Tom Murrin

Monday, 22 July 2002 09:41

Commendable entrepreneurship

Enthusiastic congratulations and sincerest thanks to SBN — an outstanding publication — for dedicating so much of this issue to the very important and opportune subject of entrepreneurship.

Our university, business school and small business development center are delighted and enthusiastic to be teamed with SBN.

And we’re delighted and enthusiastic to be hosting our region’s 2000 Entrepreneur’s Growth Conference on June 15, as well.

The term “entrepreneur” comes from the French word, entreprendre, which means “to undertake.” When you ponder the implications of our region’s current undertaking to increase entrepreneurship, you can conclude that we are thereby committing to accelerate the economic development of our region and to enhance our standard of living. This is a most commendable undertaking — one that should simultaneously enhance several important business segments, including the following four:

Start-ups: The creativity and commitment of entrepreneurs is typically manifest in the start-up of new, promising businesses. Our region needs to do much more of this — and successfully. We should — and can — greatly increase the number of so-called fast-growing “gazelle” firms and support them with adequate venture capital and other resources.

Family-owned businesses: About one-half of our nation’s GDP is generated by family-owned-and-managed businesses. They can generally be categorized as entrepreneurial in their genesis, evolution and management. Fortunately, our region has many such businesses — and we can benefit greatly from their profitable growth from the effective application of leading-edge entrepreneurship policies and practices.

Attracting outstanding organizations: If the image of our region credibly becomes one of entrepreneurship — that is, of creativity, commitment, innovation, risk-taking and hard work, this can serve to attract more outstanding organizations to locate here, further accelerating our progress and enhancing our livability. Added to our deserved reputation for friendliness and civility — with world-class health care, education, culture and recreation, an entrepreneurship-dominated environment and image will be very beneficial.

Rejuvenated organizations: Virtually all kinds of organizations are undergoing significant change, driven largely by technology and globalism, plus increased competition and more demanding customers. Such necessary changes can be enhanced and expedited by the policies and practices of leading-edge entrepreneurship. In addition to business, such changes can dramatically improve health care, education and government.

As we undertake these increased efforts at entrepreneurship, we should be mindful that our region has a great legacy for successfully undertaking such initiatives. I was privileged for 37 years to be part of the legacy of George Westinghouse who, among other achievements, made electricity practical and beneficial for our country and much of the world.

Perhaps the most spectacular of our earlier entrepreneurs was Andrew Carnegie, characterized as the earliest “Master of Iron, Steel and Coke.” Author Harold Livesay, in his brilliant book on Andrew Carnegie and the rise of big business, writes, “Carnegie was involved in reorganizing the whole pattern of industrial activity. Early in his career, he changed jobs, moving from textiles to the telegraph office and then to railroads. Those shifts were symbolic insofar as they brought him into contact with the dynamic forces that were altering communications and were creating large regional economic units to replace the earlier, small ones. Much of what he learned about communications and transportation he later ingeniously adapted to the steel industry.

“Carnegie also exemplified the habits of mind important at one stage of industrial development,” he continues. “He was a Scot, a fact most clearly manifest in the ethnic links that helped at each point in his career. He showed the capacity to use capital and technicians well, not in a speculative or an exploitative fashion, but to create wealth.”

Let’s carry on the entrepreneurial legacy of Carnegie, Westinghouse and others and participate actively in the June 15 conference and related undertakings. This will increase our know-how in such key aspects of entrepreneurship as insightful planning; development of world-class products and services; cost-effective global marketing via the Internet; timely, competitive financing; motivated personnel committed to life-long learning; leading-edge facilities; and wise, motivational management. It also will improve our leadership abilities for forecasting trends, embracing change, expecting the unexpected, strategic thinking and exploiting technology.

Indeed, entrepreneurship is a most commendable undertaking.

Tom Murrin is dean of Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo School of Business.