Entrepreneurship makes things work

Entrepreneurship is about some very special attributes.

It is very, rare to face a real fork in the road and know with 100% certainty that one way is the right way and the other is the wrong way. The key drivers of finding the right road for businesses non-profit organisations, communities and projects are the attributes of entrepreneurship.

Case study by Peter Sergent

Entrepreneurship for success in business, not-for-profits, communities and projects

Entrepreneurs excel at three important things, visioning, joining up the dots, problem-solving and action orientation. It is worth noting that it is the businesses and organisations that are driving our communities and the lifestyle we treasure. The concept of entrepreneurship is something many people still do not understand or accept.

In an unstable, disruptive and constantly changing environment, innovative entrepreneurs think differently and act differently. Entrepreneurs make a difference by finding new solutions to the problems to be faced in the ever changing world. Entrepreneurship is a must for SMEs and non-profits while supporting the prosperity of communities. http://goo.gl/wHrbQe.

You may have heard that business is easy. But you find yourself wasting considerable time and not making much money or much progress towards fulfilling your aspirations. For some, months, even years have passed and they’re still trying to get their business to work well. This is when you need entrepreneurship to make the connections and join up the dots.

How entrepreneurship comes into play

No one said building a business was easy, as the price can be high if there are no entrepreneurship skill present. Try not to be one of the many business founders who has secretly found out the hard way. With the exponential change taking place with globalisation and technology the years ahead will be tough for the many businesses lacking entrepreneurial skills. While the opportunities are increasing for those who do have them.

Entrepreneurship is about some very special attributes

Just because you are in business doesn’t mean entrepreneurship is present.


The graph displayed here helps to illustrate the value of entrepreneurship. You may have the finance for multiple projects, but operations and marketing are not up to speed and require some new thinking to solve the associated frustrations and problems. And you need to do it before a project fails. Many businesses have the money and resources but lack what it takes to make everything happen in a timely manner. Just because you have the finance doesn’t mean the company will be successful. Businesses are not entrepreneurial, people are.

When it comes to competing with the bigger companies, often people will feel inadequate. This is where entrepreneurship can come into play, either from an internal or external entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship is about having some very special attributes

Most enterprises are operated by technical or management people. This is a key reason why they have difficulty moving forward and growing from humble beginnings. Entrepreneurs are not maniacs with a mission or super sales people as some would have us believe. Entrepreneurship might be just what is needed to unblock the strategies holding you back. http://goo.gl/Iy1tGH.

Many business gurus believe that entrepreneurs are born not made. While many business people may display many of the attributes of an entrepreneur. There are some that will not be found in any developed or automatic way. It is important to understand that just because you are in business, it doesn’t mean you are an entrepreneur as it could lead you into trouble.


Deep down entrepreneurs are dreamers. They dream habitually about the future, how they can solve a problem, how they can create an opportunity and dream about possibilities and what is possible. It is dreaming that makes entrepreneurs good at strategic thinking and formulating a strategy for future directions. This is because they enjoy flying around the unknown, reinventing and discovering.

Entrepreneurs don’t just dream, they take action on their dreams, as a goal is a dream with a deadline for its accomplishment. Everybody dreams, but perhaps the big difference with entrepreneurs is they have the ability to think and dream big. Whether realistic or not, it is dreaming of success that brings to life most businesses. Dreaming helps to solve problems and will push you through challenges and hard times. Big dreams precede big outcomes and most people who have achieved big things were dreamers.

Visioning capability

It always amazes people how an entrepreneur can see things they can’t. “Where did that come from”, and “How did you see that” are common expressions you will hear from others. Visualisation of the future direction is what entrepreneurs are really good at, a key entrepreneurial characteristic. Often people measure success by material things such as money in the bank, cars, houses and so on.

Building a business, a social enterprise, or working to cure a disease, is different because these things are more intangible. They are not quite so easy to see and are therefore unlikely to happen. It is very hard to develop something you haven’t dreamt of first and then tried to visualise it. Seeing the invisible and the impossible are things entrepreneurs do best.

I find my mind is sometimes like the lens on a camera. Firstly there is something in front of me that is very blurred. Then as I turn the lens the vision starts to come into focus and I can see it clearly. If you visualise the wrong thing then you will, more than likely, create the wrong outcomes.

