Neil Stephenson
Onyx Group

Member Article

Inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs

Bdaily has entrepreneurship in the spotlight in our latest focus week. Meet Neil Stephenson, CEO at Onyx Group. He is the man behind the business that has evolved from a regional, home grown IT company to a national technology provider with an infrastructure that includes a UK-wide connectivity network, five data centres and six workplace recovery facilities, stretching from Glasgow to London. During 2012, the company reported a 12 per cent revenue increase to almost £20m.

So, what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur and what can be done to inspire the next generation? Neil explains all.

Every successful businessman has failed at least once in his life. That’s why a ‘never give up’ attitude is a characteristic you’ll find in every successful entrepreneur. Take the entrepreneurs behind Innocent Drinks. Three Cambridge University graduates, Richard Reed, Adam Balon and Jon Wright believed in the idea of natural food and drink and despite being turned down by around 200 people, kept on trying until they struck big with The Coca-Cola Company.

Passion, determination and belief are key if you want to succeed. Aspiring entrepreneurs need to be prepared to change their approach if it doesn’t work first time. You can have the right product and the right market but without the desire and drive to get things done, you’re going nowhere.

The North East continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the UK, recorded at 9.8 per cent during January to March 2013. In my opinion, there has never been a better time or a greater need to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs but how can the UK foster a culture of entrepreneurism?

The mindset in the UK needs to change. In the US, if you try and fail, everyone says well done and better luck next time. If the same happens in the UK, there is a definite stigma attached. Young people and aspiring entrepreneurs should be taught not to be scared of failure but to embrace it. Each time you fail, you get closer to success. If J.K. Rowling had given up after her hundredth rejection the world would never have been introduced to Harry Potter!

Without investing in the next generation of business owners, the regional economy will struggle. Access to funding is essential in an environment where start-up companies are vital to growth and job creation.

Every net new job is created by a business that is less than five years old. More often than not these are in non-traditional businesses and that’s why the technology sector is so exciting. For me, there are four key sectors that are driving growth, namely, technology, finance, property and the energy.

Technology is extremely fast paced and new products can be introduced into the market at a rapid rate. This can change the way we interact with each other and do business extremely quickly, with the possibility to create a lot of wealth in the world.

Mentorship, support and access to role models are also important to inspire future entrepreneurs. That is why we support the region’s Entrepreneurs’ Forum which brings together both successful and aspiring entrepreneurs to share experiences and overcome the unusual set of challenges that are often faced by new businesses.

There are many people who have inspired me during my career. An obvious one is Richard Branson! Aside from him, Mike Ashley, retail entrepreneur responsible for Sports Direct and owner of Newcastle United is an inspiration as he has overcome the odds in the struggling retail market. Mike is a real deal-maker, having started his business from nothing. He proves how a ‘can-do’ attitude and a hunger to do well are the ingredients for a successful entrepreneur.

While funding and mentorship are important, it is clear that being an entrepreneur is more of a lifestyle choice than a career choice. If you live and breathe your business idea and have the determination to keep at it, you’re in the best position to succeed.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Onyx Group .

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