7 Mantras For Maverick Entrepreneurs

Last Updated Nov 18, 2009 8:56 AM EST

Enterprise UK, the organisation set up to encourage social entrepreneurship and run by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills has kicked off Global Entrepreneurship Week. The event was launched by a morning of panel discussions at the British Library in London and while there was some sage advice from big business consultants and successful start-up kings, not all of it was in line with current accepted thinking.

Despite Dragon Peter Jones, who represented Enterprise UK, pressing for the need for the UK at large and the UK media in particular to speak up for British entrepreneurs and for entrepreneurship to be part of the national curriculum, other speakers advocated a bit of a more maverick approach.

Here's some of the more subversive advice to come from the panellists:

  1. Entrepreneurship is a symptom of the step-change from protected to free-market economy. Jim O'Neill, Head of Global Economic Research, Goldman Sachs noted the growth in innovation in BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries is a result of the opening up of the opportunities to accrue and enjoy wealth. Seeing other rags-to-riches stories inspires further entrepreneurship. Established markets like the UK reinforce the idea that the opportunities have already been bagged by the privileged.
  2. Entrepreneurship cannot be taught by established business schools. Carl Schramm, CEO of Kaufmann Foundation suggested that even though many business schools and universities offer courses in entrepreneurship, they measure their success by how many graduates they place into companies like KPMG or McKinsey. David Wei, CEO of Chinese internet start-up alibaba.com, noted how many entrepreneurs failed to finish their education, including the founder of his company.
  3. Throw out your business plan. Matt Britten, UK MD of Google said the search engine to software giant has moved from business model to business model with no clear plan, but by developing innovations as they are conceived by its staff. Wei also advocates an alfresco approach of not rigidly cleaving to a strategy formed before you could see the market clearly with 20/20 hindsight.
  4. The government can't help you. This also comes from Wei, who operates in a market that has emerged from tight government control, so it's worth taking with a pinch of salt. But, it's useful as a response to people who complain business regulation in the UK hampers innovation. Innovators are always at odds with the rest of the world, because they are trying to do something new and different. Real entrepreneurs aren't discouraged if the regulatory environment hasn't made things easy for them.
  5. Without a mentor, you are stuffed. Emma Harrison, founder of A4E said she always relied on the wisdom of more experienced people she's met along the way. She differentiates her gurus from the formal mentoring that is offered through corporate training. She wore out shoe-leather and banged down people's doors to get the guidance she needed.
  6. Market yourself every day. Harrison again -- she told the audience to get a piece of A4 paper, divide it into four and write a new marketing idea in each box every day, to be completed that day by you. Whatever else you think you've accomplished that day, you've achieved nothing if you don't do that.
  7. Topple the old entrepreneur icons. Richard Branson and James Dyson stopped being entrepreneurs a long time ago. Wei said we need some new start-up gods to worship. Do you have any likely contenders to put on the plinth? Send in a comment below.
(Pic: HikingArtist.com cc2.0)