I am fortunate. Fortunate to have been at the right place at the right time, fortunate to be blessed with a little business acumen. Once one recognises their good fortune, there is an inherent responsibility that goes alongside it. It seems to me that responsibility no longer is embedded in the employers of today, unlike yesteryear.
In a modern capitalist society managers will find that they have to make difficult decisions such as having to lay off workers to maintain profits, which is acceptable. But perhaps what is not acceptable is that the bond of responsibility has gone. I believe that the leaders of commerce still have the responsibility to help those disadvantaged by our system. It is my contention that government does this job very ineffectively, being both profligate and ineffective whilst at the same time undermining the dynamism of the private sector.
I was born into a caring middle class family and yet at age 30, and with a university education behind me, I found it very hard to get funding for my first business. It did cross my mind that if it was difficult for me, then how hard it would be for someone from a deprived background. So in my own small way I wanted to show how we can help the disadvantaged, not with handouts, but with credit. I started the Fredericks Foundation.
The Foundation has many objectives but principally I set it up to help those who are disadvantaged to take control of their lives and start their own businesses. I wished to enable those with the spark - but none of the key requirements, social infrastructure and capital - to get started. We help individuals of any age, nationality and credit rating - and yet we get an impressive 70% return on our loans. At the beginning of 2006 we were starting 5 businesses a month, though we are much happier with 2 or 3. This remarkable productivity is achieved with just 12 staff, none of whom work more than 4 days a week, together with 40 mentors.
Every 100 people we help saves the government, and us the taxpayer, about £3m, and our average loan is just £2,500. This is why I passionately believe that it should not be solely the government that supports, nourishes and helps the disadvantaged, but rather, it should be all of us. Commercial leaders and those who have been very fortunate have a social responsibility to share some of that luck - the irony is that they will get as much from it as those they help.
(fromTaking a lead in social responsibility by Paul Barry-Walsh Philanthropy UK Newsletter, March 2007)