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When the word entrepreneurship is mentioned, what usually comes to mind is success in business. More often, entrepreneurs are known to be individuals who can make any form of investment or business to succeed when ordinary people would fail. Generally, it is the dream of every business leader or manager to succeed in steering the company or business to greater heights. It is against this backdrop that every new business leader would attempt to come up with new ideas on how best to manage the business. In their own right, they attempt to display entrepreneurship characteristics. According to Carsrud & Brännback (2007), entrepreneurial skills are virtuous traits that form the foundation of any business management and practices and enable business leaders not only to find opportunities available for success but also to give their subordinates opportunities to enhance business management and practice.
Parker (2004), defines entrepreneurs as individuals who not only strives to produce wealth but also ensure that wealth is redistributed, therefore contributing to stability in the economy. He adds that entrepreneurs are people, who are willing to be creative, innovative, take risks, and work hard to shape and develop their enterprises so as to exploit self-potential and to gain from available opportunities. Zimmerer & Scarborough & (1998), defined entrepreneurs as individuals who are able to create special conditions to generate profit and to enhance growth by identifying and seizing opportunities generated through simple ideas and putting plans in place for the effective execution of such ideas. Based on these definitions, it can be argued that the practices at Oticon Company under the leadership of its Chief Executive Lars Kolind were consistent with entrepreneurship criteria.
When Lars Kolind was appointed the president of the once giant company in the hearing aid industry, the company was doing badly and was a pale shadow of its former self. However, demonstrating the characteristics of a real entrepreneur, Lars Kolind was able to turn around the fortunes of the company. Some of the characteristics of an entrepreneur that were clearly in display during the tenure of Lars Kolind include initiative, endurance, confidence, identifying and seizing opportunities, systematic planning, resoluteness, problem solving qualities, good persuasion skills, duty commitment, and focus on high work quality, among others. Undoubtedly, these characteristics were behind the sudden change in fortune of the Oticon Company; however, the success of the company cannot be said to be the effort of Lars Kolind alone, the Oticon workforce must also be credited for their willingness to embrace change even when the change was against their organizational beliefs and practices (Lindstrom, 2008).
According to Parker (2004), being innovative entails the ability to make the effort of achieving what you want without being forced into doing it. In addition, an innovative person is a person who actively seeks to expand the business operations and activities in order to gain more benefits. Lars Kolind being an innovative business leader is no doubt; his entrepreneurship instincts surpassed what may be considered as normal in business terms. As Lindstrom (2008, p.421) notes, Lars Kolind’s resolve was to “think the unthinkable” in order to change the business operations at Oticon and subsequently to revitalize the company. What Lars Kolind did was simply unthinkable in business and although, some may have dismissed his new strategies as unworkable and doomed, he stuck to what he believed in and worked towards it. Being innovative, Lars Kolind believed that the traditional business practices where employees work in hierarchies and the company operations which are divided into segments for performance by specific employees in each department could be changed. According to Lindstrom (2008), Lars Kolind was ready to radically change Oticon’s business practices from the traditional organizational structures and operations to something completely unknown before. He believed that the organization can work as a brain since it has shambled connections and networks of core nerves and organs working perfectly in tandem. Like brain, the employees can also perform perfectly but only if they are not confined by the organizational structures that inhibit interaction, innovativeness, and circulation of information and knowledge.
Entrepreneurs are also individuals who are able to persevere and remain determined to achieve the set goals and objectives. In demonstrating endurance, an entrepreneur would strive to find solutions to problems that hinder the smooth operation of the business (Maria & Moren, 2010). In other words, an entrepreneur should work to identify and overcome the hurdles that may be hindrance to the achievement of the business goals and objectives. An entrepreneur should work hard to get a solution for a major problem without giving up even when challenges and hurdles arise in the process. Endurance as an entrepreneurship criterion is well demonstrated at Oticon Company through its leader and employees. For instance, when Lars Kolind introduced new business practices at Oticon Company, he encountered a number of challenges including employees’ unwillingness to embrace new changes and being unable to deal with the new air of uncertainty. However, he showed great entrepreneurship characteristics when he pressed on to implement what he believed was the best way to operate a business. His greatest task was to overcome the daily challenges and hurdles that threatened the realization of the goals of the company. For instance, Lars Kolind strived to change the employees’ perception of what the best business practices and operations are. It is worth noting that, it only took Oticon less than five years for it to undergo a significant change in fortune after many years of underperformance. Despite a number of challenges and many years of waiting, Oticon employees and their leader persevered, endured and worked hard to overcome the challenges and finally were able to achieve the set goals and objectives (Lindstrom, 2008).
In addition to being creative and innovative, entrepreneurs are individuals who are able to identify and seize opportunities which are available to the company. Zimmerer & Scarborough (1998) noted that entrepreneurs are individuals who creatively search for opportunities in their businesses and industries and seize those opportunities for their own benefit. Opportunities available in business can focus on effective use of knowledge, technology and financial position with the aim of benefiting the company so as to remain competitive in a particular industry. Entrepreneurs are always seeking to implement new practices and operations in their businesses in order to compete effectively in a particular industry for a particular market. The success of Oticon Company has been its continued reliance on use of knowledge on the market in identifying the needs of customers. Under the leadership of Lars Kolind, the company developed a strong network of employees who could work “more creatively, faster and more cost-effectively” (Lindstrom, 2008, p.421). Through the new project-based working groups, the company was able to generate knowledge and identify new trends in the hearing aid industry. In other words, the company was able to continuously search for opportunities so as to enhance its use of latest technologies in meeting the expectations and needs of its customers.
