The green shoots of opportunity

Government ministers have, in the past, got into hot water for merely mentioning the words ‘green shoots’ when times are tough. We all know the UK economy is officially in recession. However, unlike Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, I won’t be talking the economy down. I fear the wrath and another four-letter outburst from business secretary, Lord Mandelson, if I did so! Times are indeed tough and every day we read and hear about another business shedding jobs. Yesterday, Bradford-based Stylo, owner of Barratts shoes, announced it was closing 220 stores and cutting 2,500 jobs.

In yesterday’s Technology Guardian, Victor Keegan, made a very good (and related) point: he said that whilst this may be the worst of times to look for a job, it is the among the best to be setting up your own business. Keegan is spot on citing that the cost of starting a web business is 10% of what it was in the dotcom boom. He doesn’t refer to the contribution advertising makes to this. Advertising on the internet already helps to fund much of the UK’s entrepreneurial and creative talent. It’s a little known fact to many that, in the last three months, Google paid £970m to publishers for adverts on their sites. Many of these will be small and emerging businesses, using the internet as platform to innovate, compete and challenge traditional businesses.

This is an argument lost on Lord Carter in his Digital Britain interim report published last month. His ‘comprehensive analysis of the digital economy’ missed it and therefore failed to acknowledge the UK as one of the best places in the world to do ‘digital business’. But Carter and his team seem primarily focused on how to pay the people that create the content we are used to reading, watching or listening but is now free on the internet. Interestingly the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has just begun hearings on this issue and one of the suggestions put forward is a tax or levy on internet use to finance domestically produced new media. This kind of approach would be regressive. The Digital Britain report was big on bridging the ‘digital divide’ – ensuring that everyone can get broadband by 2012. Let’s not artificially create another digital divide which would disrupt an already successful approach, particularly in tough times. An internet tax here would not only mean that the UK would lose its statusas Europe’s leading digital hub, but – more importantly – it would deny people from using the internet to ‘get on the ladder’ and build competitive businesses. Remember: we’re in a recession. We need the green shoots of opportunity.

  • Having met the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown in the last few weeks. I can confirm that the is very keen for the market to survive and prosper in these tough times.

    When he visited the Weboptimiser offices he used the opportunity to announce the availability of up to £1.2m to business small and large with more flexibility than ever before, including the relaxation of personal gaurantees and increased flexibility on timescale, ( I am not on commission!).

    In essence you can borrow three times as much than before for as little as a month and as long as three years. There is more to this and I welcome any corrections.

    To get the cash business owners simply have to contact their bank managers and fulfil some key criteria – i.e. they have not got access to other sources of cash, that they have a plan for growth and relevent forecasts etc.

    My perspective, beyond dropping Weboptimiser into the conversation is that this is totally opt-in (another one of my domains) – the onus is on business owners to take the opportunity. Cash availability will definitely nuture green shoots and will encourage people to grow their business.

    It is working capital that limits growth, when everything else in place, and this government, this week, today, tomorrow and for the foreseable is making a lot of cash available for those who may want to start a business and those who are already in business.

    If anything we are seeing shifts from old world technologies (oild based cars) and over heated economies (mortgages), meanwhile, online digital advertising continues to grow and the cash is available to nurture that growth all you have to do is apply for it.

    If your bank manager fails to help, change banks! Our bank is Barclays in Moorgate, if all else fails, call them! On Saturday Stephen Alambritis of FSB appeared on the BBC news (I have it recorded) saying:
    “We wanted more of a force on the banks more of a guarantee that they will get the message through from head office from the chief execs, the chairman
    to the foot soldiers the branch mangers we hope that will happen this week.”.

    The FSB would like to hear of cases that are rejected as we have a direct connection to the chief executives of all the key banks (I am a member of the FSB and attend the London Policy Unit meetings). If you are having difficulty in this regard please contact me and I will step in to help.

    See more of Mr Browns visit to Weboptimiser and my subsequent SKY news interview on the frontpage of our Website,

    Good luck! Lets make it happen, it is down to us, you can do your bit. Let us not forget that now business owners can get more cash then ever before.