Friday, December 08, 2006

The Growth of the Entrepreneur

A new report, commissioned by Vodafone UK, claims 10 million people will have ditched their nine to five working week in favour of self-employment over the next five years. This translates to 33% of the British workforce.

According to the report, 12% of the country's adults have already set up on their own, 6% are in the start-up process and just under a third are seriously considering it, with more women than men looking to become self-employed.

What does this mean for British industry, and for networking in particular?

We have already seen a substantial shift in the nature of the economy over the last ten years, with an increasing number of micro and small businesses setting up as the number of redundancies have increased. In addition, more and more people have decided that they no longer enjoy the rigidity of corporate life and have chosen the flexibility of running their own business.

As a result, consumers (both business and domestic) have been faced with a far greater choice in who they go to to provide products and services and businesses face more pressure to find effective routes to market which provide a strong enough return on their investment.

As more micro businesses open over the next five years, the demand for networking will undoubtedly grow to meet the inevitable demand. Already, in the last year, we have seen a major surge in the number of new networking organisations opening their doors and the growth of online communities has been equally pronounced. The popularity of MySpace and UTube with businesses, rather than just with individuals, has been a key indicator of this. Shortly we will see the 'big boys' such as BT enter this market as they recognise the potential of the growth of the smaller business.

So, who will be the winners in the expansion of the networks? The people who focus on the benefits they can gain from networking and who develop a strategy to maximise both the financial and the social return on their investment will find themselves benefiting from the increased opportunities on offer.

It can be tempting for an entrepreneur to take up every networking opportunity and then to be sucked into the social side of networking, with the hope that their business will benefit as a result. But such an approach rarely sees a business take the right steps to get the best results.

Businesses who decide exactly how networking can help their business development and then choose which networks can best meet those needs will be the ones who thrive. And with more and more new entrepreneurs fighting for the support, referrals and recognition that networking can provide, this will become more and more of a challenge.


  1. Anonymous11:20 am

    If the Vodafone report is right - and I think it is on the conservative side of the predictions - we will see major shifts in society generally. Not least of which will be a blurring between work and home life. For many entrepreneurs that blurring has already taken place, but with the increase in mobile working and Internet-based software and services, having an "office" will disappear as will having "working hours". What that implies is that networking itself will disappear as a discrete concept. At the moment, networking for many is an "add on" to their normal business. With the increase in self employment, the blurring of work and home life and greater mobile working, networking in the future will be an integrated part of our business AND home life. Our friends will be our customers, our customers will become our friends. We will extend our social networks using online services and we will have huge "extended families" of friends and business contacts all wrapped up in a day that includes work and socialisation without any defined barriers. That will make it all the more difficult to achieve the aim you mention in this article of the strategic use of networking.

  2. Networking is the only reason I have a successful business today! I don't 'do' sales.
    I relaunched my business from a cold start in April 2005 and it's been totally built on networking, at breakfast groups like BRE and other local groups, at other business networking meetings of all types and online with Ecademy.
    If I didn't network I wouldn't be in business. Now referrals and business come down the email and phone lines and I hardly seem to have to make an effort.
    This is, for me, the only way to grow a business.