British business owners reject “entrepreneur” label – and with good reason » SMEInsider

British business owners reject “entrepreneur” label – and with good reason

A new poll has found that only 52% of male directors and 38% of female directors of SMEs actually like being called entrepreneurs.

The survey, carried out by AXA Business Insurance, found that the term was most popular among younger business owners, with 82% of respondents aged between 16 and 24 saying that they liked the term, compared to just 32% of over-55s.

Commenting on the survey, Darrell Sansom, AXA’s managing director, said that he believes many small business owners associate the term with a rich, flashy lifestyle and risk-taking approach to business – of “someone who flies in from New York every day,” – which rarely fits with the realities of starting and running a small business.

This would suggest that business owners want to be recognised for their hard work and skills, rather than be associated with more “city boy” behaviours – but doesn’t explain, as the survey found, why tradespeople are more likely to embrace the term than those working in finance, architecture or the creative industries.

Distrust of the term may, instead, be more to do with its overuse, sometimes to the point of absurdity. Part of the problem is that “entrepreneur” is often used as a fill-in job title when it should really be an adjective that describes your approach to business.

If you asked someone what James Dyson or Arianna Huffington are famous for, they would probably reel off the names of their companies or inventions. This is because, “they’re an entrepreneur” doesn’t exactly tell you much. However, when you launch a startup and attend the obligatory networking events, you will almost certainly come across those people who answer the question, “what do you do?” with a panicked “I’m an entrepreneur!” before falling to pieces when you try to probe them further.

This quickly creates a stigma around the word, to which younger entrepreneurs, who are more likely to associate the term with the Bransons and Zuckerbergs of the world, are less likely to have been exposed. It is, perhaps, also less likely to impact on tradespeople, whose businesses tend to involve fewer practical ambiguities and more word of mouth recommendations.

Genuine entrepreneurial spirit is essential for getting any kind of business off the ground, but it’s little wonder that SME directors are wary of the term. Much like the term “consultant,” it only makes sense when used in conjunction with something more solid – and those that don’t are often hiding the fact that they don’t really know what they’re doing yet.

This means that, unless you’re well enough known to let your achievements precede you, calling yourself an entrepreneur and leaving it at that can send up an immediate red flag to other business people, potential customers and, of course, investors.