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Opinion

Exit packages: Be prepared – for failure

Budding entrepreneurs wanting to make the really big bucks should look at the rewards for failure that persist despite the financial turmoil of recent years.

The new austerity ushered in by the UK’s fledgling coalition government seems to be having a profound effect on the country at large.

Colour photocopying and first-class stamps have been banned at Transport for London and budget airline Ryanair has suggested standing-only flights and pay toilets on its services.

With one-in-four graduates remaining unemployed a year after finishing their courses, universities minister David Willetts recently urged graduates to start up their own business rather than compete in the job market.

This desire for early business acumen has permeated what must be one of the most unlikely organizations: the Boy Scouts. The movement – more associated with teaching boys how to light fires and tie knots – has now introduced an entrepreneurs badge – to be awarded to candidates that present their business ideas to a Dragon’s Den-style panel.

The badge itself depicts a bar chart showing increasing volumes joined by an arrow helpfully pointing upwards from left to right for emphasis.

Whether or not an entrepreneurs badge will become an essential part of any future business leader’s CV remains to be seen.

But if the bar chart on the badge is supposed to indicate share price then successful scouts might do well to sew it onto their sleeves back to front.

Budding entrepreneurs wanting to make the really big bucks should look at the rewards for failure that persist despite the financial turmoil of recent years.

When Stan O’Neal left Merrill Lynch in 2007 after the biggest loss in the firm’s history he took a $160 million severance package with him. Sir Fred Goodwin was awarded a £17 million pay-off for steering RBS to a £24 billion loss; and Gerald Corbett, who has run both now-defunct Woolworths and troubled rail operator Railtrack, was still offered a £100,000 bonus this year (which he turned down).

Now Tony Hayward, BP’s beleaguered chief executive, is set to depart the firm having been responsible for the US’s biggest ever environmental disaster but with a £1 million pay-off and a £10 million pension pot.

That is a lot easier than washing 220 million cars during bob-a-job week.

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