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Absolute or relative

The Olympics reminds us that there can be only one winner: only one gold medal spot.

Learning to cope with success and to bounce back from failure is a skill that all entrepreneurs have to master.  I can’t think of any who have had a completely smooth rise to success.  This ability to deal with failure is a critical life skill and there is evidence that our education system is not teaching it.

We have all heard of the anecdotal stories where teachers are taking the competitive element out of sport with the philosophy that everybody should win so they can feel good about themselves.

What is not in doubt is the move from relative marking to absolute marking of exams.

When I was a lad and sat an exam it was marked competitively: typically the top 10% got an A; the next 25% got a B and so on with some people failing.  Today in theory everybody could get an A*.   Moreover it seems that people can re-sit exams as many times as they like until they do get an A* (to be fair this is now changing).

I know the argument that making people feel good about themselves helps to build self-esteem.  Self-esteem and confidence are without doubt absolutely fundamental to sporting success and to business success.  Our business angel investors are not self-doubters!

But let us not confuse earned self-esteem with fake praise and delusions.

In life competition and relative performance are dominant and we have to get this back into our education system.  I may be wrong but it seems to me that the teaching unions, and hence teachers have far too much power in the education system.  This sounds wrong – surely it is best to let teachers decide how and what to teach?

The evidence is against this.

Organisations were the producers have too much power typically become rather inward looking, resistant to change and tend to be organised to suit the producers rather than the customers or the consumers.

Do we need a system whereby children are still given long summer holidays to help bring in the harvest?

Or a university entrance process, rooted in the days before the internet and rapid communications technology, which allocates places based principally on expected results?

It is time for the consumers of education to make their requirements clear.  I am sure I will be accused of having too narrow a view of education, but I still believe that the primary role of the education system is to get people into the right jobs for them.

The education system needs to listen to the needs of business much more closely.

We are still trying to get the final amounts for our Halal baby food business.

As I noted last month, one of our syndicates is backing the deal and a member is going in as a non-executive director.  The entrepreneur driving the deal has demonstrated not only the necessary grit and determination, but also an ability to listen to advice.  These are some of the strongest indicators of entrepreneurial success.

We are looking for the final £25k and the investment will qualify for the new higher rate tax relief: SEIS.  Please contact me in the next few days if you wish to participate.

Please do have a look at the Portfolio section to see how our business angel backed investee companies are performing.

Neil Mackay

Neil Mackay

Neil is the Managing Director of Advantage Business Angels and has worked as both a chartered accountant and chartered marketeer. After qualifiying with Arthur Anderson he worked for Xerox, Pitney Bowes and then UDT.

As Managing Director, and the major shareholder, he has led the development of Advantage Business Angels, which has: won two government contracts; completed over 145 investments totalling £22m in 7 years; floated an investment business, Early Equity plc, on PLUS markets; and was a Corporate Advisor to the first company to float on Investbx.

Neil is also a non-executive director of BHSF Group Limited, a health insurance company.

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