The South West could become the UK’s in demand location for our future business entrepreneurs and visionaries.

Everyone wants to work for themselves, apparently. It’s the age of the “Gig Economy” as it’s been dubbed by the media.

It does have advantages. You would make the perfect boss, of course. You would structure your day to be 100% productive, maybe working flat out in the mornings, finishing at three, or starting early each day and working a nine-day fortnight, perhaps less? Finally, you would have achieved the balance you’ve always craved between work and play.

The South West is a land of family businesses, small firms, the self-employed — entrepreneurs all. According to a recent new survey, this could be the 21st century model that most of us will be seeking.

A quarter of the working population are considering how they can become self-employed, the workforce survey by ADP revealed. And no surprise, this rises to nearly a third of those who work in the city that ‘drives our economy’ like no other — London.

Guess what — people don’t like the long commute, the crowds, the traffic, the pollution, the rigid nature of structures set up over a century ago as capitalism kicked in and the 9–5 working day became the norm.

So will these desires lead to changes in how and where people work? I believe it will. Today, in the early decades of the 21st century, we finally have the technology for what could become one of the greatest tipping points of our age.

People have little or no barriers to setting up and running a business anywhere. They can go it alone or create virtual teams to get the help they need, finding and communicating with colleagues, suppliers and customers through smartphones that connect us with the world.

Let’s face it why would you work in London if you could do the same thing in the South West and have your family enjoy the lifestyle on offer? Not only is it now possible, I would argue that the type of business that would be created in the South West, is a more attractive proposition to the type created in London.

That’s because today, the businesses that succeed, and the brands that customers embrace, are the ones that aren’t afraid to be different they are rooted in wonderful creativity and have a real sense of purpose.

All this seems to play into the hands of the West Country, if we want to embrace it. One of our guest speakers at the upcoming Like Minds Ideas Festival in Exeter, Chris Moss, summed it up at one of our monthly Exeter Business Breakfasts recently.

The man who helped take Virgin Atlantic from one plane to an international airline, and created the Orange Mobile and 118 118 brands, believes the South West is perfectly placed to benefit from fundamental changes in how we live and work.

“I really believe that we as a nation are going into a massive tipping point. We are going to change the way we work, and where we work, in part because of technology. People do better work when they are happier. They will want to live and work in the best places, in different types of workspaces.”

“There will be more home working, a huge growth in shared offices. If you live within the Home Counties, the rail networks are not going to get any easier. I regularly do an hour journey on the train and have to stand all the way. That’s not living. That’s just marking time.”

“For me, where you work and how you work and the people you work with are as important as the jobs you are actually doing. The South West has incredible advantages in this respect.”

“The whole of the South West has a real richness that you don’t seem to find in many places. You can sense it when you drive down the A303. It’s a magical place. It attracts people with like-minded ideas and positive approaches to life.”

As a nation, we are recognised for our creativity, the ideas we generate and sell to the world. It is without doubt one part of what makes the South West a great place to live.

Couple that with the West Country’s natural awareness and connections with a wider world, forged along sea routes first laid down over 2000 years ago to exploit our natural resources like tin, and continued today with our internationally-recognised work on vital global issues like climate science, and it starts to build a picture of a region well placed to succeed in an increasingly globalised post-Brexit world.

Encouragingly, creativity is also the area least likely to be threatened by the continual progression of artificial intelligence, as machine learning and automation change many areas of our economy in ways we are yet to comprehend.

So, we have a choice. We know that the South West is a wonderful place to live and work. We know that the environment you live in and the like-minded people you surround yourself with can give you the belief, mind set and energy to be different, be creative, have great ideas and make things happen.

These are the things that are going to be increasingly in demand throughout the 21st century. And these are the things that our region has. We are sitting on thousands of years of history and geography that have created the most inspiring of places to lead fulfilling and worthwhile lives.

Some might say keep the drawbridge raised. But if we are to thrive in a post-Brexit world, I believe we must continue to be our natural selves, being different and creative, outward-looking and welcoming. It’s the best way to build a prosperous and successful region whose future is as exciting as its past.

“The future of work”, “How to scale your business” and “How to fund your business” are just some of the themes being discussed at the Like Minds International Ideas Festival, coming to Exeter on September 29th.

Tickets are available here:


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