Small and medium enterprises and start-up businesses drive our region – they are its lifeblood. The number of businesses is on the up and they deserve the best possible chance to succeed. By being proactive and working together, we can help start-ups and small businesses in the region to grow and prosper.
There is little doubt that this is a region facing challenges. We remain low in the national leagues in terms of business survival rates, with only 37% of business surviving the first five years of trading.
Our export activity is relatively low, and we are still having to make the case that as the ‘Energy Estuary’ and a ‘Northern Gateway’ we are strategically important to UK PLC. However, statistics on their own don’t tell the full story.
Given the difficulties and obstacles this area has overcome in terms of unemployment and industrial decline, we have done far better than the numbers make out.
We have some great examples of enterprise and entrepreneurship, particularly in the creative, digital and technological sectors. Brands such as Pie, Fruit and Humber Street Sesh, have become well known and loved.
We have brands which have gone global, a thriving business community, and a united business support network, working closely together to encourage more of the same success.
October saw the launch of the Enterprise Alliance, part of the Humber LEP’s Growth Hub. The Enterprise Alliance helps to formalise joint working between enterprise and business support agencies and is a partnership of organisations that are committed to delivering support and constructive advice to enterprises and entrepreneurs.
The Enterprise Alliance was launched at the Enterprise Support Summit on Tuesday 11 October. This event was a coming together of public and private sector, giving support and advice to local businesses.
It was a chance to hear successful entrepreneurs speak about their own experiences, to network with both business support organisations and other SMEs, make contacts and to create opportunities to grow.
It was a great platform for promoting the entrepreneurial spirit of the region and is the first of a number of events planned to bring together businesses and business support providers.
Through events such as these, and through the work of the Growth Hub, we can create a culture of support. A business community which works together to promote the economy of the region as a whole, and boosts entrepreneurship and the success of SMEs in the Humber.
Just as important is a business community that can accept support whenever and wherever it is given, and is open to criticism. In 35 years of business I’ve learned that to be a better business you don’t need to act on every piece of advice you’re given, but you do need to listen to it and should actively seek it out.
One of the most valuable lessons I can pass to others is to be a good employer first and success will follow. If you don’t look after your staff, you won’t get the most from your employees and it will hold your business back.
A culture of support which drives enterprise and entrepreneurship will make a direct contribution to improving business start-up and survival rates. It lets small businesses and start-ups benefit from the success of established businesses, and working together we can break down the barriers and help them to navigate the support landscape.
It’s our job, as larger businesses, established businesses and advisors, to help these entrepreneurs grow and succeed. If we don’t give our time and advice, if these SMEs fail because we didn’t try hard enough to help them, then we have failed.
This is an ongoing mission, and the Enterprise Summit was just the first in a series of events that will continue throughout the City of Culture year.
A further programme of events will cover a range of different topics and provide different opportunities. They will all be a great opportunity to come together, network and develop trading relationships.
We must keep developing the support network, and continue to grow the relationships we need between SMEs and business support providers. They are essential to keep growing this region and build on the great entrepreneurial spirit we have here.
Dr Paul Sewell, OBE
Chair Humber LEP Business Development Board