The Leap 100 July Poll – Climate: Culture

Purpose or profit? Fast growth firms want them both

JUST two per cent of The Leap 100 think that Brits have a very negative view of entrepreneurship. In fact, nearly 90 per cent believe that society has a positive – or strongly positive – opinion of it. “Britain loves entrepreneurs, and many sets of society also love business,” says Nick Harding, founder of Lending Works. He adds, however, that a lack of education can quickly put a negative pallor on business – and others commented that views of the corporate world can stand in stark contrast to those of entrepreneurship.

Nearly 20 per cent think we’re “somewhat negative” about business more generally, and only 9 per cent think “strongly positive” describes society’s attitude. The problem, says The Drum’s Diane Young, is generalisations: “smaller businesses like mine are often lumped in with corporates… most owner-managers in the UK are not on multi-million pound packages”.

This month’s survey looked at business culture – in society, and within firms. Significantly, 100 per cent of The Leap 100 say that their firms have corporate cultures, which are important to their growth. For all, it’s not about snazzy startup perks or, as Alastair Stewart, managing director of etc.venues, put it, “some nebulous statement posted on the wall. Our culture is absolutely vital… it is translated into the way we do business… lived and breathed by the whole team in everything we do”.

Ensuring unanimity in vision stems from the determination that all of The Leap 100 have had since the outset. When asked what their motivation was for starting/running a company, answers ranged from “to provide an income with greater independence and to prove to myself that I had the ability to build a business” to “I am unemployable”. Another Leap 100 member furthered the thought process: “in the very early days it was personal independence… once up and running, it has been much more about creating a great environment where people enjoy working and are able to develop to their full potential”. Common to the majority of responses was the desire to solve a problem.

While almost half of The Leap 100 think it’s not primarily the role of companies to address society’s big challenges, 40 per cent think it is. Harding again, summing up general sentiment: “it is not solely the role of business to [do so]. However, I believe it is the only function in society that will actually achieve change.” Others agreed with Quill’s Ed Bussey on the diminishing importance of shareholder return: “the days of building businesses purely for profit are over. Purpose is now also important”.

But a considerable number of The Leap 100 still feel less ambitious compared to their US counterparts. While 74 per cent think British entrepreneurs are equally ambitious, a quarter disagree. But lack of ambition is not a failing of the individual. As Starcount’s Edwina Dunn says: “British entrepreneurs are ambitious, but investment funding is more difficult – and the process more opaque than for those seeking startup or development funds. It creates a very hand-to-mouth culture”.

This article first appeared in City A.M. on Friday 30 July 2015. You can view the full City AM article here.