Episode 8

These Are The Voyages of Enterprise Nation, Boldly Going Where No Organisation Has Gone Before

Emma Jones is the epitome of ‘If you want something done ask a busy person’. Since embarking on her voyage with Enterprise Nation in 2006, Emma Jones has never looked back. Her infectious enthusiasm and zeal for helping people with good ideas and growing them into great businesses has seen her play a highly significant role at the very heart of initiatives created by successive governments to create an environment where setting up your own business is a genuine and realistic alternative to getting a job.

About my guest

As the captain of Enterprise Nation – a vibrant community of small businesses and business advisers – Emma Jones CBE takes us through her personal voyage exploring strange new startups and seeking out new life in the UK economy.

Emma Jones is the epitome of ‘If you want something done ask a busy person’. Since embarking on her voyage with Enterprise Nation in 2006, Emma Jones has never looked back. Her infectious enthusiasm and zeal for helping people with good ideas and growing them into great businesses has seen her play a highly significant role at the very heart of initiatives created by successive governments to create an environment where setting up your own business is a genuine and realistic alternative to getting a job.

Seeking out new life in the UK economy of course involves HR and Emma Jones explains the key role HR can play in this mission:

Employing people is a big deal for entrepreneurs and it keeps many awake at night, so HR can really help and support in this critical task;

Businesses created by Millennials and Generation Z are incredibly socially motivated which really chimes with HR’s focus on ‘engagement’;

Startups and small businesses increasingly recognise the importance of good HR practice at the outset;

HR education or support for startups and small businesses is scarce, therefore an opportunity for the profession to add real value;

HR is likely to be one of the ‘flourishing’ sectors of the next decade.


[Chris]: If you’re enjoying the Oven-Ready HR Podcast, please do rate and review us and feel free to share with your network. To find out more about Chris Taylor, your host, visit OvenReadyHR.com, and follow us on Twitter too @OvenHr. Thank you.

Like so many of us, my guest this week started her career in business waitressing after school and at weekends at a number of restaurants owned by her mother. She credits this experience and her mother’s relentless work ethic as her touchstone and passion for all things business.

After rising through the ranks of international accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, Emma Jones embarked on her first solo effort, a technology firm with a service designed to make overseas companies investing in the UK just that bit easier. The business flew, and just 15 months later, the business had been sold to a larger enterprise. Not wanting to rest on her laurels, Emma decided to use the experience gained in setting up a business and thus, the idea of Enterprise Nation was born and launched in 2006.

Emma Jones has never looked back. Her formidable experience as an entrepreneur has seen her being appointed to a number of high-profile public, private sector initiatives, such as CEO of StartUp Britain campaign, being appointed as a business ambassador, and co-leader of one of the five business councils set up by successive 10 Downing Street occupants.

Emma Jones is a prolific author of business books, including “Spare Room,” “Working 5 to 9,” and “Start a Business for £99.” Twice recognised by Buckingham Palace, Emma was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2012. This has just been upgraded to a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s honours in 2021.

Today, Enterprise Nation is the UK’s leading small business network and business support provider delivering support to more than 50,000 businesses every month with its aim of helping people turn their good ideas into great businesses. Emma Jones, CBE, welcome.

[Emma]: Thank you so much, Chris. That was a wonderful – it felt like a this is your life moment. You went and talked it through from my waitressing days right up to current day. That was lovely. Thank you very much for that lovely introduction.

[Chris]: You’re most welcome. We’ve all started either, I think, being waiters or waitresses, haven’t we? I think many of us have done that. It’s our first sort of introduction to work.

[Emma]: It’s our first introduction to customer support. I always remember actually, and as you said, it was my mum who was running the restaurant.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: So, I may have started younger than most because I think I was probably ten when I was first encouraged to work in the restaurants. But I always remember interviewing a brilliant entrepreneur called Mark Dixon, who is still the founder and CEO of Regus. It’s called IWG now, the big workspace provider.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: I interviewed him, boy, this was probably about eight or nine years ago at a business event. One of my questions to him was, “What do you look for when hiring talent?” I don’t know if you know this, Chris, but Mark Dixon’s first business was a hot dog and sausage van. So, he set up hot dog vans and sold them. I mean, again, just what an incredible story in terms of the empire he runs now.

