What can our entrepreneurs learn from the US?

A new survey highlights the difference in attitude between US entrepreneurs and their European counterparts...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Europe – but we could still learn a thing or two from our friends on the other side of the Atlantic. According to a new report called ‘DNA of an Entrepreneur’, from insurer Hiscox, US entrepreneurs are more bullish about the future than their European equivalents, despite the recent ravages of the credit crunch. Nearly 70% of them expect their business to keep growing, a figure which drops to 48% in France.

It’s partly a cultural issue. There’s a big gap in self-perception:  78% of Americans felt they were a nation of risk-takers, compared to just 44% of Brits and a measly 33% of Germans. Europeans were also much more likely to think that their education system didn’t do enough to encourage enterprising ideas – 80% of Germans and two-thirds of Brits think their country is falling short in schools, compared to a relatively meagre 35% of Americans.

And then there’s the role of government. Despite George Bush’s less-than-stellar international reputation, US entrepreneurs seem much happier about their financial and regulatory environment than Europeans – for instance, 68% of Brits think their tax treatment is too stringent (take note Alistair Darling). In France, red tape is a more common complaint – three-quarters of French owner-managers think government regulation is the biggest barrier to setting up a business. But again, in the US just 40% criticised the tax regime, while 32% were worried about red tape.

Steve Langan, UK MD of Hiscox, says the results echo what he’s hearing from clients. ‘Small businesses are the engine room of our economy and it’s concerning that those running them highlight so many issues that could stifle their spirit’. But he reckons we shouldn’t get too down-hearted about these numbers. The fact remains that the majority of UK entrepreneurs are still thinking positively about the coming months. 52% reckon the current climate will not have an adverse effect on their growth or recruitment plans, which is a pretty encouraging statistic at a time when doom-laden headlines are rarely far from the news. ‘It’s in their DNA to make tough decisions and face their difficulties head on’, says Langan. ‘They are determined to trade through and out of the current economic downturn'. 

We may lack a bit of American optimism (albeit perhaps it's just tempered by a sensible dose of European realism) – but Britain’s entrepreneurs are clearly still in fighting mood...

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