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Seeking Old Fashioned Kiwi Entrepreneurs

Desperately Seeking Old Fashioned Kiwi Entrepreneurs

So New Zealand is a nation of entrepreneurs just busting to get out there, create jobs and lift economic performance?

Don't bet on it.

As the authors of a revealing article in the latest issue of the University of Auckland Business Review point out, the truer picture is of a nation of inwardly focused contractors and small businesses struggling to get any bigger or add true value to the national economy.

Clearly this hasn't always been the case, argue Ian Hunter and Associate Professor Marie Wilson of the School's Management and Employment Relations Department.

Following a detailed study of entrepreneurial activity at the turn of the 20th century compared with today, the pair conclude policy makers can learn a lot from the past. The study of 150 entrepreneurs active in New Zealand between 1880 and 1930 includes a host of well-known names whose companies still survive, among them baker Ernest Adams, winemaker Assid Corban, baking powder manufacturer Thomas Edmonds, retailer Bendix Hallenstein and cartage operator William Winstone.

Among lessons for future growth to be gleaned from this early crop of entrepreneurs:

* Entrepreneurs did not start their ventures lacking commercial experience. Indeed, the complete opposite was true. * Very few entrepreneurs started only one venture during their lifetime. Multiple start-ups were far more common. * The failure of a venture proved only the stepping stone to long-term economic contribution. * Then, as now, immigrants were a driving force in the growth of new businesses

"Our history suggests than when new ventures and entrepreneurs do falter, we shouldn't castigate their initiatives but look for lessons learnt and better, future ventures from these entrepreneurs," say the authors..

"Even though it makes for good news stories and award ceremonies, we should also recognise that entrepreneurship is not the exclusive province of youth. New ventures are businesses, not just inventions, and for that you need commercial experience as well as enthusiasm." The twice-yearly University of Auckland Business Review, founded in 1999, is now the country's biggest circulation business magazine.1

Other articles in the latest issue include:

* The Silent Revolution - Recent developments in the organisation of general medical practice in New Zealand * A Provisional "Thumbs Up" to New Zealand Bank Call Centres * The Big OE - How it works and what it can do for New Zealand * Back From The Brink - An analysis of why New Zealanders remain with their service providers * "Carrying On Business" in New Zealand - A new test for internet trading

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