Are entrepreneurs born or made? Can anyone become an entrepreneur or does it require the right genetics?
Indigenous entrepreneur-led growth and job creation can enhance Ireland's economic recovery, reducing an overdependency on foreign direct investment. Whether these entrepreneurs are born or made, the rate of start-ups in Ireland is not high enough. While we have many examples of individually good initiatives, our approach to education and training does not optimise this "entrepreneur flow".
It does not create enough individuals who dream of creating a new business.
The bottleneck to more and bigger new enterprises is not lack of ideas or funding – rather there is a dearth of driven, capable and obsessional entrepreneurs.
Ideas and funding are available to everyone. Lock yourself in a room with three or four others and brainstorm; hundreds of business ideas will be listed in a few hours, another hour or two sifting through those ideas will result in a shortlist of viable business concepts that can be more robustly reviewed.
So, ideas are cheap and plentiful. Similarly, if you need funding numerous options exist, from friends and family, credit unions, angel investors and banks.
The only barrier blocking the creation of start-ups is the attitude and ability of the entrepreneurs. It’s a simple equation, we could double the rate of indigenous new-venture job and wealth creation if we could double the number of entrepreneurs.
Of course, the economic environment must also be right; we need a functioning banking system and the taxation system must encourage risk taking. Assuming the new Government can implement policies in these areas, then all we need is more and better-prepared entrepreneurs.
It is possible to create more entrepreneurs – they are made not born.
While successful entrepreneurs share some inherent traits, the factors that matter are learned and mostly about how they think.
Acting entrepreneurially is just applying a different type of thinking and reasoning, and that logic can be trained.
Smurfit Graduate Business School
, Dr Bruce Martin, director of the new MSc in innovation, entrepreneurship and design has created a great example of how to train graduates to think like entrepreneurs.
Numerous incubator and accelerator programmes for budding entrepreneurs have developed in recent years, and they make a valuable contribution to early stage start-ups.
But incubators and accelerators don’t create entrepreneurs; they create ventures. Most of these programmes do little to develop the reasoning skills needed by the entrepreneur.
Perhaps the creation of this mindset, the sowing of entrepreneurial logic, needs to start much earlier.
If all primary- and secondary-school children are exposed to the concept of entrepreneurship, they might start thinking like an entrepreneur and consider entrepreneurship as a career choice.
One successful initiative is the Junior Entrepreneur Programme (JEP), which has worked with more than 25,000 primary-school children in the past three years. Created by Jerry Kennelly, the serial entrepreneur and investor, it now operates in 20 counties.
At second level, the Student Enterprise Awards, run by the local enterprise offices, has 22,000 children involved this year.
So, some existing initiatives have shown good traction, and we need to build on that progress. Ireland has the potential to become the best country in the world for making entrepreneurs, if our educational system genuinely prioritises wealth creation and entrepreneurship.
An integrated coherent educational programme should be created at every level of education, with maximum engagement between educators and business leaders. We should seamlessly link the enthusiasm seen in the JEP initiative to set a solid foundation, through the Student Enterprise Awards and on to widespread application of teaching entrepreneurs throughout the business and Stem departments of universities, professional education bodies and incubator and accelerator programmes.
Entrepreneurs are made, not born. We should be making more.
Michael Carey is managing director of East Coast Bakehouse and a member of the emeritus board at Smurfit Graduate Business School.