Britain’s ‘dragon’ heart revealed

Entrepreneurship is alive and kicking

  • Entrepreneurs more likely to lead UK out of recession than government
  • Start-ups should be given tax breaks and more funding
  • Four in 10 people plan to run their own business
  • Best entrepreneurs deemed to be from poor families

BRITAIN’S entrepreneurs have the business x-factor needed to kick-start the economy and pull the country out of recession, according to a new survey of public attitudes.

Twenty-eight per cent of people think entrepreneurs are most likely to have the most positive effect on bringing Britain out of recession over the next year, in comparison with 24% voting for the government. Large businesses were chosen by 13% of respondents and trades unions by just 3%.

Some 45% of people surveyed for experiential business learning organisation, The Entrepreneurs Board, feel that funding should be given to start-up companies instead of supporting failing businesses. Nearly half of people (47%) agree that private sector businesses that fail should not be bailed out.  And nearly half the population (48%) want remuneration to be capped for ALL public sector workers (including those in majority-owned businesses such as banks).

And in another ringing endorsement of the perceived power of the entrepreneur, more than seven in 10 people definitely (41%) or maybe (34%) want tax cuts to be given to start-ups and entrepreneurial businesses to further stimulate the economy.

Brian Chernett, founder of The Entrepreneurs Board, said: “Entrepreneurs are vital to recovery in the UK and the public understands this.  We should do everything possible to help entrepreneurs make their businesses more successful, whether it’s tax cuts or providing business support and guidance.  The Entrepreneurs Board is an extension of proven leadership programmes that help leaders learn from each other. Experiential business learning helps business owners learn by ‘doing’ and inspires them to achieve their ultimate dreams while creating economic value for the country.”

What are entrepreneurs like?

The Entrepreneurs Board study found that people think entrepreneurs are ambitious, hard-working, driven risk-takers above all else. But they are also seen to possess the positive qualities of being productive, creative leaders, who are visionary, independent, clever and courageous.

The “rags to riches” stories of many successful entrepreneurs have rubbed off, with nearly half the population (46%) thinking that people who have grown up in families without much money make good entrepreneurs (versus 15% who think that coming from a family with lots of money is best).

Experience of working in another entrepreneurial business (44%) is seen as a good qualification to start a business, while a professional qualification such as law or accountancy is not (19%). Experience gained in big business is more highly rated (44%) than a good education and academic qualifications such as an MBA (32%).

Dreams of becoming a boss

The survey confirmed Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit, with 38% of people saying that they do or plan to run their own business at some stage in their career. They gave a variety of reasons why they want to do this: flexible working (45%); challenge (44%); making more money (38%); having a great idea that could work (25%) or because they could do it better than the companies already doing it (20%).

When asked what type of organisation they would like to run if it were possible to wave a magic wand and become boss, most people said they would work for a private business (70%). Of the total, some 41% would choose to be boss of a small business. Only 5% would want to run a large publicly-quoted company in the FTSE 250. Six per cent would see themselves heading a Government department and 7% taking charge of a quango or public body such as an NHS Trust. One in 10 (8%) would choose to lead a charity.

Nearly one in five (17%) of respondents voted confidential peer groups where you could learn from the experiences of other entrepreneurs – such as The Entrepreneurs Board – as the best type of leadership or personal development to equip them to start up a company.

Government initiatives were rated relatively unfavourably with just 6%, along with external consultants (4%) and academic programmes such as MBAs (6%).

Those saying they didn’t want to run their own companies also provided a selection of reasons. In top spot was not having a good enough idea (42%), followed by financial insecurity (41%) and not wanting the stress (also 41%).

Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurs at accountants Smith and Williamson, a strategic partner of The Entrepreneurs Board, said: “This survey shows that our entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking in the UK. Not only do the general public increasingly understand and back entrepreneurship, but many of them are itching to get more involved. This kind of enthusiasm can only bode well for our economy and the leadership experience and support available through The Entrepreneurs Board will help champion their cause. Governments take note – this is the way forward.”

Working for an entrepreneurial organisation

The public view the prospects of working in entrepreneurial organisations very positively. Around seven in 10 respondents (67% in each case) believed to some extent that effort and reward could be more closely linked and that you could have more opportunity to pursue work activities that are interesting personally.

The majority of people also feel that working in an entrepreneurial organisation would afford better opportunities for career progression (59%), work/life balance (58%), being more pivotal to the success of the company (55%).  And countering stereotypical views, half of those surveyed (48%) felt that you could have more job security in an entrepreneurial organisation.

Role model entrepreneurs

Richard Branson is still the UK’s favourite entrepreneur with 58% of people saying he is the best role model for business people. The late Anita Roddick, Britain’s dragon hBreartfounder of The Body Shop, came second with votes from a quarter (25%) of respondents.

Among the TV “Dragons”, Peter Jones is the top choice with 23%. James Caan scored lowest with just 7%, slightly behind Deborah Meaden on 9%.

Proving that women entrepreneurs are not achieving due recognition, Penny Streeter, founder of recruitment company Ambition 24 Hours (named by Management Today magazine as the highest ranking woman in its top 100 entrepreneurs list), polled just 1% as best role model. Linda Bennett, founder of shoe chain LK Bennett, scored 3%. When asked whether men or women make better entrepreneurs, 69% of respondents said men.