On the up · 11 December 2015

The small business advent calendar: 11 December – Another door, another festive chuckle

 11 per cent of UK business owners aren’t sure if they’re an entrepreneur or not
Over the days leading up to Christmas we’ll be revealing one juicy morsel of small business reading every day

We’re always hearing that the UK is the most entrepreneurial country in Europe – and numbers of startups are currently at a record high. But the surprise lurking behind door number 11 shows it isn’t that clear-cut for everyone.

Some 11 per cent of UK business owners aren’t sure if they’re entrepreneurs or not, according to research carried out in 2014 by AXA Business Insurance.

Another 44 per cent rejected the title altogether, although confidence varied across the country – with 60 per cent of respondents in Newcastle identifying themselves as entrepreneurs.

Younger business owners were more likely to claim the epithet than their older counterparts. A striking 82 per cent of under 24s see themselves as entrepreneurs, compared to just 32 per cent of those older than 55.

Commenting on the research, AXA Business Insurance managing director, Darrell Sansom, said: “The question for me is why small businesses are undecided about their own identity as entrepreneurs.

“I think it’s partly explained by the word ‘rich’, the idea an entrepreneur is someone who flies in from New York every day. It’s also this notion of being a ‘risk taker’ which is rather uncomfortable.”

Yet self-identifying as one has had some vocal critics, not least Alan Sugar. “An entrepreneur is not what you call yourself, it’s what someone calls you in recognition of what you’ve achieved,” he declared in a ShortList interview in 2014.

“I call Richard Branson an entrepreneur. Rupert Murdoch called me one. Anybody who stands up and says: ‘I’m an entrepreneur’ needs shooting,” he added.

And despite the increase in the number of new businesses being started in the UK, use of the word “entrepreneur” in English-language books has stayed fairly static over the last 20 years, after increasing steadily throughout the 1980s,  according to Google Ngram.

According to George W Bush – If a quote widely attributed to him is to be believed – the dilemma about whether to use the phrase or not shouldn’t trouble French business owners. The former US president allegedly said while in office: “The problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.”

Come back tomorrow for another juicy morsel of small business trivia.

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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