Understanding Self-Employment

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) recently published the results of research it has conducted in order to better understand self-employment – you can see the research results here. Whilst there is nothing in the research which will come as any great surprise to National Enterprise Network members, there are some interesting conclusions […]

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) recently published the results of research it has conducted in order to better understand self-employment – you can see the research results here.

Whilst there is nothing in the research which will come as any great surprise to National Enterprise Network members, there are some interesting conclusions to draw from the respondents in terms of their likelihood to employ people (only about 10%), particularly when compared with the extent to which they collaborate with others on shared projects (about 60%).

We’ve been saying for some time that there are greater proportions of those clients coming to our members who have no intention of growing their businesses through taking on staff, that’s not to say they don’t want to grow, to take on larger projects or get involved in bigger contracts and therefore make more money and have bigger businesses – but they don’t want to do it by becoming an employer!

They got into their own business because they want to be in control of their own destiny, to put their skills and experiences into use for themselves and/or in response to other lifestyle choices, caring responsibilities etc – they don’t feel they can achieve those ambitions if they become employment administrators and so they’ll avoid that at all costs.

Who knows exactly what lies behind these psychological or cultural shifts, call it the sharing economy or ‘Uberisation’ or whatever you like, but there is no doubt that the make up of the self-employed population is changing and as supporters of those looking to start their own business we need to develop our own response accordingly.

Many commentators talk about the number of people starting businesses and say if more of them grew then much in our economy would be improved – but what our experience is telling us is that we’ll be banging our heads against a brick wall with many of those whose aspirations don’t extend to growth in the traditional way.  Whilst ever we only measure growth through creating more jobs we’re barking up the wrong tree and so we need to look to find other ways to do it.

Of course traditional growth is still important and we all know our economy needs as much of that as possible, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of others doing it in different ways, all of these people have taken a risk to start their own business, they are putting their career and the finances and fortunes of their families on the line and they deserve credit for that!

We should champion those who go it alone and grow in whatever way they see fit, not only ascribe to measures which suit our purposes – as policy makers and supporters of those looking to start and run businesses, we need to change our way of thinking to support any and all businesses no matter what their shape, size or potential – fortunately that’s what NEN members have been doing for upwards of 30 years in some cases, and long may it continue…….