SIR Tom Farmer has declared that business owners must “keep the heid” as they navigate through an environment beset with economic and political uncertainty driven by the historic Brexit vote.

The entrepreneur, one of Scotland’s best known, also said that the uncertainty around Brexit would not hamper the potential of Scotland’s up and coming business owners.

“If you’re starting a business, you’re not looking five years ahead,” he said. “We’re not talking about starting a Microsoft or an Apple, these are small businesses who hopefully have the ambition to get to be reasonably-sized businesses, so don’t be too distracted by what’s in the future.”

Sir Tom was speaking ahead of the New Start Scotland conference, where he will regale delegates with how he rose from opening a tyre shop in 1964 to selling his Kwik Fit chain to Ford for £1 billion in 1999.

He amassed a £75 million fortune from his eight per cent stake, describing at the time of the sale that he felt “like the father of the bride” prior to giving his daughter away.

These days, Sir Tom owns Farmer Autocare, a business which gives people the opportunity to buy equity and run their own shop while a head office carries out administration and accounts duties.

But next week he will be addressing delegates at the 15th New Start Scotland Exhibition, which takes place at the SEC, within the Scottish Business Exhibition.

In addition to speakers and seminars, the exhibition has a competition for a budding entrepreneur to win £5,000 cash to fund their business at the show.

Sir Tom said his advice to any start-up business owners was to “get on with it, and keep the heid” whatever is going on elsewhere.

“Don’t be too mesmerised by what’s going on round about you,” said Sir Tom. “Don’t take the eye off the ball, there’s a job to do. Look after your staff, look after your customers, your suppliers, get involved in the community. If you do that, realise that at the end of the day there’s a lot of stuff going on but don’t lose sight of what the game is all about.”

Sir Tom said his advice held true for established businesses as well as start-ups. “It’s maybe more important for start-ups,” he said. “There will be people thinking about doing something on their own, putting it off until they see what happens. My approach has always been do it today.”

Having opened Tyre and Accessory Supplies in 1964 in Edinburgh, he said these days there are more opportunities for people to start a business.

“There are more resources to call on, whether that is Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise or organisations like Entrepreneurial Spark. The people about to start up are better educated, not academically, but as far as what is going on in the world. They see it on TV, they see Dragon’s Den and think ‘I could do that’. You’ve got to have the courage, you’ve got to have the right attitude and you need energy.”

Sir Tom admitted he had been “blessed with a positive attitude” and believed there was always opportunity but he acknowledged there was a danger in new business owners not being as patient as they should be. “That’s because of the society we live in today,” he said.

But he added that societal changes also had benefits. “When I started in 1964 I didn’t have a dream of how it was going to be, but I wanted to start up because I wanted the independence of working for myself and I just kept the head down and got on with it,” he said.

“Today, people have a slightly different attitude. They want to work hard but they also want to stop and smell the flowers, which they should do. With me, I was only 23, it was just work, work, work.”

As business owners who have survived the impact of the global financial crash of 2008 reassess the business landscape after the Brexit vote, Sir Tom urged them not to focus on external forces that cannot be controlled.

“Ask yourself ‘what if’, if you say ‘what if Brexit doesn’t happen’, ‘what if there’s an election in two years’, as far as I’m concerned the services we offer will still be in demand so we have to prepare for that.

“The message [to the exhibition] will be telling a bit about my own circumstances and they might think ‘if Tom Farmer can do it, maybe I can do it’.

“Okay they might not build up an empire worth £1 billion but I tell you what you can do, build up a great life for yourself and your family.”