Creating entrepreneurs in an e-business world

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Jane Royston, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland led a masterclass at the CIPD Conference exploring the impact of e-business on people professionals.

She argued that it's important to establish an e-business strategy for surviving in the modern world. E-business is not just e-commerce; in fact, said Royston, e-commerce is just a tiny aspect of the new economy revolution which is sweeping the world. The new economy depends on speed, creativity and people. To survive in this world, companies need to develop a comprehensive and robust e-business strategy. At the core of any e-business strategy will be the delivery of high quality services (not products) to the your customers.

She identified several characteristics for successful business entrepreneurs:

  • A clear vision for your company and its products and services which is at the heart of everything the company does
  • A driving passion and belief in what the company is doing
  • A sense of urgency in which every minute counts.
  • Open mindedness in learning from others and challenging existing ways of doing things
  • Excellent communication with staff, clients and partners
  • Strong client focus at all times
  • Mastering the art of living in an uncertain world - and building this uncertainly survival into everything they do
  • Audacity - not just risk taking - but the ability to exercise sound risk assessment

Relating some of her own experiences in creating in a leading Swiss service company, Natsoft which grew at 65% per year, Royston described the importance of only hiring the best staff - and not compromising on quality. "We only hired 1% of those we interviewed". A consequence if this approach, she said, was that you got a reputation for hiring the best - so people fought to join the company in order to be associated with its success. Her company also spent 5% of its budget on staff development, with the result that staff were motivated to stay and learn within the company. Her staff were rewarded financially in direct proportion to their publicly ranked contribution to the company which resulted in some people receiving a zero increase whilst others could benefit by up to 25% in the annual review. Finally, Royston was adamant about the importance of getting rid of staff who were not contributing effectively to the company: "The 'dead wood' acts as a disincentive to others so they need to be cut out."

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