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Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Learning Lab: Coaching and Mentoring

Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Learning Lab: Coaching and Mentoring

The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Learning Lab recently hosted a panel discussion around coaching and mentoring, aiming to help players in this space discuss challenges and share ideas.

This topic is especially pertinent at the moment because the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is in the process of developing a venture coaching playbook, explained Jalal Ghiassi-Razavi, Association Director. This document has been created in recognition of the value of support; as Jalal observes, quality output relies upon quality input. This is why the Foundation has a pipeline of around 150 programme participants receiving coaching and mentorship at any given time.

Jalal noted that support can’t end with the business. Coaches need to understand when the individual needs assistance, too. However, not all coaching or mentorship is the same. For instance, while one coach may be able to offer a wonderfully broad network, another may have unrivaled subject matter knowledge, and yet another may be able to assist with accessing funds. The question, therefore, is knowing how to match coaches with entrepreneurs, and understanding which model will suit them best.

The playbook aims to provide a guide to such subjects, while also helping to standardize coaching procedures and sharing best practices. Topics covered in the playbook include, amongst others, methodologies, setting up and managing expectations and obtaining buy-in, defining what a mentor is, measuring KPIs and matching needs.

The playbook is scheduled to be released during the third quarter of 2021.

The Panel Discussion

AGOF assembled a panel comprising key ecosystem members to discuss the nuances of mentorship versus coaching. Panel members included Josh Adler, Executive Director of the Anzisha Prize, Amina Patterson, Head of Operations at Alpha Code, and Octavius Phukubye, managing director of IDF Value Added Services.

Panelists were first asked to explain their coaching models and to describe the difference between coaching and mentoring.
According to Amina, Alpha Code’s emphasis is on mentoring, because the relationship between entrepreneurs and their mentors is a long-term one that may start during the initial 12-week introduction to the organisation, but continues well beyond this point. Leveraging their strategic mindset and experience, the mentor acts as an accountability partner, guiding the entrepreneur away from potential pitfalls. They may also function as a connector, helping to create opportunities by putting the entrepreneur in touch with other members of their network, as well as a problem-solver. They are also therapists and psychologists because although they are vested in the entrepreneur’s business, they understand that you cannot remove the personal component. Amina explained that the mentors work closely with learning managers to unpack their deliverables. They also provide their input into the programme, keeping in mind what the business is trying to achieve from a strategic perspective. Importantly, although the entrepreneur may work with several different people who have expertise in specific areas, there is always a primary anchor mentor who leads the process. This prevents the feeling that they are being pulled in different directions by multiple stakeholders and helps them maintain focus.

For Josh, meanwhile, it makes more sense to focus on coaching, because this is what the organisation tries to do while working to increase the number of entrepreneurs in South Africa: it views entrepreneurship as a team sport, it coaches individuals to understand the rules of the game and the league where they fit in. He is concerned that many especially young entrepreneurs may struggle to consolidate and implement ideas given to them by mentors who ‘dump’ these ideas without trying to contextualise them or make sense of them within the entrepreneur’s unique circumstances or environment. He prefers to see the coach, not as a therapist or decision-maker, but that each intervention is highly dependent on context.

At IDF, the question is not one of names and semantics, but rather it’s about focusing on a process that will ensure that entrepreneurs are matched precisely with a strategist who can play across the entire value chain and can help them improve their characters while also positioning the business to move forward. Key questions include whether the mentor, sponsor, or coach has the right trait or personality to provide this kind of assistance. The IDF uses a combination of tailored interventions to make this approach work because it takes the view that there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution – each start-up is different in terms of its market, product and complexity, and this is especially true for businesses in the tech space compared to non-tech startups. However, all coaching interventions must share in common deliberateness and intentionality, because without structure, deliverables, and a framework, they cannot be successful.

Panelists were then asked to discuss what measures they had found to be successful. For Josh, the answer to this question changes as startups mature. In the very beginning, coaching should focus more on building confidence and entrepreneurialism – at this stage, the business idea matters less than the quality of the individual’s thinking and how they relate to their teammates. Confidence-building at this point is vital because there is a lot of intolerance towards the idea of entrepreneurship as a career, he explains. Josh also said that it’s important for a coach to work according to a framework. Without a structure, it is difficult for people to feel that they are moving forward. However, the coach may have to tweak their frameworks to suit individuals and their particular strengths and areas of improvement.

Judging whether an individual is an effective coach is not vastly different from assessing a teacher’s prowess, Josh continued. In the case of teachers, the students’ improvement is a critical marker of success. The same holds true for coaches; if they are doing their jobs properly, it will be possible to see the business growing and improving in various areas.

Josh also maintains that one of the best ways of keeping coaches accountable is by developing a routine so that entrepreneurs have a sense of what is expected from them. It’s easy for a coach to say that an entrepreneur is not adequately engaged if they miss their session, when in fact it could be that the coach is not performing. Simple reporting along key metrics is also key, as with any business.

Amina admits that it can be challenging to measure the support provided by coaches because each entrepreneur has different requirements, depending on where they are in their journey. For example, the challenge facing mentors working with younger entrepreneurs is often helping them to maintain their focus, while more seasoned business owners tend to be more resilient throughout the process. This is why Alpha Code emphasizes the accountability of the entrepreneur throughout the journey. This is achieved by setting entrepreneurs a series of exercises, all related to their businesses, to help them test whether their assumptions are accurate.

The mentorship team, meanwhile, are responsible for setting ways of working when new stakeholders come into the fold: following a planning session, they decide on the direction to take with the entrepreneur, taking into account factors such as the entrepreneur’s priorities, their risks, and their value proposition – and, importantly, whether they have validated this with their customers, in line with the organisation’s philosophy that “if you don’t document it, it doesn’t exist”.

The mentor’s role throughout this process is rooted in having open, honest conversations with the entrepreneur. Amina says that this is sometimes difficult, because mentors may feel wary of derailing or discouraging an entrepreneur if their feedback is deemed negative. But this is why reporting is so important, she continues – it sets the stage for transparency and lays the foundation for interventions to address and overcome hurdles. She says that there must be an agreement between mentors and entrepreneurs regarding the frequency of the reporting cycle, the frequency of meetings, and proposed interventions and that these agreements must be made early on in the relationship so that expectations are established from the outset and prevent misalignment. If there is, indeed, misalignment, this serves as a red flag that conversations between the two parties are not as honest as they should be, Amina warns.

But the responsibility does not lie solely with the mentor, she adds: entrepreneurs are required to sign a contract, because they have to add value to the process, too.

For Octavius, while the measurement is vital, it’s important that the values measured relate to the business’s improvement and growth, and do not place additional strain on the entrepreneur without actually adding to their development.

The final question posed to panelists was around ethics and values. Octavius agrees that this is critical because ecosystem players are entrusted with building businesses, which means using the resources at their disposal optimally. More than this, they have to establish their credibility. Reporting plays a critical role here – but it is also important that coaches uphold this commitment to ethics because as an intermediary, their behavior and values inevitably impact the behavior and values of entrepreneurs. For this reason, the organisation is always careful to engage coaches with a proven track record. Octavius further pointed out that coaches are to set an example so that entrepreneurs understand that they need to prove due diligence and must always be ready for an audit.

Josh observes that there are two parts to the question of ethics: the first is that the very selection of coaches must be ethical. Although it is always tempting to work with people who are similar to us, this points to selection bias and impedes diversity, and is an issue that must be addressed, especially for organisations operating in Africa.

The second issue is related to coaching itself and is especially important given that young entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable. Josh says that coaches must be careful to make sure they are making suggestions, rather than issuing instructions. Their job, after all, is to give options while ensuring that their mentees maintain agency.

Amina’s perspective is that transparency is crucial at every point of the process. She says that the coaches at Alpha tribe have benefited tremendously in this regard by building a tribe: they meet regularly to share ideas and vent their frustrations (which are inevitable, given the level of emotional involvement that occurs). This is also useful in terms of building networks, which makes the work of the coach easier: for example, if you are unable to solve a problem perhaps you know someone who may be able to provide a connection. In this way, your tribe comes to function as a think tank, and also shares tools. The tribe should also provide feedback, she adds, which is especially valuable given that coaches seldom receive feedback from the entrepreneurs themselves. Amina says that it is very helpful to remember that your style may not be well suited to every entrepreneur and that if you are not able to assist them, it is important, to be honest, and help them connect with someone who can.

Opening the Discussion to the Floor

Following the panel discussion, Ventures’ Manager Simphiwe Mntambo welcomed questions and observations from the floor.

One such observation came from Ian Calvert of Further, who said that the organisation matches entrepreneurs to coaches following a thorough diagnostic which includes a psychometric assessment of the entrepreneur so that their interests are matched with those of coaches.

Meanwhile, Hank van Rensburg of Phoenix Professionals voiced his opinion that entrepreneurs should have access to both a coach and a mentor, as the former will help them work on the operational aspects of the business while the latter attends to personal development requirements.

He warns, though, that as the number of enterprise development programmes in South Africa grows, so does the number of ‘pseudo coaches’, who have tarnished the industry’s image. He also believes that individuals may come to experience coaching fatigue, especially if they belong to more than one programme and therefore consult more than one coach. Linked to this, they may receive so much coaching homework that they have less time to focus on the business’s operational requirements.

Yongama Skweyiya said that a framework can be useful in preventing this coaching fatigue, as it ensures that entrepreneurs are aware of what they should expect from their sessions. He also maintains that mentor fatigue may be linked to misaligned values.

