Florian Schloderer, a post-doctoral fellow at Insead business school in Abu Dhabi, knows what it takes to set up a company. At an event geared to help female entrepreneurs in Abu Dhabi recently, he outlined his own experiences working in a family business.
q: How important is formal education for entrepreneurs when it comes to topics such as accounting and marketing?
a: Formal education is something that works very well to develop skills but you can do something by yourself. There are business leaders who are very successful and do not have formal education. You have to be active. You have to create your environment and go out and seek knowledge.
q: At the Abu Dhabi event about female entrepreneurs overcoming obstacles what tips did you offer?
a: Think first about how you set up your network, with whom you communicate. If you always talk with the same people, after a certain point of time everyone knows everything. You need to be creative, you need to mobilise resources, you need to get access to customers, to new technologies and so on. This, by definition, involves building a network that gives you access to this. You could for example go to exhibitions, you could find out who the industry leaders are to talk to them.
q: What are some other pointers?
a: The second point is guidance. When you don't have your own boss sometimes it's difficult to find the right way. It's very helpful to take guidance from people who are successful entrepreneurs who can mentor you, or to take a coach who challenges you. The third thing is learning by doing, so doing internships and apprenticeships.
q: You worked in a family business for more than a decade. Why was it sold in 2003?
a: It was a succession issue. I felt for myself that this is not the right thing for me to do and that I had other interests. And I think that's always very important. When you are a successor in a company [you think] ... is [being the owner] what really meets your goals? I wanted to go in a different direction and the decision was taken to sell it.
q: You decided to continue your doctoral studies instead. Did the decision to leave create any conflict within your family?
a: It didn't. Here I am very grateful to my father, because his grandfather once told him, when your kids don't want to continue this business don't force them or pressure them to continue the family tradition. This was a very open communication and a rational decision.
q: Does it make it easier to teach entrepreneurship having worked in a business?
a: You can definitely relate better to what you are teaching ... and you can make connections more effectively because you have faced the challenges of marketing, accounting and HR.