Business owners, entrepreneurs, the self-employed and coronavirus: forgotten heroes?

By David Reyero

Photo: Isaac Planella

One of the most positive effects of the terrible coronavirus crisis is the unanimous and highly deserved recognition of health workers. Heroic men and women are risking their lives to protect ours. And despite the extreme conditions and scant resources, they are working with great efficiency. 

As I pondered on other professionals who are key to tackling this pandemic, something Winston Churchill said came to mind. A sharp observation about the lack of appreciation shown by society to good entrepreneurs: owners of large and small businesses, startup entrepreneurs, cooperative members, self-employed workers... "Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong horse that pulls the whole cart."

These words can be applied to any period, but especially to the highly complex period we are living in at present, as we look towards a post-coronavirus future that augurs a slowdown in economic activity. We should be encouraged to help these groups and value them more on account of the admirable work they perform and the risks they take to ensure that everything functions and will continue to function in the medium term.

Heroes business covid
Business owners, entrepreneurs and the self-employed are performing admirable work to ensure that everything functions during and after this crisis (Photo: Clara Soler)

Today, many countries and many people undervalue the role they play. Furthermore, some cases of malpractice in recent years have not helped to enhance their past image, which could be improved. This is reflected in a recent report in which the Spanish award business owners 2.8 marks out of 10, placing them low down on a scale of the institutions they value most. These are worrying data, which restrain entrepreneurial drive, the creation of businesses, their development and expansion, and, ultimately, collective prosperity. This is a pity and a strategic error to be amended by all of us, since it will lead to lower growth and higher unemployment.

Entrepreneurs and private initiative generate the lion's share of wealth and professional opportunities

In today's globalised and competitive environment, efforts are required on the part of the state and the third sector to ensure social cohesion and the redistribution of resources. Nevertheless, it is entrepreneurs and private initiative that generate the lion's share of wealth and professional opportunities. And this is the best assurance of our overall welfare in the long term.

In order to improve the impact and reputation of business owners, it is desirable that in the post-coronavirus era the way they are viewed should be reinforced with a triple bottom line perspective: social, financial and environmental.

This is a growing demand from many citizens and a necessary thing, if the collective contribution made by business owners is to be extended beyond the financial profit expected of them and the legitimate interests of their shareholders.

These are people whose actions are motivated not only by short-term profit, but also by the welfare and development of their team and of the communities in which they operate. Positive changes can be seen that a growing number of business owners have embraced, both in normal situations and in times of crisis. Let us reflect on a couple of examples that demonstrate this.

Many companies have been proactive in mitigating the effects of the pandemic and even temporarily changing their business model to alleviate the health crisis

Firstly, in recent years the public presence of entrepreneurs has increased and their role as good corporate citizens has been reinforced. Today, there are increasingly robust social responsibility policies. Secondly, it is worth highlighting the proactiveness of many companies in mitigating the effects of the pandemic and even temporarily changing their business model in order to alleviate the health crisis.

Today, many entrepreneurs continue to risk their assets as they market their ideas, products and services with the same enthusiasm in an atmosphere of greater uncertainty. Supported by the magnificent efforts of their teams, they seek to survive the sharp drop that has occurred in most economic sectors against a backdrop of widespread concern about the future. Some will survive this crisis, but regrettably there will be others who will have to close their business and reinvent themselves in a complicated environment.

In most cases, their contribution is not so extraordinary, nor are they applauded by everyone, since they are not on the frontline saving lives. Yet today, their resilience, passion, bravery and proactive approach are needed more than ever. And, from another angle, I would dare to say that they too are everyday heroes.

Many thanks and keep your spirits up.

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