Octavia raised an interesting point regarding what makes a coach successful. Many coaches point to the number of hours invested with entrepreneurs as proof of their success, but this counts for very little if there are few real improvements in the business’s performance, he insists: the competence of the team must be seen to improve, or its margins should increase, for example.

Simphiwe asked whether South African coaches have a global mindset – which Josh answered with a big ‘no’. He said that South Africans tend to be parochial, adding that while most coaches in South Africa have experience in big business, few coaches have worked as entrepreneurs. While this isn’t necessarily negative, he urged coaches to localize the information and insights they offer entrepreneurs, and contextualise it, too, so that it is appropriate for each individual’s situation.

Entrafluence

Entrafluence

Just a few years ago, no one had heard the word ‘influencer’. Now, a plethora of articles pop up on your screen if you google the term; anything from to become an influencer to how to harness the power of influencer marketing and, inevitably, which influencers to follow.

As we spend more and more time online, due to the pandemic, the question of who we follow is becoming ever more pertinent. Social media is a milieu quite unlike any other; one where people are actively trying to build their profiles by gaining followers, and others are deliberately seeking out personalities and characters they feel may enhance their lives in some way.

The truth is that all of us wield influence in some way – even if we aren’t especially aware of it. That’s the basis of community: the people around us bring out certain traits, evoke certain emotions or elicit certain behaviours. And, as much as you may be influenced by others, you’re certainly influencing those around you. That’s why we need to be mindful of the people we choose to focus on.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with being an influencer. Some people naturally and effortlessly attract attention, and while they may not set out to become symbols of aspiration and achievement, their accomplishments set them apart. There are many entrepreneurs who fit this description, and their example means that many more young people are considering this way of life as a career – which is, of course, greatly encouraging from our perspective. 

The flipside, though, is that people have started to glamorize entrepreneurship. That’s understandable: there is something irresistible about the idea that we could all start working in our garages and end up millionaires, almost overnight. More than that, entrepreneurship has become something of a badge of social standing. But while we are definitely in favour of people pursuing entrepreneurship, we are concerned that it should be with an eye to helping society meet its many and multi-faceted challenges, rather than because they would like to build a personal profile.

It’s with this in mind that we find ourselves wondering how we can empower youth to consider entrepreneurship and its accompanying influence not as a gateway to online popularity, but as a vehicle to improve the lives of those around them.

The founders of Yoco mobile card machines are a case in point. Katlego Maphai, Carl Wazen, Bradley Wattrus (Allan Gray Fellow) and Lungile Matshoba established the company because they realised the progress of entrepreneurs was often hindered by a lack of payment solutions. But their efforts and intent to assist entrepreneurs didn’t end with the development of their mobile payment systems. They continue to find different ways to boost businesses; for example, two years ago, they hosted a summit called the Yoco Exchange, where small businesses were invited to swap and brainstorm ideas to move their startups forward. Discussions focused on issues such as finance; the functions that would help their businesses evolve to the next stage of their lifecycle. What’s interesting is that the summit was not intended as a platform to punt Yoco’s payment solutions or a chance to net more business; it was purely a discussion forum to help entrepreneurs learn and grow, and many participants benefited significantly from the powerful insights that emerged.

Yoco has set itself apart by using its profile to help other entrepreneurs make better decisions. In this, they embody our concept of entrepreneurship with a purpose. And we’re proud to say that similar individuals have emerged out of our programmes. Thandeka Xaba, for example, is a Fellow who worked as an investment banker. She set out to solve a problem that she faced on a regular basis: as a person with a fast-paced, high-pressure career, it was almost impossible to find the time to visit a salon for basic grooming. Realising that she could not be the only person who was battling to balance career obligations with personal maintenance, she dreamed up a mobile beauty concept; an ‘Uber’ of beauticians comprising a network of professionals who are able to provide services to clients at their place of work or home, so that they don’t have to squeeze a lengthy appointment at a salon into an already overloaded schedule. The business has evolved since its first inception, and is now targeting corporates rather than individuals.

Thandeka has moved on, too: she recently partnered with another entrepreneur to establish Digital African Ventures, a venture capital fund to support the underserved early-stage Digital Tech start-ups in Africa.

Entrepreneurs in this space often battle to obtain the funding required to launch their businesses; although funding is readily available for ventures needing R50 000-R200 000 in seed capital, or more than R2 million, there is a large ‘missing middle’ that cannot get off the ground because they can’t access funds. To date, Digital African Ventures has secured R25 million, and has made its first investment, with the potential to provide funding for nine more startups.

I am fascinated by how Thandeka’s outlook on entrepreneurship has matured: from trying to solve a personal problem, she has extended her focus so that she is solving problems for a larger community. Imagine if we could encourage more young South Africans to think this way, and to use their influence to make a positive contribution to society. Because make no mistake, Thandeka wields significant influence: Zero Bank founder Michael Jordaan recently posted a tweet about a chat she hosted as part of the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance Fireside Chat, noting that in a world where everybody else is complaining, Thandeka is busy looking for ways to solve problems.

Then there’s Velani Mboneni, who started a transportation business which targets employees working in Cape Town’s city centre, where parking is notoriously hard to find. Working on an Uber-type concept, Velani’s startup sought to help groups of staff to enjoy a shared ride to work. It has since developed to a point where it helps corporates get their employees to work safely – something which has become especially important as the need for social distancing in workplaces means that more people are working odd hours that sometimes don’t coincide with public transport schedules. Velani’s story stands out because of his eagerness to help others; to the extent that he is willing to partner with his target market. In fact, we were so impressed with his entrepreneurial journey that we incorporated a ‘Velani’ avatar in the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge a few years back: as someone who started their business at a very early age, he’s ideally placed to talk candidly about how young entrepreneurs can get started and the challenges they may face; especially as he had to change his own financing model in order to make the business successful.

We’re also very proud of Lethabo Motsoaledi, who has established Voyc, a business that helps call centres extract the information they need to understand, and therefore help, customers very quickly. By mining this data, the centres are able to provide a response swiftly, and clients are able to move on with their own activities. Coming from a family of doctors, Lethabo has always had an interest in input versus output, and the fact that these are not always commensurate. This got her thinking about how she could harness technology to fast-track impact. Voyc has done away with the hours needed to transcribe and analyse interviews, using algorithms to do the job instead – and the result is greater efficiency that benefits all parties.

Our other AGOF friends include Marie Noelle Nwokolo, who works in the research space, and Okendo Lewis-Gayle, founder of the Harambe Entrepreneurship Alliance – both of whom are working hard to promote awareness of the great opportunities that exist within Africa. In so doing, they are changing the perception of the continent, from a place that has been exploited to one where possibilities exist.

These are not names that regularly make headlines – and maybe they never will. That doesn’t matter because they are making a difference to so many people.

This is the mindset we hope all of our programme participants embrace. Entrepreneurship has been hailed as the panacea needed to heal our ailing economy, but the reality is that startups are no more immune to the culture of corruption and mismanagement that has affected large corporations – in fact, some may argue that entrepreneurs, bent on ‘getting rich quick’, are even more susceptible. This is why, more than ever, we need youth leaders who are interested in adding value to society rather than being only focused on self-enrichment.

My question to the youth of South Africa, therefore, is this: how can you use the resources at your disposal to transform your journey towards entrepreneurship into a force for good? How can you use the influence you amass along that journey to have a positive impact on others? 

And as we do so, how can we become awake to our own purpose? This isn’t an easy process. It requires that we become aware and mindful of the values that have become entrenched through society’s teaching, and which we may have to unlearn because they don’t serve us in our quest to become high impact, responsible entrepreneurs. Maybe this means discarding the notion that we need to be ‘seen’ all the time, and focusing instead on what we would like to be ‘seen’ for.

We at the Foundation see entrepreneurship not only as a vehicle for personal gain (because, after all, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make a profit), but as one that can guide the decisions we make, which ultimately affect others. It’s easy to lose sight of our purpose, and it’s tempting to focus on ourselves rather than others – after all, it’s so much easier to work towards a personal profit than making a contribution to society. The truth, though, is that your value is amplified, rather than diminished, when you keep an eye to the greater good. So often, it is when we help others that we ultimately help ourselves.

Our Gray Matter Entrafluence Series aims to highlight how entrepreneurship can be used as a platform to add value to society. Find the Gray Matter podcasts, in collaboration with Timothy Maurice Webster, below.

Episode One

Lethabo’s personal journey of what shaped her into the entrepreneur she is today and how the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation acted as a vehicle for her to reach and achieve her purpose.

Episode Two

This episode speaks to Marie-Noelle’s academic experience and how she applied it along with entrepreneurial tools to have an impact within the policy-making space in order to regulate society better.

Episode Three

Interview with Thandeka Xaba, Fellow and co-founder of Digital Africa Ventures, which serves to represent the underrepresented by bridging the funding and support gap for early-stage tech entrepreneurs.

Episode Four

Hear about the beginnings and experiences that shaped Okendo Lewis Gayle, founder of the Harambean Entrepreneur Alliance, and how one moment inspired him to continue to pursue a better world.

Episode Five

Interview with Harambean Fellow, Velani Mbweni, CEO and co-founder of Lula, a disruptive tech company focusing on transforming the way people commute by leveraging the shared economy with mobile technology. In this episode, Velani highlights the moment that shaped not only him but his decision to become an entrepreneur and identifies how he could solve a growing socio-economic problem with a practical solution.

Responsible Business

Responsible Business

Henry Ford once said that “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.” With environmental and social conditions encouraging consumers to look more closely at the businesses they choose to support, this statement has never held more true.

