Video interview with Paula Fitzsimons, National Director, Going for Growth Paula is the founder and managing director of Fitzsimons Consulting, which specializes in areas related to entrepreneurship and growth. A recognized expert on entrepreneurship, Paula Fitzsimons has been the national coordinator for GEM for Ireland since 2000. The annual GEM report is recognized as giving a unique insight into early stage entrepreneurial activity in Ireland. Paula is a former President of the consortium of GEM national teams, and a former Director of GERA, the governing body for the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association.
Transcript follows & video below
Could you talk about Going for Growth & how it supports Irish female entrepreneurs?
I’d be delighted to. First of all the context why Going for Growth was set up. Going for Growth was set up because you realize clearly that less women start businesses than do men. And of those women who start businesses fewer have an aspiration for growth. So we wanted to do something of a concrete nature which would support women to have the ambition in the first instance, the mindset & the capability to achieve growth. The way it goes about doing it is that we realize that entrepreneurs learn best from each other. So we bring entrepreneurs at more or less the same stage of development together. But if they were just to meet with each other, they would be in a circle that wouldn’t bring them further along the road to development. What we do is we bring them to a lead entrepreneur, as we call it. This is an entrepreneur that has achieved significant success in her own right. She facilitates & leads a group of about 8 women. It allows them in the first instance to have a real concrete role model that they will meet once a month. It is quite amazing when they meet a person once a month, they begin to realize that she too is a real person. She’s no longer someone that you see on television or you hear about on the radio or read in the newspapers. She’s a living, breathing person who is perhaps is also a Mom, managing & balancing many of the same issues & challenges that they as women also have to balance. But she has achieved success in terms of developing & building her own enterprise. That I think is one of the most important things. The second thing is because it’s around a group, you have a group dynamic. That helps to break down the isolation in the first instance so that the person doesn’t think that they are the only person who ever had these particular challenges. They learn from each other & that breaks the isolation. The second thing is that it actually increases their ambition so that you get good peer pressure round the table. And they constantly push & encourage each other to achieve their milestones & their growth goals. What you find coming out of a cycle of Going for Growth is not only that the isolation has been reduced, that the concrete steps are being put in place to meet those milestones & those growth goals. But often they have actually lifted their ambition. So where before they were looking to export to the UK market, they’re now looking further in Europe & perhaps to the United States.Paula Fitzsimons
- What are your aims for your organization & how it will continue to benefit women?
Our aim in the first instance for the participants who are in it, I suppose is looking at something like the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Ireland. We have one winner who was a woman. We have one finalist last year who was a woman, both of them are Leads in our Going for Growth. I want that there are many finalists in Ernst & Young type competitions that are women to the extent that it’s not even commented upon. Looking further then, what we want to do is to link (because Ireland is a very small island with a population of just over 4million & if you want to grow a business you’re going to have to very quickly look off the island of Ireland). So therefore we want to take Going for Growth into other countries both within Europe & across the Atlantic with a view of getting connections between women entrepreneurs who are focused on growth. By strengthening their network & allowing them to develop business contacts with each other, lift all of them together.
Have you noted differences with women entrepreneurs in how they build businesses?
Certainly there are differences. I’m involved with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor & from that I can tell that women & men tend to start different types of businesses. Now that’s the first thing. The type of business that you start has a great degree of influence on the type of business & the way that you might grow it. So women for example, women are much more involved in consumer oriented businesses. In Ireland a third of women startups are in the sector of retail, hotel & catering. For that reason, you find that many of them are excluded in Ireland from financial support from the Development Agencies because they focus almost exclusively on manufacturing & internationally traded services for their financial support. Many of the women here are focused on locally traded services in the first instance. That’s one of the first points, the sectors tend to be different. They’re less involved in the innovative, high tech sector certainly here. That doesn’t mean that there’s none of them. The second thing I would say is that women compared with men tend to be less ambitious. So if we think of 3 men setting up a new business for every 1 woman. That’s the way it is in Ireland. Now in the United States it’s 1 for 1 virtually. But in Ireland 3 men setting up a business for every 1 woman. When you dig deeper & look at the number who want to become employers, moving beyond self employed to become employers, about the same ratio. However when you dig & look at who have significant ambitions for their business & you measure that in terms of those who expect to be employing 20 within 5 years, then you find that that’s 16% of the men & just 8% of the women. Given that less women start up & fewer have an ambition for growth, much much fewer are going to be in that pool of significant growers.Paula Fitzsimons
Some points that Paula mentioned previous to her interview:
- Men are more likely to know someone who has become an entrepreneur in the previous two years (42%) than are women (27%).
- Men that know a recent entrepreneur are twice as likely to be entrepreneurs compared to men who don’t know a recent entrepreneur.
- Women who know a recent entrepreneur are five times more likely to be an entrepreneur.
- More men are confident that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to start a business (57%) than women (42%).
- Men who believe that they have the knowledge and skills to start a business are nearly four time more likely to be entrepreneurially active than men without such self-belief.
- No entrepreneurial activity is evident among women who do not have this self-belief.
- A higher proportion of women (43%) than men (34%) report that a fear of failure would prevent them from starting a business.
- Men who don’t have a fear of failure are nearly three times more likely to be entrepreneurs.
- For women a fear of failure is associated with very low levels of entrepreneurial activity. Women who state that fear of failure would prevent them from starting a business are nine times less likely to start a business than are women who do not report this inhibition.