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Ensuring Start-ups Start Up

David Saul, managing director of Business Environment addresses ‘Young entrepreneurs on the rise’ a recent headline in the Evening Standard.

This made me wonder whether recent economic conditions haven’t dented young people’s optimism as much as might be expected.

Alternatively, maybe young people are pessimistic about their employment prospects in a depressed job market and have taken to creating their own work. Either way, my interest was sufficiently piqued to read on and discover that the number of young entrepreneurs has increased by a quarter, but fewer than a third of their businesses survive more than three years.

The article was based on an Experian report, which has uncovered an interesting trend among young people. The fact that many start-up businesses fail, however, is not a story worth holding the front page for – in fact, the high failure rate among start-ups is an all too familiar story and requires no reference to the age of the business founders.

Last year, I read a report claiming that more UK businesses were closing than starting and fewer than half of the businesses that launched in 2004 were still going by the time the country came out of recession in 2009. All the evidence points to the fact that more needs to be done to support start-ups and improve their chances of survival.

As the MD of a serviced office operator, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time speaking to entrepreneurs about the role our company could play. The worries voiced during these discussions don’t tend to vary much — entrepreneurs can’t find office space that doesn’t require a significant outlay upfront. Instead, they’re being asked to pay rates they could only ever afford once they’re running a successful business, which they’re struggling to do because they don’t have a proper office to work from.

Believing that people wishing to start a business shouldn’t have to contend with this Catch-22, we developed a tailored start-up package at our Minories office in East London. This enables start-ups to take office space without paying a deposit. There’s also no rent to pay for the first month and no fixed-term contract. Instead, budding entrepreneurs can enjoy an exceptional rate, as part of a flexible, low-risk package that allows them to avoid the barriers that might prevent them from setting up in the first place.

We’ve subsequently rolled out this deal at our Bristol Business Centre )Temple Meads) and Basingstoke offices. We’ve also recently started offering hot desks with free internet, which can be hired by the hour across London, and shared offices, which allow clients with limited budgets to split costs.

Another service popular with sole traders and start-ups is our virtual office, which provides businesses with a front of house reception team and business address, without the risk of buying physical space. Our switchboard answers calls using our clients’ business name, before putting the call through, giving the impression that they are a larger company — crucial for gaining initial contracts and confidence. Indeed, one of the reasons we developed a special start-ups package is that we believe new businesses could form a significant part of our customer base, since our services so closely match their needs. However, the packages we’ve devised are about much more than just gaining initial custom.

We’ve created these deals to help our clients thrive, because if their business fails, we lose a customer and are left with empty office space. The belief that our success is dependent on that of our clients is embedded at the heart of our company culture and central to how we operate.

Healthy businesses play a key role in building a strong economy, paying significant amounts in tax and creating employment opportunities.

It’s crucial that the government and other organisations sufficiently recognise this and find ways to support start-ups. This will result in fewer failing businesses, and more than just young entrepreneurs on the rise.

David Saul David Saul is Managing Director of Business Environment