Education Wales: American-Style Wealth Creation the Way Forward; ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Ideas Operating in USA Can Be Implemented Here

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Byline: RUSSELL LAWSON

ENTREPRENEURSHIP in Wales has received little attention over recent years: the emphasis has been on using resources to attract inward investors - large companies with the capability of employing a vast amount of people.

But small businesses create the majority of new jobs - 64pc of the 2.5 million new jobs created in the US in 1996 were in small firms.

Since 1980, America's top 500 companies have shed more than five million jobs while the US as a whole has added 34 million new jobs. Most of these have come, of course, in small businesses.

These statistics are very impressive but when compared with such statistics for Wales we can see that small businesses are even more important for jobs. For instance, 97pc of all businesses in Wales employ less than 20 people and 94pc employ less than 10.

And small businesses account for nearly 50pc of employment outside the public sector. Also, it has been estimated that as much as one-third of the differences in national economic growth are due to differences in entrepreneurial activity. It follows logically from this that small businesses and their ability to create such wealth and employment should be given more importance.

But in Wales, business risk-taking has been ranked alongside gambling. If it succeeds, fine: but failures are not the subject of polite conversation.

As many as nine out of every 100 US adults are trying to start businesses. This is because of a culture that strongly encourages and supports self-enterprise.

Americans generally favour self-starters and the independent spirit that underpins their success. Business failures are not considered a personal failure and many consider ``not to have tried'' as a personal weakness.

Successful entrepreneurs are not only accepted but are considered ``champions of industry'' and presented as role models for others.

Americans accept and respect entrepreneurs: some business failures are expected and they are considered a normal part of the process. It is also interesting to note that US women are responsible for more than a third of all start-up efforts.

More fundamentally, the American population generally does not expect the government to provide for its well being. Also, it is likely to accept differences in standards of living. Within that fundamental cultural tradition, Americans are more likely than people in other countries to recognise opportunities for start-ups and to be motivated to pursue those opportunities through the creation of a new venture. …