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Ant Bytes — AA10

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Bill Delves is a partner with Ernst & Young and head of the firms Emerging Growth Markets Group. He is also national leader of Ernst &Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year program.

Ernst & Young recently released its Enterpriser Report, which surveyed more than 400 entrepreneurs in the UK. Does it contain any outcomes that would be familiar to Australian entrepreneurs?

In both countries, we see a lot of serial entrepreneurs. More than a third of the British entrepreneurs surveyed planned to develop a new business opportunity after exiting their current venture, compared with only 13 percent who expect to retire. This is a similar range to what we’d expect in Australia.

Through Entrepreneur Of The Year, you’ve come in contact with more than 500 of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs. Do you notice any common characteristcs in successful entrepreneurs?

Award-winning entrepreneurs have a strong sense of vision and strategy and cling to it at all costs. They’re passionate about their businesses and industries and have a high appetite for risk, albeit calculated risk. Entrepreneurs tend to be curious, open-minded extroverts who build strong networks, inspiring loyalty among their teams. While competitive, they focus more on improving and growing their own businesses than they do on the competition.


What are the most typical obstacles businesses face when trying to grow?

Companies of all sizes face more red tape and compliance issues than ever before and must fi nd the expertise and resource to deal with that. Fast-growth companies in Australia can struggle to attract funding because the capital market is still relatively immature here. Some businesses outgrow their management teams and don’t have the management skills or advisory networks needed to step the business up to the next level. Companies also don’t always have enough appetite for risk, and may hesitate to take the plunge when they should, particularly with family businesses. Increasingly, globalisation is becoming an obstacle, as companies face new markets and competitors such as India and China. But the overwhelming challenge for entrepreneurial companies has to be people. Smaller enterprises compete for talent with larger ‘brand’ companies and often struggle to attract and retain the calibre of people needed to grow the business.

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Illustration: Alison de Kruiff


GET YOUR MOTOR HUMMING

If you think sitting in traffic is wasted time, you’re simply not doing it right.

A recent survey revealed that more than 20 percent of Americans do their most creative thinking in the car. “The car may be one of the last environments in which we can escape from our overstimulated lives and just be alone with our thoughts,” says Merton Flemings, director of the Massachusetts-based Lemelson-MIT Program that produces an annual Invention Index gauging American attitudes towards invention and innovation.

The survey’s 1000-plus respondents identified a number of scenarios conducive to creativity, including the workspace or school (19.9%), bed (15.6%), and the “outdoors” (14.4%). Flemings offers some advice for the cerebrally stifled on how to drive creativity when car-bound.

Background music shouldn’t be hard rock, but soothing classical music. Innovation is more likely to bloom in heavy traffic or on the open highway where you can allow your mind to wander.

“Think about a need or what need you might invent,” says Flemings. “Think about your house or your job – what it is that isn’t quite right or what’s missing or what could be better. Put together ideas from disparate fields to come up with something new.”

And in-transit innovation is also good for you’re memory. It’s not always practical (or safe) to jot your revelations down on paper. Next time you’re in traffic and someone honks their horn for apparently no reason, have patience. It could well be the despair of someone whose potentially world-changing concept has just drifted beyond their grasp and away on the fumes.

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