Germans Don′t Want the Corner Office | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 22.01.2005
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Germans Don't Want the Corner Office

Fear of failure makes Europeans happier to be cashing regular paychecks than starting their own business. Americans, on the other hand, are more likely to want to be their own boss, according to an EU report.


Most Europeans would rather be the employee than the employer

The European Union's report showing 61 percent of Americans want to be their own boss compared to 45 percent of Europeans comes after five years of surveying more than 21,000 Americans and Europeans about their feelings toward self-employment.

Let's try it vs. Let's think about it

Cultural differences explain why responses to self-employment vary according to continent.

Götz Werner

Götz Werner founded the first dm drugstore in 1973

"There are cultural differences between Germans and Americans," Götz W. Werner (photo), founder of German drugstore chain dm, told DW-WORLD.DE. "Americans say, 'Let's try it,' a German wants to consider all the possibilities first -- that's why Germans often lack boldness."

Werner has never had a problem with boldness. He founded his first dm drugstore in 1973 and today heads the chain with stores in nine European countries and a total revenue of over €3 billion ($3.88 billion).

Fear of failure keeps 61 percent of Germans from building on promising business ideas, with only the Portuguese -- by 1 percent -- being warier of starting a company. More than half of Europeans and one third of Americans agreed with the sentence, "You should not found a company when there is a chance it could fail," according to the EU report.

"Someone needs to slow Americans down and give Germans a kick forward," Werner said in response to the study's results.

No second chance

Baustelle im Durchblick

Extreme consequences keep Germans looking in on new projects instead of starting them

While life goes on for Americans who founded unsuccessful businesses, one flop can mean the end of a German's business career, according to Christoph Müller an economics professor at Hohenheim University.

German credit institutes often ask applicants if there is a failed company in their background, and if there is "they don't need to bother filling out the application forms," Müller said.

That plays a role in why just over half of Europeans said they would rather be employed in a company than run it, while 34 percent of Americans would rather own a company than work for it.

In comparison with the United States, Germany still has some catching up to do when it comes to starting up businesses, but the situation is not as bad as many believe -- and it's crucial to talk about the quality of companies, not just the quantity.

Statistically speaking, Turkey and Greece have loads of small businesses, but because these nations rely heavily on the agriculture sector they do not produce the same revenues as less agriculturally dependent countries, according to Müller.

"Though the media only talks about the bankruptcies, there are still more companies founded than closed in Germany," he added.

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