Being enterprising

Once a year the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) publishes country reports, setting out the rate at which new businesses are started, the number of serial entrepreneurs, the sense of confidence amongst entrepreneurs, and so forth. The most recent published report is for the year 2008. I might add as an aside that the report was co-written and published in DCU’s Business School.

The snapshot of entrepreneurship that the report presents is an interesting one, as it shows that Ireland performs rather well. It shows that 13.3 per cent of the Irish population have started their own business, a high figure by international standards. Furthermore, the survey revealed that even as the economic downturn was starting to kick in the rate of start-ups did not decline (though the confidence of the entrepreneurs did, a little).  Interestingly, the rate of start-ups in Ireland is significantly higher than across the EU, and only marginally lower than in the United States.

All of this is hugely important for Ireland as we try to find a way out of recession. What is perhaps missing, despite all the entrepreneurial activity, is a widely perceived culture of enterprise. Too often society’s role models are the professionals, or public servants, or people in safe jobs. We have not yet managed to see the enterprising risk-takers as the white knights of economic regeneration, and this is becoming increasingly important.

DCU has been toying with all this for a while, partly through the development of the Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship, established with the support of the family of the late Tony Ryan. In due course I am hoping that we will make entrepreneurship an option available to all students. And I really hope that this will catch on elsewhere also. We find that we are a country with a major ability to be entrepreneurial; we need to make such activity perceived as heroic and noble. Our future is tied up with that.

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5 Comments on “Being enterprising”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Irish people are not short of that type of spirit except on this Island.
    And quite honestly by the time it gets to you it is way too late.
    On this island -all of it- there are legacy problems that need to be dealt with, where the vast majority of business at one point was Protestant, of the different types. The opposition developed to combat that monopoly was Catholic, for about 150 this stayed pretty much intact, until the advent of the Republican business grouping.
    So, nowadays, there are four or five business groups and for any enterprise to survive much after birth it needs to be part of one or another of those groups.

  2. Big Bad John Says:

    I speak as someone without an entrepreneurial bone in his body. However, I think I’m a reasonably good worker and have, over the years, striven to give reasonable value for money to those who have employed my skills, such as they are.
    One of the ironies of the current economic catastrophe is that one of the solutions almost immediately recommended to anyone getting the old heave-ho from their job is to “set up your own business”.
    This counsel is almost invariably given by a civil servant – ie a person in the safest (so far anyway) job in the country!

  3. iain Says:

    Heartening to hear, but I wonder to what extent are many of these small enterprises built on the need to supply and service the needs of the big multinationals that have set up in the country. The problem there is of course that as these companies withdraw from Ireland, the knock-on effect in local areas can be very significant and people’s efforts and investment in their ventures are at risk.


  4. The 3 previous comments sum up the attitude to entrepreneurship in Ireland. The real issue in Ireland is the attitude to entepreneurs. there are almost no supports or guidance to young people trying to start busineses, (hopefully the DCU initiative an help ease that problem). Banks don,t want to know you unless your family has money or if your family business is successful. THe real real problem however is the amount of bureaucracy required to start a business. To get over the bureaucracy and secure adequate finance, then management skills of various natures, e.g. HR, Finanancial management, Sales skills, production skills (engineers etc depending on the manufacturing process), legal skills, are all so complicated that they would frighten the living daylights out of an entrepreneur, and thus render them useless and most likely they walk away from the potential business.

    What is required is a complete change of attitude towards entrepreneurs, and the provision of sufficient assistance until the entrepreneur has acquired the skills or has hired the appropriate expertise, and last but not least, easy access to adequate funds.

    Entrepreneurs are essentially gamblers, and while there are plenty of gamblers backing horses and dogs and not every gambler wins, then entrepreneurs will not always win, but the experience they gain on the way will serve them well in the future, so long as we do not look at them failed entrepreneurs. We need to admire them for their bravery (in having a go) and hopefully their next gamble pays off and employs ten thousand people. That would give handsome returns to the state for whatever assistance is given to them en-route.


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