Before I completed this module my idea of an entrepreneur was some one who had almost what you would call a "super power for business". I saw them as these individuals that thought and approached issues in a radically different way from your average person, and saw things that no one did, or even could see when it came to making astute business and financial choices. They were those people that had the eureka type, light bulb moments on an almost daily business and came up with such fiendishly clever ideas for making successful business choices that mere mortals like myself may as well give up now.
After completing this module my idea of an entrepreneur has changed greatly. Although it is true that successful entrepreneurs certainly have a different way of approaching and identifying problems and opportunities they are still just normal people like everyone else. After watching the various different talking heads videos on web CT it helped me identify an entrepreneur as a normal person, they were just your average individuals that you meet everyday. For me this was very important in making the concept of entrepreneurship so much more accessible, it made it seem more like something I could actually relate to and maybe even achieve myself. This was very important in sparking my initial interest in the subject and from there I found that I enjoyed the module content and working together in a group to formulate a new business venture. This was a particularly rewarding aspect of the module, being able to sit down with a group of piers and be able to be creative an not be hemmed in by a strict marking criteria were every box must be ticked, although there was a criteria that we did strive to meet, but it was much looser and allowed us some creative licence which was very enjoyable. If I was to undertake the task again I think I would be inclined to be even more daring with our proposal. Even though I am happy with our venture, not many risks were taken, we quickly assessed the assets we as a group possessed and based our venture plan around what was already available. I feel this caused us to play it safe some what with our venture selection.
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My misconceptions of what an entrepreneur actually is was further compounded when looking for a quote to begin this assignment with, because everybody loves a good quote to begin with, plus it eats up a few words! When looking through the list of web definitions most of them were more concerned with defining an entrepreneur as some one who assumes the risk for a new business, this is not what I believed an entrepreneur to be. I expected something more along the lines of, "those with the creative vision to spot opportunities and gaps in a given market, and the drive and ability to exploit these opportunities" (Leech, just there now!)
My own quote is fairly accurate but the reality of being an entrepreneur is not nearly as glamorous as I believed it to be. It requires a massive investment of time, energy and capital from those undertaking any potential business ventures. The common consensus among the material I have researched and from what I have witnessed myself is that an entrepreneur is in fact some one who after identifying a niche or a market area that can be exploited has the resolve and work ethic to see their idea through to its fruition. Before I believed that identifying the area that could be exploited to expand a business into was that defining quality that separates entrepreneurs from the rest of us, but following my studies it appears that this is the easy part, and any one with a little knowledge and common sense can identify an opportunity to make money. What I believe sets an entrepreneur apart from the rest of us is that they actually have the drive and courage necessary to take these ideas and turn them into a business. Many people talk about doing something, but and entrepreneur actually does it.
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With regard to entrepreneurship and its application to current business practices, or even if it is indeed still applicable at all. The answer to this query would have to be a resounding yes. The current business climate has become one of caution and a reluctance to take risks. This is understandable considering the state of the economy over the last number of years, but now that the economy is in the early stages of recovery this is the ideal time for those who have fresh new ideas to exploit a market that is essentially rebuilding it's self from the ground up. Like anything else it is much easier and safer to jump on the band wagon once it is safely rolling, but due to the situation we find our selves in currently there exists the potential, more so than any other time to be involved with a business from the ground floor, from its very conception. Now that our economy is beginning to pick up and money is once again beginning to flow potential investors will be once again looking for new ventures with the potential to offer a considerable return on their investment. Due to the previous economic down turn investors will be less likely to put their capital into the same old markets as before, this is were the entrepreneur has the potential to entice investors with exciting new business ventures.
There are situations were the entrepreneurial attitude is necessary, even essential. But there are also situations were the entrepreneurial instincts of an individual can be counter productive or in some cases destructive. Take for example a small business that is just starting out. In these early years it is vital that the business have a string leader with a clear vision if it is to succeed. This however tends to make those that are in charge, the initial entrepreneur, very involved with every aspect of the business. This is fine if the business remains small, but if it begins to grow this micro management culture is no longer practical. This can create problems within a businesses management structure as entrepreneurs are generally very reluctant to delegate responsibility to others and so conflicts begin to arise. Take for example Apple Computers, co founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs left and were fired respectively, after they had created one of the market leaders in the computer industry. This illustrates were the entrepreneurial attitude proved to be inappropriate. However in contradiction to this, Steve Jobs later returned to Apple sparking a massive surge in the company's profitability. However it appears that as a rule the entrepreneurial attitude is best suited to start up businesses that are getting of the ground. They require the drive and work ethic that a person with the entrepreneurial spirit brings.
