Entrepreneurship: Is Féidir Linn (Yes, We Can)

Minister Frances Fitzgerald and John Bubbles


The day after President Obama (@barackobama) gave Ireland a shot of optimism, it is worth remembering that plenty of hard work is still needed to pull the country of the mire.

Ruminating on an insightful conversation he had with his hairdresser about her business, Harvard Business Review blogger, John Baldoni, said, “Inspiration is useless without perspiration.”

A leadership development consultant, Baldoni was talking about entrepreneurs and the traits they share: Practicality, purposefulness and impatience. But they make things happen by hard work, he said. With unemployment still an issue in America (as it is in Ireland), Baldoni noted hard-working entrepreneurs are needed:

“The future of our economy may indeed depend upon such folks, whether they are running a company that cuts hair, or running a company that makes microprocessors.”

Elsewhere on the HBR website, Judith Hurwitz tracked the fortunes of one entrepreneur who has done spectacularly well: Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn. President & CEO of Hurwitz Associates, the author said three smart moves kept LinkedIn steaming along:

“It shifted the focus quickly to infrastructure, relationships, and planning … It drew up, and followed, a roadmap … It stuck with its target market.”

But the interesting part is that Hoffman was “lucky” to start up during the last downturn, according to Hurwitz. The internet bubble had burst in 2003, there were no tech IPOs and observers had lost interest in the sector. That quiet time gave LinkedIn “time to stay under the radar as it figured out what it wanted to be when it grew up,” she said.

Those factors are currently at play in Ireland. We have banks dragging an entire economy under while entrepreneurs work feverishly away. (Some of their more recent antics can be read here or here).

Meanwhile, some advice — apparently solicited — comes from the U.S. to the Irish government on how to encourage entrepreneurship in children and youth. Writing in Forbes, Daniel Isenberg, founder and director of Babson Global’s Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project, outlined eight key steps to get kids interested.

  • Directly impact children and get the parents as a bonus
  • Create cultural icons
  • Encourage work
  • Teach home budgeting
  • Organize enterprise experiences
  • Introduce formal entrepreneurship classes in schools
  • Encourage role models
  • Encourage and celebrate experimentation and independent thinking

Isenberg said Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland’s Minister of Children, had asked him what needs to be done. But she will need to work with her government colleagues in the Department of Education & Skills if they are serious about encouraging entrepreneurship.

In the meantime, a lot can be done to expose kids to role models. Economist David McWilliams has often lamented how the Irish educational system has a built-in bias towards steering kids towards the protected professions like medicine and law. Bringing a few entrepreneurs in to the classroom for a chat would be an easy start towards broadening students’ minds.

Picture of Frances Fitzgerald taken from the DoC under Re-use of Public Sector Information.