At the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, sustainability is more than a buzz word. Indeed, the organisation was born out of the drive to create sustainable social and economic impact. By creating a vehicle that would do more than generate funds; it would also help to address the triple scourge of poverty, joblessness and marginalization that afflicted black South Africans at the time (and which continues to undermine the country’s economy). This was the sentiment which prompted our founder, Mr Allan Gray, to write to government in 1984, asking for permission to create such a vehicle. Mr Gray envisioned a fund that would make it possible for more black South Africans to participate in the formal economy, thus helping to alleviate many of the challenges the country faced. Given that apartheid was at its zenith during this time, his request was summarily dismissed – but his desire to create change remained unabated.

We are lucky that Mr Gray remained so intensely focused on this goal, because in 2005 – several years into our democracy – poverty and inequality remained entrenched in South Africa, destabilizing both its society and economy. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation therefore was birthed with the goal of responding to both of these concerns, by working towards an entrepreneurial, equitable South Africa flourishing with meaningful employment. Leveraging the legacy of the financial organisation which spawned it, it also continued Allan Gray’s value system; most notably, upholding his goal of effecting systemic change through entrepreneurship. With this in mind, since inception, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has focused unwaveringly on the development of high school and university programmes that combines a great educational foundation with it’s core focus to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in all its beneficiaries.

But this isn’t simply about raising a generation of business owners. Our goal is to create a cohort of people who are aware of the problems facing society, and who are eager – and able – to find ways to solve them.

Sustainability: Part of our DNA

This points to the fact that sustainability is in our DNA. For many, the concept of sustainability is a tricky one to comprehend fully, because we’re accustomed to looking at it through the lens of the environment – but sustainability is, in fact, a far broader issue, and should be looked at in the context of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria. In fact, this framework may be considered the foundation of any sustainable business. After all, for true sustainability to be achieved, each of these pillars must be addressed. Each is intrinsically linked, and one invariably impacts on the other.

In South Africa, the burden facing businesses in terms of sustainability is an especially significant one, encompassing as it does issues related to B-BBEE – not to mention the social challenges that continue to hamper our growth and development.

This is why the Foundation’s definition of entrepreneurship extends beyond traditional models, or even the idea that grabs most young aspirants; that of founding a “sexy” startup, attracting venture capital and retiring at a young age. For us, it’s about harnessing the power of entrepreneurship as a tool that may be able to solve those social problems; not only the ones that make headlines daily, like poverty, but those which affect the overall wellbeing of our communities, country and planet, such as health and energy alternatives. At the same time, we’re well aware of the contrast between the glamour that surrounds startups and the realities of this brand of responsible entrepreneurship; just as we’re aware that unethical behaviour such as corruption have greater appeal than the hard slog of chipping away at a problem until you find the solution. Our challenge, therefore, lies in making responsible, ethical entrepreneurship something to feel excited about.

This task is made more complicated by a world where even some of our major companies fail to set an example. Indeed, many of the behemoths that currently shape not only our economies but also our thinking falls short – despite their undoubtedly honourable intentions at inception. This is where sustainability really starts kicking in, because all too often, companies are built on foundations that appear solid, yet slowly start to erode in pursuit of growing a profit.

Keeping our promises

Granted, living up to the claims made early on in a company’s life is a big responsibility, and can be difficult to navigate. Doing so requires a lifetime commitment to being mindful. And to honour this commitment, it’s necessary to first acknowledge that business doesn’t exist within a vacuum. More than this, with the business environment in a state of constant flux, companies are under pressure to evolve. One look at the changing priorities of organisations confirms this: a few years ago, racial, rather than gender, diversity topped the list of concerns. Now, the absence of the female voice in the workplace leads the agenda. This points to the importance of keeping track of societal injustices.

Again, this speaks to our ethos: it’s not enough for a business to be built on an exciting idea. To have true impact, it needs to solve a societal problem. This is why entrepreneurship starts with a question: what is bothering me at the moment? Chances are, if it’s bothering you, it’s bothering other people, too. And, by addressing these issues, you’re not only bettering life for the current generation, but for generations to come.

While the Foundation addresses issues related to society through entrepreneurship education and development, it also attempts to be a good corporate citizen, by tending to environmental challenges by minimising water wastage and electricity consumption, while also increasing its recycling efforts. Initiatives related to governance, meanwhile, aim to create a measure which provides stakeholders confidence in our commitment to responsible entrepreneurship. This is what drives us to strive to maintain our record of clean audits and maintain an independent Board – it’s all in the name of walking our talk. This is part of the long-term orientation we believe lies at the core of sustainability.

Celebrating successes

This long-term outlook is key to our functioning, too – as it befits an organisation dedicated to a career path where overnight success is a myth that is propagated often. We have firsthand experience of this in our own operations. In 15 years, we have supported over 1900 beneficiaries’ educational and mindset development journeys through the Scholarship, Fellowship and Association programmes whilst developing an entrepreneurial mindset of over 25000 youth through the Allan Gray Entrepreneurship Challenge. To date, 168 of those are perusing entrepreneurship and 68 are full-time entrepreneurs. Two of those businesses are valued at R 1 Billion each. This is proof that our approach is achieving success: rather than aiming to create a swathe of entrepreneurs who do not, in fact, have an entrenched entrepreneurial mindset or who do not apply the principles of entrepreneurship to create sustainable, high impact businesses. Our goal is to leave a lasting impression on those we do reach. This objective is driven by our understanding that our entrepreneurs will have a higher propensity to take entrepreneurial action if we develop these individuals holistically, practically and tailored to their specific developmental areas.

Most notably, an entrepreneurial mindset doesn’t flourish instantly; rather, it is a way of viewing the world that is nurtured over time and does not always translate to immediate action. Our aim has always been to support beneficiaries while they complete their studies as education is important leverage, and then continue to support them as they enter the world of work and gain the experience, insights and social capital that would set them up for success when they were ready to start their own ventures. Indeed, age has been shown to be a major indicator of entrepreneurial success, with many studies revealing that the most successful business founders tend to be older than 35.

Looking forward…

As we move forward, our long-term orientation becomes even more important. We’ve encapsulated this future focus in our Vision 2030. Chief among these is our objective of seeing 500 new high impact businesses created by our participants; 10 of which would be valued at R1 billion each. When you look at our outcomes from this angle, the proportionate return on investment is expected to be significant.

What’s more, these companies will have an impact that goes far beyond their balance sheets, thanks to the social return on investment. That’s because we’re doing more than simply educating a single individual. We’re also going beyond, helping them to build a specific mindset which will equip them to face a number of obstacles while inspiring them to join the next generation of entrepreneurs. We are, in fact, looking at the family behind that person who will be forever changed; in many cases, our beneficiaries are the first in their family to attend university, effectively breaking a long-standing cycle. That’s before we take into account the nature of the businesses these beneficiaries will go on to establish, many of which will have long-reaching impacts on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

All told, we’re confident that identifying and supporting the dynamic young changemakers of the future is the way to go. That said, there have been many learnings along the way; learnings which we hope will be useful to other companies seeking to entrench sustainability.

Learning from the past

Obviously, it takes a lot of planning to get things right. If we don’t think about the future, all hopes of sustainability will be dashed. That’s why the Foundation takes care to build up our internal reserves, so that we are able to cover any shortfalls that are not addressed by our donation (which amounts to 7% of Allan Gray Propriety Limited’s profits). We believe that this is a smart strategy for any NGO concerned with sustainability, because it creates resilience in an unpredictable world.

That long-term orientation mentioned earlier is also critical. For me, it comes down to keeping an eye to the future, rather than focusing solely on the present. That means ensuring that any business decisions you make takes into account that the funds you’re able to access right now might change down the line – even if it’s simply because you want or need to scale operations. In other words, you have to build ‘what if’ scenarios into your thinking – something I have found is often lacking – because when the world changes (as it will), you need to have the resources to be able to pivot along with it.

Your far-sightedness should extend to considering all areas of the business, rather than your primary focus area. Yes, it’s vital to offer a quality product or service – but whether you’re an NGO or a corporate, you still need the support of strong marketing, finance and HR teams. Your entity will rely on these teams for different reasons: when the going is good, you need the marketing function to tell everyone; when times change, you need an encouraging HR team to rally the troops and keep everyone focused on a single direction. And, whether times are good or bad, you need your finance function to make sure you have money squirrelled away for a rainy day – because, believe me, they will come.

I’d also like to highlight the importance of monitoring and evaluation – even for NGOs. For a long time, it was sufficient for Public Benefit Organisations to get by on their good intentions, but that’s no longer enough. We at the Foundation have a rigorous approach based on our very meticulous Theory of Change which acts as our North Star and incremental steps to arrive at the most favorable outcome. Similarly, annually we approach our strategies on cascading goals, and that keeps us accountable to our stakeholders.

Of course, the fact remains that no matter how much we achieve, we always want to do more. I am always reminded of the words of our Founder, Mr Gray, who told our Fellows upon graduation that although they have many reasons to celebrate, there is much work still to be done. That’s so true, and it’s something all companies would do well to remember – it’s exciting to start on a journey, but once you have started, it will take all your resilience, creativity and steadfastness to your vision, mission and values to see it through sustainably.

 

Karen Gabriels, Head of Finance and Operations
Entrepreneurship pathway opens for Grade 12 change agents

Entrepreneurship pathway opens for Grade 12 change agents

February 2021: In an uncertain world, it is evident that developing an entrepreneurial mindset and skillset is pivotal. This is an opportunity for Grade 12 learners who dream of ideas that could better the world; and the individuals who aspire to work with purpose and bring about much-needed change to their communities.

