HARNESSING ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

Written on the 25 November 2011

HARNESSING ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

ARE entrepreneurs born or made? According to Bond University’s assistant professor of Entrepreneurship, Baden U’Ren (pictured), a little education goes a long way towards tipping the scales in favour of success, particularly in the post-GFC economy.

Every one of the 2011 Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalists must be congratulated for their outstanding achievements.

The fact that Gold Coast Business News has identified 30 businesses generating a collective total of $136 million in annual revenues and employing more than 650 people, all in the hands of entrepreneurs aged 40 years and under, is a true testament to the ‘can do’ attitude that exemplifies the Gold Coast.

It is also important to note that these businesses have not just survived but thrived in a post-GFC economic climate which has undoubtedly tested their mettle in every facet of management.

One of the key challenges many of the newer businesses would have faced is the everdiminishing pool of early-stage venture capital.

According to a recent report, venture capital funding has hit an 11-year low in Europe and I have no hesitation in saying that we are seeing a similar scenario here in Australia.

For their part, the more established finalists have been confronted with changing market conditions in their respective industries – whether that be diminishing retail sales, the real estate price slump, the sharemarket crash or the slow-down in our tourism sector.

And yet they’ve forged ahead, which begs the question: Why have these young entrepreneurs succeeded in tough times when older, more established businesses – including so many major multinationals – have crashed and burned?

The old school of thought was that successful entrepreneurs were motivated, determined and charismatic individuals, driven by self-belief.

In other words, it was all about character and the sheer force of the personalities involved. The GFC has proved beyond all doubt that there are a lot of other forces at work.

At Bond University, we have long believed that entrepreneurship is a discipline that can – and should– be taught across all fields of study.

Whether our students are studying the sciences or humanities, all of our undergraduate degrees have the opportunity to incorporate studies in entrepreneurship and leadership.

We also offer specific subjects and majors in entrepreneurship as part of our business degrees.

At the heart of our teaching is that successful entrepreneurs are driven not simply by personality traits, but by clearly defined processes and management theory, underpinned by five guiding principles:

  • Being driven by means, not goals: That the vision for their enterprise is determined by what they have at hand – their knowledge base, the available resources (financial and otherwise) and what they’re passionate about – rather than an unspecified goal of ‘making money’ or ‘retiring young’;
  • Placing themselves in uncertain environments: By going out into the field and talking to the thought leaders to find out what’s known and what’s unknown, what people are looking for, what customers need;
  • Setting an affordable loss base: Deciding from the outset what they are prepared to lose and maximising their returns based on a realistic assessment of the downside;
  • Establishing partnerships: Actively seeking out like-minded partners and allowing them to shape the goals and outcomes of the business so it is not just driven by the entrepreneur but by the collective;
  • Controlling the controllable: Focusing on those areas where they have the highest level of control over input and outcomes.

We have seen these principles work time and time again as our students establish start-up enterprises – sometimes before they even leave the classroom – and go on to build successful companies.

MBA graduate Bede O’Connor established Patient Dynamics, which recently received substantial funding to market 3D technology for joint replacements. Richard Brimblecombe and Justin Vianello joined
forces in Quantum Power Limited, which is now recognised as a market leader in creating renewable energy from biogas. And the list goes on.

The experience of these students – and that of our Gold Coast Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalists – is that, regardless of the economic climate, the combination of personal attributes and sound businesses theory will keep the Gold Coast’s entrepreneurial spirit alive.


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