Entrepreneurs ARE a noble bunch…!

By Jill Poet on January 12, 2015

Oh dear. Editor-in-chief Jeremy O’Grady normally delivers words of wisdom in his weekly musings in The Week – a weekly paper /magazine providing an unbiased summary of the week’s news. But this time he’s got it horribly wrong. Entrepreneurs across the country need to ask him to reconsider his comments!

Jeremy says: “the entrepreneur is not a noble character” and suggests that small business owners have no regard for humanity, only self-interest. Wow! Yes, of course business owners want profitable businesses but that certainly doesn’t mean they don’t care about people: their employees, their local community and the wider universe. Far from it! There will always be the exception of course, but perhaps cowboy (that’s the polite version!) is a better word for those individuals who want to make a quick buck and don’t care who gets hurt in the process. They are not entrepreneurs in my book.

So what has triggered these insults? Why does Jeremy believe benevolence is in short supply in the small business world? Why does he think entrepreneurs display a “self-servingness that often takes unlovely forms?”  Well, it would seem all this is based on programmes such as The Apprentice! For years I have held Jeremy in high regard and valued his opinions even if I didn’t completely agree with them. But now I find his views are based on what he sees on the television!!

Jeremy, TV is designed for entertainment. Just like Coronation Street and Eastenders. It’s not real life!

Our videos show a few example of very noble entrepreneurs!

Jeremy’s short article, together with another contribution by Valentine Low, also makes adverse comments about entrepreneurs who have received honours in this New Year’s Honours List. This provides me with a perfect opportunity to start to dispel his comments.

Shaa Wasmund was awarded an MBE this year for ‘services to Business and Enterprise.’ I have attended many of Shaa’s events over the last few years and, coincidentally, attended her Business Bootcamp last Friday. Shaa is indeed an extremely successful businesswoman and can command high fees for her services. But Shaa’s underlying message is always very clear: don’t put money as your top priority. She continually emphasises:

  • Authenticity
  • Purpose
  • Values
  • Service


She describes her own style as “hustle and serve.” Shaa knows how to do the deals; to make the right connections; to get high flying individuals and big corporates supporting her projects. But it’s a two way process: she is always committed to giving back to ensure her stakeholders receive real value.

And Shaa isn’t alone. Using Jeremy’s words, “the butcher, the brewer, the baker” and other entrepreneurs across the world are committed to more than profit. Their number one priority is normally providing a great service. Many are committed to being great employers, supporting their local community and generally helping to make the world a better place.

Yes, I believe many business owners could do a bit more and that is the focus of our projects, particularly the Business and Community Charters which we’ll soon be launching across the UK. But lots of small business owners are already doing so many great things. Our videos show just a few examples.

I’ve spoken at national conferences on Social Value and Social Justice because I believe small business – the engine room of the British economy – could be the primary driver for social change. There are nearly 5 million small businesses in the UK and if they all do a little bit more the impact will be huge. For those that aren’t proactively contributing, they are mostly decent people and with a little bit of nudging and support they will happily “give something back.” That might be fundraising, volunteering, offering work experience, employing apprenticing or a whole range of other positive activities.

To all you fabulous entrepreneurs out there: here’s your opportunity to tell your story. Please add your comments below. Show the world that you are indeed a noble character. Let us know about the great things you are doing in your business.


Let’s make Jeremy O’Grady eat his words!


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34 responses to “Entrepreneurs ARE a noble bunch…!”

  1. There was a time, and still is in the minds of some entrepreneurs, when a business could do bad things with no repercussions. However the rise of social media and rating websites will end this mindset for ever.

    Why would you do business with a company which routinely overcharges, or lies to its customers, or produces poor quality products or damages the environment.

    Ignorance allowed evil companies to thrive and survive, but transparency will cast a cruel light on them and customers will favour the honest, hard working, good quality and environmentally friendly businesses instead.

