"SMEs are littered with the failures of those promoted beyond their capabilities"

Sara Pearson, founder and co-owner of three businesses, is concerned about the younger generation's approach to entrepreneurship. "Not everyone can be the boss," she argues.

by Sara Pearson
Last Updated: 24 Oct 2023

Sara Pearson, founder and co-owner of three businesses, responds to our interview with Huboo CEO Martin Bysh earlier this week about why why shouldn't romanticise entreprenuership.

Not everyone is cut out to be a Dragon’s Den contestant. Indeed, very few are. But today being an entrepreneur seems the only game in town.

Recently when speaking to a group of bright-eyed A level students, the number one career ambition was to run their own business. Yet very few knew what that would be and even fewer recognised the years they might have to put in first to find their niche and learn the skills to succeed.

Instead, there was a blasé belief it would come easily and the rewards would flow. Hard work, long hours, ability and willingness to do everything from activation of the idea through to admin and accounts were seemingly not factored in. Or how it would be funded. There was little understanding that it might take time to build up personal reserves to enable a shot at running their own business.

The answer to fundraising was either a blank look of having not thought it through or they saw the solution of going the Seedrs route. It was startling how many believed this was easy to achieve and there were endless people queuing up to put money into a startup.

And what’s more, for that funding to pay the salary of the entrepreneur. There was limited appreciation that investors want to be sure business owners have skin in the game and, bluntly, discomfort, so that the motivation to be successful is paramount.

I’m all for ambition but it seems in recent times to have got out of hand and being your own boss now seems an entitlement. This is not saying young people leaving schools and university should be dissuaded against having these dreams but at the very least, careers’ advice should be encouraging the value of learning a trade and the associated business skills necessary ahead of launching the next big thing.

Similarly, having the top job is not for everyone. Ironically, it is a particular problem for business owners as they expand and look to create lines of succession from within their workforce. This is the key difference between staff in entrepreneurial organisations and those on regulated career paths in large firms.

The hard fact is that not everyone is cut out to run a company. The resolve and hard work necessary, the 20/20 vision to tackle the commercial issues alongside mental toughness are suited only to a few. SMEs are littered with the failures of those promoted beyond their capabilities.

Doing the job versus running the company are two very different skills. Let’s not diminish the value of those who are sensible enough to recognise their talents and realistic in their expectations.

As a business owner I have experience of the problems caused by lack of self-awareness in wannabe bosses. Of those whose weakness is believing they are better than they are and then being found out, which only leads to unhappiness for all concerned.

I say: find your level, be proud of what you achieve. And don’t aim for the sky unless you are prepared for what that path demands.

Sara Pearson is the founder and chairman of Spider PR & Social, co-founder of Hug Pet Ready Meals and co-owner of Munchy Seeds.

Image credit: Mike Kemp via Getty Images