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Profiling Successful Entrepreneurs

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    A large amount of attention has been paid recently to the subject of Entrepreneurship and its many varying definitions. There is no one clear definition, because many successful Entrepreneurs come in different ages, income levels, gender and race (Holden 2007). We hear thousands of opinions on what skills makes one Entrepreneur more successful than the next. Entrepreneurship is very much shaped by the social and cultural environment around us, but the most provident thing about Entrepreneurship is the notion of risk taking (Shapero et al. 1982). To achieve objectives, one must take risks. Sometimes we fail but all at the same time that’s the learning journey one must take to succeed. But with the right determination one can turn these failures into a win with courage and a real fighting spirit. Many of today’s rich start off with nothing and must work their way up from nothing and have the necessary motivation, desire to succeed and most importantly the ability to take risks. With all this in mind one can’t but look at the amazing profile of Bill Cullen.

    Born on the 17th of February 1942, into a family of fourteen. Growing up in 1940’s and 50’s Ireland in the Summerhill area of Dublin, didn’t provide the best setting for a budding entrepreneur like Bill. But he was oblivious to the fact he was learning Entrepreneurial skills from an early age. His mother, Mary Cullen, was a seller on the streets of Dublin. He began selling fruit, flowers, Christmas decorations and match programmes on the streets of Dublin at the tender age of six to help support his family (Cullen 2005). This is where the prospering Entrepreneur honed his soon to be found Entrepreneurial skills. He got a strong foundation in how to buy, negotiate and seal a deal, perfecting his sales pitch and learning how to turn a profit on even the smallest item. One of the necessary practical skills that Entrepreneurs are widely deemed to lack that are so important to an aspiring Entrepreneur is the understanding of the importance of marketing and the ability to sell (Hindle et al. 2001). This skill to sell became tacit knowledge to Bill, one that carried through all his future business activities.

    Identifying and selecting the most appropriate Business venture is among the most important abilities of any successful Entrepreneur (Stevenson 1998). Bill wasn’t just happy to sell just sell apples he saw a gap in the market for selling flowers outside the maternity hospital in Dublin, selling newspapers outside railway stations, games in Croke Park, and outside churches. It’s clear from these examples Bill knew how important location was do selling even the smallest of items. Bill has many characteristics that represent him as being a Habitual Entrepreneur, always looking for new opportunities, chances to profit from change, not afraid to pursue new options, and knowing when an opportunity just is not feasible and is easily exhausted (McGrath et al. 2000). None of these ideas were exactly millionaire ideas but were all empire-building templates that a foreseeing entrepreneur took to fruition.

    An Entrepreneur is a person who finds out and evaluates a new situation in their environment. Always searching for change and exploiting possible progression (Kanchana et al. 2013). Bill was ready for a new challenge and decided he wanted to get a job in the labour market. He filled out more than seven hundred job applications without getting a single reply mainly down to him growing up in the suburbs of Dublin, but Bill quickly used a more upmarket address and got his first response from Walden Ford. At the age of thirteen he left school and entered the car industry as a messenger boy for the Walden Motor Company on the wage of £1 per week (Cullen 2001).

    Entrepreneurs with a strong work ethic are more trustworthy and disciplined which are essential qualities of any Entrepreneur (The Pitcher 2013). They build themselves a very strong reputation, which will always follow them through their entrepreneurial journey. Entrepreneurs with a strong work ethic tend to be motivated by responsibility and will always go beyond the call of duty. Throughout his career Bill processed a strong work ethic, when with Walden Motors, he started to attend night school where he completed a Business Diploma taking a major in type writing where he began to do out-of-hour work for the boss which got him really noticed by the boss and his colleagues. Then as roles became open above him in the hierarchy, he started to apply for them, completely under qualified for each role but with early mornings and late nights he soon made up for this downfall and with this hard work and severe dedication.