Connecting the dots

This entrepreneurial characteristic is the hardest for anyone to replicate. You either have it or you don’t. Entrepreneurs can see quite unrelated things and make something of it, such as a new product or a solution to an unrelated recurrent problem. They have the ability to look at everything around them and focus what they see and connect the dots toward their goals.

One thing I have noticed, entrepreneurs have the energy to connect the dots, even when they are going through a trauma themselves. They are comfortable with making decisions based on apparently conflicting and incomplete information. Entrepreneurs have the ability to come to grips with ambiguity, not needing to get agreement on every detail. Yet they can apply analytical skills when more rigour is needed.

The first experience I recall about connecting up the dots, was when I was in high school and was given a ‘Vocational Guidance Test’. I could join up the dots, work out which levers to pull and I could easily see which way the gears were turning. To me, I remember doing this easily when others struggled. It was interesting how the Vocational Guidance people came to the conclusion I should become a motor mechanic. One of my favourite sayings was by George Bernard Shaw’s who said,“Some people see things and say “why”, I see things and say “why not”.

Action Orientated

An entrepreneur is a self-starter and knows that if something needs to be done, they should start it themselves by taking some action. Entrepreneurs frame the issues, set the boundary and get on with it. They are proactive and hate waiting around for someone to give permission. Taking consistent and deliberate action can make or break anything.

Most people are not action oriented and require a little push from the entrepreneur, in order to get things moving. Their obsession with action does create mistakes. However, they know that they learn from their mistakes and failures, which is why they consider it important to be generating mistakes.

Note: For more characteristics and attributes of entrepreneurship refer to the post on “Entrepreneurial Characteristics”.

How do you cultivate entrepreneurship when it is lacking?

If you’re just playing at entrepreneurship, but you want to minimise the risk in a decision, then you say “I don’t have enough information yet”. And keep doing research while going nowhere. A real entrepreneur looks at the issue and says “I don’t know for sure which way to go, and I may never know, but I have as much information as I’m likely to get and I have to make a decision”. They then make one and get on with doing whatever is necessary to make it a positive reality.

  • If you want to encourage entrepreneurship, start developing a tolerance for change.
  • Contrary to popular belief, more money is not the thing most businesses need. They would be happier if they had someone with the skills listed above.
  • Entrepreneurship thrives best within teams and groups in which to collaborate. They think of and try out new innovative ideas.
  • When people oppose ideas “because that’s the way we’ve always done things”, start playing devil’s advocate. Take some new ideas on board.
  • Entrepreneurship is about some very special attributes.
  • Just because you are in business doesn’t mean entrepreneurship is present. You need all these things to be in balance.

What entrepreneurship has done for me

People are often confused, as I was, about what categorises an entrepreneur and what they do. Many people think that if you own a business you’re an entrepreneur, others confuse business failure with entrepreneur failure. They do not understand what an entrepreneur is or, what they can do for a business. Which as an entrepreneur I have found at times to be a little crippling.

The world of business, in my opinion, can be motivating, exhausting, complex, basic, exciting and boring. At times there are problems and challenges that question my values, my beliefs and my capabilities. Occasionally I was unable to function properly and found it exasperating trying to make people understand how I was thinking. I found this very frustrating in my efforts to understand entrepreneurship. What it meant in practical terms, as to why so many people had difficulty starting and running a business, when I didn’t.

For those who have yet to experience running or managing a business, or organisation. It is difficult to appreciate what it takes to launch a new venture until you have experienced it. How do you cope with all the things that need to be done, how can you be sure what you are doing is going to work? Where will you find the right people and the money to run the business? It might sound a bit funny now, but these were questions that I never really thought about. I started doing whatever it took to get things moving. My vision was what drove me to do whatever I needed to do.

I was never short of something to do

Why do I and other entrepreneurs take on so many opportunities in our lives? Early this century, Joseph Schumpeter, the economist, gave us the modern definition of an entrepreneur. “They are the people who destroy the existing economic order by introducing new products and services. These are the people who also create new forms of organisation, or exploit new raw materials”. According to Schumpeter, “that person is most likely to accomplish this destruction by founding a new business but, may also do it within an existing one”.

