Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Back in the day, being an entrepreneur meant you were young, full of ideas and extravagant. There were very few successful entrepreneurs and many people in the corporate world looked down their noses at them.
Today the stereotype is somewhat different. Entrepreneurs are everywhere and they’re actively encouraged. Exactly how many there are in the UK depends on the definition, but one thing’s for sure: they’re seen as risk takers by their very nature.
Recently our editor Ali El Moghraby met with Ian Gordon, Entrepreneur in Residence and Senior Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University, to find out what makes a good entrepreneur and why taking risks is so important to their success.
Ian touts passion, preparedness and pace as the key characteristics that he’s seen time and again in successful entrepreneurs.
“Passion and preparedness are pretty obvious,” says Ian. “My experiences all point to the significance of entrepreneurs believing in what they’re doing and being organised in how they do it.”
But finding the right pace is much more difficult to achieve. Go too fast and you make silly mistakes. Take too much time and opportunities pass you by.
“When faced with messy situations where what to do is not known, many people avoid what they don’t know and return to what they do. This slows them down,” explains Ian. “Good entrepreneurs get on the case, unearth the options for action and find solutions.”
As Ian explains, entrepreneurship isn’t possible on your own, it happens in a space. With the right people and things in that space, a successful entrepreneur can spot the opportunities that are invisible to everyone else.
“Entrepreneurs have a helicopter view of the world, allowing them to see patterns that the rest of us don’t,” says Ian. “This perspective helps them make informed decisions that may on the face of it look risky.”
So stereotyping all entrepreneurs as risk takers isn’t necessarily right. It may be more accurate to pay the good entrepreneurs a compliment: they have an appetite for spotting opportunities (passion), a talent for turning them into something attainable (preparedness) and they work at the best speed to get results (pace).
It’s this alternative perspective to taking risks that explains why failing is more important than succeeding. Because an entrepreneur needs to see a pattern or gap in the space around them and test it before anyone else does. Inevitably things are going to go wrong sometimes. But that doesn’t make the approach any less successful overall.
Ian sees Generation Z (those born since about the late 1990s) as a new breed of entrepreneur that is using technology to alter the space in which they are vying for success.
“Young people generally have lots of passion because the world hasn’t ground them down yet,” Ian explains. “They also possess a degree of naivety and they generally have less to lose, like status and a mortgage, which enables them to take more risks than their mothers and fathers. In light of this, it will be interesting to see whether the internet, which allows almost everyone to have access to almost everything, will make it easier or more difficult for Gen Z to become successful entrepreneurs.”
Either way, they’re going to have to take risks to be successful. The role of the internet within that is going to be pivotal.
Ian Gordon is Senior Teaching Fellow and Entrepreneur in Residence at Lancaster University. He has run several successful businesses, conducts on-going research into entrepreneurialism and works with SMEs at Lancaster University.
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