(article published in The Telegraph UK, Feb 2009)
With gloom on Wall Street, consumer confidence wilting on Main Street, and governments around the world struggling to stem the tide of economic woes, it is time to seek new business inspiration, this time from the entrepreneur.
“The entrepreneur is the only true hero in society”, asserts Staen Von Holstein, founder of the global business incubator, IQUBE. “Every problem there is will be solved eventually by an entrepreneur, which is why it is so important to have governments prioritize the creation an entrepreneurial infrastructure to facilitate entrepreneurship and empower people.”
Von Holstein was speaking at the World Entrepreneurship Forum, the annual gathering held in Evian, France for global entrepreneurs. Co-hosted by EMLYON Business School and KPMG, and under the high patronage of French President, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, the event is the first international think-tank dedicated to entrepreneurs and their role in society. And Washington, Brussels and Beijing are taking on board the innovative analysis, making entrepreneurship a priority in the bid to kick-start the global economy.
“If we can reduce the administrative burden that is the best thing we can do for making the life of entrepreneurs easier,” explains Forum delegate Sylvia Vlaeminck, Director General for Enterprise at the European Commission. “We have put that as a very high priority on the agenda.”
Entrepreneurship continues to be a great source of interest among business school students. With the current crisis in the markets they have to be better prepared to convince investors and improve their probability of success, not just in local markets but also in global business cultures
“Entrepreneurs need to understand how to do business in global, rather than just domestic markets if they are to fulfill their true potential,” says Patrice Houdayer, Dean of leading European business school, EMLYON. “In fact this type of entrepreneurship may be the only viable way of escaping the threat of global recession.”
As part of this commitment, EMLYON Business School has partnered with Babson College in the USA and Zhejiang University in China to create a new platform for the education of the next generation of international entrepreneurs – the Global Entrepreneurship Programme .
“This programme offers a rare opportunity to work in a culturally diverse team with the best international teachers, while living and breathing three of the most important business environments in the world,” says Programme Director Frederic Delmar. “All three contributing schools have been ranked as number one for the teaching of entrepreneurship in their respective regions. Together we believe we’ll be able to provide the global perspective that tomorrow’s business leaders will so very much need.”
The new Global Entrepreneurship Programme (GEP) has begun taking applications for 2009, and will teach students across campuses in Europe, the US and China. Studying, living, and working with students from around the globe is designed to provide a deep cultural experience beyond pure academic studies, whilst developing the necessary capabilities to increase the probability of success in global businesses. The 12-month programme offers the opportunity to work on a semester-long consulting project with an operating company in each of the three regions.
The GEP programme will not just look at classic ‘new company’ entrepreneurship but also ‘intrapreneurship’ in the corporate environment. Veronique Bouchard who teaches on the Global Entrepreneurship Program believes that whilst standard entrepreneurs running their own businesses face a wide range of challenges, those operating within a corporate structure often face even greater obstacles. She has identified the ten pitfalls that ‘intrapreneurs’ should avoid:
- Thinking and acting like an independent entrepreneur
- Counting on generous budgets, unlimited help and general goodwill
- Relying on a single powerful sponsor
- Taking too much notice (or no notice at all) of an immediate superior
- Making the project visible too early
- Concentrating on technical issues at the expense of the business plan
- Ignoring similar or competing projects within the organisation
- Postponing ‘doing the numbers’
- Failing to clarify expected rewards in case of success
- Identifying too closely with the project
“We need to foster the entrepreneurial spirit within large organisations, as well as in the independent sector, if we are to pull ourselves out of this economic downturn,” says Professor Bouchard. “However many big businesses either only pay lip service to the concept or are wary of entrepreneurship getting out of hand and leading to a much feared loss of control. What we are trying to teach here on the Global Entrepreneurship Program is how to spot the pitfalls an ‘intrapreneur’ faces and how to successfully avoid those pitfalls.”
Her belief that entrepreneurs have a role to play not only in start-ups but also in larger organisations is shared by the World Entrepreneurship Forum’s 2008 Entrepreneur for the World, Daniel Borel. The Founder and President of Logitech, whose electronics company last month produced its billionth mouse insists, “Innovation is key – the only way you can add value, change the world, and create a job for yourself in the long term.”
In his acceptance speech, Borel also reminded the Forum audience of what makes an entrepreneur tick. “It’s not about money, above all it’s about passion. It’s also about education. Going to study well is an asset, and we should keep investing in education. We should train our people at every single level. This is the way to differentiate your country, this is the way to be competitive long term in the world.”
A growing number of ambitious professionals are sidestepping the troubled banks, consultancies and consumer goods firms and heading back to business school to hone their entrepreneurial skills. Damien Roux at EMLYON describes international response to GEP as very exciting. “”We have been delighted by response to the Program, with candidate enquiries from around the world. In the current economic environment more and more young professionals are looking for an entrepreneurial alternative to a career in finance or industry. They understand that the modern entrepreneur needs to operate in a global context, so where better to develop their talents than with the world’s most prestigious entrepreneurial business schools.”
And as the new Obama administration considers new legislation to commit the economy to an entrepreneurial spirit, Daniel Borel sees an incredible opportunity for business school study to breathe new business life. “When you look at how much people describe the magnitude of risk today, I would like to say how much opportunity we have ahead of us, reinventing the world.”