Paco and his family have run the cafe just off the beach here in Southern Spain for 35yrs, and it’s well known and frequented by locals, ex-pats and knowledgeable tourists alike. The Mollette Catalan are as popular as beans, bacon and eggs. Yet Paco is cutting his opening hours and telling us that he’s thinking about getting out of it altogether. He can’t get staff so he’s having to manage on four hours sleep a day; his electricity bill last month was €3,400 – three times as much as he’s ever spent in his life; and he says too much of the taxes he pays for working, are going to people who don’t work.

This kind of story is playing itself out in so many different sectors in many countries, yet it isn’t new. I looked up the Luddite movement of the early 1800’s and the Tolpuddle Martyrs of 1830 and others, and it’s clear that this kind of dislocation and churn has been happening for a very long time. The Financial Crisis, Brexit, Covid, war, and now the factors that are getting to Paco, are just the latest in a long sequence of change and challenge for societies and entrepreneurs to adjust to.

Many of our customers at Flexiion are ambitious innovators who are eager to get their businesses to market, to reach new customers and to prosper. It makes me wonder what the differences are that cause such diverse psychologies.

Stuff happens, and stuff is certainly happening now, big time, and that causes change. It’s change, coming from outside, that triggers these different reactions. Some see change as tedious, perhaps even threatening, while the thinking entrepreneur will see change as potentially opening up new opportunities. Resistance to change versus welcoming it.

Of course when you see change and welcome it, the entrepreneur needs a combination of agility, adaptability and energy to pivot towards the openings and opportunities they believe in. Often, they need a measure of defiance as well, and the will to overcome setbacks. 

Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve heard dismiss entrepreneurs as fanciful and blind to risk. Some are like that, but the successful entrepreneurs I’ve known and seen are the ones who make careful studies of risk and calculate the probabilities. These are the rational optimists.

I went to the annual FT Weekend Festival at Kenwood House last weekend, and it was a superb gymnasium for ideas. There were many fascinating panel discussions with a really excellent cast of thinkers and commentators of a kind that is rare to meet. War correspondents, Russian dissidents, economists, politicians, historians, artists… the list was long. 

While all the contributors expressed a keen sense of recent events and were astute about their potential implications, I was left with the distinct impression that the prevailing mood was that all the shocks are in the past and we must now cope with their aftermath – I heard nothing about the future besides this. My view of what’s over the horizon ahead of us is that there are many shocks yet to come, and not just in the distant future. For starters I think it’s a racing certainty that Xi Jinping will invade Taiwan to secure his legacy in Chinese history, and 90% of the world’s silicon chips are made in Taiwan by TSMC. Go figure that.

This bumpy world is highly likely to be real life for the foreseeable future, and fortune favours the entrepreneurs with agility, enthusiasm and rational optimism. As a friend of mine once said: “When the going gets tough, the going get going.”

Peter is chairman of Flexiion and has a number of other business interests. (c) 2022, Peter Osborn