This morning my intrepid fellow director set off to what she called "the place where the pavements are paved in gold." She was heading for London to deliver our bid to Her Majesty's Treasury under the Business Finance Partnership; a bid which has been invited by government and is the culmination of years of work.
Juliette Tarrant and I are on a mission to drive down the cost of special needs housing and our journey so far has seen us begin to forge what I hope is a fruitful relationship with the government.
There is a pressing need for the public sector to engage with business; in particular with SMEs. We are where we are today not because of the actions of government but because of how it has responded to us.
In Britain we are hampered by a widespread view that the government's problem isn't our problem and that even if we think an idea is so simple that someone must already have thought of it, we hesitate in putting it forward in case someone else has already thought of it.
Perhaps it is my deep-seated passion for SMEs which drives me to claim that this is where the potential lies. We are hungry and eager to proactively to respond to market demands and opportunities. For Juliette and myself, as directors of SAF Housing Solutions this meant developing a financial model for housing that is capable of reducing rents. Obvious? Perhaps so, but that didn't stop government officials from throwing every single policy hurdle in our path. Thankfully, and with a little help from social media and the right PR company, we managed to punch above our weight and here we are knocking on the doors of Whitehall. All of a sudden London doesn't seem so far from Yorkshire.
You see we can't always wait for government to identify a problem, issue a request for ideas and launch into a lengthy debate if we as entrepreneurs are ever going to drag Britain out of this recession. So we didn't. Whether our solution will be welcomed or shrugged off is yet to be seen.
I recall reading one of Spike Milligan's books where he recounts the tale of his father who, during the war, submitted weird and wonderful plans to the government for new outlandish weapons of destruction. None of course were developed. But then there was the tale of a man who put forward a ridiculous plan to knock down a dam with a bouncing bomb dropped from 60ft...
We can't be scared of being told, 'That has been done before' or 'what a silly idea'. Banging on the doors of government is no different, easier or harder than doing business and building relationships with other businesses. We just think that it is. But it's not. In fact, most of it requires a healthy portion of unglamorous research like finding out which minister is responsible for what and the name of their PA to arrange a meeting. And it doesn't help to come armed with a voice which is where social media and PR comes in. The key is not to take 'no' for an answer.
I can only speak from experience but so far, aside from those MPs who would rather I hadn't bothered, the brick wall has been full of holes. In fact I have found most officials to be at least prepared to talk. As a consequence they now know who we are, what we do and the social policy issues we are trying to help them resolve. By making the government's problem our problem we have begun devising a viable solution.
So my fellow entrepreneurs; the streets of London are paved with gold but it's a two way street. Let's not sit around and wait for the government to come down that road to us. We have to meet them half way - perhaps even a little further.
As for Juliette: well done and good luck!
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