By Daniel Hunter

Some think that entrepreneurial skills are largely innate, but in a recent online poll by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, around 60 percent of respondents thought that entrepreneurial skills could be taught.

The topic was discussed by a panel of industry experts at a recent video debate hosted by BCS. The debate was chaired by Brian Runciman, Editorial Publisher, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, and the panel included Christopher Thomas, Director at Sports Fusion; Timothy Barnes, Director of UCL Advances and Emma Jones from Start-up Britain, Founder of Enterprise Nation.

The panel agreed that certain characteristics - such as creativity, passion and the willingness to take risks - tend to constitute the entrepreneurial mindset.

Timothy Barnes says: “The creative element is important because you need to be able to spot an opportunity and to think about it in a way that brings you to a solution that no-one else has seen.”

Emma Jones adds: “It’s about being committed to hard work, to seeing an idea through, being persistent and not giving up. If you are born into a family of business owners or entrepreneurs you are more likely to start a business, not because of any sort of gene, but because this was what surrounded you when you grew up and it’s a natural choice to make.”

The panel also felt that while some people are more comfortable than others when it comes to taking risks, and are better at identifying sound business opportunities, others who are less inclined to this sort of behaviour may have to work harder at it. They agreed that entrepreneurs can learn many of the skills they need to make their business a success.

Timothy Barnes continues: “We can educate, we can train, we can mentor, we can show people the pitfalls and we can help them get to where they want to be. Being open to advice is something all entrepreneurs need. We need to encourage people to have a go. The worst that can happen is that people don’t want to buy something - and that’s positive because you can learn from it."

Emma Jones says: “In 2011 and 2012 there were record numbers of people starting businesses. People are making the most of training to get the confidence, contents and contacts they need to make an idea into a business."

The panel agreed that entrepreneurs can address any deficiencies by bringing people in to their business that have the necessary skills and experience they themselves may lack.

Timothy Barnes: “You can learn from others — how to negotiate, how to sell. You never need to be the best person in the room at everything you need to do. You need an understanding of what other people do because you are the person at the centre of the universe of your business, so hire better people than you.”

The poll and debate coincided with the recent launch of BCS’ new Entrepreneurs specialist group. The group is committed to providing the support that Digital Entrepreneurs and start up businesses need to grow.

Anil Hansjee, Chair of BCS Entrepreneurs, says: “Our aim is to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into commercial reality by providing support and guidance from those who have already succeeded in this area. The group has a wealth of resources at its disposal and will support digital entrepreneurs through mentoring, offering technical skills and knowledge sharing. By joining the group entrepreneurs can connect with other digital innovators via links with BCS members, other specialist groups and regional branches.”

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