Some people ask the question, why don't more company employees act in an entrepreneurial fashion? There can be many reasons for this. The truth of the matter is that some people simply to not posses the inclination to question what is around them and consider different approaches to performing in the market their in. Many employees are happy to simply do what is required of them and leave it at that, these people will never produce entrepreneurial ideas and concepts. On the other hand many employees do have entrepreneurial ideas that in many cases could be of benefit to a business. However various different circumstances generally lead them to refrain from speaking out and voicing their ideas. This could be down to personal self consciousness, a fear of speaking out in case their ideas are not well received or people shoot them down and say they are absurd. Or in other cases employees are reluctant to express their ideas as they fear that perhaps those above them will think that they are questioning their management and that this may lead to some form of retribution or ill favour amongst the upper management. To combat this, an environment of supportive free thinking should be established within a business. This is not easily done, but if people see that the ideas of others are taken on board and encouraged, it will lead to them to be more open with their ideas which will in turn allow them to think in a more entrepreneurial manner.
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Many businesses, either consciously, or unconsciously seem to go out of their way to create an atmosphere or attitude within a company that almost seem to prevent entrepreneurial thinking among its employees. This is often not intended but a negative or overly cautious approach from management will undoubtedly filter through to a company's employees. There are other reasons for a business to not encourage their employees to be entrepreneurial, it may simply come down to a fear of losing valuable employees if they were to go of and develop their own business ventures, and even worse losing an employee that then goes on to create competition for the initial business, because the likely hood is that any employee leaving to pursue their own venture will likely be in the same field, or similar. So there is certainly an underlying justification for those businesses that do not seem to encourage free thinking among their employees, but those with the true entrepreneurial drive will almost always pursue their goals at some stage.
The entrepreneurial approach to business can have a powerful effect on how a company performs in both the profitability and productivity. This is clearly evident at the Apple Company and its relationship with co-founder Steve Jobs. Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Stephen Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. From its initial inception the company became hugely successful, becoming the first truly successful small computer provider. The company grew steadily until they began to hit trouble in the early 1980's; during this time Jobs position came into question. Following further poor sales Jobs was relieved of his position in the company in 1985.
After the departure of Jobs Apple continued to be profitable for the next number of years, but during the 90's a series of failed products left Apple in the doldrums. Following the replacement of the CEO that had initially ousted Jobs in the 80's, Jobs found himself back at the company following Apples buy over of his new project company NeXT. Shortly after returning to Apple Jobs became CEO. Shortly after his appointment Apple released the iMac which is widely considered as the product that turned around the fortunes of the ailing company. A string of widely commercially successful products then followed, including the iPod and iPhone.
The dramatic turn around in Apples fortunes can be attributed in no small part to the influence and leadership style of Steve Jobs. His entrepreneurial instincts appear to be second to none and he has help Apple to successfully navigate their way through all the changes in trends, and in many ways set trends in popular must have gadgets and technology over the past 12 years. Jobs entrepreneurial style was clearly illustrated during a keynote speech he delivered in 2007, he is quoted as saying, "There's an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. 'I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.' And we've always tried to do that at apple. Since the very beginning and we always will"
The above quote clearly illustrates jobs entrepreneurial approach toward business.
This case study clearly demonstrates how having individuals with strong entrepreneurial instincts can be of benefit, it also shows how a company can suffer when this important element is removed. Apple is also a testament to the continuing success of this entrepreneurial attitude as they continue to be an industry leader with the hotly anticipated launch of their next must have gadget the iPad.
During the course of this module my understanding of what an entrepreneur actually is has changed greatly, from my initial naive view that an entrepreneur was some one that possessed almost extraordinary business abilities to the more realistic view that a entrepreneur is simply some one that is prepared to take a risk and more importantly, work hard to achieve it. It is more about being single minded and focusing on your goals rather than some kind of God given gift or luck.
During the group work and formulation of a new venture I learnt much about the intricacies and demands of establishing a business, working with others on such an unstructured and free flowing project was also interesting as it was more representative of a real life situation were people are not so reigned in by meeting strict university criteria.
All in all the entrepreneurship module has been an interesting learning experience.