    • Jill Poet says:

      Thanks Charles. I do agree that current methods of communications will make many companies rethink how they act. However, it’s good to know that there are businesses such as yours (WaveData as shown in the video) that do the right things because doing so echoes values they hold dear, rather than just a concern about the scrutiny they may face. But ultimately, I’m happy to celebrate anything [legal and ethical] that ensures businesses operate more ethically and responsibly!

  2. Well as Jeremy’s opinion is based on some characters picked out mainly for their obnoxious traits and questionable entertainment value by a TV company and they are mostly employees at the time of the programme not actually business owners he really isn’t looking at entrepreneurs is he. If I didn’t treat my clients, and collaborators properly and with humanity then I would have no business. My business purely exists on the premise that I make customers happy and save them time,money and stress with My Life Pack personal organiser product and services.
    I also voluntarily give my time to help other small business owners make a success of their enterprises too by sharing my knowledge and experience – most recently with 9xTable concept given freely to participants for #MicroBizMattersDay that took 3 weeks of my own time for no fiscal reward. I’m here to help … not make a fast buck… and it is helping people that actually makes me a successful entrepreneur with my unique ideas and provides great personal satisfaction too.

    • Jill Poet says:

      Thanks Louise – both for your comment and all your hard work on #MicroBizMattersDay. You are typical of most small business owners: making customers happy and helping people makes you a successful entrepreneur.

  3. Last Friday I co-funded and co-organised with Tina Boden, a business owner, as I am, the first #MicroBizMattersDay. 96% of UK business owners, 5 million of us, are micro enterprises, with between 0 and 9 employees. The idea of the day was simple – each of us should give 9 minutes to help another business owner. We live streamed interviews with business owners throughout the day – all giving time to help each other.

    Some of the interviewees were bigger than a micro such as Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers and the MOBO award winning rapper, Sway. Both give masses of their time and money to help their communities – indeed Charlie raised £120,000 in 4 weeks before Christmas to pay for a life saving operation for a young girl, Chloe, in his community.

    I am very old and so have, with business partners, been starting and running businesses for over 30 years. I know, that on average, people that start and run their own business do more for charities and their local communities than any managers and leaders of large organisations. When you consider self employed people are earning 20% less, most on less than the living wage, this is quite some achievement.

    There are some bad apples, usually greedy, status conscious men that have not started the business but invested in a business. However, in the 3 years since we formed and have funded the Enterprise Rockers, free to join, no contact details require, self help community hundreds of thousands of micro enterprise owners have proved themselves generous and helpful rather than selfish.

    #MicroBizMattersDay recognises these people who make something out of nothing to earn their own living. They are happy but poor and make their communities better. See http://MicroBizMattersDay.rocks

  4. Jessica Forbes says:

    Both my parents and grandparents are business owners and have been for over 20 years but I don’t think this would have been possible if they hadn’t created strong relationships with their customers, staff, suppliers and community. They are incredibly people orientated whether it’s making sure the Saturday girl gets home safely or the customer gets the perfect present for their mum whether it’s bought in their own business or not, so to suggest that small business owners have “no regard for humanity, only self-interest” is very unfair. Like in any job they try and do it as well as possible and need to generate an income but what’s to suggest that this is done in an “unlovely form”? I think Jeremy needs to do some research into the hard work entrepreneurs do on a daily basis for all people, not themselves, before casually dismissing it by such a claim.

    • Jill Poet says:

      Thanks Jess. I’ve used your parents shop, Under the Sun in Southchurch Road, Southend, for many years and have always found everyone to be very friendly and very helpful. The shop is the sort of Aladdin’s Cave where you browse for ages and yet one never feels under pressure to make a purchase. There’s help available if you need it but no one is ever pushy. Clearly customer satisfaction and building brand loyalty is top priority for your parents and grandparents.

