This lifeblood, though, is anaemic. Nothing, in my experience, is as terrifying as the prospect of failure: of the impact it will have on the people that work for and with me, and on their livelihoods, their ability to pay their rent. I was the one crying on Monday as I told my two employees, incredibly talented individuals at the birth of their careers, that the business must close on Friday. They were the ones that held my hands and told me we would go down fighting.
Curiously, it's easier to live with the consequences for one's self, however debilitating. For me that includes two major stress-related health incidents, each of which occurred around Christmas and led to enforced bed rest for more than one month. I have lost a sixth of my body weight in two years – at 5'11" I now count a little over nine stone – and am in debt to friends and family, none of whom has the money but has done what they can to help me pay my rent, and eat. They've done so knowing that, apart from illness, I've taken seven days' holiday in the past two years, mostly on the insistence of my staff. I can't claim it has caused my natural proneness to depression but I can assert that it certainly hasn't helped.
We start businesses for a variety of reasons, from necessity to opportunity, wealth or job creation to a simple vision of making things better for people or organisations. In my case, it was a combination of them all. Four years ago I had an idea to provide a better editorial voice for the creative visual communications sector, offering new promotional opportunities and an information service for this industry. We have been continually lauded for our efforts by small businesses, vendors, organisations and manufacturers. We have become the 'challenger brand', according to one PR specialist, furthering important agendas, regularly beating all competitors world-wide to be first out with the story, and now notorious for talking about the issues that others won't.
But the initial plan was much broader, and I almost laugh now as I consider it: to use print-on-demand technology to change the way that we publish information. When we rewrote our business plan in January 2014 at the behest of Barclays, it demonstrated that our partners for this project included some of the world's largest and most exciting technology companies, and that we were uniquely positioned to bring them together to bring publishing in line with the needs of the modern reader. Instead, we were told that 'print and publishing are dead', belittling everything we have built and the vast, vibrant sector it hoped to change. Our figures, based on creating sustainable promotional opportunities for vendors across print, digital and manufacturing, were summarily ignored. Even our excellent bank manager – who has fought our corner every step of the way – and his protestations on our behalf were dismissed. The computer said no and it would not budge.
Quite apart from this are the initiatives we will never launch, or be able to further. We won't be able to address the massive skills gap faced in the UK graphic communications sector or, ironically, the effect in this industry on a lack of small business funding. We will have to stop being the main provider of high-quality video content; we will no longer be the voice of the communications sector.
David Cameron has made two speeches to the Conservative party conference regarding small business lending during his tenure. In 2010 he 'made it clear' that the banks owed a debt to the people. "Taxpayers bailed you out. Now it's time for you to repay the favour and start lending to Britain's small businesses." Then, one year later, there was this:
"There is only one strategy for growth we can have now," said the Prime Minister. "That is rolling up our sleeves, and doing everything possible for people to start a business, to grow a business, to invest in a business and to take people on."
This 'strategy for growth' has not worked. The banks are not lending. Support is not there for businesses that need to grow, and the numbers show that failure has not slowed. Unless they are already independently wealthy, or have private backing from their partners, friends or family, entrepreneurs with good track records will fail, or keep trying until they are in an even worse position. They will make themselves ill, and they will make others redundant. The money they owe to suppliers and creditors will disappear, causing even more trouble. In short, they won't pull us through this economic crisis: quite simply, they cannot.