NCI Blog

How to Learn Skills That Are Key to Entrepreneurial Success

Posted by Professor Jimmy Hill on 09 August 2021

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With an extensive career as an educator and researcher, Professor Jimmy Hill, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Vice President of National College of Ireland, shares his thoughts on what it takes to become a successful business owner along with details of a new NCI programme, which will help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to begin your entrepreneurship journey.

Overview of Entrepreneurship

As somebody who has been working nationally and internationally as an entrepreneurial educator and researcher for over 30 years, the most common question I am asked is: ‘Can entrepreneurship really be taught?’ Some experts, indeed often entrepreneurs themselves, support the ‘entrepreneurs are born, not made’ school of thought. My answer, usually qualified, is that yes, I believe that entrepreneurship can be taught. Entrepreneurs can be made. The skills, the competencies that are key to entrepreneurial success can be developed and nurtured through carefully designed programmes of learning.

I will qualify my statement by saying that I have researched, interviewed and consulted with thousands of entrepreneurial companies throughout my career in higher education. In my experience, many successful entrepreneurs give a rose-tinted spectacles summation of entrepreneurial success; you know, the old story of jumping from mountain top to mountain top with no reference to time spent in the dark canyons of uncertainty that often accompany the entrepreneurial life cycle, especially in those early stages where the margins between success and failure are scarily fine.

Entrepreneurial Traits and Characteristics

Entrepreneurs though do exhibit certain traits and characteristics, and whilst the views on what they are might differ slightly or be manifest under varying nomenclature, in essence they are:

  1. High levels of motivation
  2. Relevant knowledge sets
  3. Passion, commitment and staying power
  4. Vision
  5. Creativity
  6. Relational communications
  7. Good decision-making
  8. Analytical skills, especially in relation to the assessment and measurement of risk

Defining Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is also subject to myriad definitions. My own definition though is that an entrepreneur is someone who can identify a business opportunity, who has the ability to marshal the resources to make this opportunity or vision a reality, and who possesses the ability to move along the continuum of creativity, innovation that generally eventuates in enterprise formation. Entrepreneurial determination and commitment usually mean that successful entrepreneurs hang in and make things work when others would give up or countenance failure.

So, Can Entrepreneurship be taught?

In a article on this question back in 2018, Alejandro Cremades argued that entrepreneurship like any skill or field can be taught. Yes, some people are self-taught, essentially autodidacts, and some are graduates of the famed ‘school of hard knocks’ but most entrepreneurs would not have had the successes they have had if they hadn’t been immersed in a learning environment and benefitted from relevant and meaningful learning experiences often garnered in the classroom.

Jimmy Hill NCI

Any successful entrepreneur (like these NCI graduates) in their ‘tales from the field’ will generally admit to learning from their own good and bad experiences; learning from competitors; constantly learning from the environments in which they are immersed; and, to the acquisition of key entrepreneurial skills from mentors, colleagues and employees. Successful entrepreneurs will oftentimes allude to a ‘false’ perception abroad in entrepreneurial circles that you have to be a ‘natural’ to succeed but this is essentially a fear of failure. Most importantly, entrepreneurs engage or have in engaged in formal programmes of learning. Many have acquired the core knowledge and skills essential to entrepreneurial success while studying undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in entrepreneurship at college.

The Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip) in Entrepreneurship

At the National College of Ireland (NCI), we offer a part-time Postgraduate Diploma in Business in Entrepreneurship. This is a Level 9 programme that is being delivered in a blended modality. This programme has been developed on the back of extensive teaching experience, entrepreneurship research and consultation with industry.

This programme immerses learners in a state-of-the-art entrepreneurial education. In terms of the development of entrepreneurial traits and characteristics learners will graduate from this programme with ability to identify entrepreneurial opportunity. Moreover, graduates will be equipped for success, skilled in enterprise management and business creation, and have an appreciation of commercial law. In addition, graduates will possess a solid set of decision-making and deep analytical skills as well as a thorough understanding of strategy creation and development.

Most significantly of all I believe, this programme can help learners to develop a good set of relational communication skills that will not only ensure that they can sell and understand sales but also develop effective personal contact networks that will equip them to garner solid information to better inform business decision-making. Learners will be offered the opportunity to gain some specific immersion in other relevant subjects depending on class demand.

The PG Dip in Entrepreneurship will also equip learners with a certain propriety that will make raising start-up capital less daunting. It will assist graduates in gaining people’s trust and help them to become more rounded, capable and credible entrepreneurs.

The real gem in this programme however is a capstone enterprise simulation game that allows learners to apply all of their newly acquired skills through the creation and development of an actual entrepreneurial business. This real-world simulation nurtures the levels of self-belief and business confidence fundamental to entrepreneurial success.

Essentially the PG Dip in Entrepreneurship at NCI gives learners an amazing opportunity to develop a successful entrepreneurial career. If it’s a corporate career that a learner is seeking to pursue then this programme will also equip them for the challenges of managing in a dynamic business world. Equally if a learner sees herself or himself as a potential intrapreneur, that is, somebody within a company who engages in innovative service, solution or product development etc, then this programme will leave them really well-prepared to grow a career in this way.

Education breeds confidence. Education that ensures that graduates are equipped with a set of entrepreneurial skills and competencies not only breeds confidence however, but also opens learners’ minds to possibilities and opportunities that might just precipitate the start of a very successful entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial journey.

Professor Jimmy Hill

Professor of Entrepreneurship and Vice President National College of Ireland

The Postgraduate Diploma in Business in Entrepreneurship is a one-year, Level 9 programme which can allow students to progress to the MSc in Entrepreneurship. Applications for September will open in the new year, visit the course page for further details.

Topics: Part-time Courses, Postgraduate Courses, Advice