Q&A with Steve Wilkinson

"One attribute all entrepreneurs share is resilience." Steve Wilkinson, Managing Partner, UK & Ireland Markets at EY, talks about how entrepreneurialism is driving growth.

Why is an entrepreneurial mind-set important in EY employees?

To drive our growth. It really is that simple. We have big ambitions for our business which aren’t going to be achievable if we follow the same well-trodden path. We need people who are able to think innovatively, challenge the status quo, and who are able to spot opportunities and respond to our clients’ changing needs. These are skills we are actively recruiting for.

How would you describe the culture at EY?

The culture within an organisation is often very hard to define. It is clearly intangible but equally is vitally important to an organisation’s success in terms of business performance and attracting the right talent. At EY, I am always struck by the diversity of the organisation, from the range of nationalities, to the social and professional backgrounds. It’s great that there isn’t an EY type! It means that there is often a level of healthy debate in our meetings! This is vital because it encourages different ideas and insights, which ultimately helps us to reach better decisions and outcomes for our clients. We don’t want our people to be cardboard cut outs of each other; it’s vital that we look for, encourage and develop diverse perspectives.

What does EY do to encourage entrepreneurialism?

Entrepreneurs are generally made not born and, although few of us are ever going to reach the levels of Arianna Huffington or be the next Mark Zuckerberg, we are investing in initiatives like our Vantage programme to help support our top talent. Vantage is designed for our high performing managers, who have the opportunity to work alongside some of the best entrepreneurs in the emerging markets. It’s a fantastic programme. The successful candidates get to operate at board and CEO level and to develop entrepreneurial skills whilst delivering our familiar services in unfamiliar environments.

What’s the advice you would give to someone looking to be more entrepreneurial within a large organisation?

Entrepreneurs are often associated with highly creative, fast growth or start-up companies. Whereas in reality, all organisations, regardless of size and scale, need people who can innovate, create and challenge the norm.

I’ve had the privilege to meet some of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs through our Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards programme and one attribute they all share is resilience. The ability to withstand setbacks and have the courage and strength of character to keep going is vital.

From my own experience, I also think networks and the ability to build connections, both inside and outside your organisation, is really important. I’ve lost count of the times when personal friends or professional contacts have helped in my career, by offering some helpful advice, sparking a new idea or making an introduction.

My final piece of advice, although a harder skill to teach, is to innovate. Entrepreneurs constantly look for ways to improve, whether it’s developing a new client service, simplifying an existing process or even finding a better way of making the morning coffee! 

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