The time-honoured, never-say-die spirit of British entrepreneurs has been highlighted in an Independent piece about a group of Northern business owners who trekked to London to ask for funding at a special, Bank of England pitching event.
UK Business Angels Association leader Jenny Tooth points out in the piece that 77% of the nation’s business funding goes to London, Cambridge and Oxford – even though so many other innovations come from elsewhere. As such, the Northern owners’ desire to join an event in which 30 entrepreneurs had a minute each to pitch their ideas speaks volumes about their grit and determination.
Over at Forbes, meanwhile, entrepreneur Michele Romanow – one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women, and a panellist on its version of Dragons Den – has provided further insights into that grit, saying: “Once you start, and realise it’s not working, you start to iterate and run these experiments, until you get what eventually becomes innovative. You have to fail. You shouldn’t feel like you’re not there, or you don’t have the perfect idea – you only really get there by trying a bunch of ideas.
“There are going to be new threats that we didn’t dream of at the time – and the best entrepreneurs are the ones that that just keep trying. I’m looking for an entrepreneur with a ‘chip on their shoulder’– that trait, that gene, I’ve always been impressed by.”
Former government small business adviser Lord Young once said: “Enterprise means more than just the ability to become an entrepreneur. It is that quality that gives an individual a positive outlook – an ability to see the glass as half full rather than half empty, and is a valuable attribute for the whole of life.”
Is that quality something that people are only ever born with – or can it be learned? And if so, how?
The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “What we’re really talking about here is resilience: the ability to keep going when things don’t go spectacularly, or even adequately, well. So many entrepreneurs have, indeed, failed – and of course, failure is the gateway to developing resilience. Like any other skill, you get better at business through practice. You get better at picking yourself up. You get better at recovering.”
Cooper notes: “the ability to accept your own mistakes as natural outgrowths of your entrepreneurial activities is important. But so is the ability to let go of an idea if it doesn’t make commercial sense, or if it’s not working, or if its time hasn’t come, and move on to another one. That’s infinitely preferable to sticking with the one you’d originally had in mind, even when all the available signs are telling you that it’s not delivering the sorts of results that you’d hoped it would.”
She explains: “the self-belief that Romanow and Lord Young highlight derives heavily from a resilience that is built up over time – and is often accompanied by a keen self-awareness, too. Successful entrepreneurs don’t fall into the trap of deluding themselves. They have the capacity to reflect honestly upon their ideas, and not get carried away by hopes that something is going to be a hit, when the reverse is more likely to be the case.
“Self-awareness is really key to whether you will – or will not – develop the necessary attributes. Your progress depends heavily upon not kidding yourself about the strength of your concepts, or your ability to handle failure. That requires some thorough, introspective explorations of what resilience and success really mean to you – plus what kind of goal you’re trying to pursue, and what your overarching values are.”
Cooper adds: “You can develop and learn the entrepreneurial mindset. But it all starts with that honest and frank appraisal of yourself. Of course, that can be rather uncomfortable – which is why a lot of people avoid it. But if you can survive that internal reckoning, and deal with the slings and arrows of having a go in the business world with the fruits of your imagination, then you can undoubtedly hone yourself into an entrepreneur.”
For further thoughts on how to develop resilience, check out these learning resources from the Institute