According to Sage, which also just happens to be my favourite accounting software, their research shows that three out of four business owners don’t consider themselves to be entrepreneurs. Fifty three per cent of us are happy to call ourselves business owners, twenty six percent self-employed and fifteen percent businessmen/women. The theory is that we believe entrepreneurship is more connected with innovation than business leadership. And I know many that agree, some of them are even friends of mine.
As it happens, I don’t. And here’s why.
I choose instead to think of the word entrepreneur as our collective noun. Otherwise you end up with an ugly and cumbersome bundle of words which describe some of us some of the time but never all of us at once. United we stand. So one of my intentions is to encourage us to nail our colours to the mast that is entrepreneurship and be counted as one of that number, irrespective of whether we consider we are part of the movement which is widely anticipated by governments to be their saviour.
I take responsibility for myself, for me and mine. And if by doing that I become part of a groundswell of movement which makes a difference to our planet and our global economy, then fabulous, hurrah and tickittyboo.
Vanessa Zainzinger writing in Real Business says this lack of willingness to consider ourselves entrepreneurs “echoes a grim message about SME confidence and attitude in 21st century Britain”.
So, let’s address this issue of confidence then. Do you think that’s what this reluctance is all about?
Yes, innovation invokes people like James Dyson as examples of the sort of entrepreneur we’re talking about, but didn’t he famously take his manufacturing abroad? Surely the sense in which we are going to help our respective nations and ourselves out of a hole is by creating jobs and/or exports, and a factory in Malaysia and 800 redundant in the UK doesn’t contribute to that, does it? No offence, Mr Dyson. You’re doing a top job, honest, and I’m liking your new fan.
In my area of expertise – finance – saving money on your outgoings helps you achieve your goal of financial freedom just as well as earning more. And obviously millions of us providing work for ourselves is better than joining the dole queue. If we can buy goods and services from each other around the virtual world and keep the dosh circulating and set a goal to create at least one part-time or full-time job each or buy in some freelance help, then it’s the same difference, surely?
Does it matter whether a Dyson-esque innovator and “proper” entrepreneur employs 800 people or whether 800 of us employ ourselves and create one job each? Not to me it doesn’t, no, and that’s why I’m prepared to call myself an entrepreneur. I have clients all round the world, so I am an exporter too.
Over the decades I’ve been self-employed since 1977, I’ve “employed” myself which means I’ve been a net contributor to the community chest to a greater or lesser extent as my entrepreneurial taxable profits have waxed and waned. Some of that has been down to me and some of it down to prevailing marketing conditions as I’ve weathered the two cycles of boom and bust in my business career to date.
Did I have the confidence to call myself an entrepreneur at the outset? No, so what makes me think it’s OK to do that now?
Well, I haven’t been a drain on the State since my last redundancy from a J.O.B. in February 1976, I have created jobs and other financial opportunities for staff and suppliers, I have trained, encouraged and supported a whole bunch of people to be self-employed and run their own businesses and become self-reliant and I’ve created more than just what I need to look after myself. But I’ve never invented anything except ideas which have, in turn, led to the creation of businesses, some of which I’ve even sold on.
Irony of ironies, the link to this research by Sage was sent to me by a friend of mine who knew I would enjoy the article. And that friend is a CEO, which is to say she has a job. But amongst my friends, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a job done by anyone in more of an entrepreneurial way. So perhaps being an entrepreneur is a state of mind. Like New York.
So, at the start of another business week of being entrepreneur in my soul, what if entrepreneurship is – just like everything else – simply a choice?