Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

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By Professor Kiran Trehan, Professor of Leadership and Enterprise Development, and Joel Blake, founder MD of

Kiran Trehan on becoming a leader

Do you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur? With TV reality shows such as The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders, we need to ask how do we develop leaders in micro and small enterprises?

Entrepreneurial leadership requires a set of skills that are highly personal and complex. The journey of entrepreneurship involves a process of continual learning and development – not only about the world of business but also about the individual and their leadership capability.

Many people argue that we can equip young people with the necessary skills to engage in entrepreneurship, whilst others suggest that some of the necessary skills are ‘inborn’ and can’t be taught. One thing that is certain in the journey of starting a business is that around every corner there will be surprises and you will be faced with difficult decisions that could make or break the success of your venture.

Before starting out on this journey it is worth considering the motives and values for starting a business, this is important because it will shape your drive and ambition.  Entrepreneurship is a highly personal journey, one with many ups and downs. Everybody wants their business to grow, but we often don’t stop to ask what that growth might mean. It’s tough to really ask yourself if you are ready to take that next step, because the most important decision for any entrepreneur is choosing what sort of business he or she wants, yet most give little thought to this aspect.

Leadership is an important part of small- and medium-size enterprises’ (SMEs’) efforts to create a sustainable business. Research by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on micro-businesses has investigated the barriers that prevent owners from developing their businesses. Its findings are published in the research report, Understanding Growth in Microbusinesses. It identified three broad archetypes of constraint: capacity, market and vision. Only a minority of micro-businesses were held back by external market constraints (45%). Much more common constraints were vision (72%) and capacity (67%) – all of which have implications for leadership development. Knowing what your own motivations are and what the values you wish to uphold in your business are is important in helping to identify where you need to improve your skills.

Joel Blake on entrepreneurial leadership

(Joel is an entrepreneur and advisor with over 15 years’ experience in supporting business growth. He is also founder MD of

Close your eyes and imagine. The bright lights of success. The powerful emotion of having a simple, humble idea and seeing it manifest. The satisfaction of seeing all your sacrifices make sense. Now open your eyes, to the reality. We live in a culture where entrepreneurial failure is seen as a bad thing. The scars of your wasted efforts become a brand that carries an air of disappointment. But the societal perception of entrepreneurial success or failure, is a paradoxical concept. This is because only you can truly define what success means to you – be it being able to pay your bills, to changing the lives of those in your community, right through to living the vida loca with more 0000s in your bank account than you could ever imagine; the act of entrepreneurship is more about the definition of you.

I started my first ever business at the age of 21 – I remember making my own business cards out of some spare A4 card, used Microsoft Publisher to design them myself, bought a £10 laminator to wrap them so they would last longer, and started contacting schools, to see if they would let me support their pupils from BAME backgrounds at risk of exclusion.

I did not have a clue about how to run a business, but I could not shift the ache in my soul to help diverse young people maximise their potential, regardless of any difference that they have. Roll on 18 years and six start-ups later, (three out and out failures, two made a very decent living), entrepreneurship is about how you free the leader within you and nothing can ever prepare you for the mental emotional, physical and spiritual journey that being an entrepreneur takes you on.


If you want to start your own business and become an entrepreneur here are some of our top tips;

  1. Know why you want to start a business – what are your motives and end goal?
  2. Make sure your personal and business goals are aligned
  3. Know your market and what makes you stand out from the crowd
  4. Be prepared to take full responsibility for your actions and the decisions you make
  5. The road to success is a rocky one and there will be challenging times ahead to succeed you need to be able to embrace change and difficulties
  6. Know where you can get help from before you need it

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