For more than 15 years, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation has substantially invested in the education and development of young South Africans with dreams and potential to develop into successful entrepreneurs. Grade 12 learners across the country are invited to apply now to be selected for the Foundation’s 2022 Fellowship Programme which is an exciting opportunity for successful individuals to nurture their entrepreneurial mindsets.

With four distinct entrepreneurship programmes, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation recognises entrepreneurship as a lifelong quest requiring a long-term, holistic approach. For high achievers amongst the current Grade 12 cohort, it’s the opportunity to not only secure financial support for their tertiary studies at a top partner university, but selected Candidate Fellows will also enter into a realm of 360º entrepreneurial training and become part of a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Successful applicants need to demonstrate a curious mindset, leadership skills, ethical values and commitment to using their entrepreneurial thinking to bring about positive change.

At a time when the formal economy is shedding thousands of jobs due to the pandemic, Nontando Mthethwa, Head of Public Affairs and Communications at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, emphasizes the importance of the country’s investment in job creators. “At the Foundation we believe that entrepreneurial training should be a basic human right. Our education sector, from school through to tertiary studies, is primarily focused on turning out job seekers. This means that fewer Grade 12s leave school confident that they have what it takes to be successful business owners. Our Fellowship Programme is designed to step into this gap, and ensure that as they undertake university studies, they are simultaneously exposed to entrepreneurial training and a community that passionately believes in the powerful possibilities of entrepreneurship.”

The Foundation’s Fellowship is available at 10 partner universities across five provinces including the Western Cape, Gauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State. “The goal of the Fellowship Programme is to ensure that qualifications taught at institutions are aligned to entrepreneurial outcomes, and can be applied in an entrepreneurial context,” says Mthethwa.

“The Fellowship Programme sets students on a pathway that nurtures their entrepreneurial potential so that they develop personally and professionally as responsible entrepreneurs with the potential to bring much-needed change to South Africa, and the world.”

Are you a Grade 12 who ticks these boxes?
  • South African citizenship
  • 21 years of age or younger in 2021
  • Minimum of 60% in Pure Mathematics or a minimum of 80% in Mathematical literacy for final grade 11 results
  • Minimum average of 70% for final Grade 11 results (excluding Life Orientation)
  • Intention to study towards a Commerce, Science (excluding Medicine, Veterinary Science and Dentistry); Engineering, Law, Humanities or Arts degree at the Iniversity of the Witwatersrand, University of Johannesburg, University of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela University, Rhodes University, University of the Western Cape, Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria, University of the Free State and University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Indications of an entrepreneurial mindset
  • Belief in the future of South Africa

Applications accepted between 8 February and 30 April 2021, 17:00 SAT.

How to apply:

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation believes that entrepreneurially-minded individuals with ethical values and strong leadership skills hold the promise of change. We stand behind entrepreneurs improving the socio-economic landscape of Southern Africa. Our mission is to foster such impact by providing youth demonstrating the highest potential access to education and cultivating within them an entrepreneurial mindset.

2019 Impact Report

2019 Impact Report

Impact measurement avows the positive effect that the Foundation has on the South African entrepreneurial ecosystem and it ensures that the social goals, defined intentions and performance delivered is aligned with the Foundation’s mission to foster a community of high-impact, responsible entrepreneurs. Impact management governs impact investing and
establishes the measurement approach and strategy to generate, capture and use the correct data.

Allan Gray’s vision of making a sustainable, long-term contribution to Southern Africa is upheld by impact management and impact measurement and embattles the need to raise up the kind of high-impact entrepreneurs that will make wide-reaching and significant economic and social impacts on a country.

This report serves several important purposes and guides the Foundation in strategic decision making, overcoming the challenges of time, cost and capacity, and planning activities for the following year whilst also providing an accurate justification for each decision made. Through this, we have identified opportunities and found ways to mitigate problems and to further strengthen proven successes and see Allan Gray’s vision through. The key changes in the context of the South African entrepreneurial ecosystem, the experiences of Programme Participants and an operational overview of the Foundation is encapsulated in the 2019 Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Impact Report.

Find it here.

 

What makes an Entrepreneur: 14 Behavioural Competencies

What makes an Entrepreneur: 14 Behavioural Competencies

From the time the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was established in 2005, our aim has been simple: to nurture high impact, responsible entrepreneurs. However, it’s one thing to implement a programme with a clear objective, and quite another to prove – scientifically and empirically – that the programme is achieving its intended goals.

That’s why the Foundation embarked on a formal validation study in 2017. By this time, the success profile methodology used to select participants for our programme had been in place for five years. We wanted to be sure, beyond doubt, that our tools were optimally accurate and effective in terms of assessing candidates. We also wanted to determine whether our selection and development framework was the right one. Could we be certain that the competencies we selected for were, indeed, indicators of academic performance and entrepreneurial potential?

Our validation study was informed and underscored by our understanding that, when establishing a business, success is largely determined by three critical elements: the Person (their skills, competencies, mindset and values) the Context (political and socio-economic) and the Process (the steps taken to start the business). The Foundation’s work is unique in that we select young people at pre-ideation stage; in other words, we select for individual entrepreneurial potential, rather than the business idea. This means that an individual’s mindset and competencies are of paramount importance, because they are indicative of the ability to develop into a responsible, high impact entrepreneur.

THE PROCESS

Our journey to greater effectiveness began with testing all the selection tools employed in our Scholarship and Fellowship programmes. We followed this with a qualitative review of our success profile framework and methodology.

Our initial findings revealed three critical insights. For a start, we learned that there was limited insight into our theory and rationale. For instance, we might select for resilience, but the theoretical link to this construct was weak. In fact, if you asked two different people to link resilience to high impact entrepreneurship, you’d receive two different responses.

Our second finding related to the lack of outcomes domains. We hadn’t provided an unambiguous definition of our outcomes, which meant that even though we were doing great work around entrepreneurial development, the impact of our initiatives couldn’t be measured in terms of predictive validity towards entrepreneurial performance and/or development. We therefore had to formalise the links between outcomes and constructs.

Finally, we found that the success profile competency framework lacked discriminant validity between our various constructs, and, in many cases, they overlapped.

The reasons for these areas of improvement were manifold; the relativeness newness and complexity of the field of entrepreneurialism being one of the most significant. There is, consequently, limited research available on the topic, especially pertaining to what makes an entrepreneur. This is particularly true of the age group targeted by the Foundation. Thus, our selection process was the most rigorous in place when it was first formulated, in spite of its shortcomings. Nonetheless, as a learning organisation, we were eager to address these and enhance the process wherever possible – as we will continue to do in the future.

Our quest for improvement meant that we had to return to the beginning, to take a fresh look at our theoretical and empirical roots and, in so doing, establish more clearly defined entrepreneurial competencies with a South African-centric focus.

THE NEXT STEPS

The first phase of the project centred around generating a literature review and developing our entrepreneurial research survey. Using desktop research, we conducted an empirical analysis of both local and global data to identify 17 models of high impact entrepreneur-ship.

Next, we hosted a workshop with our reference group – which comprised external experts, internal stakeholders, and established entrepreneurs – to extract key competencies from these models.

We had now identified 19 key competencies, all of which had been shown to lead to entre-preneurial action. More than this, we also gleaned an understanding of where to pitch our entrepreneurial outcomes: where previously we had concentrated on CEO or conductor levels, we realised the need to establish a greater degree of involvement, earlier on in the entrepreneur’s journey. We therefore shifted our emphasis to start-up entrepreneurs, whose abilities may then be nurtured, allowing them to follow different paths.

We concluded this phase with a literature review, drafted by the University of Pretoria, which created conceptual and operational definitions of each competency and assessed the developability of each construct, also noting whether each could be measured. We now had a conceptual and operational definition for each construct, and a clear path on how to take each forward.

This led us to the second phase of the project: finalising our research survey on the 19 competencies. This included a survey on entrepreneurial action, so that we were better equipped to measure such action.

The entrepreneurial action scale (McMullen and Shepherd, 2006) consists of 17 items to measure the business start-up activities on a five-point Likert-type scale where respondents were asked to what extent they have engaged in the listed activities toward venture creation in the last three years, ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (always) (see Table 1). Entrepreneurial action was split into three constructs using the Exploratory Factor Analysis. The entrepreneurial outcomes for each entrepreneurial action phase are listed below.

 

 

BEFORE SETTING UP OUR SAMPLE GROUP,

we piloted the study among Allan Gray Fellows, then incorporated their feedback and refined our questionnaires before distributing them among our sample of 1200 start-up and established entrepreneurs-noteworthy for being the third largest entrepreneur sample in South Africa. The hybrid nature of the sample is noteworthy, too, as accessing start-up entrepreneurs is difficult. We were aided in the data collec-tion process by a company that enjoys relationships with a number of entrepre-neurial agencies and institutions.

Once we had collected the data, it was time for analysis, a phase that took place between December 2018 and February 2019. One of our aims here was to refine the 19 competencies identified during the previous phase, narrowing them down to those which had been shown to be most closely aligned to entrepreneurial action.

We were now set up for Phase Three: moving data analysis from our respondents, using a structural equation modelling process. We also undertook statistical analysis to examine the strength of each construct compared to the entrepreneurial action outcomes, allowing us to target the constructs with the most significant relationships to entrepreneurial action.

