A change of pace

A cut in taxes would be nice. But you don't need reasons to be cheerful, do you?

Waking up to read the BCC’s report that the UK is “already in a recession” feels a little strange this morning.

I’m used to gloomy forecasts and doom laden surveys, and I’ve been expecting an acknowledgement that we’re finally in a recession proper for some time now. It’s just a jarring change of pace from last night, when I attended the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards at The Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane.

The organisers appear to be in some kind of arms race of glitz against other ceremonies, and they’re winning hands down. Next year, I’m half expecting to have to negotiate a red carpet and an army of paps before I even get in. Still, it was an enjoyable and well organised event, with master of ceremonies Joanna Lumley helping to distract me from my chief criticism: the distinct lack of females among the nominees, never mind the winners.

Yet the most striking aspect of the evening was the relentless and defiant optimism of the entrepreneurs who spoke. I’ve been wondering when the general economic sentiment is going to feed through and depress entrepreneurs for some time now, and I’m starting to conclude it probably won’t. If they can be this upbeat with general business confidence, profits and turnover now at record lows and  unemployment set to rise by up to 350,000 in the next year, optimism must be hard wired into their genes.

Entrepreneurs might not need to be given reasons to be cheerful, but if the banks are deserving of a hand, then so are they; I agree with BCC director general David Frost, who has called on the government to slash business taxes. He’s urged politicians to get behind businesses to help them cope with “challenging” times. When you’re being squeezed from every side, a bit of leeway from the tax man goes a long way and would put some substance behind the hot air that the Labour party spouts on its enterprise record.

Last night’s young entrepreneur category was an interesting one – our 2008 list of Growing Business Young Guns is due out at the end of this week, so it was good to see this year’s Top Gun nominated in the category. That might be a pretty strong hint as to his identity, but all will be revealed very shortly right here, so watch this space. In the end, it was Rob Small, one of our class of 2007, who walked away with that award. Congratulations to Rob, who has established one of the world’s largest privately held websites and made money from a dancing George Bush. Now that’s cause for optimism.


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