Enterprise Insight – Mind the Gap

Although it is almost 12 months old now this report from Enterprise Insight carries much sensible advice.

‘Thinkers’ are overlooked

Large numbers of people think about setting up their own business, or becoming their own boss (which is an important difference) – but many of them don’t turn the thinking into action. Reasons for this include:

  • Believing that they don’t have what it takes to run a business, and
  • Not having a business idea

The first of these beliefs is perpetuated by much of the entrepreneurship reality programming on TV. Think The Apprentice, Dragon’s Den etc where only certain ‘types of people’ are deemed to have what it takes. I am sure that had Sir Richard Branson pitched some of his early business ideas (Budgerigar Breeding and Christmas Tree Farming – both of which he tried and failed at) to the Dragon’s he would have received the ritual humiliation that is meted out to so many.

The truth of the matter is that no-one knows what it takes to run a business until they try it. So when you here you someone say ‘Oh I could never run my my own business – I don’t have what it takes.’ ask them what they think it takes. This will get you much clearer on their perceptions on what business is all about.

The second is perpetuated by most of the enterprise marketing collateral I see. Most start of with some variation of ‘Do you have a great business idea?’. The implication being that if you don’t then perhaps enterprise is not for you.

Most entrepreneurs have to learn how to have, develop and let go of enterprise ideas before they find one that works for them. Anyone who wants to work for themselves or finds a way of expressing themselves can be helped to explore their passion and skill to develop some business ideas.

Ideas are the easy bits – its allowing yourself to believe that you could succeed that’s hard. So when you find yourself working with a thinker who never seems to act – exploring and challenging their ideas about the importance of ‘the business idea’ or ‘having what it takes’ can sometimes help them bridge the gap to action.

‘Some of the most significant barriers to starting a business are emotional and psychological such as lack of self-confidence’

Yet still so often we find it easy to judge the potential entrepreneur and their business idea. Learning to accept and not to judge is a critical skill if we are to succeed in helping people on their enterprise journeys.

‘Policy designed’ programmes are usually targeted at particular demographic groups based on gender, ethnicity, disability or disadvantage. Although this makes sense for addressing inequalities in society, such programmes tend to regard their audience as a homogeneous group. They tend to overlook the real needs, motivations and attitudes of individuals.

I have taught the fundamental importance of client centred enterprise coaching for a long time now. The sad truth is that most services are designed more for the convenience of the funder, the service provider’s organisational infrastructure (I have a manged workspace and I am gonna fill it!) or the individual advisers own comfort zones than they are for the needs of the client.

Targeted, customer-focused activities are needed to convert more young thinkers into doers. This audience is mobile and dynamic and communications campaigns are an effective way to encourage next steps. Personalised messages, stories, role models and competitions should be designed with a customer segment in mind.

Not only Young Thinkers – but most thinkers are far more likely to respond to well targeted marketing messages that speak to them as an individual. However better than that by far would be word of mouth recommendation to you and your service from someone they know and trust.

Encouraging-peer-to peer support can be effective in building the UK’s entrepreneurial capital and socially empowering young entrepreneurs.The knowledge economy depends on institutions that join up thinking and help bring together “the five tribes of enterprise”: creators, advisers, funders, facilitators and educators. We need diffused and cost-effective forms of support and less reliance on only professional business advisers. This requires greater use of mentors, ‘connectors’who can bring people together, the stimulation of support networks for young entrepreneurs as well as experimentation in the use of social media for enterprise purposes.

We have long known that entrepreneurs of almost any age and at almost any stage in the business cycle learn more from their peers than from professional advisers. Especially when advisers ADVISE instead of facilitate personal and entrepreneurial development.

You can download a summary of the Mind the Gap Report as well as the Full Monty here.


  1. Thanks for flagging this research up Mike and thanks as ever for your insightful blogging.

    As part of the research we commissioned the production of this landscape map to try and assess the landscape of support from the users (the young person in this case) point of view.

    The map can be viewed here.

    Clearly, these things date as soon as you write them! However, it illustrates that there is a job to be done by all of us to try and communicate the possible avenues of support and finance available to anyone thinking of starting up a business.


  1. […] But it’s even better to read this in someone else’s words – so have a look at Mike Chitty’s blog here which I think summarises the report even better than we could! http://localenterprise.wordpress.com/2008/07/01/enterprise-insight-mind-the-gap/ […]

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