Entrepreneurship also calls for systematic planning in business management. In essence, an entrepreneur is a person who is able to perform a task or duty by outlining and planning systematic yet simple steps that can be followed in the implementation of an idea or project. Such a plan should be able to overcome a particular problem or any other anticipated problem in the future. Systematic planning also entails evaluating and selecting a few alternatives to be implemented, and taking systematic and logical steps to achieve the set goals and objectives (Reynolds, 2007). In remaining consistent to the entrepreneurship criteria, Lars Kolind demonstrates his ability to systematically plan for the future of Oticon Company. First, Lars Kolind conceived the idea of transforming the business organization at Oticon Company, after which he spelt out his plans to the employees of the company. In his plan, he identified four steps that he considered would be critical in achieving the goals of the company. These included dismantling of departments, managerial, departmental and supervisory positions as well as use of face-to-face approach in business meetings. Having identifying these steps, Lars Kolind developed a systematic plan on how the new changes would be implemented. Undoubtedly, through his leadership, Oticon Company was able to strategically position itself to remain competitive in the hearing aid industry. The systematic and logical approaches put in place by the Oticon president was enough to steer the company out of financial problems and once again became a dread competitor in the market (Lindstrom, 2008).
Moreover, Lars Kolind as an entrepreneur demonstrated his ability to influence others. According to Reynolds (2007), an entrepreneur is a person who has the ability to use the influence strategy in order to change others’ opinions or view about a particular issue. Carsrud & Brännback (2007), identify five influence strategies that leaders often use to influence their subordinates. These are influence by rewards, punishment, being a role model, one’s profession, and by one’s position of authority. More often, leaders prefer to use their powers in order to influence others’ position on an issue. Others would use rewards and punishment as a way of influencing the leaders. Whatever the strategy that works, entrepreneurs must always demonstrate their ability to influence others not for their selfish gains but for the goal achievement purposes. At Oticon Company, Lars Kolind had been able to use the power of authority to influence change within the company. As the president of the company, he was able to use his position to introduce new strategies. Although his employees found his new organizational structures as unconventional and probably would have rejected such ideas had they come from a junior staff, they embraced the strategies since they believed in their leader to show the way for the success of the company.
From the time, Lars Kolind took over the reigns of leadership at Oticon Company, it was clear to every employee that he wanted to steer the company to success. For instance, he not only changed the company’s mission statement to stress the importance of customers in the continued growth of the business, but also emphasized on the significance of always producing high quality work. Lars Kolind had showed from the onset of his leadership the desire to prepare the company to create high quality products and services to its esteemed customers. Indeed, the company’s fortunes changed for the better in less than five years, as was attested by the rapid development of world leading hearing aids called MultiFocus and DigiFocus (Lindstrom, 2008). In other words, Lars Kolind was able to instill in his employees the need to develop high quality products and services so as to remain competitive and to enhance the growth of the company. Shane & Venkataraman (2000), assert that entrepreneurship does not just involve production of goods and services but must ensure that the business brand is distinguishable from the rest on the basis of its high quality. Under the entrepreneurial leadership of Lars Kolind, Oticon Company was able to cut a niche once again as a world leading producer of hearing aid; an achievement that brought it more rewards through awards and recognition (Lindstrom, 2008).
Lars Kolind’s entrepreneurial skills were more demonstrated through his ability to solve problems. An entrepreneur is an individual who always seeks and takes strategies that can help a business achieve its targets. In addition, he strives to find and create new ideas that will innovatively solve any business problem (Carsrud & Brännback, 2007). Having identified the problems that were inflicting the company prior to his ascendancy to the helm, Lars Kolind resolved to fix the problems and he strategically restructured the company to achieve its new targets. His new ideas on organizational structure were not only innovative but also were able to revitalize the company from a mere player in the hearing aid industry to a more formidable competitor in the market. As Lindstrom (2008) notes, Lars Kolind successfully solved the problems at Oticon Company with his innovative ideas, and his ability to create and implement strategies for achieving the company targets did not stop even when the company was doing well. Failure was simply a thing of the past as Lars Kolind had instilled confidence in his employees through capability and efficiency of new ways of doing things in the company.
It can rightly be put that Oticon Company under the leadership of Lars Kolind is a true embodiment of what entrepreneurship entails. Lars Kolind had great entrepreneurial skills that were evident in the success of Oticon just five years after he took over the reigns of leadership. Undoubtedly, Lars Kolind was more than innovative since he demonstrated numerous characteristics of an entrepreneur that brought positive results within a short period for the company that was on the brink of going down. In just five years, Lars Kolind was able to steer the company back to where it had once belonged; a world’s leading hearing aid producer. Through his endurance, problem solving skills, systematic planning, resoluteness, and innovativeness, Lars Kolind was able to influence and instill confidence in his employees that they could also be innovative and that failure was unthinkable.