Seldom do you find these two words bundled together; they are clearly aligned to the extremes of our political parties, but I believe, through my own experiences and practise, that the two can harmonise. When you look into the mechanics of both extremes, you see a vision where two opposites can actually attract.
It’s a tricky one, I don’t doubt that. Entrepreneur and socialist are usually only said in the same sentence when describing them as polar opposites – Entrepreneurs think socialism is the devil that kills ambition and socialists see entrepreneurs as vehicles of capitalism.
However, I strongly believe Entrepreneurial Socialism can be a case of two opposites attracting – particularly in a Post-Brexit, Post-Trump world where the entire political landscape has changed, and new solutions are required to combat extreme capitalism and the rise of the far right.
I know many entrepreneurs and some socialists will think I’m mad for even suggesting the two can actually work together for the greater good but I ask you to continue reading and let me know what you think – I always welcome feedback on social media and try my best to read all your messages.
My upbringing was very typical of working-class kids born in Liverpool in the 60s and 70s. I am the son of a Liverpool Docker and can recall all the damage the Thatcher government did to Liverpool during the 80s*. From birth, we’re told not to take risks – get a nice stable job that pays a steady wage, a pension and make sure you save a little in case you ever get let go. It was like being told you’re born into an arena where you’re only allowed to play one scene.
As a young boy, I remember talking to my parents about one day, creating my own business but due to our class status, it seemed like nothing more than a dream that would fail. I argue that the best entrepreneurs thrive because of backgrounds like my own; the desire the create something for yourself that seems like a dream and having a drive and ambition that someone born into the middle classes and above could never recreate. However, social mobility can only work when there is a strong state – you can have all the drive and ambition in the world but it’s impossible to achieve your goals if you’re being exploited on a zero hour contract and relying on food banks to feed your family; where we are in Tory Britain in 2019 for many people. If our education system fails, then how many success stories are we going to have from state schools? A young working-class kid could be the key to next huge medical breakthrough, but we’ll never know if they’re not able to afford university. We need strong mentor-ship programmes in place and a new world of connectivity – not the Eton Old Boys’ network which is still favouring the upper classes.
*turns out it’s now benefiting us as we didn’t have to sell all our listed buildings for ugly high-rise buildings.
How do I include my socialism into my businesses?
Many years ago, when I first started, I was new to the hospitality industry, I took the advice of traditional hoteliers who told me I had to use zero-hour contracts to survive. I have since learnt that this in fact is a load of rubbish. I am proud to say a few years ago I abolished zero-hour contracts in my businesses and will never use them again. Not only that, I commit to paying a living wage and, to my knowledge, we’re the first ever hotel to actually invite a union in and work together with them.
Over the last two years, I have watched the homelessness crisis in Liverpool worsen and taken matters into my own hands. In October 2018, developing on from our first emergency homeless shelter, we opened The Cotton Street project. Over the last 8 months, we have seen many success stories and helped our community by filling in the gaps that the council is struggling to see to.
2019 is also the year I will get more actively involved with NEET (a young person who is no longer in the education system and who is not working or being trained for work) young people across the region. I have already begun with some projects but more is to come over the next few months.
What can working class entrepreneurs offer society?
Entrepreneurs who have been schooled by the world of hard knocks often find helping those less fortunate natural – no one wants their journey to be as hard for the next person. There’s a great quote that sums this up – When you reach the top, remember to send the elevator back down for others. When you’re ‘New Money’ sometimes there’s something more rewarding than profits and that’s giving back.
Socialism relies on a strong state to provide but for that to happen we need an economy bolstered by trade and investment; with that comes employment and the more who are employed, the higher the standard of wage.
This is where entrepreneurs can step in and assist with their skill set. I myself have become an expert in leadership; developing listed buildings into economic entities, creating a brand, social online platforms and creating employment – by the end of the year I will have created 3000 jobs and all without the aid of government funding. Imagine if that skillset was employed solely in favour of Liverpool City Council with all the profits generated to be given to help our most vulnerable.
Imagine a country where all our companies are required to spend a certain amount of their profits in giving back to their communities where they generate those profits? A good example of this is Liverpool Football Club, a proud football club but ultimately in the modern football age, a business. LFC make millions while Anfield, their home, is one of Merseyside’s most underfunded and vulnerable regions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could fill the void left by governments and Councils?
I implore any entrepreneurs reading this to look into how you can give back more to where you make your money – after all, we all benefit when everyone makes it.
If you’re interested in this, follow me on Facebook and lets start a discussion