This article provides students with an overview of why employers are increasingly attempting to recruit graduates with entrepreneurial skills. It also explores why economies within the European Union need more people with imagination and drive to think and act in an entrepreneurial manner to create exciting opportunities for themselves and others. Entrepreneurship is not something special that a few people are born with. Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking that can be nurtured in any environment, not just business start-ups but also in existing private and public organisations. Therefore, it is not surprising that schools and colleges are interested in producing more enterprise-savvy graduates; and governments are committed to equipping people with enterprise skills in all walks of life. This article outlines how important it is for everyone to cultivate his or her entrepreneurial spirit.


The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) provides an annual monitor of the levels of entrepreneurial activity worldwide. If you lived in the United States of America you are twice as likely to become a business owner than if you live in the UK. What makes the USA, the land of opportunity? The answer is both an economic and cultural one.

Northern Ireland (NI) is an example of a country that requires graduates with entrepreneurial skills. NI has a diverse and changing economy that comprises 70% service organisations; 30 % of these service-jobs are in the public sector. Public service jobs are under threat with strong international competition and governmental drives for efficiency. The region a lso includes 55,000 small businesses, which employ 10 people or less, and 57% of businesses are family owned and managed. Compared to other UK regions, NI rates lowest for total entrepreneurial activity among the general population, yet highest for business success rates (1-3 years). This suggests there is a need for people in NI to embrace the fear of failure and become entrepreneurial-minded. In fact such is true for people in all European economies striving to compete in the global marketplace. There is a need to create opportunities in the marketplace and to develop individuals within the knowledge economy.

Defining entrepreneurship

As the story in figure 1 illustrates entrepreneurship is not simply about fame and fortune. The difference between business owners and entrepreneurs is that for the entrepreneur the business becomes an extension of their personality. Similarly

Figure 1: What is entrepreneurship really about?  

Henry Ford (General Motors) once asked a young car engineer to name his chief ambition in life. The young man said it was to become very rich. Everything else was secondary. Sometime later Mr Ford gave the employee a small package. When opened it revealed a pair of metal-rimmed spectacles, but in place of the lenses was a pair of silver dollars. “Put them on” Ford Requested. And the young man did. “Now what do you see?” Ford asked. “Nothing,” the engineer replied, “the money blocks out everything. “Maybe you should rethink that ambition of yours” said the famous carmaker and walked away.

Entrepreneurship is not always about new inventions or business start-ups. Entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do and will often sell-off or even loose a business they become dispassionate about.

 Being entrepreneurial-minded

Entrepreneurial-minded individuals act as change agents and are capable of making significant contributions whether economic or social, within a new venture or an existing organisation. Within a new venture, entrepreneurs can be novices or can accumulate different businesses (portfolio entrepreneurs) or start many businesses but sell them on to build others (serial entrepreneurs). Recently there has been a focus on entrepreneurial teams, those that can achieve more together and have an international focus from the start. They are termed ‘born globals'. Within existing organisations, entrepreneurial-minded people are sometimes referred to as ‘intrapreneurs'. Being intrapreneurial can be as challenging as entrepreneurial because the individual desires to create change in agreement with others of equal authority. For instance, you can imagine the challenges associated with being a change agent in the National Health Service or in establishing a new project within a small divided community.

Entrepreneurship will mean different things to different people in different situations but at its core are attitude, creativity, relationships and opportunity.

Figure 2: Core elements of being entrepreneurial-minded

Core elements of being entrepreneurial-minded

The model illustrated in figure 2 suggests:

If you want to succeed at anything, having the right attitude is vital; you need to understand yourself, your motivations and how you achieve your goals.

Tip: Record yourself interacting with others in an everyday situation – you may behave differently than you think.

You don't need to be a genius to be creative, it is about the ability to create fresh ideas and ideas of added value, that may exist somewhere else – only 4% of new businesses globally are truly novel.

Tip: We commonly think in logical terms, practice thinking laterally, as the old proverb goes: if everyone is thinking the same, no one is thinking.

