Book Review from Fiona Rotherham, Business Editor

January 21st, 2011 → 5:59 am @ // No Comments

I’m very pleased to report a fabulous book review from Fiona Rotherham, Managing Editor of Business for Fairfax media.

Mr Evans’ book contains an entrepreneurial balance sheet assessing the typical entrepreneur….  Most failures he has witnessed result from three causes – stupidity, greed and laziness.

Most entrepreneurs he knows have a mix of fear and arrogance – fear of failure that pushes through all obstacles to reach their goals and an arrogance that drives them to take risks others won’t.

“They are simply experts in getting innovative new businesses started.  It is an expertise which can be learned by many.”

You can download the document here.

Or read her text in full

Fear, arrogance a recipe for success

The morning after the selection of the 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year it seems fitting to debate the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur.

It’s the focus of a self-published book launched this week, Becoming an Entrepreneur by Norm Evans.  The former entrepreneur has also helped develop about 40 others via three business incubators he has run in Australia and New Zealand.

The book outlines behaviours that help entrepreneurs succeed.  Many blame their failures on adverse market conditions of product defects but it’s usually their actions that cause the business downfall, Mr Evan’s says.  “These casualties are largely avoidable.”

Potential investors usually view the entrepreneur as the company’s greatest asset or its greatest liability.  So they look long and hard at the founder before parting with their dosh.  As a former editor of Unlimited, a magazine about entrepreneurship, I’ve also studied those brave enough to build a business from scratch.  I’m struck by two things: their passion and drive.

Mr Evans’ book contains an entrepreneurial balance sheet assessing the typical entrepreneur.  On the assets side, entrepreneurs can see beyond conventional wisdom.  They have persistence, high internal motivation, deep expertise in some aspects of building a business, take risks, handle uncertainty, spot and act on opportunities, a clear view on the necessary steps to build the business, take control during the initial start-up, recognise innovative concepts and technologies, and learn and adapt as the business grows.

Typical liabilities are stubbornness, unrealistic expectations of others, lack of appreciation of their own limited expertise, lack of understanding of investors’ desire to reduce risk, inability to understand staff needs for certainty, grabbing too many opportunities at once, inflexibility, unwillingness to delegate, failure to understand timing matters for fast innovation, and inability to learn and adapt during the high-pressure start-up phase.

“Many entrepreneurial behaviours are two sides of the same coin,” Mr Evans says.  “The things that make you a great entrepreneur are also the behaviours that can bring down your business”.

Most failures he has witnessed result from three causes – stupidity, greed and laziness.

About 20 per cent of failures are caused by greed: incoming investors tying the company in knots by trying to manipulate control, team members who think they deserve more of the pie and sabotage the company if they don’t get it, and founders who expect others to help build the business but won’t offer fair compensation.  Laziness affects another 20 per cent of companies.  The biggest cause of failure, he says, is stupidity, compounded by long hours, insufficient sleep and stress.  Stupid acts include abandoning plans half-way through while chasing the next big idea, putting too much faith in external advisers, mistakenly “believing their own press” and thinking early success means they don’t need further help.

The big debate has always been whether entrepreneurship is taught or innate.  Mr Evans quotes a successful entrepreneur who says entrepreneurs are people born without fear.  In his view, the ability to business risk is something you’re born with, like red hair.

But he thinks entrepreneurial behaviour is learnt and stems from economic necessity or being raised to think you can achieve anything.

Most entrepreneurs he knows have a mix of fear and arrogance – fear of failure that pushes through all obstacles to reach their goals and an arrogance that drives them to take risks others won’t.

“They are simply experts in getting innovative new businesses started.  It is an expertise which can be learned by many.”

Book Review by Fiona Rotherham, Business Editor


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