Who Wants to be an Entrepreneur?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013, 11:44 | Category : General
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We’ve just been invited by Enterprise Nation to attend a meeting at 10 Downing Street to discuss the small business market and how David Cameron’s government can best support small businesses – often described as the “lifeblood of the UK economy”.

Coincidentally, the nature of entrepreneurship and how to effectively stimulate it through policy and intervention is explored on The Economist blog today. It’s a fascinating topic, and bang on the 2013 zeitgeist.  The media gives the subject tons of airtime and print space, shows such as The Apprentice and Dragons Den are still going strong, and people are setting up businesses in record numbers – 291,895 so far this year according to the Start Up Britain Tracker.

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Apparently you can even take a course in how to be an entrepreneur, which seems odd, as surely you need to put the horse before the cart. But if it’s teaching some practical lessons in business practice which will help when they do start up their businesses, that’s all good. It might also check the business failure rate, which is still pretty high.

I’m not sure that if you asked most small business owners if they considered themselves to be entrepreneurs, they’d say “yes”.  The entrepreneur moniker carries a cachet that we associate with internet millionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page. Describing yourself as an entrepreneur almost sounds a tad immodest. It’s also commonly associated with a big ticket invention, whether a product or a service, that’s revolutionised its market.

But for every Facebook founder there’s a thousand small business owners (let’s call them entrepreneurs) quietly working to build their business and brand. They’re risk takers – they’ve chosen to avoid the path of the employed and take the road less travelled to do their own thing. They’re doing something different – even if it’s been done before, they’re going to do it better or cheaper or introduce it to a new market. If they don’t – curtains.

I think there’s a gap between perceptions of “entrepreneurs” and the reality of those people working hard to make sure their businesses survive and thrive. That might be why current schemes, courses and facilities designed for “entrepreneurs” haven’t been widely successful. People who fit the entrepreneur mould don’t think of themselves that way, and those who want to attract, encourage and – let’s face it – monetise them, are looking in the wrong place.

We’d like to see the current generation of British entrepreneurs celebrated and encouraged to share their experiences. Lessons shared publicly can prevent the next generation going down the wrong beaten track, and ensure that together, we do our bit to haul the British economy out of the doldrums. With the horse in front of the cart, naturally.

Nicky

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