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Lets face the music and dance
“There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s music and love and romance; let’s face the music and dance.”
The timeless verse of Irving Berlin. And here I am at the Investec Entrepreneurs’ Summit. A brief glimpse of sunshine and I’m ready to dance. Is it just me or is everything about music and rhythm right now?
“Top hat, white tie and tails.” Not Berlin this time, but the Chancellor who on Thursday night will be rigged out like a latter day Fred Astair as he delivers some fancy footwork and plenty of economic mood music at the Mansion House.
Up on stage at the Summit, as I write, is Julie Meyer, who I have been working with on her new book Welcome to Entrepreneur Country. In this morning’s Independent her column is “Why David and Goliath Must Dance.” Her point is that “companies can no longer think of themselves as a silo or a stand alone firm. They are part of a network. ” Or to put it another way, it takes two to tango.
Last night Iattended the Winmark Summit at Bloomberg and listened to the views of chief economists from major institutions around the world. These Goliaths seemed a little more out of tune with the lyrical optimism of the entrepreneurs at the Summit today. They showed little interesting dancing.
It was an interesting insight into the mindset of big business, but it is out of step with the world of small business, and I dare say out of step with the views of our own Chancellor and his hope for an entrepreneur-led recovery.
For them, economic recovery is about policy shifts and the enormous muscle of big business to affect change. It’s about the ebb and flow of global capital; it’s about the pursuit of safety, the return to what once was, and the avoidance of what they describe as “inflection points”.
There is not a lot of room for individual entrepreneurial endeavour and an almost ghoulish fascination with charts that wallow in an epic opera where the script has only one message: the world is screwed.
One of the speakers spoke about “fear and loathing in the global economy” and, in my view, it summed up the overall analysis, which was essentially negative.
For these economists the uncertain saviour to our woes rests in shifting trends, not individual action. The advice is vague and hedged, as one economist said, “a solution will be found because there pretty much always is one.”
I think entrepreneurs dance to a different rhythm. Right now at the Entrepreneurs’ Summit, we are mid way through a debate about the motion that “Too many British businesses are happy merely to survive, rather than take risks and grow.”
Thus far the analysis seems focused on the role of small entrepreneurial businesses, the Davids rather than the Goliaths. What’s interesting is that if you are looking for innovation, change and growth, the speakers in this panel think that we should look to entrepreneurs rather than corporate giants.
It’s a more optimistic analysis than the one I listened to at Bloomberg. It’s one that is based on capitalism, wealth creation, optimism and the celebration of success. It’s about entrepreneurs who defy the odds and the opportunities presented by risk.
You can always count on John Moulton, speaking now, to help temper some of this exuberance. “You don’t need to take risks to have risks come hurtling towards you. Folks, today is a time to survive,” he says.
This, of course, is true, but it doesn’t mean that we are prisoners to a process; it just means that we are under more pressure to deliver and to find answers.
To me a big part of that answer rotates around one simple factor: wealth creation. The ambition to earn, the enthusiasm to deal, the rhythm of trade, the lyrical opportunities presented by money.
If the Chancellor is going to make a point at the Mansion House I would like it to be to confront the nation with some of this score. This recession has made us all collectively poorer; the big government solutions of monetary stimulus have not delivered. We have a long-term opportunity and it is the wealth creators that can dig us out of this mess.
That’s what it means to face the music and that is the rhythm that David and Goliath must both find to dance.