Opinion: There’s no mystery to succeeding as an entrepreneur: It’s a learned skill

Eric Morse is Executive Director of the Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship, Ivey Business School. Neil McLaughlin is Group Head, Personal and Commercial Banking, Royal Bank of Canada.

An entrepreneur’s journey often begins with no capital, no team, and no market. But almost all start their ventures with an abundant source of optimism. It’s what helps entrepreneurs see their opportunity far beyond its risks, giving them the confidence and ability to stay resilient.

Aside from character traits, there is no predetermined ability for an individual to start and grow a business. While our schools, the business community and the media rightly celebrate their successes, we must be careful not to promote or perpetuate notions of the so-called “entrepreneurial mystique”.

The start-up stage is difficult enough without these artificial barriers that could hold back Canada’s entrepreneurial spirit – especially now that approximately seven million Canadians are considering starting their own business. Encouraging them to join the current 3.5 million self-employed Canadians will help create a more inclusive, sustainable and prosperous country.

Entrepreneurship is a great economic equalizer, creating a pathway for underrepresented groups to participate in the mainstream economy. Forty years ago, women entrepreneurs represented just over 10% of all Canadian entrepreneurs; now it’s a third. Parity between new female and male entrepreneurs could be reached by 2030, according to a 2019 BDC report.

The same study also noted that entrepreneurial activity among newcomers was twice the rate of the Canadian-born population. Moreover, they “create more net jobs and their businesses grow faster” compared to the same group.

Additionally, a subset of high-growth entrepreneurs are helping to diversify the Canadian economy by rethinking or creating new industries. These “gazelles” are more likely to export their goods and services, which in turn generates new wealth in their domestic markets. Admittedly, observations are rare in Canada, although the growth of clean energy exports in recent years has been notable. A concerted effort to develop an ecosystem for this entrepreneurial group would have a multiplier effect on future economic growth.

Today, 90% of private sector workers are employed by entrepreneurs and their businesses, representing a significant number of small and medium-sized businesses that contribute over $1 trillion to Canada’s GDP, along with a source stable revenue for public programs.

But the benefits of a vibrant entrepreneurial culture extend far beyond economics. The speed and singular focus of agile small businesses are well-equipped to help Canada solve big societal challenges, like accelerating our transition to a net-zero economy. Certainly, at Ivey, many students believe that entrepreneurship is the fastest way to develop innovative solutions for a multitude of problems.

However, if our country is to deepen its entrepreneurial culture and inspire more people to start their own businesses, it is crucial that we find ways to engage with Canadians beyond the traditional framework of business schools.

To that end, Ivey has partnered with RBC Future Launch and The Globe and Mail to create a free, self-paced online course that helps aspiring Canadians gain the knowledge and confidence to start and run their own business. Over the eight 20-minute modules, award-winning professors and established entrepreneurs help participants understand key concepts, such as what a good idea looks like; how to acquire customers; and how to obtain financing to grow their business. There is also a module on starting a social enterprise.

This course is introduced at a critical time. The Canadian economy has seen a significant decline in the number of “self-employed” workers during the pandemic. A strong recovery is now underway – the number of new businesses entering in 2021 has increased by more than 5.5% compared to 2019 – but many budding Canadians remain on the sidelines.

Respondents to a recent Ownr poll help explain why. Start-up costs were cited as the top barrier for those wanting to run their own business, but almost 40% of respondents said they were “not sure how to start” their business. For these would-be entrepreneurs and others, turning aspiration into action should be a national goal.

All the more reason to demystify the founder’s journey in building a business. Peter Drucker, one of the leading thinkers in management, put it bluntly: “It’s not magic, it’s not mysterious and it has nothing to do with genes. It is a discipline. »

And, we believe, like all disciplines, it can be taught. Indeed, it must be taught in our schools and beyond. Because the stronger our entrepreneurial sector, the better for Canada.

Your time is valuable. Receive the Top Business Headlines newsletter in your inbox morning or evening. register today.

Leave a Reply