One in six Australians want to start a business, but they’d prefer to be called “entrepreneurs”

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Small business owner

A survey of 2,000 Australians has revealed a large cohort that want to start their own businesses—although they might not want to be called “small business owners”.

The “Rethink Success” white paper from National Australia Bank looks at how Australians are approaching business in 2017. A chapter from the paper, titled “Working for Success in the Digital Age” reveals many Australians believe own business is an avenue to success, with one in six wanting to take the plunge.

NAB surveyed 2,019 Australians aged between 16-70 years old. Thirty-two percent of those surveyed were aged between 50-70, 29% between 22-35, 28% between 36-49, and 12% between 16-21.

The report shows one in four working Australians are self-employed. Out of those surveyed that don’t currently own their own business, one in six said it was something they would like to accomplish.

Respondents falling into the Generation Y category (22-35-year-olds) were the most enthusiastic about starting their own business. Eighteen percent said they plan to, and 37% of those who had plans said they would act on them in the next 12 months.

Council of Small Business Australia chief executive Peter Strong believes it is “pretty easy” to start a business in Australia, but that doesn’t mean everyone should run one.

Strong believes from a technical standpoint, it’s relatively simple to start your own business, but notes things can start falling down when optimistic new business owners are taken advantage of.

“New business owners are typically trusting and optimistic. They’re so excited about starting a business they forget to ask the right questions, and then they get taken advantage of,” Strong told SmartCompany.

“Shopping centres and franchises are the worst culprits. People establish a business there and then find the people they’re working with are ruthless, and running a business isn’t all that fun.”

Strong says despite the relative ease of setting up a business in Australia, it doesn’t mean everyone should run one. He also notes the different “schools of thought” when it comes to government’s approach to supporting business.

“There’s one way of thinking about it which is the sink or swim approach. Let businesses go at it and if they fail they fail. I can’t believe some people still think like that,” he says.

“Then there’s the other way of thinking about it which is much cleverer. The approach is ‘what can we do to get information to these people so they can get everything done and employ the right people?’”

One way to employ this approach would be to begin the education of business operating and entrepreneurship in schools, with Strong saying some of the one in six “are probably still in school”, Strong says.

“What are we doing for this one in six? The school system needs to identify these kids and provide a mentoring program, so when they do start their own business they are prepared.”

The power of the “entrepreneur” 

NAB’s report also revealed many of the small business owners surveyed did not picture themselves as small business owners, instead labelling themselves as “an entrepreneur”.

This was particularly prevalent in Generation Y, with 38% of those respondents calling themselves an entrepreneur, and labelling their businesses start-ups.

Strong thinks this change in perception is a good thing for new business owners and says current small business owners don’t dwell on terminology.

“Business operators don’t care about terminology. They call themselves a newsagent, or a florist, or an owner-driver,” he says.

“We’re the ones that call them small business operators. Let’s start mixing up the terms.”

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Dominic Powell is a journalist at SmartCompany and a tech and music geek. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading or browsing record shops.

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