What do you look for when selecting applicants for the programmes you head up?
We look for bold, tenacious entrepreneurs who have taken the step of launching a business in their community, but need help growing it. We appreciate those who have a passion for what they do and who have positive energy. Beyond this, we look for substance. What sort of business or business plan do they have in place? Have they thought through their idea in terms of potential customers, marketing support, sales targets and competitors. Is there a real need for what they are proposing? Do they have the tenacity and emotional strength to be an entrepreneur?
What personality traits impress you when you first meet an aspiring entrepreneur?
A smile opens a lot of doors, but for many entrepreneurs, maintaining a smile when things may be dire behind the scenes, is important. Being optimistic in the face of negative external factors is a very important personality trait.
Are there any particular qualities you have identified in successful entrepreneurs?
Optimism, drive, perseverance and hard work. They are essential elements that candidates must be able to demonstrate through real-life examples on their path to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
What does it take for an entrepreneur’s idea to impress you?
In the way that Richard Branson launched Virgin, we look for ideas that can change markets, and not just serve them. Being articulate about a business idea is essential (think 30-second elevator pitch), as well as the ability to answer tough questions confidently.
What are some of the qualities, skills and personality traits you admire most in the business people you interact with?
I admire those who don’t take ‘no’ literally and will try again — perhaps from a different angle — to get to ‘yes’. I also admire those who take on responsibilities as opposed to waiting for actions to be delegated. While ‘self-starter’ may be a rather clichéd term in a lot of job descriptions, demonstrating self-management is, in fact, a vital quality in all entrepreneurs.
What would it take to make you cut off all communication/interaction with someone?
A few things get under my skin: lying to me, failing to treat everyone with respect and trying too hard. I can smell insincerity a mile off.