“There are far fewer challenges than in the past,” he said. “You can start a business with £5,000 and a mentor. The challenge is you have got to have an idea and focus on it. The whole of business success can be summed up in three words – ‘focus’, and ‘follow through’.”
On Thursday, Lord Young was at the launch of the third Small Business Saturday, a campaign to celebrate small firms that culminates on 5 December. Last year 16.5 million adults supported a small business on Small Business Saturday, and 64 per cent of the UK were aware of the campaign, according to The Guardian.
In 2010, Lord Young was appointed enterprise adviser to the prime minister, to review the government’s relationship to small firms. The resulting reports were published from 2010 to 2015.
Lord Young, who is honorary chairman of the Small Business Saturday strategic advisory board, said it is about “raising the profile” of small businesses. “The world has changed so much in the last few years – over three quarters of firms in this country don’t employ anybody. Wherever you look the world is changing to people working for themselves or in small groups, and the great thing about Small Business Saturday is it appeals very much to retail businesses.”
He added: “I have worked for big companies, I ran one of the top 10 FTSE companies, but the most exciting thing in my life was when I went off and started to work for myself.”
Speaking to a crowd of small business owners and guests at the launch event in London, Michelle Ovens MBE, national campaign director of Small Business Saturday, said the campaign is personal this year.
“Not just for us and the small businesses, but also for the many, many consumers that have really connected to the idea of a small business community,” she said. “We were massive last year – 16.5 million people knew about the campaign and supported a small business on Small Business Saturday. You had to be hiding under a rock to miss Small Business Saturday last year.”
Like last year, a Small Biz 100 competition will profile 100 small businesses online in the runup to 5 December. Applications to be one of the 100 businesses close today.
Anna Soubry, minister for small business, said Small Business Saturday is a chance to “come together as one nation and get behind the small businesses”, which employ 12 million people across the UK. “This campaign is a fantastic way to celebrate the diversity of our small firms, from high-tech manufacturers and graphic designers, to childminders, shops and local restaurants,” she said.
Lord Young said he is pleased with the legacy of his work with the government on the small business reports. “I hope it has raised the profile of small firms and the government is taking it more seriously,” he said. During his time as enterprise adviser, Start up Loans, Growth Vouchers and Contract Finder were set up.