[Chris]: Yeah, yeah.

[Emma]: But his answer to “what you look for when hiring people,” is he said, “I always hire people who’ve had experience in the hospitality industry because they are used to working on the days that other people are at leisure time. So, they’ve got already strong work ethic.” Ever since he said that, that’s really stuck with me that if you don’t mind working weekends, I’m not being funny, but it does kind of set you up to then perfectly run your own business because you’re definitely going to have to get used to that as the years go on.

[Chris]: No, absolutely. I mean, he was burger-flipping literally in Brussels, I think, wasn’t he?

[Emma]: He was. He was, and look at him now, a great British entrepreneur. So yeah, it’s constantly learnt from every entrepreneur you meet, which I’m still doing today.

[Chris]: Completely agree with you. Now, congratulations on your New Year’s Honour. Now, can ask you something? Now, you’ve been upgraded. Do you have to hand the MBE back?

[Emma]: That is a superb question, and you will be the first person to pose that question to me. Chris, I have no idea.

[Chris]: What’s the rule?

[Emma]: No one has flagged that yet, so until I get a letter saying, “Right, you have to pop it in a UPS box and get it returned,” I don’t know. I guess it’s like would it be like generals where you just stack them up? I don’t know, but no, you’re the first person to ask me. I can’t officially say which way it is, but no one has asked me yet to return it.

[Chris]: Or perhaps when if you do get to meet the Queen later in the year, she’s got a handbag, you can just sort of take it along. She can pop it in there. Now, the title of your book, 5 to 9, does that describe how you work? Because I first saw you being interviewed on BBC television at about six o’clock in the morning and you were absolutely on the nail. You were brilliant, and you were focused, and it just seems to come naturally to you. I mean, are you 24/7? Is that how you work?

[Emma]: Well, I’m an early starter, and in fact, my team will let you know that because since we’ve gone into lockdown, and I’ve got a team of 30 people as every business at the moment, they’re all working from their homes. So, every single weekday morning, I send them a little note just every morning to try and keep the team feeling connected.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: It goes off to them at six o’clock every morning, and that’s not me kind of prescheduling. I get up, and the note to them is the first thing. So, I start early. I know lots of people have different rituals in their day, but the reason why I start early is pretty much by the time that most people kind of start at nine, hopefully, I’ve kind of had three hours of really productive work. But also, that just wonderful and rare moment kind of time to think. So, what you want to achieve from the day; what needs to be done in the day.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: So, I tend to start early, and it’s really interesting in terms of working hours. Because when I’m asked, “How much do you work?” Again, for anyone who knows me, they know that Enterprise Nation is very much my life, and I spend a lot of hours working on the business to kind of keep growing it. But I always remember, again, reading about another entrepreneur.

The FT used to do a feature called “My Perfect Weekend,” and they’ve stopped doing it, actually. It always used to be at the back of their weekend magazine. I used to love reading these articles, but every article, it always used to be entrepreneurs and founders of businesses talking about, “They’d go to the bakery on a Sunday morning,” and then they’d maybe, “go and look at an antique shop and then have lunch with their family.” I always used to read this thinking, Oh, well, I’ve been working, again, all weekend.

But I will never forget, I once read an entrepreneur who similar to myself, he said, “I spend the weekend working, just as I do in the week.” And he said, “But I don’t see it as work because work is my hobby, as well as my work.” I guess I’m touching wood as I say this, but I’m in the fortunate position that sort of building Enterprise Nation at the moment is a particularly exciting thing to do, and therefore, I don’t quite mind the hours that I put into it. I may not always be saying that, but right now, I kind of don’t mind that commitment. So, yeah, early starts, and then I just kind of finish when the job’s done.

