Nurturing entrepreneurial expertise
Written on the 2 December 2009
Entrepreneurs and the companies they launch and lead are the life blood of all communities. Accordingly, there is growing interest from many stakeholder groups in how to nurture entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.
Dr Justin Craig is an associate professor of entrepreneurship and family business at Bond University. He jointly heads the Global Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Family Business Department and co-directs the Australian Centre of Family Business.
The characteristics displayed by many, if not all, of the finalists in the 2009 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, support current conversations among the burgeoning global entrepreneurship research community.
An important distinction identified in this year’s crop is that they have not been obsessed with predicting the future. Rather, they have concerned themselves with creating the future. Despite what has been a challenging year for all sectors in all regions, these entrepreneurs have stayed true to their vision and been able to seek out opportunities.
That is what entrepreneurs do. Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to recognise opportunities, often before they become readily apparent to everyone else. These opportunities can be a gap in the market, an extension of an existing market, or the creation of an entirely new one. It takes vision to see something different from the mainstream. Often, with nothing more than this vision, entrepreneurs attract others to bring their vision to life. True entrepreneurs know that to bring their vision to reality, they must have one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake.
The young entrepreneur class of 2009 are true entrepreneurs because they understand how to control and leverage resources. Though some of these ventures have morphed into companies of considerable size and complexity, the entrepreneurs at the helm have continued to demonstrate that they know the importance of resource parsimony. This understanding was particularly important in 2009, which could have been for them (as it was for many) an annus horribilis.
Entrepreneurs find ways to do more with less and reach their markets with minimum expenditure of time, money and effort.
Scholars who study successful entrepreneurs suggest they possess an ‘affordable loss’ attitude toward their businesses by diligently controlling the downside in a relentless pursuit of minimal resource use en route to their markets.
They also appreciate the importance of strategic partnerships as a way to leverage resources parsimoniously and therefore limit affordable loss. Importantly, they see and induct customers into their partnerships. As well, they have adopted the notion of cooperative competition (co-opetition). They have demonstrated an understanding of the benefits of working together with other Gold Coast companies where they do not perceive they have competitive advantage.
This open partnership approach to business contributes to innovation in the region and what is a distinct entrepreneurial spirit for which the Gold Coast is widely renowned.
Speak to any of this year’s finalists and they will tell you that the key to their success is that they have at some point, and often out of necessity, turned the unexpected into the profitable. This ability is at the core of entrepreneurial expertise and can be identified in all great entrepreneurial firms.
The depiction of the entrepreneur as a risk-taking maverick is a myth that this year’s young entrepreneurs firmly debunk. Rather than take risks, they manage risks.
Early stage investors, often family and friends, share the risk burden with the entrepreneur and their role in the region’s reputation for embracing an entrepreneurial spirit cannot be understated. Most of the successful companies in the world today, or at any time in history, commenced operations at kitchen tables (Billabong), in garages (Google), in university dorm rooms (Dell) or in a cafe or bar somewhere. Each of this year’s finalists can proudly document their humble beginnings and the early earnest conversations they had with those willing (or silly enough) to help share their risk.
This year’s finalists are testament to the notion that entrepreneurship does not distinguish. Regardless of background, this year’s coterie of driven individuals proves the entrepreneurial academic community’s thesis that entrepreneurial expertise is about having self-confidence in the face of adversity, understanding the importance of constantly adding to their knowledge, and intentionally leveraging their social and professional networks.