Big Questions for Enterprise Coaching?

Is enterprise to be interpreted narrowly or broadly?

  • A narrow interpretation would equate enterprise with movement towards self employment or entrepreneurship.
  • A broad interpretation would equate enterprise with efficacy, agency and an increased sense of influence and power in shaping one’s own future.  With the pursuit of wellbeing and happiness through the exercise of personal responsibility and the skills of association, collaboration and mutuality.

Is the role of the coach to be limited or expansive?

  • The limited role of the enterprise coach is as an outreach enterprise evangelist selling the enterprise fairytale and encouraging people into workshops and mainstream services….
  • The expansive role of the coach is as a provider of person centred transformational relationships, harnessing the potential of people and the community to encourage personal and community development

We seem to be heading towards a position which takes a narrow definition of enterprise and limited role for the coach.  I believe this will result in communities that are actually much less enterprising  and entrepreneurial.

If we were to have the courage and ambition to shift to a broad definition of enterprise and an expansive role for the coach then I think we may actually have a foundation for the development of Big Society.  And funnily enough it wouldn’t cost very much….


  1. I like the grid and in an ideal world, quadrant top left – broad and expansive-seems best to me but for practical purposes isn’t the real issue “Who wants to pay for what?”

    I have worked with voluntary and community organisations, social enterprises, individual start ups, established businesses as a business supporter (adviser, coach, mentor, trainer, consultant) on publicly funded programmes and directly for clients who paid me. I was also an Interim National Manager for TNG Business Support (now merged with InBiz) for a couple of years.

    Individual clients mostly wanted me to focus on the narrow issue of helping them with their business.

    Publicly funded programmes had their own objectives , which did and do tend towards narrow and limited, mainly because most programmes were funded by one government department (BIS or DWP) with communit development sat with another.

    The silo approach to government is wasteful and restrictive. I am hopeful that some of the things about joined up government said and written by Ian Duncan Smith , the new Minister at DWP will lead to more “flexing” and better planned and funded contracts that can get us into the right quadrant.

    Thankfully his opposite number at BIS, Mark Prisk , seems to have similar objectives but I fear the civil servants who seem incapable of managing pooled / shared budgets with efficiiency and effectiveness.

  2. Couldn’t agree more – I currently work as an Enterprise Coach and whilst I find the role broader than my previous capacity as a traditional advisor, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the funding stream is not a flexible fit with the original aims of project and model (hence directly experiencing the above named silo effect).

    I do have enough autonomy to navigate internal issues and not pass resulting pressures and bureaucracy onto clients but this itself comes at some personal cost – it also makes me think twice when dealing with clients who exhibit enterprising behaviour (as you rightly point out this includes networking and engaging with peers,which should be encouraged and nurtured), yet evidently are unlikely to proceed and become an ‘output’ that can be ticked, filed and audited.

    There lies a lot of hope in Enterprise Coaching as a model and ideology but the signs are already there that it may simply be assimilated into the mainstream, watered down and similarly filed and audited as another grand idea that promised but ultimately failed to deliver on it’s potential.

  3. Mike, I had in mind something which was perhaps similar, last summer and put the idea to a network of small business specialists. As you can see, the response wasn’t exactly overwhelming:

    4 years ago, part of a strategy paper we developed began by answering just the question you ask. – What is Enterprise:


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