Business development 26 April 2016

Can you teach people to be successful entrepreneurs?

Is it possible to educate entrepreneurs to success?
Is entrepreneurship a born gift or a learned trait? Writing for Business Advice, Small Business Charter chairman and ByBox CEO Stuart Miller muses on whether its possible to educate entrepreneurs to success.

Entrepreneurs are critical to the long-term health of any economy for one simple reason successful entrepreneurs create jobs. Given the importance of sustainable job creation, it is no surprise that the UK government has fallen in love with entrepreneurship education.

The failure rates of entrepreneurs are so eye-watering that anything we can do to improve the chances of success are worth a go. But does any of it actually work? Put simply, can you teach people to be successful entrepreneurs?

Business schools get it

Business schools are clearly optimistic that they have a role to play in shaping the future of the next billion-dollar-business. Virtually every UK business school has a course or module with the words new venture, entrepreneurship? or ‘startup? in the title. Would-be entrepreneurs are equally enthusiastic, as evidenced by the popularity of these modules on MBA courses and the like. But what is in the curriculum and does it contain magic dust?

At first glance, the content makes a lot of sense to anybody committed to building a business from scratch. All of the basics are covered, from business planning to pitching your plan to managing cashflow. The real world? is also accommodated by providing ready access to a new breed of entrepreneurs-in-residence who are more than happy to share the pain and the glory of their start-up journey.

But what about creating the idea in the first place? Most people mistakenly believe that at the heart of every great business is a great idea. Investors typically disagree, preferring instead to back great people rather than great ideas average people with a great idea will mess it up, whereas great people with the wrong idea will change it until it works. But even when it comes to generating and evaluating ideas, business schools have new words and courses for that too. Just enter ideation at a business school? into a search engine and youll get the gist.

If most schools are offering courses with appropriate entrepreneurial content, how do young upstarts select the best place to progress their startups? Help is at hand through the Lord Young-inspired Small Business Charter (SBC).

The SBC provides the kite mark for UK business schools to validate and showcase their capabilities in the world of entrepreneurship and SMEs. Schools applying for SBC accreditation have to satisfy 30 criteria, ranging from evidencing entrepreneurially-focussed growth programmes? to engagement with SMEs.

Is that all there is to alchemy?

So there we have it. Roll-up and enrol at an SBC-accredited business school. Go on the course, turn the handle and out pops a successful new venture and job creation machine. Sadly, it isnt as simple as that. Ive been fortunate to have experienced all of the areas outlined above. I did a business degree at Loughborough University, am on the board of the SBC and an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Glendonbrook Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, as well as an industry advisor at the Said Business School. Ive been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, helping to create well over a thousand jobs. There is absolutely no doubt that business schools have a crucial role to play in increasing an entrepreneur’s chances of success. But they cannot teach the magic ingredient.


Business development