  5. Brilliant blog Jill. I agree with all the other comments; it does seem very strange for The Week to take something like the Apprentice – an extreme gargoyle-esque parody of what business is about and clearly one that is twisted for the entertainment value – and apply it with a big yard-broom brush stroke to all entrepreneurial business people! I think that they have fallen into the “usual” media trap; using an extreme point of view to simply provoke. And in a way, good! Because it means we can answer back and point out the balanced viewpoint to their perspective. Business for Junari is about working very hard to create happy clients. We work hard to deliver more value to their businesses than we ourselves get, because we feel very strongly that this is the meaning of business and our purpose. We also feel that in doing so we set in place strong foundation stones for the longevity of our business and our personal reputations. By creating and standing upon a foundation that is so solidly authentic and cemented in our values we are able to extend our influence into areas of society that our “day” jobs wouldn’t normally enable us to work with. We think the definition of entrepreneur is a person who’s courageous enough to go stretch themselves to deliver something to the world that in small ways or large ways betters it.

  6. I think it’s sad that somebody with such a voice and influence can make such a negative blanket-statement. Two things come to mind from this:

    1) The fact that it’s clearly not true, as there are many kind-hearted, caring individuals that have chosen a Business path. Even those with a primary ‘carers heart’ need to earn a living and may have found a specific need in the world of care, for example, for which they have created a Business to help others. Alternative therapies are a great example. Many people need them, many have the skills and knowledge to help, but the NHS won’t provide this type of service. The solution? Set up a clinic to HELP people. The primary goal is serving others, but BANG!…..You’re in the world of Business. This is not to say that more mainstream Business owners are not caring. For example, printing may not seem to be something that serves the Community, people or the world in general. However, the Gospel was spread far and wide through the printing of the Bible, helping many many people to find faith, love and hope. Whatever one’s views on Religion, it can not be denied that the Bible is still the biggest-selling book (collection of books) which, in itself, must help the Economy too.

    It’s the heart of the Entrepreneurs that determines whether the Business is of benefit to people, the Community and the earth. My husband and I ‘inherited’ this family printing Business, but because our hearts are to see people helped, we
    a) Operate with utmost integrity and instill this throughout our Business
    b) Are open with our Clients
    c) Aim to give back to the Community through Charitable work and giving our time
    d) Train an Apprentice for a future career-path, hopefully preparing him to operate in the ‘World of work’ with excellent morals and ethics.
    e) Our personal financial ‘take home’ is stewarded by us to support our own family and as many others as possible.
    f) We regularly review and update our policies and procedures to ensure we are minimising any negative impact on the environment and are caring for our staff appropriately. We are not perfect, but we are on a quest for improvement towards it!

    2) As small Business owners with a heart, perhaps we are not making ourselves widely known enough. Perhaps the reason people don’t hear so much about us and our endevours is because we’re too busy caring about people, society and the environment to tell everybody about it! I believe ORB is going to help us all greatly to turn this around.

  7. Gareth Kane says:

    1. He’s clearly wrong.

    2. He’d better be wrong – we need entrepreneurs to develop and drive the low carbon economy.

    3. I love the Apprentice and, no matter what anyone else says, actually think that it tells you an awful lot about business – good and bad!

  8. Anna Heim says:

    As a social entrepreneur I have devoted over 20-years of my life to improving the lives of the individuals and communities I work with – I have been blessed to have been able to eek out a living for myself and provide for my family from doing what I love, which is helping individuals be all they can be, and supporting community development both locally and internationally … Many of the projects and programmes I have been involved over the past 10-years with especially in the developing world have been around improving the life outcomes in terms of health, education and the environment, so to say that entrepreneurs are greedy and self-serving with no regard for people and the wider world is a fallacy… In my experience there is good and bad in all walks of life, I am sure there are the odd bad apples in the many and diverse spheres of entrepreneurial business, but these are few and far between and I don’t think bad apples survive as entrepreneurs. For Jeremy to apply such broad and sweeping brush strokes based on what in my opinion is an appalling TV show, only shows that he has little knowledge, understanding and grasp of the is the 5-million entrepreneurs which form the powerhouse of British Business. Maybe he’d be better informed if he shadowed the many micro-business owners across the UK, who go to heroic lengths to take care of themselves and their families on low incomes while doing enormous good in their communities.

