Entrepreneurs July 8, 2010

Entrepreneurs – Issue 52

And then one day the risk to
remain tight in a bud was more
painful than the risk it took to

I love this line by Anais Nin, a French author famous
for her published journals and erotica, because it
speaks to an aspect of human spirit I admire. People
who posses this quality are those you might meet, or
work with, who are too big for one place.

One immediately gets the sense when near them that
they will not stay long; they can’t, one place is too
confining for their ideas, spirit and inclination.
While others are quite content to leave well enough
alone, these are the people searching for the next
opportunity or adventure and wondering how they
might raise the bar even higher. One type of person is
not better or worse, it is just a difference in the way
people are wired.

There is a name for these people – entrepreneurs.
I happen to know a few entrepreneurs, as I am
sure do you, so thought it might be amusing to
explore what these people have in common and
more importantly discover what makes them
tick and what if anything, might we do to create
the right environment and atmosphere to spawn
entrepreneurship, both at Geyer and in the
workplaces we create. The reality is that whether
you call it entrepreneurialism, innovation, creativity or
verve it is what we all want in the companies we work

Recently the blog Grasshopper conducted a survey,
“The Entrepreneur State of Mind,” which provided a
number of interesting statistics about entrepreneurs.
The first is that they are young, broke and hungry and
very optimistic. 52% use iPhones, 48% have been to
college and 54% prefer Macs to PCs. Oddly 70% are
male, they give no reasonable explanation for this,
but when you think about who has started companies
it is generally the dudes. Although, living with three
dudes I would suggest a woman gave them the idea
in the first place and then had to remind them 12
times to do it.

When questioned about the famous entrepreneur
‘the Donald’ – as in Trump. 33% of the entrepreneurs
surveyed thought he was a great marketer, 10%
thought he was a genius, 5% thought he had
incredible hair, 19% thought he was something that
mail marshal wont let me say and 33% really couldn’t
give a stuff.

It is not too much of a surprise to learn the age
bracket for the typical entrepreneurs is 26 – 35, this
aligns with another trait of the entrepreneur, they are
generally in good health.

It’s a bit obviously when you consider they must be
physically resilient to work for extended periods of
time on a new ideas, or business ventures. I have
often heard one of my more entrepreneurial friends
say they don’t have time to be sick – “I just don’t do
that s#$t” she says, overcoming her physical self
with the mental stamina. Don’t forget that when you
and I go home, get in our undies with a cuppa and
watch Man vs. Wild they are still working, developing
new business ideas.

The typical entrepreneur
believes they can do their job
better than anyone else, so
are quite open to being laden
with greater responsibility and
accountability; however, since
they think they are smarter than
their peers and superiors there
is a preference to do things their
own way.

They choose and act according to their own
intuition and thrive on achieving goals. Clearly
they are self confident people and as a result like
the control of working alone and will tackle tasks
with immediacy and confidence.

Of course the flip side of this is their need for control
makes it difficult for them to delegate authority in the
way that a structured organization demands. This is
why entrepreneurs don’t stick around for very long,
they are just bursting to go out and do something
different. It is why 44% of the entrepreneurs surveyed
began their companies because they saw an
opportunity to do something great, which must have
meant they were not doing something great at their
current job.

This takes me back to the earlier
question, what can we do as
designers, or an employer, to
create an environment that is
stimulating enough to keep the
entrepreneurial spirit in?

It is a question many of our clients are asking, in
fact it is this question many cities and countries are
asking and precisely why governments around the
globe are looking to places like Israel, Chile, Iceland
and Rwanda for clues.

Yes that’s right Rwanda, who now supplies Costco
(not a small or insignificant retailer) with coffee grown
by farmer – entrepreneurs; GDP there has quadrupled
since 1995 as a result. Entrepreneurship is linked
to growth, job creation and an increase in long term
productivity so why the heck wouldn’t you want it?
This is what leads many to ask, what are these
places doing that support the development of an
entrepreneurial ecosystem and can we copy it?
The experts advise not to try to copy, it is nearly
impossible to duplicate the complex combination
of leadership, culture, capital markets and the
types of open minded customers that make an
entrepreneurship ecosystem tick.

Don’t bother trying to be the next Silicon Valley,
a place created as the result of a unique set of
circumstances: a strong aerospace industry, Stanford
University and their relationship with industry, a liberal
immigration policy and lots of brilliant weirdoes.
This is like trying to recreate the early days of Geyer
Sydney when the studio was up the road, Friday night
drinks went til Saturday and Peter Mc smoked.
The advice is to stick to your knitting when attempting
to encourage entrepreneurialism.

It is better to create new ideas and business ventures
within the framework of your existing resources
and strengths. For example at I might consider
selling shoes or delivering fashion advice, but any
involvement in running Footy Tipping might be too big
of a departure. It is better to do as they did in Chile
and place emphasis on industries that took advantage
of the natural resources they had, such as fishing. On
top of that there was plenty of help from government
in the way of supporting the markets to make it
easier for people to obtain financing and licenses for
fishing operations.

The role that governments play in supporting
entrepreneurialism is significant. However, it is
important to get input from local industry groups
before deciding on new directions, otherwise you run
the risk of making decisions that might not have a
true appreciation for the bigger picture and will chap
the arses of local industry, the unions and your so
called allies. This could put you in a world of hurt, just
ask KRudd.

