Why ‘enterprise’ trumps ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘economic’

I think that enterprise is much more important for our communities than either entrepreneurship or economic development.

Entrepreneurship focuses on encouraging people to move into self-employment or to start, or grow their own business.

Enterprise is about people thinking about their current situation and how it might be improved and developing strategies that will move them towards their preferred future.

By promoting enterprise in this way we will of course encourage entrepreneurship. As people become more enterprising they may, on occasion, need to start a new business to get them from where they are to their preferred future.

However our default setting should be to dissuade people from starting a business. If we can easily put them off, then it is likely that they would not have the necessary perseverance to make the business work. If they are insistent that only by starting a business can they become the kind of person that they wish to be and create the kind of future that they wish to have, then, and only then, should we roll our sleeves up and do all we can to help them succeed in their entrepreneurial venture, safe in the knowledge that they have the determination and persistence that they will require to succeed.

By adopting a premise that we should persuade as many people as possible not to start a business I believe that we can significantly increase the survival rate of those businesses that do start-up. As people in the community begin to see businesses that are both well thought through and successful taking hold, more and more will begin to believe that starting a business is not, almost inevitably, going to end in more debt and misery.  Slowly but surely start up rates too will start to climb.

However, even in the most entrepreneurial communities it is likely that fewer than 10 in 100 people of working age are ever likely to start their own business.  I would contend that of those hundred people every one of them could benefit from learning how to become more enterprising. That is, how to identify their current situation, how to recognise what an improvement might look like, and to put in place plans and actions to move in that direction.

This is why I think that enterprise is much more important, as a concept or a philosophy, for our communities than entrepreneurship or ‘economic development’. If we wish to have more entrepreneurial communities then we must start by first making them more enterprising.

In The Alternative LEP we will endeavour to remember that the E stands for Enterprise, not Entrepreneurial or Economic.


  1. I agree with what you say Mike but would argue that enterprise and entrepreneurship are, in fact, the opposite to what your article discusses. Thinking entrepreneurally does not mean always having to start a new business, it can mean thinking about working in a better and more efficient way within an existing organisation. The world of enterprise is associated with new business and the narrative of ‘start-up’. The entrepreneurial mindset belongs to anyone, starting a new business or not, who has new and creative ideas about how they can improve on what they do and what they offer others.

    • The challenge of semantics!

      I try to define what I mean but am always open to the fact that others define things differently. Improving things within an existing organisation? That for me is thinking ‘intrapreneurially’ and the art of the intrapreneur.

      I choose to put clear blue water between enterprise (acting boldly in pursuit of progress) and entrepreneurship (the art of starting and growing an organisation to achieve specific purposes). Enterprise is a precursor to entrepreneurship in my book. For me the enterprising mindset can belong to anyone and should be encouraged in all. The role of the entrepreneur is much more double-edged and I think needs much more careful and sensitive development.

      This differentiation matters because investments in enterprise development can be genuinely inclusive and will lead to more entrepreneurship. Tackling entrepreneurship ‘head on’leaves many cold (many think it is some Thatcherite, capitalist plot hatched in cahoots with the vampire squid, The Dark Lord, and apparently money hungry Dragons). We need to invest LESS in entrepreneurial education and much more in helping each person in our community to find their enterprising soul and to build the skills, confidence and courage to allow it to sing!

      • I see what you’re saying Mike but for me the entrepreneural mindset comes before the enterprise. I also believe that the intra/entre aspects are completely linked. What happens within an organisation is reflected externally. Also, I don’t have a problem with the term entrepreneurial education, it is a case of changing people’s perceptions of what it means as I do agree with the sentiments of your final point. The key is people understanding that entrepreneurialism/enterprise is not the preserve of the corporate business world. It belongs to anyone that wants to effect change.

        • I guess we are either defining terms differently or have had massively different experiences. The deisre to act boldy in pursuit of progress is for me the state of the enterprising person. Prior to this comes awareness, hope, aspiration and belief.

          Entrepreneurship as it is widely understood and entrepreneurial thinking have an association for most surely with business development of some kind…


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