Matthew Cain is the author of ‘Made to Fail: 13 Surprising Start-Up Lessons’, drawing both from his experience as well as case studies of other businesses that became extremely successful. Here he talks about why he wrote the book, and why he’s donating the profits to Enabling Enterprise.

No business has failed because an entrepreneur lacked advice. The shelves of Amazon grown under the weight of business books. So why have I added one more? There’s a lack of consensus about what makes businesses successful. And those who are not taught entrepreneurship at school are left to just pick their favourite guru.

Successful entrepreneurs often favour the Great Man Theory. If you were more like Richard Branson, you too could be successful like Richard Branson. Entrepreneurship as an elite endeavour is a particularly unattractive message to pass on to young people.

Sensible entrepreneurs, like Luke Johnson, argue that entrepreneurship has to be learned. That it’s a particular set of skills that need to be honed over several years of practice. In ‘Start It Up’ Johnson suggests aspiring business people start small by selling something with consistent appeal (such as food) and then graduate to more sophisticated operations. Whilst the idea of coolly selecting a sector may not appeal to entrepreneurs who want to chase a dream, it’s good advice. Although learning entrepreneurship through failing enterprises is distinctly less appealing. Chasing my failing start-up dream cost me thousands and the damage to my CV set me back years.

There’s even an anti-intellectual strain within the literature. You might call it the Sugar school. That entrepreneurship is about street smarts. It’s just salesmanship with a French title. Indeed, Enabling Enterprise is particularly effective at engaging students who don’t prosper in other classes. But whilst the inclusive message is good, the Sugar school almost devalues the skills that entrepreneurship contains.

But even though successful entrepreneurs may not be able to agree on what makes them successful, there are things you can do to maximise your prospects. The effective entrepreneurs I’ve met writing Made to Fail owe some of their success to circumstance. They’ve started a business whilst in full time employment, studying or when they’ve enough cash they can afford to lose. They’ve minimised their costs out of necessity. They’ve found a niche out of experience. They’ve not spent months redrafting business plans, devising marketing campaigns or dreaming of how to spend their millions. As a result they’ve made money where others lost theirs.

Most agree that Britain needs more entrepreneurs to rebuild the economy. But failed entrepreneurs is no route out of the economic crisis. Bad advice and learning on the job are poor substitutes for proper enterprise education. And that’s why I’m donating the profits from my book to Enabling Enterprise.

Made to Fail is available now through Amazon – click here to order your copy, and support Enabling Enterprise.

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