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Thames Valley local businesses encouraged to be entrepreneurial at Finance Forum
Tuesday, 10th July 2012
Thames Valley Chamber in association with The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) recently hosted a Finance Breakfast Forum with the theme of “Entrepreneurship and Growth” at Arlington Business Park, Theale, Reading. The event was held to mark Business Advice Week.
The delegates were welcomed by Paul Britton, Head of Inward Investment , Thames Valley Chamber and James Raven, Development Director, Arlington Business Parks Partnership at Goodman. James said: “Goodman is an Australian company that develops and manages 40 business and logistics parks in the UK, 60% of these are in the South East. There is no doubt that the Thames Valley market is the engine room for the regional economy.”
The event was chaired Neil Hutt, Managing Partner, Ernst & Young Reading office, who specialises in providing M&A advice and has over 15 years of corporate finance experience. He commented that although there is consistent uncertainty and low growth, entrepreneurs find ways to grow.
The first speaker was Robyn Jones, OBE who founded CH&Co with her husband Tim in 1991 on a Government Enterprise Allowance. Her vision was to gain a reputation for improving food at work by providing exceptional eating experience. CH&Co now has a multi-million pound turnover, employs almost 2,000 people and holds 140 contracts nationwide. Robyn started her company in a low growth period in 1991. Following redundancy and low self-esteem, Robyn, with the help of her husband, Tim, she started Charlton House in one of her spare bedrooms. With determination and focus, 8 months later, Robyn won her first contract catering client. Robyn said: “The cornerstone of business is great client relationships and the entrepreneurial spirit to recognise opportunities and go after them.” Now the business is divided into contract catering and specialist fine dining through acquisitions involving fine dining for events, livery companies etc., all under the CH&Co umbrella. CH&Co has a number of prestigious contracts including Buckingham Palace for garden parties, historic royal palaces: Tower of London, Kensington and London Zoo.
Next was Professor Brian Scott-Quinn, the Chairman of ICMA Centre for Financial Markets at Henley Business School and Director of Banking and Insurance programs. He has worked in the fields of investment banking, securities trading, asset management and stockbroking prior to founding the ICMA Centre in 1994 as a specialist university finance school. The Centre has simulated trading rooms and currently educates 320 MSc students, 250 of these are from Asia. Brian commented: “Financing entrepreneurs can be a problem due to the equity gap. This is not a new issue. The Breedon Report earlier this year urged businesses to explore peer to peer lending e.g. online marketplace, Funding Circle which is ready to bypass the banks and capitalise on the Government’s Budget plans to lend £100m through non-bank channels www.fundingcircle.com. Or there are sites such as www.peoplefund.it . Originally a way for charities to raise funds, crowd funding is increasingly used by entrepreneurs to raise essential financial backing for new projects.”
Brian continued: “Some businesses are using customer base to generate investment e.g. Hotel Chocolat and John Lewis Partnership offering investment bonds. Banks are cherry picking, demanding collateral, making them an expensive way to debt finance. Euro banks are on life support. Banks are becoming less and less important in financing. Plus the challenge is how to end taxpayer subsidy.”
Gavin Preston was the final speaker and is an experienced high performance business consultant and executive coach. He works with entrepreneurs and early stage businesses who have hit a plateau to help them accelerate their growth. Gavin said: “There is indecisiveness in business currently: people are taking longer to pay, there are changing trends, entrepreneurs are disillusioned. You need to create a vision that enables you to see your results clearly; target outcomes, build an achievement plan, remove obstacles and take the first step to growth. Build your brand, develop your people, change thought processes. Create a strategic edge, engage in collaboration, work with the right people, embed changes.”
“Entrepreneurs have the ideas to develop tomorrow’s businesses. Launched in autumn 2011, ICAEW’s Business Advice Service (BAS) is designed to boost the prospects for a private sector-driven recovery by offering a helping hand to SMEs and start-ups across the country. It’s not just government’s responsibility to help businesses to survive and thrive. As a profession that acts in the public interest, ICAEW Chartered Accountants recognise their responsibility to offer crucial guidance.” Fay Webster, ICAEW Regional Director, South East
Chartered accountants offer helping hand to business
Chartered accountants held more than thirty events around the UK last month to help start-ups and small and medium sized businesses. Topics include access to finance, business growth, exporting and better business finance. The events form part of ICAEW’s ‘BAS WEEK’. Launched in autumn 2011, ICAEW’s Business Advice Service (BAS) is designed to boost the prospects for a private sector-driven recovery by offering a helping hand to SMEs and start-ups across the country.
BAS offers businesses a free advice session with a qualified ICAEW Chartered Accountant.
Businesses can use the BAS website businessadviceservice.com to find their nearest office and thousands of offices are participating in the scheme ranging from small local firms to internationally-known advisers.