The ultimate result? A scientific, empirical model that shows a good fit between 13 constructs. Further, the reference group who assisted throughout the research project, believed that as a precursor to opportunity assessment is opportunity recognition, which did not fall into the 13-competency model and subsequently decided to add Opportunity recognition as a competency.

This is important, because we now know beyond any doubt that if we select for certain constructs, and develop them, entrepreneurial action of some sort is guaranteed. Empirically tested and proven, these constructs now form the basis of the Foundation’s selection and development initiatives of its candidates and beneficiaries. Consequently, our already carefully formulated selection process has been enhanced by our increased knowledge of entrepreneurship, which has allowed for our more scientific approach.

Our scrutiny of all constructs and their relationship with entrepreneurial action was significant in another way, too: it confirmed findings from a previous study we conducted in partnership with the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI), where we had attempted to establish a growth mindset model. During this study, five competencies had emerged as key: a growth mindset, self-efficacy, locus of control, resilience and attribution theory. Interestingly, four of these (resilience, locus of control, growth mindset and self-efficacy) were once more revealed as statistically significant, reaffirming the model developed in collaboration with ELI and ensuring that we have now validated, and empirically tested, the constructs leading to entrepre-neurial action.

WHERE TO FROM HERE

Having defined scientifically and empirically tested competencies required for successful entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial action at a startup level, we’re now poised to apply our research at high school and university level. This will enable us to develop candidates at these levels with optimal efficiency, so that they are able to kickstart their entrepreneurial careers as soon as they graduate from our programmes or best case, during.

Our way forward lies in using the research and customising the competencies to enhance the selection processes for our Scholarship and Fellowship programmes, and to ensure that we are developing each competency, for each individual, optimally.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Our final task lay in aligning our new entrepreneurial competency and mindset framework throughout the Foundation’s pipeline – and, moreover, ensuring that the results are available to our ecosystem partners.

This is, perhaps, one of the most important steps in the process, because the ramifications of our competency review are tremendous. Obviously, the outcomes hold clear advantages for the Foundation itself, enabling us to select candidates with far greater efficiency. What’s more, because we have established which competencies are trait-based and which are developable, we are able to nurture our candidates at different levels – and, if a certain competency is not greatly developed, candidates can learn which they can strengthen in order to become a more well-rounded entrepreneur. This insight is particularly heartening when it comes to the mindset constructs, as each of these can be developed. This gives credence to our belief that entrepreneurship is not an innate quality but can, in fact, be taught.

This study could help the entrepreneurship community understand why entrepreneurial intention does not always translate into action, because we know which specific mindsets and competencies are predictors of entrepreneurial action. These competencies can be measured using validated tools in various programmes for baseline data, which can then be used to tailor or customise development programmes for future entrepreneurs.

Moreover, helping entrepreneurs become aware of their entrepreneurial potential can allow them to enter the space with greater confidence, as the findings emphasise the role of personal development and self-mastery.

The implications for organisations and business owners are interesting, too, especially in terms of team recruitment, allowing companies to identify the complementary traits required to build an entrepreneurial, cohesive and effective team. These measures could also assist in profiling various types of entrepreneurs going forward.

Finally, entrepreneurship accelerators and incubators stand to benefit from our findings by applying the knowledge of which competencies to use when selecting participants. This affords accelerators greater clarity in terms of the traits they are looking for, as well as the traits that need to be developed.

THE 14 COMPETENCIES

Our research showed the following competencies to be crucial:

 

1. OPPORTUNITY ASSESSMENT:
The ability to evaluate an opportunity and make a decision around it.

Conceptual definition:
The process of evaluating an idea, concept, or opportunity to determine whether there is sufficient strategic, market, and financial merit for continued consideration and possible development into a product. (Moris, et al. 2013)

Operational definition:
The ability of the entrepreneur to evaluate the opportunity before them and to make a decision regarding the opportunity. Testing a gut feeling of good versus not-so-good opportunities. (Baron, 2006; Haynie, Shepherd & McMullen, 2009)

Link to entrepreneurship:
Opportunity assessment increases the probability of entrepreneurial success, as the opportunity is analysed to ensure the performance of an identified opportunity. This can be developed by encouraging entrepreneurs to meet with the customer, review internal resources, develop a strategy, conduct a risk assessment and plan (OBrochta, 2001).

The developability:
Measuring elements in the window of opportunity and the viability of an opportunity can increase a person’s chances of becoming an entrepreneur. This is done by the opportunity assessment process that evaluates the viability and of profitability of the window of opportunity, an assessment of the opportunity over time and its long term viability (Lévesque & Maillart, 2008).

Can it be measured?
Yes. We used a scale developed by Moris et al. (2013) and obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.94.

 

2.PROBLEM SOLVING:
The ability to identify problems, redefine them and create opportunities out of them.

Conceptual definition:
Creative problem solving is a skill that is based on the accumulation of effort, imagination, knowledge and evaluation of the problem (Turker & Sonmez Selçuk, 2009) (McMullen & Kier, 2017:2).

Operational definition:
Creative problem solving is described as the ability to identify problems, redefine the problems and create opportunities out of the problems by developing new and innovative solutions to problems (McMullen & Kier, 2017:2), (Morris et al., 2013:357).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Creative problem solving (CPS) builds entrepreneurial mindset. CPS is defined as seeking original ways to reach goals when the means to do so are not readily apparent. Entrepreneurship involves recognising a business opportunity, mobilising resources and persisting to exploit that opportunity. Esomonu (1998) defined entrepreneurship as the effective manipulation of human intelligence as demonstrated in a creative performance. This singular risk-taking act leads an individual to create something of value from practically nothing.

The developability:
Creativity and CPS can be developed by stimulating creative thinking and the ability to tap into one’s inventive side. This can be measured by determining how creative one is, how inventive, how often one comes up with novel ideas and the ability to identify opportunities (Hmieleski & Corbett, 2006).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Creative problem solving (creativity) scales have been developed and tested by (Kristiansen & Indarti, 2004), and obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.85.

 

3.INNOVATION:
The ability to be creative and turn ideas into reality.

Conceptual definition:
Innovation can be described as the development of a new idea, method or device (Dahlander & Jeppesen, 2014).

Operational definition:
The ability to turn imaginative and creative ideas into reality (Jain, 2011:130-139), Boyles (2012)

Link to entrepreneurship:
Innovation is the mechanism by which organisations produce the new products, processes and systems required for adapting to changing markets, technologies and modes of competition. Innovation represents today’s competitive advantage, supported by strong mainstream capabilities in quality, efficiency, speed and flexibility. Innovation can help firms play a dominant role in shaping the future of their industries. High performing innovators are able to maintain a giant juggling act of capabilities, and consistently bring new high-quality products to the market faster, more frequently and at a lower cost than competitors. Moreover, these firms use process and systems innovation as a way of further improving their products and adding value to customers. This combination creates a dynamic and sustainable strategic position, making the organisation a constantly moving target to competitors (Lawson & Samson, 2001).

The developability:
Innovation capability is proposed as a higher-order integration capability; that is, the ability to mould and manage multiple capabilities.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Innovation scales developed and tested by (Lukas & Ferrell, 2000; Mitchelmore & Rowley, 2010), obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.78. Innovation scales developed and tested by (Higgins, 1995), obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.70.

 

4.RESILIENCE:
The ability to work through challenges.

Conceptual definition:
Resilience can be described as an entrepreneurs’ ability to face challenges and still persist (Ayala & Manzano, 2014:128).

Operational definition:
Resilience is measured through the capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully to disturbances that threaten system function, viability, or development (Fisher, Maritz & Lobo, 2016:40).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Resilience, according to Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004:4), is an entrepreneur’s ability to continue living a resolute life, no matter the adversity or difficulties that are faced.

The developability:
Operational flexibility enables resilience through allowing the organisation to respond quickly and effectively to disruptions (Sheffi 2007). As such, the organisational capabilities offer the potential for adjustment under conditions of uncertainty and encompass the notion of innovation within organisational systems.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Resilience scales developed and tested by (Sinclair & Wallston, 2004) obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.69

 

5.AUTONOMY:
The belief that, as an individual, you have control over your outcomes.The belief that, as an individual, you have control over your outcomes.

Conceptual definition:
Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control (Lefcourt, 1991).

Operational definition:
To measure whether a person enjoys being in control of every aspect of their business (Spector, 1988).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurs tend to have a strong internal locus of control. Locus of control is a concept defining whether a person believes he/she is in control of his/her future, or someone else is in control of it. For example, we all know people who believe they have no control over their lives. They believe that what happens to them is dictated by outside forces.  People who feel they are victims of outside forces have an external locus of control – “it’s not my fault this happened to me.” By contrast, entrepreneurs have a very strong internal locus of control. They believe their future is determined by the choices they make (Hansemark, 1998)

The developability:
Rotter (1966) made a significant contribution to this tradition with the development of a “locus of control” construct. According to Rotter, an individual perceives the outcome of an event as being either within or beyond his or her personal control and understanding. In individualistic cultures we found an increased likelihood of an internal locus of control orientation. There was also support for the hypothesis that an entrepreneurial orientation, defined as internal locus of control combined with innovativeness, is more likely in individualistic, low uncertainty avoidance cultures than in collectivistic, high uncertainty avoidance cultures (Mueller & Thomas, 2001).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Locus of control scales developed and tested by (Spector, 1988) obtained a Cronbach alpha of a range from 0.91 to 0.94.

 

6.CURIOSITY:
A drive to find out information without being prompted.

Conceptual definition:
Curiosity is the catalyst ingredient, which leads entrepreneurs to pry into status quo products and services to find new solutions to better solve customers’ problems. A sense of curiosity means you look at even the smallest problems and seek a better solution (Steyaert, Hjorth & Gartner, 2011).

