The stories of Government interventions that are emerging from the ashes of Kids Company show that long before the doors were closed on the charity, that too many strings were being pulled in secret using our money. Whilst in time I am confident that the good and sustainable aspects of the charity will emerge to continue the work with young people, a much less damaging scenario would have been the case had there been less infatuation with the founder by successive Politicians and their Governments. A similar scenario was unleashed this weekend when Iain Duncan Smith crowned Michelle Mone as a Tsar for entrepreneurship saying:
“There’s no-one I can think of that’s better qualified to help young entrepreneurs from deprived backgrounds to turn a good idea into a flourishing business. We used to be known as a nation of shopkeepers. I want Michelle to report back to me on how we can encourage people of all backgrounds to take up this entrepreneurial spirit.”
The problem with this sort of approach is that Iain Duncan Smith like all Ministers and shadow ministers lives in splendid isolation from society at large which makes their judgement extremely dubious. How can someone who has lived and worked in the midst of Politicians for 28 years with no personal experience in running a conventional business understand what leads to successful entrepreneurial activity? The recent radio documentary on Ms Mone suggests that whilst she is clearly very successful personally, that her story is far from consistent with this sort of endorsement. One has to ask how many excellent entrepreneurs are working in communities up and down the UK who will never be known to Iain Duncan Smith simply because they are running their businesses? Having run a business myself for 25 years, I have observed far too many “successful entrepreneurs” that have chosen to give up entrepreneurial endeavour to become trainers, usually charging vast hourly rates. They may become very rich in the process, but there is rarely anything entrepreneurial in that sort of activity. Back in 2013 a high profile entrepreneur called James Caan was announced by David Cameron as the Governments new Social Mobility Tsar. I have yet to read or hear anything which explains exactly what he did to change social mobility in our society!
The idea that certain charities or individuals or businesses are superstars and have a midas touch is often an indication that things are not what they seem. A business I work for has recently been rewarded for working with one such company in the form of a £11,000 bad debt. The chance to work on a high profile project was something we valued and in truth we are glad we took the job in one sense. However our willingness to trust businesses with Royal Warrants and whose turnover had soared on the back of public projects in recent years is certainly dented. This building contractor and architectural practice is no longer trading and sadly many of their employees are searching for work, just as we are working hard to pay off the costs we have incurred on the job for which we may not ever be fully paid.
What we need is a society where charities, businesses and entrepreneurs are allowed to fail and succeed on their own merits, without any form of special labels or endorsements. There can be no doubt that if we maintain a professional political world, people like Iain Duncan Smith will continue to seek Tsars to come into their orbit that bring knowledge and experience which they lack. Perhaps we need to change the way we do Politics too!