'Lazy' entrepreneurs and 'unk-unks'

Among Europeans, it is the British who have a reputation for working the longest hours, though whether or not this is good for our levels of productivity is another matter entirely. Whatever, the 48-hour work week is not something most people experience.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

None more so than entrepreneurs - that toiling, self-sacrificing, risk-friendly backbone of the UK. Yet MT was surprised to learn this week that entrepreneurs in the capital work the least hours a week, averaging just over 44 hours.

A survey of SME owners by Continental Research on behalf of Abbey found that entrepreneurs in the South West work the longest week, clocking up nearly 58 hours - the surf life of days spent at the beach catching the waves is clearly a myth.

But don’t be fooled by London’s slack figure – they might be the laziest entrepreneurs but they are also the most stressed, with 40% admitted that their health had suffered due to working long hours. This compares to 15% in Yorkshire and Humberside.

But work/life balance isn’t the only concern for harassed entrepreneurs. What they should really be worrying about are ‘Unk-Unks’ (unknown-unknowns). New research by John Mullins, a professor at London Business School, argues that entrepreneurs must identify the things that they don’t know that they don’t know yet, as it is these factors that may derail their new venture.

It reminds us of Donald Rumsfeld’s statement that ‘there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know,’ which won the 2003 Campaign for Plain English’s ‘Foot in Mouth’ award.

Mullins argues says that successful entrepreneurs have the ability to work out what their customers don’t already know they need, by ‘getting into their mindset’. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to get all New Age with them, man. Just ask them for a chat, and listen what they have to say – something no doubt that entrepreneurs from London have plenty of time to do.

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