There is little debate that courage is a condition precedent to progress. Americans see courage as a core value and part of our national identity, whether on the battlefield, at the lunch counter or in the boardroom. Justifiably so -- in the business world alone, the courage of American entrepreneurs and business owners has created more prosperity than any other force in human history.
Unfortunately, those statements can sometimes feel like a history lesson. It seems courage in business is getting tougher. Economic conditions remain uncertain, global unrest threatens the stability of markets, volatile commodity prices make investment decisions difficult, and extreme weather conditions threaten our assets. The world is an increasingly complex place with a mind-boggling rate of change, and some pundits have signalled the end of American exceptionalism.
Our take -- write off America at your own peril. Courage is alive and well in American business, and business owners are showing incredible resilience in the face of this rapidly changing landscape.
According to the most recent Hiscox American Courage Index, business owners continue to show a higher level of overall courage than the general population. In fact, the index is higher among business owners compared to non-business owners in nearly every category -- moral, emotional, intellectual and business courage.
Of course courage is most valuable during periods of uncertainty -- those times when fear becomes the default and risk-aversion is the norm. Talk to the one in five American entrepreneurs who sought to finance their business on a personal credit card last year, and they’ll likely tell you they were their own best bet. That’s courage.
But courage in a vacuum is useless, To achieve great things, courage must be paired with tenacious hard work. And again, American business owners are leading the way.
Hiscox’s 2015 DNA of an Entrepreneur Report, a study of global entrepreneurship, revealed the prominence of American hard work and optimism in comparison to the rest of the world. In 2015, Americans were more likely to cite hard work as one of the key success factors in running a business than entrepreneurs from other countries. Likewise, American entrepreneurs were seven percent more likely to feel optimistic about their businesses than the global average.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise the U.S. was rated as the most entrepreneurial country in the world.
It is this magic elixir -- a resilient spirit of courage combined with relentless optimism and tenacious hard work -- that continues to define America’s brand of entrepreneurship and enables its unique results. The global outlook is challenging, interest rates are uncertain and government red tape can be stifling -- yet, we still report the strongest willingness in the world to bet on ourselves and our businesses.
Nelson Mandela said “courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” Being afraid is not a sign of weakness -- being paralyzed by fear is. The data shows, both in relative and absolute terms, that American business owners are facing those fears with relish and finding opportunities in the fog. Our best days still lie ahead.