The old adage “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it” provides all budding entrepreneurs with a very big clue, some advanced warning, or some salient advice depending on how you look at it. The facts, of course, are hard to ignore. Nine out of ten new ventures fail and history is littered with the husks of thousands of great ideas that never reached success. This may help explain why entrepreneurs are so rare. The challenges they undertake are often loaded with risk and they are hard. They also operate beyond the pain envelope of many, but when it all comes together, it is a beautiful thing. The famous Austrian-born American economist Joseph Schumpeter famously stated that entrepreneurs played a critical role in a vibrant economy. He could see their agility and flexibility introduced new products at a faster rate than large conglomerates, and this he argued, was very good for an economy’s health.
This is particularly true in a small economy like New Zealand, where entrepreneurship is critical. The late Sir Paul Callaghan saw entrepreneurship as the core fuel for driving and successfully commercializing innovation. This he suggested would be one of the keys to closing the prosperity gap between New Zealand and other OECD countries. Sir Paul Callaghan clearly and correctly identified entrepreneurship as an important link to the economy’s growth engine.
Ticking both the innovation and entrepreneurship boxes, Will Lomax, the founder of Onguard Group has just been named as a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards. This is a very prestigious nomination and he enjoys the privilege with 16 of New Zealand’s very best entrepreneurs. Sir Paul challenged New Zealand to wean themselves off primary industry and tourism. He wanted to leverage knowledge and smarts. He wanted to harness savvy Kiwi ingenuity in ways that would enrich the nation. He would be proud of Will, because that is exactly what this entrepreneur has done.
I can’t put this any better than Shaun Hendy, who suggested, “Adventure is not just about backpacks and combi vans, it is also about the businesses we start and the national challenges we accept. We need to become more comfortable with trying new things and with governments that take risks. We must build greater diversity in our economy and not always back the things that will deliver the greatest short-term growth. We need to stop thinking we can do it all ourselves and collaborate when and where we must.” This really sums up what Will Lomax has achieved at Onguard Group Onguard Group and as a country we need to get behind these guys and support them wherever we can because we need way more of them if we are going to get where we want to go.
For me personally, and I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurs, the three key things that I focus on are courage, curiosity and vision. In my view, the successful entrepreneur needs all three. Firstly, courage. This is key because in entrepreneurial ventures the stakes are always high and failure hurts. Failure comes in many forms too. It includes financial loss, professional setbacks, and personal embarrassment. Nothing entrepreneurial happens either until the level of passion, conviction and courage rises above the fear of failure.
Second, Steve Jobs famously told us to stay curious. Curiosity is the face of entrepreneurship because the eyes see what isn’t there, the ears hear what others miss, the nose smells opportunity, and the mouth asks “What if?”. There are many business owners who are not curious (sadly), but there are no entrepreneurs who are not curious. It goes with the territory.
Last, but not least is vision. Entrepreneurs have the party trick of being able to join the dots. This allows them to see fresh opportunities before and more clearly than others. Steve Jobs was an excellent exponent of this. He had an innate ability to sense, synthesise and extract opportunities others couldn’t even imagine, let alone see. So, from all of us who care about entrepreneurship let’s give it up for Will Lomax, a superb candidate for the 2017 EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards. Good luck, Will.