Working It Out: Here’s what makes an entrepreneur

Five ways how entrepreneurial culture can and should be encouraged today.

Written by Siddhartha S | New Delhi | Published:October 5, 2016 12:59 pm
Successful lamp head businesswoman with arms up Give respect to a hustler. They might appear broke and stupid to you, but they are brave souls with bright ideas. (Source: Thinkstock Images)

“Nobody makes it alone. Life or business we all need some help”

For years, I researched on the question “Are entrepreneurs made or are they born?” While the question may not be a circular one like the ‘chicken or egg’, but it is equally complicated. We all assume that entrepreneurs are special human beings who choose to walk a different path because they are braver than others. The truth is that they are just normal human beings who decide to execute a business idea they believe in. They have their own fears, doubts and inhibitions.

I agree, success is a result of personal responsibility one takes in life; but I also strongly feel that environment also plays a huge role in determining the fate of entrepreneurship in any nation. There is a reason why Israel has more successful start-ups than a nation like India. Here are certain things that we can do to create and nurture more entrepreneurs in any country.

1. Family and friends should offer the safety net
Friends and family members play a huge role in determining how much risk a person is willing to take during his or her entrepreneurial journey. The first thing that all salaried people in a family need to understand is that they have a job because the founder of their company decided to build a company rather than finding a job. Give respect to a hustler. They might appear broke and stupid to you, but they are brave souls.
I became an entrepreneur because of the support I got from my family because nobody makes it alone. It is funny that how many relationships break because the one of the person in a relationship decides to leave his or her job to start a business. If you have a job and do not want to start a business, learn to encourage your spouse to take the risk of growth exponentially in life. Be prudent and do not bet everything on the roll of a dice, but once a while, it is advisable to take risks that will not destroy you financially. Assure the entrepreneurs that if they fail, you will support them in getting their life back on track. The real failure is not in failing but in not trying. Nothing makes you smarter than a failure does.

2. Employers should give some creative freedom
Every company with over $100 million in yearly revenue should have few incubators to nurture entrepreneurial aspirations of their employees. I want you to imagine an organisation that provides some office space on a weekend to employees who wish to start-up. Yes, it might seem unthinkable now, but what if a company identifies a set of interested employees and offer than all the resources to launch their business idea on a weekend. The terms of the contract should offer the employer company a certain equity in the business and nature of business should be non-competing.
This is how energies are unleashed in the corporate world. Treat the non-competing business started by your employee as your investment for the future. If you lose a few employees to this addictive journey of full-time entrepreneurship, it is fine too. Employees are easily replaceable and as an employer you can always find another person to do the job. Imagine what you will gain as the equity holder of a potential business.
If the start-up of one of your employee looks promising, give them an unpaid leave to test it out in the market for a period of 24-36 months. Keep their job secure and ask them to train their replacement before leaving. Give them the option to work part time by taking a salary cut.

3. Government should give them resources
Few things that are desirable, if not a necessity, to start a business today are – office space, connectivity and ease of doing business at a particular location. Imagine if the government helped aspiring entrepreneurs to register their business in a single day or less? Also, if it provided entrepreneurs with tax breaks, shared office space and all the possible support that any government can give. I can bet that through these simple measures, the growth of start-ups in any country will improve significantly. The speeches given by the country’s leader should be accompanied by concrete action at the ground level, if we want more and more businesses to succeed in future. The local, state and the central government bodies should work together to create the right ecosystem and infrastructure conducive to start-ups.

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4. Universities should give them the right education
Sometimes, it really shocks me to see the sheer level of unpreparedness with which people begin their business journey. Risk comes from what you do not know. It makes a lot of sense to impart practical knowledge related to business modelling and planning in every college. The management of the educational institutes should dedicate a fixed proportion of its budgets and time to enhance entrepreneurship on campus. Every college should float a couple of campus companies. The students who work there should be given extra credits and resources to make the company a bigger success.
Running a campus company can teach more to your students than any campus event can possibly teach them. If entrepreneurship cannot be taught as a full-fledged subject in your college, then make sure you organise special classes and workshops on this topic. I remember running such workshops for a college for about five years successfully and students benefited tremendously from such sessions.

5. Investors should give them the right network and funding
Knowledge is the most important resource. The second most important resource is money. Investors and entrepreneurs in any society should provide the right mentorship and funding to aspiring entrepreneurs. They should be like the hungry sports selectors who are always looking for the right talent in the country. Do not invest in companies where the entrepreneurs do not have solid work-ethics. Flamboyance destroys money and value. We are currently seeing a lot of start-ups going bust in India these days. The sole reason is that billions of dollars of investor money was pumped into some companies without testing the commitment, ethics and knowledge of the founders.

These five pillars of entrepreneurship ecosystem comprising family, employer, government, academia and investors, can change the fate of any country.