Simon Carr: Who would ever be an entrepreneur?

Enterprise is a nightmare of red ink and columns that don't add up
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The Independent Online

Enterprise, as in "promoting enterprise" is one of the pieties of the age. Sir Alan Sugar is going to be made a peer in order to do it. Gordon Brown thinks it will make him popular to be seen to be "promoting enterprise". It is the universal good, it is the source of personal happiness and national success.

In my experience "enterprise" should be put on the same shelf as "recreational heroin use". Only a very few people can handle it, let alone benefit from it. The attrition is appalling. The people who go into it are never prepared for the costs – the personal, emotional, financial and family costs.

Enterprise is a nightmare of red ink, final demands and columns that don't add up. Enterprises don't work. That's the truth of it.

"Enterprise" is a biblical saga of missed deadlines, faulty documents, defective quality control and collapsing share prices.

For new readers, I should say that my efforts to become a multi-millionaire have only achieved preliminary success. My venture is still out there, still operating, mind. I have a queue of customers in the States and some big catalogues carrying my cute invention.

It's an international export success – or it would be if I could get the production operating properly, and the new software was there, and the factory hadn't substituted an unsuitable part, and a key component hadn't been withdrawn by Oki, and the big accounts hadn't added another month to their 60 days' payment and the factories hadn't added another 10 days to their 40 days lead time and ...

Nonetheless, I am at Base Camp with a clear view of the route to where there are angels arranged like a halo round the summit. It's all there, and it's all going to come together this year, and I'll be so rich you'll never look at my picture byline without a shudder of displeasure.

But if I could have all the money back right now and pretend it had never happened I'd do it like a shot.

But we are sick, we entrepreneurs. If someone offered to buy the business for the sum I'd paid in, I'd reject the offer with a princely contempt. The fact is, I couldn't bear to see anyone else make a success of it.

Almost equally galling is the government's role in it. In making an enterprise, you essentially lay your life on the line. Everything you have gets sucked into it. That's the rule. That's how it works.

So, you give everything, and then if you get your product to market, and people buy it, and you manage to get paid – then the Government steps in and takes 15 per cent (normally 17.5 per cent) of your gross. They're going to take 20 per cent of your net, as well, but before that, their VAT office takes up to 17.5 per cent of the gross!

No one else in the supply chain makes that. The normal business profit of 10 per cent is rare enough these days. And yet the Government steps in at the closing moment and takes a big fat bite of a sixth of the sale.

Gordon makes more money out of it than anyone else! Ah! Now I understand why he wants to promote it!

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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