Politician vs entrepreneur

Jonathan Sayeed weighs up life on both sides of the spectrum

One of the most common questions asked by people I meet in business for the first time is how life as an entrepreneur compares to life as an MP.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my public service, I much prefer the pace of business life, where decisions can be made one minute and actioned the next without the need for a tortuous, frustrating and lengthy political process.

PatientPak has just signed off its first adverting campaign that will run on tube train panels from December 1 for six weeks.  With the support of my CEO Rob Gros and creative head, Nick Paterson-Jones, we were able to produce finished artwork within hours of agreeing the creative route.

Many people say that entrepreneurs are the only ones that drive wealth and create jobs – not government.  I think there are many who drive wealth and stimulate the careers of others, such as Cameron Mackintosh and Judy Craymer (Mama Mia creator) but the main difference is that entrepreneurs put themselves and their own money on the line on a daily basis.

There’s nothing quite like shelling out what could be your children’s inheritance on a production run of product or a promotional campaign to focus your mind on value for money.

Being an MP gives you a valuable insight into the media world and the importance of working with the press, radio and TV to create brand awareness and drive sales.  Our PR campaign alone has given us over 40 million ‘opportunities’ for the public to see, read or hear about PatientPak and we are targeted with delivering a similar level of coverage over the next six weeks.

Bizarrely, considering I was opposing the inimitable Tony Benn (whose seat I subsequently took) I asked for media training in 1983 but was turned down by the Conservative Party.  Over two decades later I paid for my own media training and I’m rather glad to hear that it’s mostly about what I had worked out for myself:  deciding on three key messages to get across in each interview, talking in ‘pictures’ and to the interviewer not the camera plus practice.

Understanding the political arena is a helpful skill set.  I am challenging by nature but I also listen and like to consider the opinions of colleagues who are expert in their field.

Our clever web designers need to be reminded that many people who log in have bad eyesight and don’t want anything too flash, in both senses of the word.  We can have robust discussions about this but I almost always defer to our creative head.   I saw eyes roll when I insisted on a red ‘buy’ button on the otherwise tasteful green website but being the true politician, he agreed to a neutral button turning red when clicked.

When democracy rules in business, you’re on to a winner!

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