If anybody knows entrepreneurship, it’s Blair Assaly. The global chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) has been a member of the international business owner institution since 2002, and has playing an active role in growing the Edmonton, Canadian and worldwide chapters of the group.
When he’s not helping to grow EO’s influence and reach, Assaly runs Ascot Properties Group, a family-owned business was established in 1952 by Assaly’s father, Edward. The younger Assaly discussed the future of entrepreneurship and what he’s learned from expanding EO’s global network.
PROFITguide.com: What sets entrepreneurs apart?
Brian Assaly: I was in China in October meeting with entrepreneurs. There might be a language or cultural barrier, but where we’re aligned—and it doesn’t matter where we go—is on entrepreneurial values.
People become entrepreneurs because they simply want to make people’s lives better. That’s been one of my biggest takeaways when I meet these members or potential members: the similarities far outweigh the differences, and that’s why EO has been able to set up in these countries. Entrepreneurs are looking for something to belong to, because it can be lonely out there sometimes.
Are there regional or national differences?
India and areas of Asia have more family businesses. The people who now run the business might be third or fourth generation owners. In North America, you find smaller businesses, but there a lot more start-ups—first-generation entrepreneurs.
How does entrepreneurship differ in the U.S. and Canada?
EO recently hosted a speaker in Nashville, TN. “In the U.S., if you can’t figure out how to be an entrepreneur, there’s something wrong with you because there’s so much opportunity,” he told us. “In Canada, the opportunity is limited.” This speaker felt Canadians were the stronger entrepreneurs, because there’s more bureaucracy and not as much opportunity here. So when I look at what our members have done and are doing in Canada, I think it’s cutting edge. They’re kind of off the radar, very quiet, flying under, but they’re just doing some great, great things.
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Which industries are particularly promising for entrepreneurs right now, in Canada and globally?
The tech industry—anything related to tech seems to be the biggest industry all across the board. Manufacturing and construction services are also big, but tech seems to be the one that transcends all borders. Manufacturing varies from country to country, but construction services seems to be big everywhere.
What does the future of entrepreneurship look like?
EO has doubled as a region in Canada, and we’re seeing younger members coming in, which is wonderful. When you see people in their early 20s running companies, it shows that entrepreneurship is growing. Despite the global crisis that we’ve just gone through, we’ve been fortunate—some of the stories that I’ve heard around the world are very, very tough.
I think more people want to rely on themselves, as opposed to relying on corporations and having a job for life. More people are betting on their own abilities, especially people with stories like, “I worked for HP for 35 years.” We’re actually seeing some older members going at it alone, by themselves.
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