Say ‘entrepreneur’ and most people picture the typical digital start-up story, complete with a precocious childhood, fast-talking elevator pitches, side-hustles and the requisite “I started in my garage” backstory.
In fact, entrepreneurial skills are fast becoming an essential life skill at all ages, and one that can be applied to all kinds of scenarios.
“Entrepreneurship is not just about setting up a new business, as most people think,” Monash Business School’s director of entrepreneurship, Professor David Gilbert says.
“It can be used to solve complex problems or test and validate new ideas, to create innovative start-ups, to maximise existing or future market opportunities, or to drive positive societal and organisational change.”
Professor Gilbert says entrepreneurs are fundamentally problem-seekers, problem-solvers or innovators.
“They add value whether that is through creating their own business, working for a company or volunteering, or having a positive impact on a work team or sporting field. They are drivers of ideas and actions.”
Learning the skills
As part of his Master of Biotechnology at Monash University, Avinash Fernandes studied Entrepreneurship and Creativity, a core unit delivered by Monash Business School.
Initially he was unsure how entrepreneurship was relevant to his studies.
“I’ve worked in the automotive trade, construction and defence, and I completed a Bachelor of Biomedical Science, but I’ve always been interested in research,” he says.
As part of the Entrepreneurship and Creativity unit, he and his classmates were presented with a problem and asked to test and validate possible solutions with customers and end users, then pitch their innovative solution.
Avinash’s idea centred around developing a more efficient way to relay information on breakthroughs and innovations from the biotech industry to leading academic researchers and teachers, who could then pass them on to students.
“It gave me a larger perspective of what biotechnology is actually about and, more specifically, how biotechnology fits into the real world,” he says.
“To know whether something has legs is to know whether the market actually demands it.”
How can entrepreneurship help your career?
While some entrepreneurs naturally stand out – Sir Richard Branson (Virgin), Larry Page (Google) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) – they are not born with an entrepreneurial mindset.
This can, with guidance and a little hard work, be developed and comes down to essentially three things: Identifying and exploring a problem or opportunity; creating value by finding a solution that fits a need; and then capturing the value of this solution.
“Being entrepreneurial comes down to learning how to become comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, looking at opportunities or problems through a different lens and, most importantly, acting on the opportunity whether this results in success or not,” Professor Gilbert says.
“An entrepreneurial mindset also enables us to learn quickly, adjust and adapt and to connect the dots.”
Three important entrepreneurial capabilities that will help your career
1. Understand the interplay between opportunity, innovation and technology
As Uber, Airbnb, Amazon and any number of successful technology-driven companies have shown, the business world of tomorrow will be about creating scalable platforms that either meet a need or create a market that did not exist.
The business world of today also demands process and systems improvements that unlock latent value in current practices and capabilities.
2. Know how to actually run a successful business
You may have a brilliant idea, but to start – or run – a successful business, you need to fundamentally understand critical issues such as the financial life cycle of a business; building and empowering a team; or operational systems and processes that drive efficiency gains.
3. Understand the law
Knowledge of legal requirements in starting and scaling a business, but also structuring and operating one successfully, is a useful and transferrable skill.
“As the way we do business evolves and becomes more complex, the need for dynamic innovators grows, whether in start-ups or in existing businesses,” Professor Gilbert says.
“By developing an entrepreneurial mindset, together with a keen understanding of entrepreneurial practice, you will possess key attributes that will enable you to create a successful business of your own or carve out a career across an unlimited number of industry sectors and situations.”
Monash Business School offers core units in entrepreneurship at graduate level.
Taught by some of Australia’s leading innovators and entrepreneurs, our graduate entrepreneurship elective units can be completed as part of any degree, or combined can form the Master of Business (Entrepreneurship) specialisation.