Enterprise, but not as we know it

I LEFT a very good job in 2004, driven to find out if I could emulate the many successful small business owners which whom my path had crossed over the previous few years.

“If they could do it”, I reasoned, “then why not me”?

Over the subsequent 10 years, I went through what can only be described as the steepest of learning curves, something akin to an on-the-job MBA.

If I had thought I knew a lot of stuff while working as a senior executive in a big corporate, it came as a pretty big shock to discover that actually most of the important elements of running that business were taken care of, unseen, by other people.

There was no such luxury in the world of the SME.

If you didn’t learn it and do it, it didn’t get done.

The business grew from being just me into a 15-strong media and marketing consultancy turning over around £1.5million, yet I never considered myself to be an entrepreneur.

So, what is one?

The best definition I could find is “a person who sees an opportunity, gap or potential in a sector or market and sets up and runs a business or businesses to supply the appropriate goods or services, taking on financial risks in the hope of realising a profit”.

In my case I had simply wanted to earn a decent living, on my own terms, providing the high level of service that I expect myself as a consumer and combining the best bits of small business and big business practice.

I have worked with a number of agencies over the years that have been tasked with inspiring people to “take the plunge” and set up their own enterprises but one of the biggest barriers was the perception that entrepreneurs are people like Richard Branson and Sir Alan Sugar and therefore “I could never do that”.

Of course the reality is that for every Branson or Sugar, there are thousands of ordinary men and women that “look just like me”.

These should be the real life role models that our next generation of start-ups aspire to.

However, to my mind, entrepreneurship doesn’t just have to be about setting up and growing a business.

It is a mind-set; having ambition to embrace change and to do things differently and better.

This could just as easily be applied to someone that has been made redundant and decided to retrain to move onto an entirely new career path, or to employees of organisations prepared to think differently, challenge norms, collaborate and stick their heads above the parapet to act as catalysts for necessary change.

As this region seeks to recover from recent oil price-related downturn and to anchor a significant energy supply chain here for the long term while broadening its business base, it will need individuals to demonstrate all of these virtues and help to write the next successful chapter of the Aberdeen city and shire story.