Masterclass: Entrepreneurialism

WHAT IS IT? Hard to spell and say, and even harder to live up to, entrepreneurialism is called for by business leaders and politicians. It is held up as the answer to many of our problems, in both the private and public sectors. It's a slippery phenomenon but, like pornography, you know it when you see it. Entrepreneurs are business builders: they see commercial opportunities and pursue them. They exude an obsessive, never-say-die quality that is hard to fake. Failure is a temporary hiccup. Success is out there somewhere, if you try hard enough.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

WHERE DID IT COME FROM? It has always been human nature to exploit opportunities and improve the conditions one is living in. But small-scale, pre-industrial age business was arguably less entrepreneurial. Businesses grew to a certain size and then stopped - the market didn't need anything bigger. After industrialisation, the possibilities of scale encouraged business owners to aim higher. Perhaps we should blame entrepreneurs for the state of the planet: if they hadn't kept on building bigger companies, we wouldn't all be about to fry.

WHERE IS IT GOING? Entrepreneurialism may be more fashionable than ever. The BBC2 TV series Dragons' Den has turned viewers into business gurus - even those who had no idea they were at all interested in business. Sir Alan Sugar's The Apprentice has had a similar impact. Despite the capital gains tax row, with complaints about the threat to entrepreneurs, Britain remains home to a healthy crop of entrepreneurial talent. The bad news is you have either got the bug or you haven't. Entrepreneurs are often fighting to reverse a perceived injustice or parental mistreatment. If you want your children to become entrepreneurs, treat 'em mean.

FAD QUOTIENT (out of 10): 8 and rising.

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