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Hark! The new rules of business

Cover of  by Dan Matthews

The rules of business are ever-changing in our favour and a growing number of entrepreneurs are taking advantage by making money, creating products and employing people. Dan Matthews, author of 'The New Rules of Business', explains what?s changed.

The definition of what it is to do ?business? is a changeable thing. While the essential processes are constant ? the requirement to sell something and the need to make a profit for example, the practical steps that people take and indeed the people themselves have changed dramatically in a short space of time.

Just 100 years ago the greater bulk of businesses were run by people who were already rich. Great family dynasties handed down conglomerates of banking, heavy industry and retail from father to son.

And though there were a handful of stand-out examples in which street urchins pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and made a fortune, the odds for entrepreneurial stardom were stacked heavily against the man on the street.

Names like Marcus Goldman, George Henry Hinds, Andrew Carnegie and John D Rockefeller were as exceptional as they were rare. They relied on favourable timing, emerging technologies and their own will to succeed ? much like entrepreneurs do today.

The difference is that now anybody can do it. Granted, you still have to be equipped with drive, ambition and a reluctance to take ?no? for an answer, but the tall barriers of class, wealth and political dogma which blocked our ancestors do not inhibit our chances of hitting the big time.

In 2010, Britain is a nation of entrepreneurs. The ?stock? of businesses keeps rising year-on-year ? well over 4 million at last count ? regardless of the capricious winds of the economy they trade in. It is also testament to our resilience that most businesses fail, yet we seem to keep trying until we get it right.

So what has changed? Lots is the answer. There has been a societal shift and with it a change of mindset: it is accepted and even encouraged that people from all walks of life should have at least the opportunity to become a business hotshot.

Though many entrepreneurs would argue to the contrary, there is a more accommodating political atmosphere in Britain for businesses to grow. True, red tape and form-filling can get in the way, but rarely does it stifle entrepreneurs on their way up.

New inventions have also played their part: ever-refreshing internet-based technologies have provided firms with a new platform for trading through online retail, a new and efficient advertising platform and a means for cheap communication through email, VOIP and instant messaging.

With all this in mind, here is a handful of new business rules:

Starting a business costs nothing

Customers accept that not all businesses are multi-national giants. Before, sole-traders and fledgling entrepreneurs were eyed with suspicion if they didn?t have businesses cards or posh headquarters ? today it is the blue chips that are out of favour.

You can start-up today with nothing; simply announce that you have taken your skills freelance and Hey Presto! you?re an entrepreneur. Thousands of firms start simply by stopping working for the boss and starting to work for themselves.

Entrepreneurs can be very young or very old

Young people used to struggle for credibility, but the dawning of the internet era has thrown up opportunities for generations of teenagers who baffle their elders with new and innovative web-based ideas.

Oddly, older entrepreneurs are better off too. With retirement ages creeping ever higher, pensioners are being encouraged to invest their savings and remain economically active. Business people in their 60s and 70s enjoy the gravitas and trust associated with years of experience ? and are increasingly in demand as a result.

Running a business doesn?t have to be full-time

Thanks to the internet, which makes running a business a whole lot easier, a new phenomenon, a group called 5-to-9ers, has emerged. These enjoy the security of a job but use their spare time to make money from, say, an eBay business or by selling things they make as a hobby.

It takes the stress out of being an entrepreneur and allows you to make money from something you enjoy; and of course, if your business goes big you can always junk the day job and concentrate on it full-time.

Marketing is cheap

In this era of faceless corporations and multi-million pound advertising campaigns, the personal touch still rules all. There is no better endorsement than word-of-mouth and no better sales person for your business than yourself.

There are hundreds of networking events locally and nationally where you can find new partners and sound out potential customers, while social networking websites allow you to connect with customers directly without wasting shoe leather.

People want you to succeed

The ?kill or be killed? ethics of the 1980s are dead, or if they?re still alive then they reside in some remote niche of investment banking. For entrepreneurs in the 21st century cooperation and teamwork is the norm.

Even competitors benefit from each others? help and everywhere you look you will find support from government, former colleagues and other businesses. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you and watch the goodwill flow.

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