Historically the SME business community has provided the backbone of economic activity in the UK and provided the majority of jobs. In 2018 Government figures show that out of a total of 5.7 million private sector businesses in the UK, 99% are SMEs, employing 60% of the workforce and generating 52% of the turnover. Entrepreneurial ventures continue to lift international economies, with significant growth in new enterprise creation coupled with lower bankruptcy rates, across the OECD’s 35 countries (OECD, 2018). And new businesses – and existing businesses – need entrepreneurs to continue to keep our economies afloat.
So, what makes a successful entrepreneur? At the University of Bath they believe that being entrepreneurial is about seeing and pursuing opportunities: not accepting the status quo, imagining a different future, making changes and making things better. In this context, being ‘entrepreneurial’ is more than being a business owner, it’s a way of thinking.
They have identified are five key qualities that are at the core of a successful entrepreneur’s mindset:
1. Imagine a better world
A key step to being a successful entrepreneur centres on creativity and innovation. To have vision, you need to be able to imagine a better world. Forward thinking is an essential part of this; avoiding taking for granted existing things or status quo assumptions, as these can restrict broader thinking. Visualising the world without these preconceived boundaries to see the possibilities of a better way.
2. Be committed
To make an idea a reality you need to step into the unknown, which can be scary. Successful entrepreneurs understand what drives them, what motivates them. They use this as their fuel to stay committed, to keep going, to make it happen. They are clear about their personal vision as well as the vision for their business.
3. Think, rethink and think again
Successful entrepreneurs think differently. They revisit and re-evaluate their goals along their journey. They regularly think back to their vision and ask ‘what can reality now look like?’ They continuously hone, adapt and improve their business based on this understanding.
4. Be social
Entrepreneurship is fundamentally a social activity: you create value for others and successful entrepreneurs understand you can’t do this alone. Whether it is other business owners, customers or employees, they share their experience and use others’ experience too to build a better business.
5. Accept change
Successful entrepreneurs accept change. They understand that not everything in life or business happens exactly as you anticipate. They don’t worry about being 100 per cent in control and have come to accept that things may change along their journey. If something goes wrong, they think about why, take a step back to reflect and reimagine the future. Entrepreneurship is a learning mindset, you need to know exactly what you are trying to create and why, so you will be able to take a step back, and formulate a new plan when obstacles come your way. It is about planning rather than a plan.
Ultimately entrepreneurship is about being in the driving seat on a journey of your choosing. What lies within your control is how you think and the skill with which you act. The trail you blaze is sprinkled with luck and misfortune. Don’t get complacent about past successes, you need to continually reinvent and innovate to have a stake in an ever-changing future. And you need to use all the resources at your disposal to give yourself and your business the best possible chance to achieve great success in the future – to achieve your personal AND your company vision.
Jo Clarkson – TAB