    The modern Entrepreneur needs to gain a competitive advantage, meaning one must go above and beyond their line of duty to better themselves on a professional level (Lumpkin et al. 1996). Bill was a pioneer who adopted an opportunity-grabbing first-moving strategy which allowed him to gain instant respect in the motor industry, going outside his normal workload and continuing to better himself. Bill soon became an expert in the motor industry (Cullen 2001), he invested in monthly subscriptions car magazines across the world getting him up to date with the latest trends not only in Ireland but cars across the world before they hit Ireland. Secondly, he used to attend car shows in England, seeing the latest models of cars before they even came to Ireland. Thirdly he joined the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, sitting at weekly meetings listening and learning, but when it came to him making a point, he knew the topic indepthly and soon got a solid reputation within the motoring industry and later went on to become the Honorary Treasurer (Cullen 2005). By 1968 aged just twenty-six he was appointed General Manager of the company which he developed into Ireland’s biggest selling Ford dealership. He opened Fairlane Ford in Tallaght in 1977 which he developed into the largest Ford dealership in Ireland by 1981. His background as a trader on the streets proved to be a remarkable training ground as he quickly moved through the ranks to become the director general of the company within an astonishing nine years.

    Major factors influence the process of opportunity recognition from entrepreneurial alertness, prior knowledge and social networks (Ardichvilie et al. 2003). A popular myth that surrounds Entrepreneurship is that it is very much that of the individualist, but there is an extensive range of knowledge that suggests that entrepreneurship is, socially embedded in network structures (Aldrich, 1987; Aldrich and Zimmer, 1986; Johannison, 1988). Entrepreneurs will seek out certain opportunities that they feel best equipped to exploit (Casson and Giusta 2007). Casson defines entrepreneurs as being specialists in “judgemental decisions” (1982), we can see that social networks play a considerable role in any entrepreneurial activity and we can Bill’s biggest Entrepreneurial break came when we took over Renault Ireland. Bill began to network with numerous people within the motor industry, he knew the previous owner of Renault Ireland, Paddy Hayes owner of Smith Group (Brennan 2009). Mr. Hayes went on to shortlist Bill has one of the possible buyers for Renault (Cullen 2005). Bill gave Renault Executives a strong presentation on statistics, positioning, strengths and weaknesses within Renault, marketing campaigns and most importantly how his innovative plan was going to resurrect the fortunes of Renault in Ireland.

    Innovation has become an important buzz word within Entrepreneurship are positively related to each other. Each helping the company to succeed with the vital combination and synergy of the two (Zhao 2005). Bill bought the Renault Franchise for Ireland for a mere £1 but with that was taking on a massive debt of £18 million. Bill began the makeover of the company by ruthlessly slashing costs and disposing of non-producing non-current assets, within a few years he began to get the company to break-even. At its peak, Renault had a net worth of in excess of €40 million and a turnover of €350 million, unfortunately with increased competition they made a loss of €18.6 million in 2007 and sadly Renault in 2007 was taken into direct control by Renault. Maybe Bill should have stopped focusing on the low margin cars, as this period was during the era of “The Celtic Tiger” in Ireland and people were looking for high specification cars (Ruxton 2017).

    When we distinguish between Entrepreneur’s motives we classify them under two headings, push and pull, and there is no doubt that Bill was pulled into Entrepreneurship he was attracted by the new business venture of running the Renault franchise in Ireland and was one of the few Entrepreneurs that would have been brave enough to take on such a risk (Amit and Muller 1995; Kirkwood 2009). Fortunately, for Bill he had a wide range of other investments and wasn’t fazed by the eventual failure of Renault. He took over Muckross Hotel that eventually went into receivership in 2013, but in 2014 Bill became the Dublin area dealer of SsangYong Motor Company. He also holds an executive position in RSVP magazine (Fuzion Communications 2009). We can see here that pursuing any opportunity is never that easy, failure will eventually come at some point and appears to be an enviable part of the Entrepreneurial journey (Shane et al. 2003).

    The success of any Entrepreneur is not always determined by their educational attainment (Brockhaus 1982). To be a successful Entrepreneur one must possess the Entrepreneurial characteristics of having the passion for the business, tenacity despite failure and execution intelligence all essential characterises Bill possessed (Neck et al. 2017). It’s an extraordinary journey from rags to riches. He learnt business the hard way selling fruit on the streets of Dublin but look at the tacit knowledge he absorbed. He ingrained habits of success into every Entrepreneurial journey.


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