Only Fools and Horses may have finished over 20 years ago, but it seems that the spirit of wheeler dealer businessman Del Boy lives on in Britain’s entrepreneurs, with a recent study finding that some SME owners are obsessed with fast cars and piles of cash.
German sport cars and ‘wads’ of cash
Professor Simon Down of Anglia Ruskin University and Dr Andreas Giazitsoglu of Newcastle University undertook a period of research in which they studied a group of small business owners. The study was recently published by the International Small Business Journal.
Every week, the two professors would observe the actions of ten entrepreneurs as they drank in their local pub. Each SME owner was white, male, middle aged and lived in semi-rural area.
The university’s research shows that the 1980’s British caricatures of Del Boy and ‘Loadsamoney’ still have a profound effect on today’s entrepreneurs.
The report findings include:
- Down and Giazitsoglu observed that a hierarchy had been created within the group, which ranges from what the professors call ‘the local business elite,’ all the way down to those ‘in awe’ of the more successful businessmen.
- Two major commodities were found to exist within the group: driving brand new German sports cars with a personalised registration plate and showing off ‘wads’ of cash is a way to signal their position within the hierarchy.
- Offering to pay for people’s drinks signifies success and a desire to be respected from others – one member of the group admitted to ‘‘withdrawing a large amount cash, to be used to pay for his weekly bills and shopping, just before going to the pub, so he was able to display it at the bar’’
- The term ‘Winning’ is often associated with the men showing off their position in business, as well as helping form their masculine identity. For example, the men often greeted each other with the question ‘how’s business going?’ and were more often than not met with the response ‘I am winning.’
The two professors found that the group represented fictionalised characters from the 1980’s, including Loadsamoney, the creation of British comedian Harry Enfield. The comedic actor portrayed an obnoxious plasterer from South London who likes to boast about his significant wealth.
Originally appearing on the BBC, Enfield made a music video featuring the character showing off his vast amounts of money and explaining how it improved his place in society. The single was a hit in 1988 and spawned a sell-out live tour. Neil Kinnock, leader of the Labour Party in 1988, used the term ‘loadsamoney’ to criticise Tory party policies.
After becoming increasingly disturbed that Loadsamoney was being taken seriously by small business owners in the UK, Enfield killed off the character during a comedy sketch for Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day.
‘Cohesive version of masculine identity’
Professor Simon Down, director of the Institute for International Management Practice at Anglia Ruskin University, commented on the findings.
‘‘It’s fascinating that while the participants have different identities outside the pub – they are of different ages and own different kinds of businesses – together they manage to collectively agree upon and perform a remarkably cohesive version of entrepreneurial masculinity.’’
‘‘This is a sense of hierarchy, a concept of winning and providing, and a clear distinction between themselves and entrepreneurs from urban areas. The men use these aspects, as well as more superficial markers of masculinity like driving expensive German cars and displaying cash, to construct their identities.’’