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Keith Thomas: The Successful Entrepreneur Recipe


President and CEO of Vive Crop Protection suggests several key ingredients to the making of a successful entrepreneur

By Fatima Syed, Staff Writer

You might be at that stage where you’re wondering what to do next. You’ve almost finished university or you’re bored with your job, and you have to take that ‘next step’. Now it has to be big, because we’re a generation that believes in making an impact, so you go to Google (obviously!) and start browsing through its infinite resources. That new movie about Steve Jobs is coming out soon; Microsoft bought Nokia, Marc Jacobs has a new perfume. “I want to be them,” you think. . .and an entrepreneur is born.

It’s not that simple. Inspiration is great. Ideas are even better. Actually starting a business, however, well that’s the hard part. There are tons of things to think about. Where’s the money going to come from? Where’s it going to go? Whom do I contact? How’s it all going to work? Most importantly, is this the right thing for me to do?

Bold Baby Steps

Keith Thomas is well versed with this process. With an engineering undergraduate degree and an MBA under his belt, he started his first startup 12 years ago during the dot-com boom, after working extensively in the corporate and banking industries for a while.

“I didn’t start off as an entrepreneur. In the back of my mind I always wanted to do my own business at some point, but I didn’t start right away. I chose instead to actually go through and get some more experience beforehand and also pay my student debt off,” says Thomas.

Thomas’ experience included work in strategy and operational consulting within larger companies, which helped him build skills, including how to finance companies, talk to bankers and operate and re-structure companies.

Thomas took his first step after deciding that he had enough background to really go for it. “I talked to a number of my bosses and mentors along the way – they were in their late 30s or 40s – who would all say “next year I’m going to do it” or “I really want to do this”. I didn’t want to be that way. I didn’t want to be sitting at my desk wishing I could have done it.”

“So I decided now’s a good time. I’d saved up some money. I thought if I blow it I could go back and do a job but at least I had enough time before I retire to go back and recover.”

Starting up

Most articles on entrepreneurship say the recipe for success requires a few ingredients. The first is an idea. The second, more essential, is drive.

“If you have a really good idea, there are certain things out there that don’t require a lot of money or experience in an industry. So things like mobile apps or social media can be started right away. Other things require technical knowledge and respect in your chosen field to be, say, an entrepreneur of a chemical company. So your decision depends on a whole range of things: the industry you want to be in, the idea, the amount of cash you need to get the idea going, and so on,” explains Thomas.

Potential entrepreneurs usually overstate the risk factor, as there’s risk in everything, says Thomas. If you choose to work in a large company, the market could change at a moment’s notice, or you might end up being in the wrong place at the wrong time and lose your job. Complete security is non-existent in any kind of work you choose.

“It all depends on the personality type.

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