Enterprise is flourishing and there are high expectations of future prosperity, according to the nation’s business owners. These are the key findings of a major study by the University’s Small Business Research Centre. Its report, ‘Who are the Entrepreneurs? A Survey of the Owners of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises’, scrutinises the behaviour and profile of company heads in an attempt to identify the effects on the growth of their businesses.
The research, commissioned by accountants Kingston Smith and carried out by Dr David Stokes and Professor Robert Blackburn, targeted 360 owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The findings identify differences in management style, comparing owners who describe themselves as 21st century entrepreneurs with those regarded as taking a more traditional approach. It also examines the aspirations of owner-managers and explores the differences in performance at both new and more established companies.
Dr Stokes said some of the conclusions had been surprising. “ Although we deliberately chose companies that were considered to be key to future economic growth, we didn’t expect the level of optimism expressed by their owners to be so high,” he said. Nearly half the owners interviewed had described their business as “doing well” or “thriving” and recruitment had increased for 60 percent. “At a time when there has been much doom and gloom in the media caused by ongoing rumours of recession and minor slumps in the financial market, this report shows that smaller business owners have been quietly underpinning the economy with their efforts. As a result, they feel positive about their future,” Dr Stokes said.
The study had also uncovered unexpected similarities between modern-day entrepreneurs and traditional business owners. “ We thought owners under the age of 40 would be much more likely to embrace new technology, but this didn’t turn out to be the case,” Dr Stokes said. “Established and new enterprises both used the internet widely, so the stereotypical image of the dynamic young entrepreneur grasping new technology and leaving the traditional businessman behind appears to be unfounded.”