By Claire West

British entrepreneurialism is thriving, yet those who refer to themselves as entrepreneurs may be a dying breed, according to new research from business software and services provider Sage. In the current challenging economic climate just 4% of small business owners think of themselves as entrepreneurs.

At a time when entrepreneurs are regularly cited as the key to revitalising the UK economy, Sage’s research has revealed that the overwhelming majority of people on the front line of this revolution feel no connection with the term.

The research found that “business owner” (53%), “self employed” (26%) and “businessman/woman” (15%) are the most popular terms people use to describe themselves, underlining the very gritty and real nature of running a business in 21st century Britain.

The survey, which explored how business owners perceive themselves and the qualities needed to succeed, also found that over two out of three participants (70%) see a person’s vision and drive as key attributes for success and 14% cite numerical or business acumen as the critical requirement.

The research also highlights the strong link between entrepreneurs and innovation in the mind of 21st century business owners. Almost half of all respondents (44%) believe that an entrepreneur is someone who has ideas that bring innovations to business — a central component to succeed for 14% of those surveyed, but just one in four (25%) associate the term with someone who sets up or runs their own business.

Lee Perkins, Managing Director for Sage’s Small Business Division, explained: “The survey suggests that the current crop of business owners find it hard to relate to the term entrepreneur. They think of an entrepreneur as someone who has innovation in their DNA, but not necessarily the drive or basic business skills to succeed. Ideas are vital, but for a business to discover its true potential the company must be grounded in reality and guided by an owner with a sound understanding of financial information.”

In addition to the economic factors leading to changing business perceptions, there is a feeling amongst respondents that the term entrepreneur describes someone who is an ideas generator and somewhat removed from their business. Whilst Sir Richard Branson and Sir James Dyson are seen as hugely successful entrepreneurs, they could also be seen as a barrier to most people identifying with the term entrepreneur.

“At a time when the UK Government is introducing measures to support start-ups and small businesses through incentives and grant support, translating new business goals and ideas into reality is a significant possibility for many. Pairing the right combination of business planning with drive and passion is the key to long term success,” added Perkins.