Building a good entrepreneurship ecosystem often
creates success and that stimulates others to
copy or come up with their own great ideas. This is
why it is also critical to celebrate success and fan
the flames of inspiration in the region. It becomes
addictive and soon there is fertile ground for new
ideas and thinking people inspiring one another, ala
Silicon or Medicon Valley

A rather large obstacle for entrepreneurship is
cultural. In some places striking out on your own is
not considered to be the right thing to do. I listened
to a podcast about a guy in the Middle East who
wouldn’t tell anyone he had left his job, especially his
parents, because it was frowned upon to start your
own business and it made prospects for marriage
poor. I am reminded of telling my parents that I was
going to study architecture and my fathers response
unfortunately was not ‘You go girl’, it was why don’t
you study sewing.

Whenever the topic of start ups emerges, the
concept of incubators and venture capital to provide
financial help and mentoring to new businesses is not
far behind. Apparently there is little evidence that this
contributes to entrepreneurship. In places like Israel
where incubator programs have launched multiple
new ventures, few have been great successes. This
is perhaps why experts say it is a mistake to flood
entrepreneurs with easy money and more beneficial
to expose them to the rigors of the market.

As with most things in life,
creating an entrepreneual
ecosystem cannot be forced,
this has been proven in the
many countries that have tried,
including Singapore who spent

One of the reasons I think that some people are
more entrepreneurial than others is that they have
a different concept of what danger is. Some people
believe it is too dangerous to go on their own, or do
something a different way, but others have changed
their notion of security and think the opposite. This
makes sense, if you’re not creating your idea of the
future then someone else, who could be a real bucket
head, is. Also some say the greatest danger in life
is arriving at the end of it and feeling like you haven’t
lived. Risk is the currency of life, without risk there is
no life.

You may think that none of this
has anything to do with us; I
would argue it has everything to
do with us.

Although these concepts are in the context of
countries creating entrepreneurial ecosystems
on a macro scale has parallels to building an
entrepreneurial ecosystem here at Geyer. Also our
clients most definitely want to understand how to
make this happen, so any insight we can provide will
be good for us and them.

This is somewhat obvious, but governments
can support entrepreneurial growth by removing
administrative and legal barriers, this is apparently
more effective than creating incentives to overcome
barriers. They did this in France in 2008 when
they implemented the Auto-entrepreneur Program
that simplified the legal process for creating small
businesses. 300,000 new businesses have started
under this program.

It is not realistic or practical to attempt to change
too much all at once. The advice to governments is
to put together a clear map of what the ecosystem
looks like and be prepared to learn and experiment
along the way. Of course once you achieve
something it is never good enough to rest on
your laurels, the world is always changing and
many countries realise that if they don’t promote
entrepreneurial growth they will lose their edge and
when it comes to companies if they are not innovating
they are vulnerable to future changes.

What we have learned: don’t copy, stick to your
knitting, engage the trenches, celebrate success,
consider cultural obstacles, don’t pamper, don’t force
unions and remove the bureaucracy can all be applied
within the 24 walls of the Geyer studios.
And while none of us is Pollyanna enough to believe
that cleverly designed fit outs will transform Joe
Blow into the next Mark Zuckerberg (the guy who
developed Facebook in his Harvard dorm room),
surely there is a role the environment plays, even if it
is marginal.

I am not going to disguise my inspiration for
writing this is the sad fact that two of our very
entrepreneurial colleagues are leaving us to start up
a business of their own. I say it is sad, but I am not
convinced of that, for us or them, because I have a
feeling they will continue to influence us and may in
fact have a greater impact on Geyer from the outside.
A bit like Al Gore, the guy born, bred and groomed
for the role or president, but in losing discovered a
way to make a substantial impact and create a lasting
legacy for himself as an environmentalist.

Ditto – Jimmy Carter who left office and became a
world peace keeper, eventually winning the Nobel

I am excited and happy for our pals and can’t wait
to see what they do. Make no mistake, I expect
big things and something tells me I won’t be

So goodbye Tamara and Sean, best of luck. I thank
you for all you have done for me professionally,
personally and for this company we have shared as
an employer for the past years. It has been a unique
time in our journey as an organisation and you have
both played an important role in making us what we
are and what we will be.

I know filling those stilettos and beige pants will be
quite the challenge, but the flip side to this is that you
have paved the way for others in the studio who will
see this as an opportunity to make a difference. The
are also others on the outside, whose interactions
with you might lead them to Geyer, because who
wouldn’t want to work for a place that allowed them
to think and grow and develop? Even if it did become
the springboard that drove them apart from us, it
means it isn’t all that bad.

Alicia Morga, “20 Things I’ve Learned as an Entrepreneur” Fast
Company Expert Blog, July 30, 2010

Anthony, Scott; “ Three Questions for Entrepreneurs”, Harvard
Business Review, April 21, 2010

Gallo, Amy; “How to Keep Your Star Performers in Trying Times”;
Harvard Business Review, December 9, 2009

Isenberg, Daniel J, “The Big Idea: How to Start an Entrepreneurial
Revolution” Harvard Business Review; July 6, 2010

Kuang, Cliff; “Infographic of the Day: The Entrepreneur’s State of
Mind in 2010” – A survey of self – described entrepreneurs, and
their outlook for 2010; Fast Company, April 14, 2010

Pallotta, Dan; “Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur” Harvard
Business Review; April 20, 2010

Rich, Laura; “Why You Should Start a Company in …. Chicago”;
Fast Company; February 19, 2010

Silverman, David; “5 Career Development Lessons From… A
Baby?” Harvard Business Review; January 27, 2009
Tjan, Anthony; “Must-See Movies for Entrepreneurs” Harvard
Business Review, March 12, 2010


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