[Chris]: Okay, but that’s real, that’s the Mark Twain thing, isn’t it? Because actually, what he said was, “Find something that you like doing, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

[Emma]: It’s advice we give to every person who’s thinking of starting a business. We’ve given this advice for the past decade is exactly that is “base a business on doing what you love, and it will never really feel like work.” I will never forget, Chris. I used to run an event called StartUp Saturday. It used to happen on a Saturday, as the name implies, and I’d have 20 people who came to the British Library once a month. At the beginning of the session, we were all together for five hours, and I would deliver everything you need to become your own boss and get going in business.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: But at the beginning of the session, we’d go round, and everyone would say, this is the idea of the business that I’m starting and as you can imagine just incredible stories of, “By day I’m an accountant, but my real love in life is baking. So, I’m going to start a baking business.” Just amazing stories.

Over the kind of six or seven years that I run that event for, this only ever happened once, but it still is the one that sticks with me so blatantly is one young lady said, “Oh, I haven’t come here with an idea. I just want you to tell me what idea for a business can I start that’s going to make me the most money.”

[Chris]: You’re kidding.

[Emma]: I literally wanted to say to her, “Leave this room because you’ve kind of not got the idea of what it’s about.” This is what we see, Chris, is so many people when starting a business, and the reason why startup rates, by the way, are skyrocketing again at the moment is—

[Chris]: Well, it’s a pandemic. It’s a pandemic of startups. Isn’t it?

[Emma]: Well, the pandemic is causing lots of startups for lots of reasons. But one key one is that philosophically and psychologically, people are analysing, how do I want to spend my life?

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: I just had this challenging year. Do I want to return to a job that maybe I don’t like, or do I want to pursue my passion and see if I can turn that into a business? That is such a critical reason as to why so many people start a business. Absolutely, as you say, “If it is something that you like doing, what better way to spend your life than putting hours, commitment, and effort into something that you enjoy?”

[Chris]: Totally. Totally. So, there’s been such a big rise there, hasn’t there, in been people starting up businesses, as you say, “driven probably by the pandemic.” But we’ve always had that sort of startup bug in the UK. Haven’t we, really?

[Emma]: We have, and we’ve definitely become–. One of the things we talk about Enterprise Nation is kind of entrepreneurship has now set itself into kind of the genes of the UK, and this goes back actually, and you mentioned it in the intro, the MBA in 2012 was very much attributed to a campaign that I was part of that launched in 2011, which was called StartUp Britain.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: So, I was running Enterprise Nation at the time, but actually stepped out of the business for three years to run this campaign, StartUp Britain. I will never forget, David Cameron was the Prime Minister. He did have a head of strategy, who’s still pretty infamous or famous in this country, called Steve Hilton. At the time, Steve Hilton had gathered eight of us together. So, we were all founders of our own businesses.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: He said, “Look, something in America has just launched called Start Up USA.” He said, “I want you to launch something called StartUp Britain here.” He said, “I’m not going to give them any money, but I will give you government endorsement to go and run this campaign. What I want you to do is normalise self-employment so that people feel starting a business is as normal as getting a job.”

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: I was kind of really moved by that. We started StartUp Britain at an incredible time because one of the things we launched from that campaign was a startup tracker. It was just a very basic feed from company’s house that we put on the website, which showed how many people had started a business that day, that week, and in the previous year.

One of the reasons we did that is just another motive when people are thinking of starting a business. Certainly, back in 2012, many people at the time still did think, Am I the only crazy person that’s thinking of leaving my job and starting a business? We want to show, you’re not the only crazy person. Look how many people just today have kind of done this adventurous thing that you’re considering.

I will never forget, in 2013. It was the 13th of December 2013. I clicked on to the startup tracker, and it was the first time in the UK history that, as a country, we’d had over half a million people who had started a business so far that year.

[Chris]: That’s incredible.

[Emma]: Since ‘13, that numbers kept on going up. So, last year again, record figures. I think it was about 650,000 last year that people, in the space of a year, started. I think it’s going to be even higher this year. So, as you say, “That kind of Entrepreneurial spirit has well and truly set in.” It always is true, the more people around you who have started a business, just the more comfortable that you feel doing it yourself. So, the greater those numbers continue to grow, we’re going to have, hopefully, a self-reinforcing effect that even more people will follow that lead.