    • Jill Poet says:

      Thank you Anna. Again, a prime example of an entrepreneur who genuinely cares about society and does all in her power to give back to the community – even in the face of great adversity. Long may we be blessed with activists like yourself who are determined to make this world a better place.

  9. So he takes a 240 year old book, links it to a popular tv reality show, which is clearly only set up for entertainment, and makes assumptions about the whole of the enterprise economy. Is that journalism….it seems to me it is more like sensationalism!
    Jeremy has fallen in to the common trap of assuming that because the most talked about businesses are greedy short term profit seekers (banks, supermarkets, energy companies to name but a few), that we are all like that.
    He is viewing the whole enterprise economy through the scratched spectacles of the corporate world.
    Where there is separation of ownership and control it is almost inevitable that the directors will focus on short term profits, which benefit them in their bonuses.
    But with owner managers (95+% of the UK businesses) the culture is changing as we recognise that we need to focus on treating people properly, with integrity, building trust, in order to sustain long term viability. Thus building a business without being greedy makes more sense, and is certainly less stressful.

  10. It would appear that dear Jeremy has used very little in the way of research before blustering into his proclamations. I work with many “entrepreneurs” from “ordinary” business to “hi-tec start-ups” I have yet to meet the type of business person that he describes. The entrepreneurs that I engage with are honest, hard-working individuals that have a great regard for their staff, the environment and running their business in an ethical manner.

    No doubt there are those who do not, we will find such stereo typical people in all walks of life. Dare I say all MP’s in Westminster are thieves? (because a very few have been imprisoned over the expenses debacle.) Or even that Jeremy’s ill considered views show the level of all journalists ability?

    Regrettably, Jeremy appears to believe that what constitutes sexy tv or produces headlines in newspapers is the real world. A shame such limited knowledge is held by him.

    C J Payne

  11. Rikey Austin says:

    Oh DEAR!
    How very dare he!
    For years I’ve run a teddy bear and doll hospital and shop. There are five of us now including an apprentice who is learning the skills of toy repair.
    Our keyword is ‘caring’ It runs as broad as a river through everything we do. Be that us caring for and repairing a child’s much loved soft toy, caring that they need to be sure their much loved and often loved to bits ratty bundle of (sometimes slightly funky smelling) stuffing and fur is safe. We have an on site ward and beds. Caring that the eighty five year old man with a teddy who has been his best friend for all of that time might be a little wary of other peoples reaction and reassuring him that his generation are more likely to have a long time companion such as his ‘Edward or Fluffy or Ted.
    In fact when I left the much better paid, much higher flying world of big company gift design some seven years ago it was because I could see the way a single industry could span the whole spectrum of caring. On one hand, a child’s wish list is the quickest way into a parent’s pocket and right all the way over here where I picked myself up and in my crazy moment of entrepreneurial fever chose to be we are teaching a generation of children who have been bought up as prospective customers in a throw away society to NOT want to buy for the thrill of buying but to fix. To show them that when things in our life break we mend them. That the things in our life don’t have to be perfectly new and perfectly shiny to be perfect. After all, a little girl who will throw away her teddy when he gets tatty may well grow into a woman who will dump her husband when his fur falls out or a man who will leave his wife when her stuffing falls into her bottom!
    I am PROUD to be an entrepreneur, it’s not always been an easy journey but it’s never been anything less than hugely rewarding. I can chose to break away from the pack, to make my ethics the very core of my business and still put food on all of our tables and roofs over all of our heads.
    Being an entrepreneur is what I do not how I do it.
    Make me a badge someone! Proud to be an entrepreneur with heart.

  12. clive bonny says:

    well replied by all
    “Red Top” journalism is also well recognised as the sector’s equivalent to The Apprentice
    As a past trainer for Reuters journalists I can add that Jeremy’s skills in generating media attention are far from entrepreneurial.

