Former Dragon’s Den investor Piers Linney on how he sees business in the future

“My mum came over from the West Indies to the Potteries and they made sure I went to university and worked hard, but the day came where I walked out of very well paid jobs in the city and became an entrepreneur and I think once you’ve made that leap it’s quite hard to go back.” said Piers.

“It’s like the well known saying ‘there’s a book in everybody’ well I believe that there is a business in everybody.

“All these different worlds are changing and in the not too distant future I think we will all essentially work for ourselves.

“It will be like gig-economy, there won’t be big companies with lots of employees, we will all be individual contractors really and that’s the way the world’s going.

“I think within a generation we are all going to be in business.”

Stoke-on-Trent born Piers – who is on the board at the British Business Bank – has been championing entrepreneurship and small business growth for more than 15 years.

But more recently, the 49-year-old entrepreneur and investor – whose background is law and banking – his taking his support even further by offering free advice to businesses through a partnership with Vodafone.

He said: “My first business was when I was 13, I had a paper round to try and avoid working for somebody else, so I was delivering papers up north in the cold.

“I set up my own business on Sundays doing Sunday papers and never looked back from there really.

“I’ve always been in business one way or another – and I’m a big champion of small businesses and how they should be embracing technology to remain competitive and get through this very difficult period.

“Some people start businesses because they’ve always wanted to and they’re passionate about it but some people start businesses because they have to in a way, as a way of generating income if there job is not there anymore” Piers added.

“If you’re starting a business or trying to grow a small business or make sure your small business gets through this difficult period, the key thing really is number one – your team and people – that’s what small businesses really live or die by, the quality of their team and their talent.

“And number two, technology – because it means you can access people anywhere.

“I was on the high street the other day and it’s a difficult place to be. No matter what you do you have got to be digital.

“You could be a woodworking company, or fixing cars, where you think you don’t need to be digital but you have to be because that’s how you service your customers and that’s how they pay you as well.

“And of course you need a plan. You need to be very clear on what your plan is, but in these markets, as things change very quickly, you’ve got to be prepared to change that plan and allow it to evolve with your circumstances.”

Piers believes that the UK is headed for a ‘long and deep recession’ as a result of Covid-19 and says businesses need to be prepared to adapt their business strategies to enable them to ride the wave over the next 18 months.

He said: “Let’s not forget that there’s Brexit before Covid so there’s going to be quite a long and deep recession.

“We’ve got a 12 to 18 month period where you’re going to have lower revenue potentially, depending on what the business is, some people have done particularly well out of it.

“There’s going to be a lower consumer disposable income which could also impact you.

“A lot of big businesses are really struggling because they can’t move the oil tankers quickly, especially ones in the hospitality industry, so if you’re in the supply chain of those businesses you’re going to see a negative impact.

“So the key message is, the economy and the impact of Covid is not going to right itself in a couple of weeks or months. It will be an 18-month period of time where it’s going to be difficult so you’ve got to think now about how you structure your business and how you de-risk it, how you manage your costs and how you maintain the revenue streams to make sure you see it through that period and that means planning now and making the changes you need to make and making sure of things like, people can work from home and access the system, and you are set up for this brave new world.

“It’s likely this might go on for a couple of years, and if we have another pandemic you’ve got to be in a position where you’re ready and you’re set up to deal with it.”


Business Live – West Midlands