I have spent a lot of my career working with small and medium sized companies. The dream for me was to take the idea sitting in someone’s garage, help turn it into a real business and then help it grow into something great. In the case of Tennants, that journey literally did begin in a converted garage!
Four generations on, it is the largest privately owned auction house in the UK. It employs nearly one hundred people, has 24 specialist departments and remains – as it was 100 years ago – a community-driven institution. Tennants has raised over a £100,000 for local charities. The new £8m investment in the Garden Room is a significant and welcome commitment to this area and ensures we now have a state of the art event space in the Dales. And with customers and visitors arriving from around the world, it is not only a national success story, but is fast becoming a global one.
For anyone who thinks that innovation and enterprise is a phenomenon which belongs to cities, I would tell them to think again. Tennant's is an inspiring example of what is possible when passionate people combine hard work with creativity to build a world-class business. And it happened right here, in the most rural and beautiful part of England.
There is justifiable anxiety about retaining skills and youth in the countryside. This development will provide opportunities for bright young people to stay and develop their talents without compromising their careers.
Small and medium size enterprises like Tennants are the backbone of North Yorkshire’s economy and drive our national prosperity. They account for 60% of private sector employment in this country. What is more, 4 in 5 people moving from unemployment into meaningful work do so by joining a small or medium sized business.
The questions for policy makers is: How can we have more businesses like Tennants? And how can we help those businesses grow? The starting point of all achievement is desire, the same desire that Edmund Tennant had all those years ago. And there can be no doubt that that desire is there.
Today, 80% of young people are considering starting their own business. The youth of today have an enthusiasm for new ideas with enormous potential, and they will shape the future of our country.
Government must play its part to support these aspirations. Sound finance, smart regulation, providing skills and infrastructure, and a tax system that rewards not punishes.
But perhaps more important is to learn from the achievements of others. The hard work, passion and boldness shown by the Tennants family is an inspiration.