Operational definition:
Curiosity arises when an entrepreneur is bored or interested in gaining additional information that is specifically linked to entrepreneurship. It is measured when a person is no longer comforted by the novel stimulus surrounding them and wants to find new opportunities or information necessary in business (Fletcher, 2011).

Link to entrepreneurship:
There is a link between entrepreneurial curiosity and entrepreneurship results in learning tasks related to entrepreneurship and the ability to incorporate new experiences to improve or develop a business.  Curiosity can further be described as finding answers which enable a person to improve decision making. An entrepreneur who has a high level of curiosity will be interested in understanding how the economy works, how to improve results and how business works (Fletcher, 2011).

The developability:
Curiosity is made up of perceptual curiosity (intellectual information), epistemic curiosity (experience) and operationalised international curiosity (new information of people). Entrepreneurial curiosity is the desire that drives the individual to learn how to perform specific tasks which are directly related to entrepreneurship, such as how to conduct market research, the development of new ideas, financial analysis, how to achieve and set goals and the use of marketing.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Curiosity scale developed and tested by (Fletcher, 2011) obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.94.

 

7.VALUES DRIVEN:
The extent to which an individual is committed to their personal or organisational values.

Conceptual definition:
This is a type of leadership that puts values into practice, where they act as guiding principles with regards to business and personal lives (Mussig, 2003).

Operational definition:
Examines the extent to which a person has values and how committed they are to follow those values (De Bruin & Buchner, 2010).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Generally, there is agreement that a vision is a pattern for a future; having elements of time and scope, it is values driven, has a purpose, and often evokes a mental image or picture that can be communicated (Bird & Brush, 2003). People with protean career attitudes are values-driven as they shape their careers according to their own internal values and beliefs (Uy, Chan, Sam, Ho & Chernyshenko, 2015). Entrepreneurship is the driving force in economic development throughout the world. Yet, some have argued that entrepreneurship is fundamentally a values-driven activity (Berger 1991; Lipset 2000).  Kilby (1993) notes that values are instrumental in advancing a constructive understanding of human behaviour and consequent change. Thus, it would seem that personal values should have important implications not only for the decision to pursue entrepreneurship, but the way in which the entrepreneur approaches a venture. Values reflect the entrepreneur’s conscious view of himself or herself (Feather 1990). In addition to this, the view (or belief) that one has about himself or herself directly shapes movement toward action, or one’s motives (McClelland 1961).

The developability:
What values will drive the company? And what will your role be in this organisation? The vision of your venture should be a short statement that can be easily communicated, or presented in an image (Brush, 2008). The values that the Foundation drives, can be developed.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Value driven scales developed and tested by (De Bruin & Buchner, 2010) obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.654.

 

8.ACTION ORIENTATION:
The extent to which a person is willing to take action to solve a problem without being prompted.

Conceptual definition:
Action orientated is when a person is willing or likely to take practical action to deal with a problem or situation (Low, 2001).

Operational definition:
Measures the extent to which a person is willing to pursue development and hopefully a business (Frese, Kring, Soose & Zempel, 1996).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Action orientation or personal initiative is a proactive, self-starting, and persistent long-term orientation that attempts to shape environmental conditions (Frese, Kring, Soose, & Zempel, 1996); extending proactiveness to personal initiative which, over and above proactiveness, entails approaching business issues in a persistent and self-starting manner which forms the basis of entrepreneurship (Krauss, Frese, Friedrich & Unger, 2005)

The developability:
Action orientation can be measured by enquiring about attitudes and values concerning change and initiative, as well as about entrepreneurial intentions (Johannisson, Landstrom & Rosenberg, 1998).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Action orientation scales developed and tested by (Frese et al., 1996) obtained a Cronbach alpha between 0.67 and 0.87

 

9.CALCULATED RISK-TAKING:
The ability to identify, manage and take risks to improve the ultimate chance of success.

Conceptual definition:
Risk management/mitigation involves the systematic monitoring, assessing, hedging, transferring, and/or exploiting of multifaceted risks encountered as an innovation initiative unfolds (Baum et al., 1998)  (Pillay & Morris, 2016), (Thekdi & Aven, 2016:278)

Operational definition:
The successful identification and management of risks leading to a reduction in potential losses but still enabling the small business to pursue opportunities (Brustbauer, 2016:70; Murmann & Sardana, 2013:192).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Risk taking propensity makes it easier for the firm and the entrepreneur to adapt to environmental changes, consumer preferences, technological developments and competitor moves (Kellermanns, Eddleston, Barnett & Pearson, 2008:5). Risk taking management (Miller & Friesen, 1978:926; Park, Min & Min, 2016:122).

The developability:
Calculated risk taking involves a successful identification, coordinated valuation and prioritisation of risks in order to reduce, monitor and control the likelihood of an unforeseen event (Vonortas & Kim, 2015:122).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Calculated risk-taking scales developed and tested by (Morris et al., 2013) obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.826.

 

10.VALUE CREATION:
The ability to evaluate the potential to create new value for a client or organisation.

Conceptual definition:
Value creation is an integral part of the business model, as it is the process of pursuing new markets, new revenue streams and new business opportunities, while determining how the business products or services will create sufficient value for the customers (Bocken, Short, Rana & Evans, 2014:43; Teece, 2010:172).

Operational definition:
Evaluates the extent to which new value can be created by the entrepreneur in his business, products or services (Dyer et al., 2008).

Link to entrepreneurship:
At a societal level, the process of value creation can be conceived in terms of programmes and incentives for entrepreneurship and innovation intended to encourage existing organisations and new entrepreneurial ventures to innovate and expand (Lepak, Smith & Taylor, 2007).

The developability:
Business begins with value creation. It is the purpose of the institution: to create and deliver value in a way that is sufficiently efficient to ensure it generates profit after cost.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Value creation scales developed and tested by (Dyer et al., 2008), obtained a Crobach alpha between 0.74 and 0.78.

 

11.GROWTH MINDSET:
The ability to evaluate the potential to create new value for a client or organisation.

Conceptual definition:
The belief that intelligence is not fixed but can be developed is a comparably strong predictor of achievement, and exhibits a positive relationship with achievement (Dweck,2015)

Operational definition:
The growth of business activities is evident if entrepreneurs consider this a priority in their businesses (Gundry and Welsch, 2001).

Link to entrepreneurship:
The literature existing on entrepreneurship implicitly assumes that entrepreneurial orientation (EO) and growth orientation are positively related with each other.

The developability:
Some research has identified factors that enhance or reduce the willingness of the entrepreneur to grow the business. Factors include the strategic origin of the business (i.e., the methods and paths through which the firm was founded); previous experience of the founder/owner; and the ability of the entrepreneur to set realistic, measurable goals and to manage conflict effectively (Gundry and Welsch, 2001).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Growth mindset scales developed and tested by Dweck (2015) and Gundry and Welsch (2001), obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.86.

 

12.LEADERSHIP:
The ability to lead a group of people towards the attainment of a specific goal.

Conceptual definition:
The action of leading a group of people or an organisation (Yıldız et al., 2014).

Operational definition:
Leadership involves establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge and methods to realise that vision, and coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stake-holders. A leader steps up in times of crisis and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations (Daft, 1999).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Entrepreneurship is a special case of leadership (social leadership) and is distinguished from other forms of leadership because in this instance, the leader is one who created a company rather than manages an existing one. The underlying premise in entrepreneur-ship research is that it is the entrepreneur (that is, the leader) who makes the difference in new venture success, often through risk-taking propensity. (Cogliser & Brigham, 2004).

The developability:
No one is a born leader but everyone can develop leadership skills, and everyone can benefit from using them. The following steps may help to develop leadership:

  1. Communicate effectively.
  2. Keep everyone working toward agreed upon goals: ·
  3. Get to know the people around you
  4. Treat others as individuals
  5. Accept responsibility for getting things done
  6. Problem solves in a step-by-step way

Can it be measured?
Yes. Leadership scales developed and tested by (Rush, Thomas & Lord, 1977) obtained a Cronbach alpha of 0.74

 

13.SELF-EFFICACY:
An individual’s belief in her own ability to solve problems and achieve goals.

Conceptual definition:
Self-efficacy is a motivational construct that has been shown to influence an individual’s choice of activities, goal levels, persistence, and performance in a range of contexts (Zhao, Seibert & Hills, 2005).

Operational definition:
Self-efficacy appears to be similar to self-esteem, expectancy, locus of control, and attribution concepts of personality and motivation; however, self-efficacy beliefs emphasise an assessment capability (can I do this?) as opposed to a concern with outcome expectations (if I do this, what will happen?) (Urban, 2006).

Link to entrepreneurship:
Self-efficacy is an individual’s belief in his or her innate ability to achieve goals. Self-efficacy is a construct first devised by Bandura (1977) in the psychological field, and is understood as the strength of people’s convictions of their own effectiveness in executing the behaviour required to achieve certain outcomes. People with a high level of self-efficacy tend to set challenging goals, persist even in the face of failure and approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered rather than issues to be avoided (Botha & Bignotti, 2016). Entrepreneurs are known for having high levels of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy also has a very strong relationship with entrepreneurial intention (Thompson, 2009).

The developability:
Self-efficacy is a motivational construct that has been shown to influence an individual’s choice of activities, goal levels, persistence, and performance in a range of contexts.

