unfeasibly leftist. As it was, Faith in the City happened to coincide with another round of urban riots in England, including the destructive disturbance at Broadwater Farm in London, which served to underline the urgent need for radical solutions. Faith in the City was not the first report to identify the need for busi- ness support for local entrepreneurs in places in need of regeneration, but it was the first to get the idea seriously onto the policy-making map. It made sense to all sides of the political divide, but what also came with it was a radical assumption that the regeneration industry had not so far grasped: that deprived neighbourhoods did, in fact, have a rather important resource at their disposal – local people and their drive and imagination. The Church’s report came three years before the Government’s Action for Cities, the apotheosis of the idea that regeneration was about physical infrastructure not people – the fantasy that once a place like Salford Quays or the Isle of Dogs looked better, the job of regenera- tion was done. Despite this policy obsession with building your way out of deprivation, the need for business support had taken a small, but significant foothold in the policy landscape. 15I was first involved in regeneration in the East Midlands at that time, and the grant money available was overwhelmingly about rebuilding. It was true that the rebuilding was aimed partly at underpinning the efforts of business people, to start up and employ people. It was for managed workspace, or small industrial units, in areas of high unem- ployment. In its own terms, this was a successful policy. The units were built and they were used. The trouble was that they were rarely used by anyone who actually lived there. Small businesses were start- ing up, and they were employing people, but these were mainly peo- ple from somewhere else who were gleeful at the prospect of cheap business accommodation. In the following decade, with the introduction of Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) grants, there was an attempt to knit together the bud- gets for very different but equally vital funding streams. It was then possible to find funding for salaries, where appropriate, as well as buildings. The business support infrastructure was also gearing up. But there was an inherent weakness to SRB, which has still not been addressed by subsequent area regeneration programmes: they were driven by targets set by outside funders rather than reflecting the local context and local success criteria. The difficulty, then and now, is that these funded, area-based pro- grammes found themselves ‘buying outputs’ rather than delivering appropriate support. There is, in practice, a real tension between meet- ing targets and good practice in supporting new businesses starting- up, whether they are profit-making or social enterprises. This tension results in an uneasy reciprocal relationship, whereby funders cascade the money down the food chain of regeneration agencies, but they require outputs in return for the help they provide. There is often a major difference between these targets and outputs, and the aims of the practitioners in the organisations. This tension is exacerbated by the problems of centralisation and ner- vousness about fraud. Governments have now introduced so many measures to stop fraud that the pressure on regeneration officials is always to look first at the financial implications of any support. They therefore tend to be risk averse which results in considerable sums left unspent at the end of any major programme. Then, to reach their required targets, they need to go out and find anyone who is likely to fulfil them – who may not be, and in fact are usually not, the people who would most benefit. 16Bottom-up regeneration, the most powerful model of change, is impossible if the controlling strategy comes from distant funders requiring abstract outputs. Over the years of running BizFizz, we have found many committed business support professionals. But they are hamstrung by being driven by targets that are sometimes appropriate to their work, but more usually get frustratingly in the way of support- ing their clients. They need to cling onto clients when it may not be in their interests. They need to prevent those clients seeking advice else- where, even when they need it – because that would lose the valu- able outputs to which their funding is attached. BizFizz is a business coaching programme that avoids this fatal pitfall. I first came across BizFizz when I was working in Birmingham. The Small Business Service had just agreed to fund four BizFizz pilot areas, via the Phoenix Development Fund. I was, at the time, working for a social enterprise development agency and I was finding it frustrating. Most of the people who wanted business support did not actually want to set up social enterprises. But we were funded only to help them do that, so all I could do was to point these entrepreneurs in other directions. Coming across BizFizz was a revelation to me. It was a process that gave both the advisors and their clients the freedom to be what they actually wanted to be. It was not about imposing a struc- ture on people that never quite managed to fit them. Entrepreneurs would decide how to run their new business, whether it was going to be a social enterprise or not. At least they had the choice. Having discovered the programme, it was only a matter of weeks later that a job came up at the Civic Trust which gave me the opportunity to work on BizFizz more directly. That was, for me, the beginning of an extraordinary journey to see what is really going on under the radar of regenerating neighbourhoods. First and foremost, the inspiration behind BizFizz was E. F. Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful. There is no direct parallel to BizFizz anywhere in its pages, but the spirit of economics “as if people mattered”, as he put it, is at the heart of the idea. Both are assertions that, if you get the small things right, then big things happen as a result. 