In the last 20 years attitudes to entrepreneurialism have changed dramatically.
If my careers advisor had suggested a job as an entrepreneur, I would have asked him to spell it for me. Growing up I had no idea what an entrepreneur was. I doubt I could have named one. Now my son watches Dragon’s Den and every third LinkedIn connection is from someone with the title.
This got me pondering the definition of entrepreneur. I run a business. My company employs people and makes profits. So why do I not feel worthy of the title ‘entrepreneur’? My first conclusion was around attitude to risk. I am immensely proud of my company, the people who work there and the work we do. I get emotional even writing that line. My company is also more than a decade old. It is unrecognisable compared to when I started it. And despite my tendency towards planning for the worst, it is more of a success than I could have hoped for. We get paid to work with some of the biggest brands in the world as well as a host of start-ups.
Despite this I am a slightly cautious business owner. I am fairly risk averse. This does not make me bad at business, but for me it does not entirely sit comfortably with being an entrepreneur. Does the definition then come down to how much business success someone achieves? We expect our entrepreneurs to be running billion-dollar companies. Entrepreneurs have chauffeur driven Rolls Royce’s with personalised number plates!
This stereotype is one of the most unhelpful in business. Starting a business is not simple and it is not for everyone. Anyone running a business has achieved something incredible – whether the revenues are £1 or £10 million. Starting and running a successful business is a huge achievement, regardless how rich or risk averse the owner might be.
The press regularly bemoans the fact that the UK seems unable to create a Google or Facebook. This criticism is mad, particularly when Cambridge-based ARM has arguably had just as big or an even greater impact on the digital economy than either US company. I do wonder, however, if it is a British trait to create solid businesses rather than shooting for stellar risk and reward. If this is the case it should be celebrated not criticized. 10,000 businesses employing 10 people each would be bigger than Google – and arguably deliver a more grounded and sustainable footprint to the economy.
So, if the title of entrepreneur does not sit well on your shoulders, you are not alone. The technology industry has schooled us on stellar success stories. But these are the exceptions. Business owners should not forget to remind themselves every day that – whether you call yourself an entrepreneur or not – you are doing something amazing.