Daring to compete: a conversation with Bryan Pearce

Welcome to Bold Steps and Misses, presented by Hot Paper Lantern. In this series, we shine a light on bold ideas that accelerate businesses and misses to avoid. On this episode, we sat down with our client Bryan Pearce, Global Leader for EY’s Entrepreneur Of The Year program and Venture Capital Advisory Group. Bryan chatted with Ted Birkhahn, President of Hot Paper Lantern, about his recently-published book: Daring to Compete — Accelerate Your Business to Market Leadership with EY’s 7 Drivers of Growth. The book features insights from some of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time and previous winners of EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year competition. In their conversation, Bryan and Ted discuss what makes a successful entrepreneur tick, from their background and defining features to how they deal with risk. Bryan reveals how emerging technologies are continuing to evolve entrepreneurship, as well as techniques large corporations can use to harness the entrepreneurial spirit.

What are some of the shared traits of winning entrepreneurs?

“First off, passion is critical. Murad Al-Katib, one of our world winners from Canada, sees passion as the ‘price of entry’ for becoming an entrepreneur. If you don’t have passion about what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.

Passion then leads to what it is that you’re going to be passionate about. Most of these entrepreneurs created their businesses around a problem they identified and wanted to fix– what I call a ‘scratch that needs to be itched.’ They exhibit vision both in seeing what is wrong, as well as what needs to be done.

Another is a constant emphasis on the customer. Craig Heatley, one of the entrepreneurs we interviewed from New Zealand, said that thinking about the customer becomes so natural it’s almost like breathing. Successful entrepreneurs are always thinking about how to maintain the lifelong value of a great customer.”

How do great entrepreneurs deal with risk?

“I think most people think of entrepreneurs as big risk-takers. But, when you actually get to talk to them and understand them, they think of themselves more as risk-managers than risk-takers.

Every business has many inherent risks– from problems with initial capital to accelerating product development to market acceptance. However, what the best entrepreneurs do is identify those risks and manage them. They understand that certain risks may allow them leap-frog the competition, while others have the potential to sink the entire operation.”

How are emerging technologies evolving entrepreneurship?

“In some ways, technological advancements have made it easier for entrepreneurs to start a company. The internet has ‘evened the playing field’ by making a wealth of products and services available anytime, anywhere– there’s far less market localization.

Additionally, the ‘Gig Economy’ allows entrepreneurs to acquire things in just the right quantity and at precisely the time they need it– whether that’s contract work, recruitment, space, or equipment.

While all of the inputs into getting a business started are certainly more affordable and accessible than in the past, the challenge becomes understanding who else in the world is out there. Who else is working on solving the same problem? How do you differentiate yourself against an entire globe of competition?

It’s important that entrepreneurs understand that their competitor may not be across the street, they may be across an ocean somewhere.”

Why does EY spend so much of its time and effort focused on entrepreneurs?

“Well, EY really believes in the power of entrepreneurs to build a better working world, period. As someone has said, we have never changed this fast and we will never change this slow again. A lot of that change is being driven by the new innovations and ideas of entrepreneurs.

Whether you think of healthcare, education, housing, transportation, or the shared economy, all of these things are going to change in ways that we can’t even imagine. So, I’m just excited to see where entrepreneurs take us next.”