Dr Dietmar Grichnik is a professor of Entrepreneurship and director of the Institute of Technology Management at the University of St. Gallen.
Dr Grichnik, 17 per cent of Germans have toyed with the idea of starting their own business. As an expert on entrepreneurship, what do you make of this figure?
17 per cent is a decent number. Globally, we rank somewhere in the middle; we’re comparable to our European neighbours. Personally, I would welcome it if this number continued to increase.
Are certain skills required to be successful as an entrepreneur?
Yes, but each and every one of us has the potential to start a business and be an entrepreneur. To put it simply: entrepreneurs are made, not born. In addition to an individual’s skills, the conditions under which they start their business are also decisive.
What motivates people to start their own business – and what prevents them from doing so?
They are motivated on the one hand by a desire for professional independence, a willingness to take on responsibility for a business, or an aspiration to create something of their own.
On the other hand, many people are prevented from starting a business by a fear of failure – a significant hurdle, particularly in Germany. Failure is often viewed in a positive light in the USA – you gain experience from a failed business, after all – but here in Germany, it continues to carry a stigma.
77 per cent of those surveyed are satisfied with their profession. What is the decisive factor behind that satisfaction?
Independence is a decisive factor in people’s satisfaction and happiness. Added to that is what’s known as self-efficacy: through their customers’ reactions, entrepreneurs see an immediate effect of their actions. These two criteria are often more important to entrepreneurs than the prospect of making a great deal of money in a short span of time.
What advice would you give to future entrepreneurs?
Don’t try to predict the future – shape it yourself! Pursue your idea, exchange thoughts with others and set limits for yourself: how much time and money can I invest to achieve success? All of these strategies help make it easier to calculate entrepreneurial risk.