[Chris]: Okay, but obviously, starting a business is a risky enterprise, isn’t it? I mean, I can’t remember what the stats are, but how many startup businesses actually succeed, ultimately?

[Emma]: Well, we contest a little bit with the government on this. There is a figure, which is one in three businesses don’t make it through the first two years. That figure can be quite often banded around, not so much at the moment, but actually, survival rates of businesses are on the up at the moment. We feel quite strongly about this in terms of there has almost never been a better time, not just to start a business, but to start a business that will survive. The reason I say that is, at its most basic level, the reason why businesses go bust is because they spend too much and don’t earn enough.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: It’s a great cash problem of you’re not selling enough, and your costs are too high. Of course, the successful business, and I know there are many other elements to a successful business. But at its heart, a business that can keep on surviving is one where the costs are under control, and the sales are beautifully coming in, and you have a profit margin, so you can keep on going.

The reason why I say the conditions are really good at the moment for businesses to survive is because currently, if you start a business, you’re pretty much starting an online business. Because still, for the next couple of months, all customers are buying things online. Anyone can start an online business pretty much not for £50.

You can start an Instagram account. You can set up a Facebook business page. You can start training Amazon marketplace. You can get your food business uploaded onto Uber Eats, and you can do all of this for low or no cost. So, the brilliant thing at the moment is you can start a business on a budget. Secondly, because all of these customers are online at the moment, you’re hopefully in quite a good position to make sales quite quickly, and then hopefully keep those sales coming in. Because you know exactly where customers are.

It may get tougher in the next six months because I think customers are going to head to the great outdoors again, and hopefully spend all of this pent-up cash that many UK households have saved. So, that may become a little bit more challenging, but right now, the chances of surviving and much higher because you can keep your costs low, and you can hopefully keep those sales coming in.

[Chris]: Okay, that’s really positive. Do you think, though, that actually access to capital and skills is that an issue also for startups, would you say? Because it seems to me that the High Street Banks hasn’t made it terribly easy over the last sort of six to nine months with access to capital.

[Emma]: Yeah, and these are challenges actually regardless of conditions that are issues for founders to think of access to cash, we’ve had a bit of a blip in the past couple of months that because the banks have been so busy in issuing these bounce back loans and the correct science business interruption loans–

[Chris]: Absolutely.

[Emma]: –they have actually stopped opening new business bank accounts. That has definitely been an issue for new companies because they’ve just had to keep everything in their personal accounts rather than separate it and put it in their business bank accounts.

[Chris]: Which is a nightmare.

[Emma]: However, again, going back to the kind of UK entrepreneurial scene, when one part of the market is not delivering, then other parts of the market sort of rise up to replace that. What we haven’t seen a stop of is crowdfunding, angel investment. In fact, we hosted, this is very Ireland-specific, but we’re expanding to Ireland this year. A week ago today, we hosted an event called StartUp 2021 Ireland. So, it was for 800 startups across Ireland. There was a gentleman who came on to speak who runs the Angel Investment Network across the whole of Ireland.

I asked him the question of, “Have your angels continue to invest?” He said, “The past 12 months has been one of our best years ever. The angels have stayed committed. There’ve been some incredible businesses, innovation, and ingenuity coming out of lockdown. So, if bank funding is harder to get and bank accounts are harder to open, crowdfunding, angel investors, other forms of finance step in and say, “Well, maybe this is our time to kind of take on some of that monopoly from the British banks.”

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: So, when the banks reopen, they’re going to have a bit more competition, which is no bad thing.

[Chris]: Which is no bad thing.

[Emma]: So, when it comes to finance, it’s still very much there. And many people will say this, if you have a good idea and you have a good plan that shows how your investor or your funder is going to get paid back, the finance is very much still available and talent. I totally agree. This is again a constant issue. I speak as a founder where we’ve been hiring people during lockdown. I’ve got two interviews with people today, and it still amazes me of the disconnect actually between good talent and growing companies. It can be one of the hardest things to do as a founder is find top talent.

