Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brown's Britain: enterprise at a price

One of the many vital things that TV shows like The Apprentice have failed to convey is the vast cost of setting up almost any enterprise that employs people in the UK these days.

Business start ups face massive costs of compliance with legislation that ranges from the absurd to the absurdly ridiculous. A general rule of thumb from one firm of accountants suggests that unless you have £50k to "vapourise" on the non-productive essentials of a business start up, you are going to run out of funding before the cash register rings once. Either that, or you will have to risk "cutting some corners".

The margins required to support costs of running a business in the real world mean that eBayers in Hong Kong can eat the costs of shipping, and still undercut everyone paying the price of Brown's profligate Britain.

Precious few new business founders can expect to earn anything like the sort of take-home pay they can get working for any one of the giant companies/organisations or "made up" public purse opportunities that have thrived Brown's socialist utopia. The chances are that even pretend policepeople - Community Support Officers - will take home more than money than someone trying to set up a new business. And they will certainly be paid more per hour.

Business owners have to try and believe that the satisfaction and flexibility of being their own bosses makes up the difference; and take comfort in the certain knowledge that they won't have time to spend any money, even if they did have it to spend.

So instead of actually getting on and running their own businesses, the faces from reality business shows all seem stuck in a "media-warp", aware that their only asset is their fast fading public profile. So let's have a bit more reality in the next series of the Apprentice and see the contestants try and operate a real business, and then report back with their findings. The real world is not a bunch of media wannabes charging off in a Chrysler Voyager to harass a few unlucky souls around London by trying to sell them services and products they really don't need or want in a few hours.

Although it will not be instant gratification TV, the more useful message is that real businesses take time and money to conceive, plan and establish - and that process has been made hugely more complex and costly as a result of 10 years of Labour's meddling and endless interfering legislation. Which is something that suits the big companies (the sort that can afford to donate to political parties and whose bosses traditionally "bought" gongs) who can afford specialist departments to manage the endless compliance and technical issues arising, because the opportunity for eager and fast-moving competition to erode their cosy cartels is diminished by every new diktat from the EU.

Especially those many companies whose suppliers and offshore manufacturing facilities exist in places where the overheads are kept low precisely because there are none of the impositions of the nannying legislation that has removed Europe's ability to compete in world markets.

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