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Simon Holdsworth

Mentoring entrepreneurs can fuel commercial success, South West business leaders told

The head of a leading commercial law firm is urging business leaders across the South West to do more to support young people’s commercial ambitions and better harness the region’s rich pool of business talent.

Simon Holdsworth, managing partner of Swindon-based Thrings, believes CEOs, directors and senior managers of companies in the region could provide greater levels of practical advice and mentoring support to young people looking to succeed in business.

In a speech to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in Bristol, Holdsworth said that while the increased use of social media and the internet, and developments in technology, robotics and 3D printing, could lead to more entrepreneurs in the future, the absence of business mentors could deter many from setting up on their own.

Holdsworth said: “According to a report by The Prince’s Trust, access to funds remains the principal barrier to young people launching their own business. But more than a third say access to experienced business leaders’ knowledge and guidance would make them more inclined to set up on their own.

“Our region is rich in potential talent. The creative and digital media industry accounts for 12 per cent of businesses in Bristol, while the University of Bath Innovation Centre, the recently-launched Engine Shed and the impending opening of the University Technical College Swindon only serve to remind us of the opportunities to nurture and develop the next generation of high growth tech companies.

“As business leaders we have the resources to help provide entrepreneurs of the future with practical advice and mentoring support so that young people have the best possible opportunity to succeed in business. I know that Thrings is not alone in providing that invaluable time and expertise.

“Helping people to beat unemployment and set up businesses that employ other people can only be a good thing for the UK economy and our region.”

Holdsworth’s comments echoed those of Arthur Bailey, the incoming ICAEW President, who said that more needed to be done to support the growth ambitions of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region.

Bailey said: “Recent media reports still show that too many SMEs are in distress, a particular concern in the South West, which has a heavy reliance on the sector to drive its economic growth.

“We want the Government to underwrite loans for SMEs that have been operating between two and five years. These businesses are at a critical growth stage, but typically find it harder to raise funds than start-ups or more established businesses. We think this intervention would help foster the next stage in their development, allow them to invest in new products and services and perhaps even hire some new employees.”

Holdsworth and Bailey were addressing members and guests at the ICAEW’s South West Annual Dinner in Bristol. Sponsored by Thrings and Lloyds Bank, the event attracted more than 300 of the region’s business leaders and featured a keynote address by explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Fundraising proceeds from the ICAEW event went to The Prince’s Trust, the charity which aims at providing support to disadvantaged young people in the UK.