Today over 3.5 million people in Britain run their own business. In 1979 there were only 800,000 companies in the country.
In an interview in today’s Times, Lord Young of Graffham (David Cameron’s adviser on enterprise and former Trade and Industry Secretary) describes the UK as “an economy in transition”, moving away from a landscape dominated by a few industrial giants to one teeming with small businesses. “In 1979, we were down to 800,000 firms. Today we have 4.8 million companies, 400,000 new ones in the last year.”
Behind this business population explosion is the rise of the self-employed entrepreneur. As Young explains “three quarters are sole traders and 96 per cent of all firms in this country employ fewer than ten people.”
Is this a good thing? I think it must be. On the macro level, smaller businesses mean the economy is more agile. Small companies can respond faster to events. Their prevalence is surely a factor in the UK’s relatively low levels of unemployment.
On the individual or (perhaps more accurately) personal level, running your own business means more responsibility and, sometimes, stress. But ultimately you are the king of your own castle. And it’s good to be the king!