Actually, I spoke at an event last week where I did say one of the things that business owners are looking for at the moment is less friction in their life. You know this, Chris, but when you’re running a business, you have multiple things to do.

[Chris]: Yes.

[Emma]: You’ve got to hire people. You’ve got to make sure the product’s right. You’ve got to make sure the cash is coming in, that you’re paying people, that your existing team is happy. In all areas of your life, you go to suppliers or processes that give you ease in your life.

So, when it comes to funding, you find the most friction-free way of raising funds. I think when it comes to finding talent, one of the things I do think is business owners are faced with quite a fragmented market. If you look at where you can get talent from at the moment, there’s multiple government schemes. The Kickstart Programme, I think the Apprenticeship Programme is still live, then there’s recruitment and marketing agencies in the private sector. It can be fragmented and confusing, and therefore, it can put a business owner even accessing the kind of talent pool.

One thing I do think we could do better as a country is how do we make it a more effortless process for a business owner to hire? Because just back to those comments about people starting a business, there’s a couple of terrifying moments that people have in their small business journey. One is starting up, so taking that courageous decision to give up a job and start a business.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: The second point of fright is taking on your first hire. What we kind of need to do as a country is make it as effortless as possible because the business owner has psychologically got to get over the confidence barrier. They have to do that first, and then, in a way, we need to make that job as easy as possible to then find the talent that they’re looking for. So, I definitely think access to talent. There’s more work that’s needed in the UK just to make that an easier process.

[Chris]: Okay. No, that’s really interesting. Psychologically I think that is a big move for a startup or a small enterprise is hiring their first one or two employees. It is a big moment. Isn’t it?

[Emma]: It’s huge, and on a whole load of levels, actually, it’s big. Financial, of course, is one because you’re kind of thinking, wow, can I afford this person? Administration is another, so you’re going to have to set up a payroll that has a person.

[Chris]: Yep.

[Emma]: Do you then need a pension scheme? Even though you should have a pension scheme for yourself now that we’ve got auto-enrolment. So, there’s an admin piece, but then the biggest thing actually that we found with founders, and I’ve been through it myself, of taking that step of one to two is more, and the business owner getting a mindset of, I don’t have to do all of this myself.

So, of course, when you start a business, you are everything and bearing in mind, the majority of companies that start in the UK, it is a sole founder, an individual person, that’s starting out. So, they are head of finance, head of HR, head of products, head of innovation, and the hardest thing for founders to get over is–

[Chris]: And office cleaner.

[Emma]: And an office cleaner, and tea maker and lunch maker.

[Chris]: Yep.

[Emma]: It’s that, “Oh, so I now have to delegate.” Again, a big piece of advice we give at Enterprise Nation, and have done for a decade, is we talk to business owners about focus on what you do best and outsource the rest. Focus on what you do best and outsource the rest.

At the beginning, maybe that’s two contractors. Say you’re making products like speakers. I’m just looking at my Boom speaker here, which is why it comes to mind. What you’re brilliant at is the product. What might not be your forte is the accounting side of it or the social leader and the marketing side of it, or the sales side of it.

[Chris]: Yep.

[Emma]: So, you have to look at the value of your time. Where is your time best spent in the business, and then essentially figure out, Okay. If I paid someone to do the bits I’m not so good at, does not mean I can spend more time on doing the bits I’m good at, which will equal more revenue into the business, and therefore, that covers the cost of the time of these new people I’m hiring?

[Chris]: Absolutely.

[Emma]: That, I’ll have to say, has been a lesson that’s taken me a long time to learn because when you mentioned the first business that I sold, Techlocate.com, we were five people when I sold that business. So, I think I thought with Enterprise Nation, when we got into growth mode at Enterprise Nation, I think I thought, Oh, it’s fine. I can do this with a very tiny team and a small number of people because we can do it all ourselves. But what you quickly come to learn is actually, if you bring in people who are better than you at the things that they do, you grow exponentially quicker, but you’ve just got to have the confidence to delegate that out to somebody else.