There is no getting away from working with people! The ability to communicate effectively, express views and appreciate the views of others is essential to working relationships.

Tip: Watch others and see how they behave in different situations, matching their behavior (same language, tonality, and gestures) can build rapport. Remember, people use one of three primary senses to communicate visual, auditory and feelings. 

Opportunities are often disguised as hard work so people don't take them. Do your research, talk to others, make informed decisions, manage resources, risk and situations and set targets for achieving your objectives.

Tip: Reflect on advice from as many different sources as possible and make up your own mind how to develop the opportunity.

It is important to remember, ideas are two-a-penny, we have lots of ideas all the time, ideas need to be shared and developed in order to become feasible. New opportunities can arise from changes in customer tastes, company capabilities or indirect changes happening in the marketplace. Entrepreneurs must be resourceful in order to access timely and relevant information.

In summary entrepreneurship and enterprise are a set of transferable skills, represented by the ability to contribute to organisational well being. Entrepreneurs in the widest sense are people who develop an entrepreneurial mind set and apply this in whatever environment they find themselves in. Today's graduates are entering a dynamic marketplace, changing jobs and even career orientation more than past graduates.

Coupled with the change in opportunities within the Dairy and Food sectors (See figure 3), individuals need to be aware of their entrepreneurial capacity or competencies.

Figure 3: Opportunities within Dairy and Food sectors

As the world has grown richer, farming more intensive and agricultural research more sophisticated we have concentrated food production on just a few varieties. Ninety-five percent of the world's calories now come from only 30 crops, and fifty per cent form just four: rice, maize, wheat and potato… 

We have barely scratched the surface. There are 1000 food crops in India and 1110 in North America. In Africa, Ghana alone has 2500 food plants and there are another 800 in the arid areas of the Sahel. That's 5400 potential crop species before we even begin counting South America, Australia or East Asia Asia (World Health Organisation).


Entrepreneurial skills set

There is now recognition that entrepreneurship can be taught through skills-based initiatives. Education policy makers consider that entrepreneurial thought must begin before further and higher education, it must start at home and at school. Young people need to leave education understanding how organisations operate - this goes beyond knowing how to start a business, public policy has moved towards putting entrepreneurship, as a life-skill, at the heart of the education system. Figure 4 highlights the skills set that enterprise education and training programmes in NI are seeking to develop and enhance in graduates.

Figure 4: Entrepreneurial skills set.

To improve (self-) employability

To gain knowledge about the business world

To develop creative/innovative potential

To be more resourceful

To find new ways of doing things/problem-solving

To understand leadership

To be a better team player

To be a better communicator

To generate awareness of self-others

To think about/develop a personal developmentplan/career portfolio

Policy perspective on entrepreneurship

Most economic policies within the European Union go beyond moving their country up the GEM league table. Economic policy focuses on encouraging people from all walks of life to engage in (a) entrepreneurial activity within existing enterprises and (b) starting and growing businesses. The development agencies charged with delivering policy seek to:

develop a culture that is not begrudging but supports and celebrates entrepreneurial success;

embed entrepreneurship into education at all levels and

encourage organisations to be more entrepreneurial, international and innovative.

Similarly education policies acknowledge that entrepreneurship is about boosting the economy, the infrastructure and ‘lifestyle' of people in society. Education policy makers are aware that vocational and professional careers depend on entrepreneurial skills to be successful. It is only with these skills that people, organisations and regions will really begin to flourish.


There are 43 Countries involved in GEM 2007: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia,  Denmark, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico,  Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,  Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK, Uruguay, USA and Venezuela.

Recommended further reading

Edward de Bono (2004). How to Have a Beautiful Mind. Vermilion, London.

Drucker, Peter, F. (2007). Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd: London.

Friedman, Thomas, L. (2007). The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Picador USA.

Scherwin, David, A. (1998). Conscious Capitalism: Principles for Prosperity, Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd: London.

How to cite this article

Hegarty, Cecilia (2007). [On-line]. Available from: . Accessed: 4 March, 2024.