50% of businesses fail in their first few years, but for many, this could have been preventable, claims an entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den judge.
In a Guardian interview, Paphitis claimed that “the reason people fail is because they don’t do their homework.” Just as you wouldn’t expect to pass an exam without doing any preparation, he says, you can’t expect your business to take off if you haven’t done the right research and figured out how to apply it. “It’s about knowing more than the next guy or girl and performing better, and the only way you can do that is through knowledge. It’s basic stuff but we don’t do it,” he said.
The answer, Paphitis believes, is to get kids engaging with the basic principles of business by teaching entrepreneurship in schools. Paphitis, who owns Ryman stationers and home retailer Robert Dyas, is currently involved with the National Enterprise Challenge, through which teams from different schools compete to tackle “real life” business challenges. Set up by cousins Ben and Michael Dyer of Youth Enterprise, the competition is now in its second year, with more than 25,000 school pupils taking part.
Paphitis is also a patron of the Skills Show, an event held at the Birmingham NEC this year, which hopes to inspire young people to develop the career skills they need through further education, training and apprenticeships. “I’m incredibly passionate about business, about small businesses and about kids being given the right skills so they are successful,” said Paphitis.
In supporting these efforts, Paphitis hopes to counter the “academic snobbery” that led many parents to shun business skills in place of academic success when he was growing up. “The way out of poverty was through a degree,” he said. “But the whole world has moved on from that. A degree doesn’t guarantee you anything now.” Introducing entrepreneurship in schools from age 11 upwards, feels Paphitis, would help students to improve their practical skills and future chances of start-up success, regardless of their academic ability.
“Fifty per cent of the UK’s GDP comes from SMEs and social enterprises. And we know that 50% of small businesses fail. So with every 1% we can improve, think of the effect on the UK’s GDP,” he said.