[Chris]: No. Absolutely, and I don’t think every entrepreneur necessarily makes a good leader or manager. Do they?

[Emma]: Ooh, crikey. I think some of us make terrible ones, and I would put myself in that category that one of the…

[Chris]: You sound amazing.

[Emma]: Well, no, no, no. I have struggled with and I probably still might. My biggest struggle point in Enterprise Nation is team management. I mean, I would like to think if the team we’re listening to this they’d say, “Oh, no. Emma, you do a great job.” But it can be really tough because when you’re the founder of a business, you have a level of expectation of what you want your company to achieve, how you want it to be perceived, and it can be challenging at times to bring a team with you, et cetera.

[Chris]: Absolutely.

[Emma]: So, yes, I agree. Entrepreneurs can make terrible managers.

[Chris]: Yeah, because actually, it is all about heart and passion, isn’t it, when you start something? You’ve invested so much emotional capital in a startup business or your own firm, and it may even have your name above the door. Therefore, as you say, ”Your expectation of others within the business is equally high,” and it hurts when it doesn’t happen, doesn’t it?

[Emma]: All the time, and, of course, then you can be put off when you make bad hires. So, this is another thing.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: If people ever say to me, “What mistakes have you made?” I say, “Pretty much all of them have been people related.” I’ve made many bad hires. What I would like to think I’m doing at the moment is learning quicker, so that if I do still make bad hires, I think I’m learning quicker now and acting quicker on doing it. If you do make a bad hire, it can really knock your confidence and put you off, making them again and again.

I have that episode at the early stages of thinking right. Let’s grow Enterprise Nation. I made a bad hire. In doing that, I thought, Oh, do I really want to grow this business if it’s going to be that tough? But then, of course, you just pick yourself up again and say, “Yes, because there’s some great people out there.” So, great people give you faith. Bad hires, you just have to learn from.

[Chris]: Absolutely, absolutely. Obviously, the Generation Z and the Millennials have a very different approach to work to perhaps someone like me when I started working in gosh, 1990. They have a much more rounded view in terms of culture and diversity. I wondered if that was sort of coming through quite a lot in some of the things that you’re dealing to startups and small enterprises. Is that important to them?

[Emma]: Hugely, and on a couple of levels. I can speak sort of on behalf of the community that we serve in terms of young people starting businesses. I mean, I feel like kind of an old ogre when I say this, but when I started my first business, it was driven by, it was the .com era. I thought it was great star business that hopefully would be commercially really successful. I happen to do it in the kind of industry in which I got some specialism.

Young people, now, they’re starting businesses because they have seen things in the world that they think are wrong and they want to write them. It’s just incredible to see how, as you say, “socially motivated they are.” That’s leading to incredibly interesting new ideas.

We’re launching a new campaign this year all around sustainability, so how we can help small businesses build small sustainable practises into their business. It’s really being fired up by a young team who approached us and said, “Come on Enterprise Nation, you need to be doing more of this.”

So, they’re incredibly socially minded, and then on a more personal level, when I look at my own team, we’ve got a very young team at Enterprise Nation. They really inspire me each day, actually, because as you say, “They’re very committed,” and thankfully kind of the team at Enterprise Nation now that over the past 12 months, they’ve done an incredible job to support lots of small businesses through it. That really drives them. But they also kind of bless them. They want a life, which they’ve struggled to have over the past year.

But in the company, we have yoga. We have monthly socials. We have a book club. We’re constantly talking about how we can help them learn and develop. So, yeah, they’re a group of people who want to work in places that see them as their whole selves.

[Chris]: Absolutely.

[Emma]: But in terms of when it comes to starting businesses, there are, I mean, just watch over the next decade, the sustainable and ethical businesses that will come from young entrepreneurs, I think will just be incredible.

