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.