Wednesday, November 8, 2017

if you want support for your startup, you'll likely need to ignore your ethics...

I find myself in an unusual conundrum as an enterprise advisor who also has a pretty explicit set of values and ethics in how I approach the way I work:

Over the last few years, government has consistently reduced the amount of resource and support available to people who want to start up different types of businesses as a route to employment, generating jobs, changing the world in new ways, and such like. This has meant that the support that so many entrepreneurs of all types need and value is increasingly scarce.
At the same time, high street banks and financial services bodies seem to be moving into this business support space through creating startup grant funds, developing (free) incubators and workspace, and sponsoring national thematic enterprise support initiatives.

All seems pretty straightforward? And economists would probably point to this as an example of how market forces are creating responses that people and enterprises need, without the need for state intervention.

But here's the rub - a recent survey of the 'ethical-ness' of high street banks seems to suggest that those who are scored as 'most unethical' are the ones doing the most around these startup and social enterprise support initiatives. A case of 'buying your way out of a guilty conscience'? (

And for the entrepreneurs accessing this support - some won't care where the money's coming from, but I see that people increasingly are interested in how that money has come to be on the basis of choices about where they choose to invest their own savings, suppliers they choose to procure from, and the places they try and recruit their staff from.
Market forces are all well and good, but remember that the market isn't a person - it doesn't have ethics or values like you or I. And that likely means that entrepreneurs' difficult choices will only be added to in the future when they start to weigh up the ethics of accepting the support that they know that their enterprise needs, but comes at a cost of having been raised from investing and trading in practices that they'd otherwise be very uncomfortable with...

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