The study of entrepreneurship reaches back to the early 18th century. But only theoretically until the early 20th century when empirically evidence started to arrive. It was only in the last 40 years there was an insightful resurgence in business. Which was why the word entrepreneurship was never discussed in my family. My grandfather died 50 years ago and my father died 40 years ago. And even though they were entrepreneurs, the concept wasn’t introduced to me until the early 1980s. Until recently, entrepreneurs have not been widely studied and a general lack of knowledge and information of what made them tick.

I have found it difficult to find data about the percentage of true entrepreneurs there are in the general population. My best guesstimate is something less than 10%, but that doesn’t stop everybody thinking they know how to drive a business better than the entrepreneur. Over the last 30 years, I have been a student of entrepreneurship, closely studying many entrepreneurs and am convinced entrepreneurs are born not made. I believe entrepreneurship is part of my DNA. There is nothing like starting to do things on purpose and with the confidence that you are an entrepreneur.

How do entrepreneurs think?

This question has produced a lot of clichés, they thrive on chaos, embrace risk, break moulds and seem to do little hard research. I agree with all of the above as it makes for a fun filled and productive life.

You can’t teach someone to be an entrepreneur even though I have been asked to. Acquiring the complex mix of things such as dreaming, visioning, joining up the dots, drive, passion and the determination to pursue an entrepreneurial course are in the DNA. However, give me someone who has ‘fire in their belly’ to succeed. I will teach them how to develop some of the critical entrepreneurial attributes which will assist them along their journey in life.

Organisations of all shapes and sizes can succeed and fail, as can the entrepreneurs who start them. Why is this when entrepreneurs have so many positive skills? I believe all organisations are subject to forces in the economy and entrepreneurs are no different, they make mistakes like everyone else. One of the main reasons for failure is because people do not follow their gut instincts. They become involved without enough thought and research and as a result become involved in organisations and projects for the wrong reasons.

You can knock me down but I will always get back up

One thing I do know is, as an entrepreneur, you can knock me down many times and I will always stand up and go again. I don’t know where this comes from but I would like to know more. Unfortunately, many people who fail, or suffer a major trauma never recover from it.

You will find true entrepreneurs don’t have to be told to act

Entrepreneurs think laterally, are creative and innovative and don’t wait for leaders to come along before they act. Entrepreneurs are unlike most other people, they don’t start out with concrete goals. Instead, they constantly assess how to use their attributes and whatever resources they have, to develop their aspirations and the aspirations of others.

By contrast, they do this on the fly, while creatively reacting to unforeseen events and demands put on them. This is the reason people think entrepreneurs are reckless risk-takers. Having set a goal, true entrepreneurs carefully search for the best ways to achieve it and plan accordingly. Entrepreneurs are only moderate risk takers. By way of contrast others, who are also successful in their chosen field, tend to use reasoning, logic, research and analysis before they act. This, of course, can take a long time and the opportunity or problem will have disappeared.

My early years

At the age of 19, I finished college and started a ‘real’ job with a big company. I had never heard of entrepreneurship, let alone what the characteristics were. Four years later I was fed up with being employed and the entrepreneurial spirit was obviously starting to stimulate my passion, to own my own business. It took me years to realise what an entrepreneur was. The traditional rules of an employee or manager do not apply to entrepreneurs. This is because their goals and challenges are replaced with vision-driven expectations.

Until the 1980s I thought entrepreneur was just a funny word and I was the same as everyone else, I just had different ideas. My father and grandfather were both entrepreneurs but probably didn’t realise it. The word only became popular after the 1960s even though entrepreneurs have been around forever.

I have always had a ‘home office’ ever since I started work and have always preferred to work there. Travelling to work each day is not my idea of using my time well or productively. In my home office, there are far fewer distractions than in an office complex. The discipline of going to an office each day was not something I needed, but I know many people do. I always like to involve people in pursuit of an opportunity and you don’t need an office to do this.

I used to feel guilty

Until I learned about entrepreneurship I used to feel guilty, as this was not what everyone else did. As an entrepreneur, I had no problem working alone in my home office. I had my routines and standards and could walk down the hallway in the middle of the night if I couldn’t sleep and move a project forward. When I did venture out from the home office, I enjoyed interacting with people much more.

