In the bid to inspire entrepreneurship and promote enterprise education, we must be clear about the difference between enterprise and profiteering. Society would be forgiven for confusing the two given the existing TV shows and enterprise schemes which exists, as well as the common idea that all businesses are set up to purely make profit.
Let’s look at the apprentice and the tasks they have to complete. Whoever gets fired is on the losing team. Which team loses? The team who made the least profit. Of course, this leads the contestants to be utterly profit obsessed in their tasks and have to make this money very quickly. This is short-term profiteering. None of the businesses are founded because of a belief in a cause or because of a passion or interest the team has. There can be no long-term approach or community-facing element of the business – it’s pretty much all about profit.
What about Dragons’ Den? There’s usually far more detail about the entrepreneur and the start up so we get a much better impression of the business but still, ultimately, the Dragons are looking for turnover and profitability. And as investors, they’re doing exactly the right thing. The problem is, between this and the Apprentice, the general public get a fairly skewed view of what makes a good business and a good entrepreneur.
You’re probably also aware of the Fiver scheme, pioneered by Lord Young. This initiative is perfect for introducing children to enterprise but it is one of the only widely adopted initiatives and guess what? It’s all about making profit from of your £5, or, at least, that’s how most children regard it. It is a brilliant initiative, but it must not stand alone as children’s only experience of business!
What is seemingly very difficult to do is get children to understand that there’s so much more to business than profit, and this also rings true with adults too. With big businesses hitting the news for price hikes and extortion, profit has become the ‘dirty word’ David Cameron describes it as.The problem, of course, it that society now sees profit as a kind of Tory invention when really, unless we adopt a communist or socialist economy, profit is absolutely crucial to the UK’s success as a global economic force.
We believe that primary enterprise education will be the driving force behind the reeducation we require for a better understanding of the importance of enterprise and, yes, profit. Companies need to be profitable to create jobs, wealth and grow the economy but the business community needs to show that it is not only profit which drives every single business. This misconception is a dangerous ones, forcing many companies to set up as social enterprises or not for profit organisations because they are simply scared to tell people that they are making profit, when they would fair better as a private enterprise.