17That was the starting point. From Schumacher’s approach to econom- ics, a number of questions followed about conventional regeneration. Why, for example, are so few entrepreneurs coming forward in regen- erating neighbourhoods, given the considerable amount of business support that is supposed to be available? After working for four years in Birmingham city centre, I knew that the percentage of small busi- ness start-ups was tiny compared to those emerging in more affluent suburbs just a few miles away. There was another question, too. Given that imbalance, could we con- clude that there really is no entrepreneurial spirit or behaviour in these rundown communities, because that was often what was inferred by policy-makers. Spending any time there should be enough to convince anyone this is not the case. Far from it. There is a great deal going on, some of it in the shadow economy – some of it actually criminal – but it is certainly entrepreneurial and takes considerable effort. Then we had to ask: is there anyone out there who has found a way to tap into that energy and use it to regenerate communities? The answer was yes. There were organisations like Five Lamps in Yorkshire, funded by Business Link to do outreach work in regenerat- ing communities and advising people how to start a business. There were others like the Prince’s Trust, which was pioneering the idea of using a ‘panel’ to support business start-ups. We also looked abroad and found innovative work in the USA, India and Australia. Back in the UK, Bernie Ward and Mikyla Robinson – respectively work- ing at nef and the Civic Trust – had discussed these conundrums and were looking for some kind of project that knitted these ideas together. Both their organisations were dedicated to looking at the kind of assets that economists tend to ignore when they evaluate regenerat- ing neighbourhoods. These are, after all, communities that may not have much capital, but they have people and ideas and also a consid- erable combined spending power. The Civic Trust had, and still has, a regeneration unit. The organisation as a whole dates back to 1958, and – even back then – the creeping realisation that physical regeneration can never work by itself without reference to the people who live there. Over and over again, we have some of the best urban architecture that money can buy, but because nothing is done to address or listen to the dreams and desires of the 18people who live there, the same levels of deprivation emerge again shortly afterwards. The height of this folly came with the slum clear- ances of the 1960s which simply decanted people to outlying estates and towers, breaking up what social networks of support existed before. The Civic Trust was launched to support local amenity societies, and through this emerged a national policy that set out programmes of support for the people who lived in these regenerating neighbour- hoods. One forerunner of BizFizz at the Civic Trust was a programme called Winning Partnerships, helping residents to learn how to develop effective partnerships with the public and private sector. We had a strong belief at this stage that networks of people were the key to regeneration programmes. BizFizz was a way of delivering business support locally that recognised this. nef as an organisation has its foundations in The Other Economic Summits (TOES) in 1984 and 1985 – a critique of mainstream eco- nomics and its consequences. nef’s work focuses on the fundamental questions of how economic life could be organised differently. Central to that work is the recognition of social capital being at least as impor- tant as economic capital when it comes to regenerating a neighbour- hood. Also that in places where these two kinds of assets intersect – the way that money flows around a local economy – can provide clues about hidden assets that economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods possess. Helping communities measure these money flows was a forerunner project that Bernie Ward developed at nef before BizFizz. Bernie and Mikyla led the initial work. It was Bernie’s idea to call the central organising tool of BizFizz ‘business coaches’. The BizFizz title itself was suggested by Perry Walker, head of nef’s Centre for Participation, at a brainstorm held at the Civic Trust in 2001. The Phoenix Development Fund agreed to fund the development and pilot- ing of the approach, and those involved found themselves learning a great deal about coaching methodology, and why it looked the best way of delivering any sort of advice. By then, BizFizz was based on a critique of conventional regeneration that recognised that it:  Focused on investment in things and not in people. Capital pro- grammes left a legacy of new buildings and facilities but still no reductions in underlying deprivation. 19 Frequently helped set up community groups, drawing on some form of central funding, but overlooked the role of individual entre- preneurship as a driver for regeneration.  Geared support towards the achievement of central aims of com- mercial growth rather than on the needs of aspiring entrepreneurs.  Tended to undermine the value of support being given by setting inappropriate targets for support programmes. In response, BizFizz was developed as a programme that could flexibly operate within defined communities, usually of around 8,000 to 15,000 people. It was vital that the local community identified the opportunity that BizFizz brought to them, decided to be part of the programme, and organised themselves to host it locally. That local organisation would include:  A local management group (LMG), a small team which was to be responsible for helping to address any strategic or institutional bar- riers identified through the coach’s work with clients – leaving the coach free to focus on clients and not get involved in committees. The LMG was to include a local resident, representatives of local agencies, the local authority and other partners, and members of the local business community. The coach was to keep the LMG informed of the real issues facing small businesses, helping it to deal with some of the strategic issues.  A local panel which would be a much larger body (30–40 people), including entrepreneurs, residents, professionals and anyone else who the coach felt would add value. They were to be volunteers who would meet every month or two to act as a problem-solving panel for individual business cases brought to them by the coach. Through their contacts, their local knowledge, and their links in the community, they would begin to find ways that individual entrepre- neurs could overcome barriers standing in the way of their suc- cess. The idea was that BizFizz coaches, who would be entrepreneurs them- selves, would be at the heart of that community, making contact with local groups and representatives, helping to put people in contact with each other, letting potential entrepreneurs know that they were there if needed, and then being available to meet them at times, places, fre- 20quencies and circumstances suitable to the clients. The time had come to launch the programme. We had attracted appli- cations to be pilot areas from 25 different places. We sent a small team out to visit them, and prepared a SWOT analysis, reflecting details included in the applications as the basis for that conversation. Even this turned out to be controversial. On more than one occasion, we were shouted at by passionate residents