A Golden Age of Enterprise?

Are the various disparate enterprise strands converging to make today the Golden Age of Enterprise? At first glance it is difficult to see the connection between enterprise in schools (Young Enterprise) and the rapid increase in the number of small businesses – there are now over 5 million in the UK. Business start-ups are growing at a significant rate whilst closures remain fairly constant (The Economist). Of course, this growth in enterprise could be out of shear a necessity as governments shrink and big firms restructure.

However, there are several enablers playing out at the same time:

  • Government acknowledges the need to reduce regulation (a constant cry of small firms!) and have a favourable tax environment (entrepreneur’s tax relief and small business dividend policies).
  • New technologies are lowering the barriers for start-ups. Be that, broadband, 4G mobile or the Cloud. It is just easier and cheaper to start a business than ever before. So, small is not only beautiful but can deliver real competitive advantage.
  • Small businesses are the platform for growth. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses proves that with a little structured learning the leaders of potentially high growth companies can transform their businesses (Progress Report). As the Academic Lead on the Yorkshire and the Humber programme I have seen this transform in action.
  • And finally, something is in the air. You just need to scan the television schedules or ask school children or university students how many want to start a business to see the change in attitudes. There are a growing number of younger entrepreneur role models who combine good business sense with palpable social responsibility. Not forgetting the key influencers of policymakers – such as Lord Young through his Enterprise For All report and Report on small firms 2010 to 2015

But, why is it so important to have small firms?

They simply innovate and create jobs and by doing so share wealth. In fact, small businesses provide almost half of the jobs in the private sector!

Perhaps it’s not yet a Golden Age of Enterprise but rather a golden opportunity for enterprising individuals to seize the day.

Professor Nigel Lockett
Professor of Enterprise at Leeds University Business School