  13. Gill Tiney says:

    I too am an avid fan of The Week and generally nod in agreement with Jeremy and Jolyon but on this occasion I can only assume it was a slow news week. Was he seriously making a comparison of The Apprentice with the entrepreneur business owner who is supporting this country back from the brink! Jill I think your other readers have put it quite succinctly, entrepreneurs deserve their honours and indeed most go unrecognised for the good they do in their community.
    I would like to invite Jeremy to leave his laptop for one afternoon and step into the real entrepreneur world and discover for himself how industrious, creative, supportive and inspiring they truly are. I am harbouring a hope that this was actually Jeremy simply poking at the hornets nest to get a reaction and that he doesn’t actually believe what he has written. That seems to be the way of the media today, see who we can provoke all in the name of a ‘good story’. I thought The Week was above that.

    • Jill Poet says:

      Mmm. I would like to think he was poking at the hornets nest but I haven’t had any responses on Twitter etc from The Week @TheWeekUK, so possibly not! (Can’t find Jeremy O’Grady on Twitter)

  14. For our economy to grow we need enterprise to be encouraged…and as others have already pointed out with social media, internet, we the consumer expect our suppliers to be ethical, so anyone that is not, will be found out! Also with the Social Value Act and the power of the corporates, anyone tendering for work, be it an existing business or a newly formed one, they need to understand doing good is good for business!

    • Jill Poet says:

      And of course, it isn’t only the Social Value Act. New EU directives on public sector procurement should be adopted by the UK Government within the next few months place additional emphasis on social considerations. So definitely, Doing Good is Good for Business.

      That said, many entrepreneurs are already doing great things without these levers, but there’s always room for improvement! Just a little bit more community engagement times 5 million could pretty huge!

  15. Jo Salter says:

    He’s also completely missing the point that entrepreneurs often set up businesses with a main objective being to effect positive (noble?) change! We can see where change is required and have the flexibility (and the courage) to start something in order to effect the change. Big companies are often hampered by existing models and structures or even just by focussing too much on the bottom line. Of course a business needs to make money but there have to be many other purposes too.

    At Where Does It Come From we have clear goals which I believe to be noble, and we want to make a profit too. There are lots of ethical businesses who are able to offer non-mainstream, quality products to customers. The Internet and social media have enabled us to by-pass the traditional structures to reach people. What about all the small Fairtrade businesses? Are they disregarding humanity for self-interest?

    As a reader of the week I find it disappointing that Jeremy O’Grady chose to express such an un-thought through view but hopefully when he looks through some of these responses he will realise that is a wide range of entrepreneurs and we cannot be easily dismissed with such a shallow comment!

  16. Richard Harvey says:

    Now retired, I give quite a lot of time helping the Prince’s Trust support and mentor start-ups (young people up to the age of 30). I coordinate the efforts of close to 100 volunteers in Nottinghamshire alone, most of them business people at all levels of business size who are generous with their time in a variety of ways. Across the country there are around 6,000 volunteers to this one organisation to prove Jeremy O’Grady wrong and hopelessly out of touch with the real world, as already said you can’t use TV shows as an indicator of corporate attitudes at any level.

  17. Nikki Wilson says:

    A great blog Jill. My thoughts initially were similar to Anna’s – of course there are some entrepreneurs who are self serving and step on others’ toes but they are in every sector and work environment – it’s a characteristic of people rather than entrepreneurs -I guess it’s just more obvious in a small business as there are less people to reduce their influence.

    I meet many entrepreneurs (including social entrepreneurs) and the reason I enjoy being around them is their clear passion for and belief in what they do -it’s the courage in their own convictions that means that they move from the “thinking about it” stage to the “getting on and doing it” stage. Competition is stiff and customers have so much information that they can be very selective- reputation and good relationships count for a lot – not characteristics I suspect would be abundant in Jeremy’s “entrepreneurs”.

    I don’t read “The Week” but given that others’ seem mainly to respect Jeremy’s perspective, perhaps I could pose another question… Perhaps there was a separate agenda for him writing this piece – giving entrepreneurs the impetus to stop being modest and stand up and shout about their values and why they are so important – something that probably gets lost in the day to day buzz of running a small business!

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