Can it be measured?
Yes. Self-efficacy scales developed and tested by (Spector, 1988) obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.91

 

14.OPPORTUNITY RECOGNITION:
The ability to understand information and identify the potential of something to be of value.

Conceptual definition:
The capacity to perceive changed or overlooked possibilities in the environment that represent potential sources of profit or return to a venture (Morris, et al. 2013).

Operational definition:
This is based on the development of patterns that recognise the link between an identification of a business opportunity, measuring the ability to discern information and whether a person can identify the potential of something to be of value (Baron, 2006).

Link to entrepreneurship:
In earlier studies, opportunity recognition or identification was referred to as entrepreneurial intention. For example, Shaver and Scott (1991) state that entrepreneurs have the type of motivation to make the entrepreneurial process result in opportunity realisation, which is known as entrepreneurial intention or intent. Likewise, Krueger et al. (2000) found that the opportunity identification process is an intentional process and therefore also offers a means to better explain and predict entrepreneurship. The role of the entrepreneur in opportunity search and identification is controversial, because intention models posit that entrepreneurs intend to be entrepreneurs before they locate opportunities (Krueger 1993). In later studies, it is proposed that individuals with a stronger desire to be an entrepreneur will have the ability and competency to identify opportunities (Volery, Müller, Oser, Naepflin & Rey, 2013). Krueger (1993) associated self-efficacy with opportunity recognition, and Short, Ketchen, Shook, and Ireland (2010) later proved that self-efficacy is directly related to entrepreneurship, thus deducing that opportunity recognition and entrepreneurship have a bidirectional relationship.

The developability:
SThe pattern recognition of opportunity recognition is used as it integrates three factors into a basic framework that is comprised of assessing a person’s alertness to opportunities, prior knowledge of the industry and actively looking for opportunities. Pattern recognition helps explain why one person is able to identify certain opportunities and while others do not. Pattern recognition suggests specific ways in which an entrepreneur can be trained to identify opportunities (Baron, 2006).

Can it be measured?
Yes. Opportunity recognition scale developed and tested by Morris et al. (2013) obtained a Cronbach alpha value of 0.71 and 0.90.

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows dominate award categories at the USAF Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Final

Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows dominate award categories at the USAF Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Final

 

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation enjoyed a strong presence at the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE), a division of Universities South Africa (USAf), Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Finals, with Candidate Fellows scooping awards in each of the competition’s four categories.

The Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Final took place on the 19th September. The initiative represents a collaboration between the Department of Higher Education and Training and Universities of South Africa through the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education Programme, and is supported by The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation , the SAB Foundation and Seda. The inaugural event aimed to identify, recognise and support entrepreneurship at student level, thereby encouraging studentpreneurs to take the next step towards entrepreneurial success. Each of South Africa’s 26 public universities took part in the challenge, with 1 155 valid entries received.

Candidate Fellow Mvelo Hlope of the University of Cape Town was named Studentpreneur of the Year, winning R50 000. Hlope also won the award for Best Existing Social Impact Business. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Candidate Fellows further dominated the Innovative Business Idea category, which was won by Penang Shirindza of Rhodes University, while Denislav Marinov, also from UCT, was named winner of the Existing Tech Business award. Musa Maluleka from Wits University won the Existing General Business category. Each of these category winners took home R10 000 in prize money.

“We are extremely proud of our winners,” says Nontando Mthethwa, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Head of Public Affairs and Communication. “Obviously, winning these awards is a significant achievement in its own right, and an acknowledgement of the excellence that we believe is characteristic of our Candidate Fellows. From the Foundation’s point of view, the Candidate Fellows’ outstanding performance is an endorsement of our programme and proves the effectiveness and efficacy of our approach.”

Hlope’s win reflects the innovativeness of his gamified online platform ZAIO, which enhances problem solving skills and improves users’ employability by providing free access to training in software development and coding. This business idea speaks directly to AGOF’s goal of developing high impact entrepreneurs who have the potential to address social challenges while contributing to employment and job creation. Shirindza’s company is a digital advertising company called Urban Play, while Marinov’s DVM Designs produces 3D printing machines for use in industry. Maluleka won for his design of Disktjie, a soccer boot boasting innovative features, purpose built for the South African environment.

“It is an enormous privilege to be able to contribute to the development of South Africa’s economy by fostering tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. We are greatly encouraged by the success of the participants in the EDHE Entrepreneurship InterVarsity Finals, and look forward to seeing how our winning Candidate Fellows continue to shape the business space going forward. We’re also looking forward to playing a role in nurturing more winners. Watch this space!” Nontando Mthethwa concludes.

The State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa

The State of Entrepreneurship in South Africa

Entrepreneurs are always going to face challenges. That much is a given. But what about entrepreneurship itself? Are we, the stakeholders who are trying to create fertile ground for individuals who choose this route, destinated to have a similar struggle?

The answer to this question is critical, because it reveals much about the state of entrepreneurship in South Africa. And, at present, it’s an answer that gives cause for concern.

Never in South Africa has there been such a crying need for entrepreneurs who not only succeed, but who have the ability to positively impact and transform their community. However, at the same time, it’s clear that these people are not receiving the support that would allow this to become a reality.

This was highlighted during the State of the Nation Address given by President Cyril Ramaphosa during February. Although Mr Ramaphosa admittedly had a number of challenges that required urgent attention, the omission of entrepreneurship as a national priority was a glaring one. Unfortunately, this concept remains a “by the way” – and, as long as this is the case, our entrepreneurs will continue to struggle.

This is evidenced by the rate of growth in South Africa. Quite simply, the outcomes of entrepreneurship do not keep pace with the inputs.

Compare our playing field with that of other African countries, for example. By all accounts, we are to be envied: it appears as though our efforts and successes in the area of entrepreneurship exceed that of our peers in many instances. However – and this is the crux – our entrepreneurs seem doomed to fail. Yes, we record an impressive number of start-ups, but few of these translate into sustainable jobs. In fact, only 15% of our start-ups go the distance.

This means that entrepreneurship in South Africa is failing in one of the key areas where it is intended (and where it is sorely needed) to have the most impact: job creation.

One of the reasons for this failure is the lack of alignment between skills and ideas. Our entrepreneurs may have outstanding insights that allow them to identify niches with potential to become lucrative businesses, but they don’t have the skills to take the business from point A to Point Z.

At first glance, it may appear that the existence of such a gap is absurd, given the significant array of resources that have been established precisely to provide entrepreneurial support in South Africa. However, the resulting ecosystem is fragmented: yes, there is a wealth of information and infrastructure out there, but none of it addresses the entire spectrum of entrepreneurial support, from end to end.

Moreover, many entrepreneurs aren’t aware of where they are in their journey. Which source do they consult, if they don’t know where they are in their entrepreneurial career trajectory, and what this means in terms of their support requirements and potential company growth? These are not questions that can be answered with a quick reference to company profitability, business valuation and market size, because the entrepreneur’s experience is typically a dynamic one characterised by change, adaptation and iteration – all of which create complications when it comes to accurately predicting company growth. In an ideal world, an individual with entrepreneurial potential would have clear guidelines regarding the support sources available, and which would be the most appropriate and best placed to provide advice and skills based on their current and future developmental phases. But this is certainly not the case at present.

Government’s current focus on FET-related skills poses is a further obstacle. While this is, indeed, a progression from the notion that a professional career is the only (or, at least, the best) option for every individual, regardless of their aptitude, progress in putting in place a future-ready curricula that boosts critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence in addition to fast-tracking the attainment of digital and STEM skills that will enable the workforce of the future to participate in the digital economy – has been stagnant. After all, the digital economy is where the greatest opportunities for today’s entrepreneurs reside, and it is therefore crucial to ensure that they have the requisite skills to take advantage. Our present model does not allow for this, however.

Currently, we don’t have a clear picture of knowledge and skills acquisition as they relate to employment, and how these can be best harnessed to drive rapid innovation and optimise industrial growth. Consequently, the majority of skills development initiatives in place in South Africa are geared towards bolstering existing, established industries and trades – but, since a future shaped by Artificial Intelligence holds very little certainty for any industry, we have to acknowledge the need to take risks on unknown quantities. One way of doing this, is seeking out industries that have the potential to enable, derail or disrupt existing sectors. Difficult though this is – it is, after all, almost impossible to imagine a world that currently exists only in terms of “what ifs” – tools like systems-thinking and design thinking may help us identify the gaps and opportunities offering the greatest potential for entrepreneurial action.

Education is failing our entrepreneurs in other areas, too. We cannot ignore the coming impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on our world; nor can we close our eyes to the fact that the industries which will prove most productive in the years to come probably don’t exist at present.

The skills required to gain mastery over these industries are, naturally, very different from those which served previous generations. But, then again, the people who will work in these industries have shown themselves to be very different, too. Just as workplaces were initially challenged to accommodate the personalities and tendencies of millennials – the pioneers of the ‘slashie’ or gigging generation, for whom it is commonplace to invest time and energy in a number of different jobs rather than pledging loyalty to an organisation – it’s likely that further adjustments will need to be made if we are to optimally harness the strengths of Generation Z.

On the one hand, and working in our favour, is the intrinsic entrepreneurial flair that seems to come naturally to many of this generation. However, they are also hampered by short attention spans. They are, moreover, more global in their thinking, and more individualistic, than any generation before them.

If we are to help them on their path to successful entrepreneurship, we need to take these differences into account and, perhaps most importantly, end our view of entrepreneurs as one-dimensional people.

