Understandably overshadowed by the birth of the Royal baby, the weekend saw another royal story: the release of the latest Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, with 230 businesses from across the UK recognised for their contributions. Countries, like companies, succeed by making the most of their competitive advantages, and even Republicans can't deny that the institution of monarchy is an unrivalled asset in global prestige. The Queen's Awards are a way for businesses to tap into this, particularly as they look to export and internationalise.
But don't take my word for it. Francis Toye – founder of Unilink, a previous winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation and Adviser to The Entrepreneurs Network – is clear about the benefits it has brought his business: "Winning the Queen's Award for Innovation gave a fantastic boost to our staff and a fillip with our customers. We were even lucky enough to meet Her Majesty. One of our customers in the Ministry of Justice said 'we had approval from as high as you can get.'"
Entries for 2019 awards open on 8 May 2018. Find out more.
"We have a large tail of businesses which, for a variety of reasons, have struggled to adopt and embrace the new technologies," explains Robert Jenrick MP, the UK Treasury's lead spokesperson on economic growth and productivity, in a Business Insider interview. "Within [any] industry there's a quite a large group of businesses which are slow to adopt new technologies – where there is less automation than some of their competitors in France and Germany – where perhaps management skills and training is lower," he add.
What can be done? The interview doesn't really get into solutions, but here are some ideas. First, the government should incentivise investment by allowing firms to immediately deduct capital expenses. We proposed this in A Boost for British Businesses (p.16) and its one of our key tax policy asks.
We also need to understand the problem better. And that's what we are doing with our research-led Business Stay-Up campaign. As Rob May, founder of ABE, wrote in City AM: "Improving management skills may require a rethink about how business owners learn. Few will have the time, money or inclination to put their business on hold to enter the classroom full-time. Bespoke, accessible, on-demand learning may be better placed to help more people." We are currently reaching out to individuals and organisations who are interested in getting involved in this project – let me know if you would like to find out more.
Third, economist Robin Hanson has a zany suggestion: "Record the full lives of many rising managers over several years, and show a mildly compressed and annotated selection of such recordings to aspiring managers. Such recordings could be compressed by deleting sleep and non-social periods. They could be annotated to identify key decisions and ask viewers to make their own choices, before they see actual choices." Economist Alex Tabarrok has also written about this.
On the subject of videos, check out this inspiring 10-minute documentary produced and directed by Sophie Sandor about the 23-year-old fashion entrepreneur Tianah. It's a powerful defence of enterprise and the beauty and necessity of the profit motive.