who regarded our SWOT analysis as deeply insulting. By the end of this process, we were prepared to launch in four areas. They included Horden and Easington in Durham, a former coal mining area on the coast, and Tuxford in north Nottinghamshire, a small mar- ket town and the few villages around it. We chose another market town, Thetford in Norfolk, and the former shipbuilding town of Jarrow. We also began interviewing our panel members. Our initial thinking was that we wanted a panel to provide solutions to the problems entrepreneurs would have, and a perfect example of how this was supposed to work came up almost immediately in Tuxford. We were helping a local ceramics business, which made repli- ca pots for museums. But they were based outside Tuxford and want- ed a shop on the high street so they could showcase other products. A quick chat with the local estate agent ascertained immediately that there was no property available. We brought the problem up at the very first panel meeting. There was a local farmer at the meeting, who said he had a barn right in the middle of Tuxford, which he used to store rusty machinery. The BizFizz coach Fred Foreshaw then worked with the farmer to help him arrange to make the building useable, and brokered an arrangement so the company could use it. I thought that was a beautifully elegant example of how the panel should work. The farmer had no direct reason for being on the panel other than a passion for Tuxford, and wanting to do something to help. He wasn’t part of the great and the good, it wasn’t his job, and he did not represent a voluntary organisation. He simply agreed to give two hours of his time to the panel, and as a result, a small but significant change happened. The resources of the town were also better used. 21The panels quickly became a central component for a whole new way of organising regeneration. BizFizz was beginning to emerge as an idea with some radical propositions at its heart, which upset some accepted notions. For example: Just providing advice undermines potential entrepreneurs Conventional business advice services have a central problem, which is that because they only have recourse to certain solutions they are often hamstrung by their official agenda. Business Link, for example, can suggest that a client goes on a training course, and that might be very useful for some people. But there are many reasons why that might not be appropriate for everyone. The needs of aspiring entrepre- neurs can be diverse, so it is vital that that we did not simply say: “Well, thanks for telling me that. Now, what we normally recommend to people starting out in business is …” One of the benefits of coaching is that the client–coach relationship is led by the client, and goes wherever the client needs to take it. BizFizz coaches have come to talk more recently about how they ‘hold the client’s agenda’, just as the panels hold a BizFizz agenda in the local community. The coaching process is designed to identify and draw out where the entrepreneur is strong, and what they are passionate about. Funding targets support the funder at the expense of their effect on the ground Business support that is driven by fulfilling targets is focused on fulfilling those targets, rather than meeting the individual needs of clients – what- ever they happen to be. These targets are embedded in the payment system for New Deal for Self-Employment, for example, which protects the benefits of new entrepreneurs for six months, takes any other earn- ings and gives them back to you the day you come off benefits. Payment for the agency also comes when the business starts. There is enormous pressure because of this, on the client and advisor, to launch a new business whether it is appropriate or sustainable or not. Being an entrepreneur is not about ploughing a lonely furrow All our evidence suggests that social networks, and embedding entre- preneurs in them, leads to much wider and more successful entrepre- neurial activity. We have become used to the idea of entrepreneurs as heroic individualists, when actually most successful entrepreneurs are primarily brilliant networkers: the difference between success and fail- ure is probably the networks of local people who can help them. Recent research in the east of England also confirms that successful 22single parents, bringing up children and holding down a job, manage it because they are supported by very good networks. BizFizz was therefore designed around a panel that provides access to local net- works. The panel members also provide a temporary team around the entrepreneur, filling gaps in their skills or knowledge. At the beginning, coaches would be in the middle of this network, but would hopefully become increasingly peripheral to them as they developed further. Promotion and marketing distort the regeneration process We agreed at the outset that coaches would work without doing the kind of promotion that is considered ubiquitous in business advice programmes. Coaches would have to find canny ways of getting known through word of mouth – and one route might be to get panel members to refer people they knew. But if networks make the differ- ence between success and failure, then reaching over the heads of those networks to persuade people that they wanted to set up a busi- ness – and that they also badly needed advice – was counter-produc- tive. The process of spreading the word would have to support the networks that were so badly needed. The first hurdles to cross were about convincing funders that these heresies were worth risking in practice. We insisted to our funders, the Phoenix Development Fund and Small Business Service, that we would accept no targets, and were delighted when they agreed almost immediately – influenced at the time by the Policy Action Team report (PAT 17) from the Social Exclusion Unit that outcomes were more important than targets. It has sometimes been more difficult to per- suade some of the coaches, some of whom found that it was a strug- gle to start with if they had no set numerical goals. But, two years into the job, I believe they vowed not to go anywhere near a target again. We found we were testing some of our propositions almost instinctive- ly. There was no conventional job description for a business coach, for example, because there was no such thing – in regeneration at least. There was also the problem of how we were going to train them. They were far more experienced about business advice than we were, so we could hardly tell them how to do the job in the usual way. We hoped instead we could encourage them to think about the task ahead in new ways, and looked around for an organisation that might help us. 23

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