[Chris]: No, absolutely. I was reading a piece this morning. I think Unilever has some very, very demanding sustainability targets, and you think actually that’s a huge multinational business with €50 billion of sales, and it’s top of his agenda, the CEO. So, I think that it’s really important now, and I think companies really are grasping that. I think that’s really interesting to hear that, as you say, “It’s driven a lot by Millennials, Generations [Z] that are now entering the workforce. I think it’s a really, really a cultural phenomenon and I think it’s very interesting.

In terms of, let’s say, HR human resources. Do you think startups, do you think that that’s a part of that business, which they take particularly seriously? Or do you think actually HR people aren’t very good at advising small businesses?

[Emma]: Great question. I don’t think it’s a topic that startups take seriously. We have definitely seen over the past 12 months, a big part of our businesses connecting small businesses to advisors.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: What we have absolutely seen on our platform is a huge increase in existing businesses turning to HR advisors for advice and support. So, really interestingly is, and of course, businesses have had to do lots of HR transactions in the past year. Furlough, sadly redundancies, lots of them hiring because they’ve been growing, and so we’ve definitely seen existing businesses turn to HR in a way that we’d never seen before.

So, I certainly think no one would have asked for COVID, but I think it’s probably been a big injection for the HR industry that it has bought many more small businesses into the arms of HR advisors, which I think is a brilliant thing.

What is not so obvious and apparent is when a startup starts, there isn’t much HR education and training at the outset. When you’re a founder, thinking of hiring and motivating people is not foremost on your mind because what you’re thinking of is, is the money coming in? Is this company getting traction?

So, there is a gap in the market to try and deliver some kind of HR education to startups at an earlier stage. So, just as they are taught about the importance of making sales, managing your money, I think if there could be education on and here’s how you manage HR, it’s an earlier stage, I think it would be beneficial.

But I definitely think that with the higher number of small businesses who we’ve seen take on board HR advice in the post 12 months, I think that will have a positive kind of ripple down effect on new businesses who will now think as soon as they start, I can hire remotely now because it doesn’t really matter where you hire from. I’ve got to be careful with contracts because I need to have flexibility in my business. If there is another Sort of global disease, Do I need to be looking at employment programmes that the government’s helped with?

So, I actually do think that more startups now will think of how do I build HR practises into my business from the beginning. So, certainly, I think HR is going to be one of the flourishing sectors of the next decade.

[Chris]: No, I think that’s absolutely right. I think that a lot of investors these days who want to look onto the bonnet of an organisation and to make sure that actually employees and workers within that firm are being treated properly, and there’s no sort of toxic in terms of culture, and that people are being looked after. And, of course, things like IP are being protected. So, no, I think you’re absolutely right. You sound very optimistic about the future for the UK business environment. Is that fair?

[Emma]: That’s very fair. Somebody wants said to me, “On Enterprise Nation, you never see anyone sad.” It’s just always something I’ve tried to cultivate literally over the past decade of this business, because small businesses have a tough enough life as it is.

[Chris]: Yeah.

[Emma]: They’ve got loads to do every day. The one thing that I would want Enterprise Nation to be is the place they come for a boost. They come to us to say, “I want to grow. How do I do it?” Or “I’m struggling. How do I get through this?” If the founder and the cheerleader can’t be optimistic, we’re in trouble, but I base it on true and fact. Just in the press this morning, virtually all the papers which I saw with delight were covered in the fact that UK households have saved a lot of money.

[Chris]: £150 billion apparently.

[Emma]: Well, it’s funny actually, because when I first saw this article, which was about two months ago and I’ve been talking about it ever since, I saw the figure of £200 billion. It seems to have come down by £50 billion, but it’s a lot of money.

Well, this is the thing. Small businesses are very agile. They’re ready to reopen, and so I do think we’ve just had a really, really tough 12 months, but I do think the future looks bright, and I think entrepreneurs are going to be a big part of that.

[Chris]: I think that’s amazing. Emma, thank you very much. It’s been a great pleasure to talk to you.

[Emma]: Thank you, Chris.

[Chris]: Thanks a lot.

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