I now know entrepreneurs like to have and use tools that will stimulate their thinking and build knowledge. My first recollection of buying a tool was shortly after taking my first job when I needed a desk in my flat (home office). I couldn’t operate properly without one. Another early recollection was buying books on many different business subjects when I started my first business. This was because I knew I had big gaps in my knowledge about business that needed to be filled.

Turning my hand to anything came naturally to me, it was a natural state of mind. It was easy for me and in my early years I wanted to be involved with everything. I was totally motivated and action orientated and wanted to be successful. For many years I was very naive, thinking I was lucky but, also grateful for what life was throwing at me. Little did I know it was the entrepreneurial spirit inside me, shaping the person I was to become.

Going forward

There are many things I would have done differently if I had understood what I do today. However, I have had a good life and have no regrets. Today, I look more closely at the reasons I get involved with people, businesses and projects. Over the years I have learned to kerb my entrepreneurial enthusiasm and as a result make better decisions, faster than I did previously. I have also learned to handle surprises better, I hated surprises.

In studying my entrepreneurial attributes, I have learned I am the sort of person who needs human involvement. Often I wonder why I was so driven to attend so many meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences.

I’d often say to my wife (who I have been happily married to for 50 years), that I needed a quiet weekend, but within a few hours would be wanting to have someone over for dinner. Today I am now managing to control this urge.

Emails, websites and social media have had a big impact

Unfortunately, they weren’t around in my early years. However applying entrepreneurship to them does make a big difference.

What I like to create is a comfortable working environment. Picking people with good values that I like working with is an important part of that. Resisting distractions from those who don’t believe in what I am doing and entrepreneurship is also important. I don’t forget the ones who want to pull me back to their level all the time.

I have stopped people using me as a convenience and taking up ‘Real Estate in my brain while not paying the rent’. If you are an entrepreneur and struggling a little, don’t go and take a ‘real job’. Apply your attributes to your longer-term aspirations and give yourself time to think, reflect and plan surrounded by good people.

Some days I feel I have given my bit to my family and community so can ease up and focus more on my hobbies. Over the years I have identified a number of hobbies I want to become more involved with. But the entrepreneurial spirit inside me still finds it difficult to say ‘no’ to so many business opportunities available today. I guess business is my true hobby.

We all have choices

Being an entrepreneur you will always have many choices. You can set up your working life to suit your aspirations and can organise a balance between the way you like to live and the way you want to work. I no longer find it a challenge, which is the way I like it at my stage of life. On the occasions, when I have been confronted with a serious problem and had no idea what to do, or how to proceed. I just go into my ‘cave’ and think. Inevitably the ways and means required to address the problem start to materialise, as if by magic.

What delivers the best result for the non-entrepreneur? Maybe being able to find an entrepreneur to provide the help and support you need would be your best option. While the entrepreneur is helping you perhaps you can study their attributes and develop a range of new skills to help you. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to succeed but you will need to take on board a large number of their skills.

The global economy has enhanced opportunities

The global economy is constantly changing and where there is a change there is an opportunity. To make sure you’re on your chosen path, take advice from practical entrepreneurs who have been in your position. Read success stories that are relevant, no matter from which country.

Whatever you do don’t neglect your health

The importance of good health is one thing that doesn’t change. As your workload increases, learn to take a break, eat well, take a walk and put variety into your day. Keep in mind many great companies were started in a recession, you don’t need to wait until conditions are perfect. Hopefully, after reading this post, you will never go back to your old routines.

If you are a young person, real life situations are always the best lessons learned not only about entrepreneurship but about life. Many people argue young entrepreneurs are so effective because they can destroy old businesses, industries and whole countries. I feel this is right as they have no investment in the status quo. Perhaps they don’t understand enough about the way things are done, or how hard disrupting it will be. They are willing to take risks more experienced entrepreneurs never would.

Quotable quotes

“Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs. The means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service. It is capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practised. Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation.The changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation. And they need to know and to apply the principles of successful innovation”. Peter F. Drucker

“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow, not next week, but today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer”.
Nolan Bushnell

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