At a more pragmatic level, entrepreneurial training in the future will need to go beyond focusing on the basic skills that are essential for starting a business. We will also need to tap into the values and motivations of individual entrepreneurs, while helping them leverage their social networks; perhaps one of the most important tools they’ll have at their disposal.

In other words, we need to steer clear of a blanket approach to teaching, and strive instead for methods that resonate on a more individual level. More than anything, we need to get young entrepreneurs thinking: not about the ventures that are most likely to succeed in financial terms, but which are most likely to solve the challenges currently facing our communities and societies.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s Fellowship programme has been carefully designed to address as many of these challenges as possible. Our chief differentiator, distinguishing us from other initiatives aiming to support entrepreneurs, regards the individuals selected to take part. Rather than honing in on people who have already established startups and require resources to ensure sustainability or take them to the next developmental phase, we target individuals who have displayed entrepreneurial flair, or who have the propensity to become an entrepreneur. We consider the metamorphosis – from potential entrepreneur to actual entrepreneur and, ultimately, entrepreneurial career – to be one of our greatest successes, because it means that people who otherwise would have followed traditional career paths (and thereby entrenched the current status quo) are instead given a chance to realise their full entrepreneurial potential.

That said, the Fellowship programme is neither prescriptive nor restrictive. It recognises that the most fulfilling careers are based on an “either and” rather than an “either or” mindset, and that career paths evolve over time. We accept that for some, entrepreneurship is a goal in itself; for others, it is a milestone that is part of a greater journey. We encourage participants to adopt a similar understanding of their careers, and the open-mindedness which develops as a result is a powerful motivator when it comes to taking risks and engaging with the process of starting a business. This milieu has allowed some Fellows to acquire the work experience required to establish their own start-ups, while others use their learnings from this environment to create a clearer idea of what kind of business they would ultimately like to create.

One of the instruments we have employed to nurture this mindset is the Dual Track Programme, introduced in 2018. Cognisant of the struggle for the many entrepreneurs who do not want to concentrate solely on academics or the theoretical side of entrepreneurial training, this initiative provides support for those who have already launched their own businesses, allowing them to take a sabbatical from their studies for a year to extend their degrees. The remarkable take-up of this programme pays credence to our belief that although entrepreneurship may well be an inherent skill, it can also be developed, provided the individual receives appropriate inputs, including opportunities for collaboration, personal mastery, networking and lifelong learning.

We have set up a variety of other tools to fashion a safe environment where they may flex their entrepreneurial muscles without fear of failure. These include the Ideation, Validation and Creation programme, our Accelerator programme and our annual jamboree, all of which are platforms for developing essential entrepreneurial skills and networking.

We have, furthermore, consolidated our learnings over the past 14 years, tweaking our curriculum to ensure a greater chance of success for our programme participants. Of most significance here is the abundance of information regarding entrepreneurship that has become available since the Foundation was first established in 2005. From being a relatively unknown quantity, entrepreneurship has become far better documented. Consequently, we have more accurate insights regarding the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, and how best to leverage these.

As a result, our programme has become considerably more structured. We have also adjusted the criteria of our Selection Camps to accommodate potential high impact entrepreneurs whose previously limited exposure may disadvantage them. In this, we have worked towards greater objectivity and consistency. With this in mind, we have, moreover, reviewed our successful profiles and application forms.

While these triumphs speak to the efficacy of our programme, we regard them not as our own successes, but as successes for the field at large – and, hopefully, we will see them create a springboard to boost entrepreneurship in future years.

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Greater rigour, greater impact

Greater rigour, greater impact

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is looking forward to a new era, integrating assessment processes and development processes for greater impact and enhancing the predictive value of tools.

When the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation was founded in 2005, it was with an eye to nurturing a culture of entrepreneurialism that would not only result in job creation; but which would also ultimately benefit the entrepreneurs’ communities. There is no doubt that it has been successful in these aims: now operating in four countries (South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia), the Foundation has received more than 33°000 scholarship applications, and funded over 3°500 years of education. Consequently, the Foundation has provided funding to more than 157 scholars to attend school at reputable high schools and has seen Fellows go on to establish businesses valued at over R1.5 billion, which have created 679 jobs.

However, in spite of this success, the Foundation identified a need to review its selection processes, ensure the validity and reliability of its tools, and entrench greater objectivity during the recruitment process, so that it could improve its results further still.

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Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

Inside the mind of an entrepreneur

What are the dimensions that drive entrepreneurship? And how many of these traits are present in the general population?

The ongoing search for answers to these questions raises a new one: Is it possible to develop a single set of measures that can evaluate the multiple drivers of entrepreneurship, from mindset to behaviour and belief, and apply these not only to South Africa, but to the entire world?

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (Foundation), in conjunction with the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) and Mindcette, an international organisation providing guidance and support for entrepreneurs, set out to find out if this can, indeed, be done. To this end, the Foundation commissioned African Response to undertake a survey, conducted amongst 3 661 randomly selected individuals representative of South African society, with questions crafted to uncover the DNA of successful entrepreneurs.

Of course, this is not the first time that the concept of entrepreneurship has been probed. Given the important position that start-ups hold in our economy, it’s not surprising that several organisations have tried to distil the essence of entrepreneurship. By delving into theory, it is able to provide more practical, workable programmes – and, in so doing, amplifies its credibility as an organisation dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship in South Africa.

But back to the questions surrounding the concept of entrepreneurship and the arguments that have been put forward to explain it so far. Some theorists have focused on the fact that entrepreneurs who thrive seem to relish taking ownership and accountability for their own successes; they also have a greater degree of self-confidence and aren’t threatened by the thought of taking risks. On the other hand, some researchers have concentrated on motivational factors like the role played by the drive for achievement, entrepreneurial passion, or even the practical factors that might make an individual consider self-employment.

The reality is that any – and all – of these might be significant, and in varying degrees – and that’s why the use of a single set of scales is so important. The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation therefore appointed a researcher to review all current literature, using this to extract the 11 most commonly occurring themes that appear to characterise entrepreneurship. Each of these themes can be further unpacked, to create 76 separate descriptors of characteristics – but, since many of these differ slightly, the researchers found that it was more appropriate to focus their questions around 37 critical descriptors. These ranged from the individual’s creativity and conscientiousness to whether they found it easy to be coached; from their resistance to conformity to their persistence and personal goals; their passion, resourcefulness, ability to accept risk, leadership ability, innovativeness, curiosity, emotional intelligence, financial goals, self-reliance and self-confidence.

Put them altogether, and a picture emerges of a person who believes in themselves strongly – so strongly that they feel it’s not possible to fail. But, even if they do, they won’t be deterred. They’ll simply keep trying – either because they feel their product or service truly can make a difference in their customers’ lives, or because they want to prove to themselves that they can succeed. Of course, no single individual can possess all of these qualities; even if they did, the traits themselves would fluctuate according to circumstances. It’s possible to be brimming with self-confidence one day, and fearful the next.

With this in mind, African Response created four categories of respondents: the omnibus survey, which was a nationally representative sample and a booster sample, where locations were chosen depending on how many business owners were present. Additionally, a separate sample comprising female business owners was included  allowing research into gender differences, while the remaining survey respondents were made up of fellows of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation.

The content of the survey and the questions put to these participants were significant, because this is the first time that existing entrepreneurship literature was drawn upon in a nationally representative sample.

So, what exactly did the survey find? Will it be possible to create a survey instrument that adequately describes the mindset of an entrepreneur?

Signs are hopeful: according to the findings, there are 11 dimensions which may be used to commonly describe female entrepreneurs, and 10 that appear to characterise male entrepreneurs. Only two of these dimensions (Entrepreneurial Desire and Focus) are identical in male and female sample participants (with Allan Gray Fellows scoring higher in these dimensions), although seven additional dimensions are common to both, varying only in terms of the extent to which they characterised the sample members. These dimensions included Confidence, Diligence, Innovation, Leadership, Motives, Resilience and Self-Control. Among the male respondents, five of the ten dimensions distinguished those who reported being self-employed full time from those who did not. That is, Focus, Confidence, Leadership, Resilience, and Self-Control.   This contrasted the findings for female respondents, for whom only Desire and Focus showed differences between the self-employed and other respondents.

The survey also found that the nine core dimensions were statistically reliable, while several showed significant differences when the respondents were self-employed on a full-time basis, or if they were not self-employed.  What does this all mean for would-be entrepreneurs? Obviously, the ultimate goal is to identify the traits shared by entrepreneurs, thus providing a basis for describing the entrepreneurial mindset, and to create a single instrument that can be used to identify and measure the presence of these traits would be an enormous help in this regard.  Furthermore, some of the differences obtained between women and men could inform modifications in entrepreneurship programme structure, in order to tailor entrepreneurial training more closely to the individual strengths of both sexes. This survey brings stakeholders one step closer to achieving this goal – but there is a caveat: according to Mindcette, the results of the survey will be most useful if the study is repeated in the future, as this will determine whether the national mindset is changing. Added to this, it would be beneficial if the survey was adopted by other countries, so that an international benchmark can be established. It is also recommended that participants in the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation’s entrepreneurial development programmes are assessed when they exit the programme, to gain further insight into their mindsets.

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation will further use the information gathered from these assessments to determine whether there are differences in the beliefs and drives of male and female entrepreneurs and will structure future programmes accordingly. Of course, the information contained therein will prove useful for other organisations operating in the entrepreneurial space, too.

Entrepreneurship is a dynamic and exciting field, but the risks associated with self-employment are very real. Every tool available to entrepreneurs as they pursue success brings them one step closer to achieving their dreams – and that’s what makes this survey such a vital undertaking.

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