“The coronavirus has brought everything, including the economy, to an abrupt halt, and it will take time to recover from such a shock…Most small businesses will battle to stay afloat, and their owners should now urgently look at how they can re-imagine their business models,” stresses Dr Johan Michael Smith, whose doctoral thesis addressed the very issue of entrepreneurial behaviour. Read more about his studies, his ‘golden guideline’ and thoughts on entrepreneurship.
Q: What was the topic of your PhD thesis and why did you specifically select it?
The entrepreneur, who takes action to make things happen, is now a central theme in entrepreneurial psychology research. The research question investigated for this thesis was therefore on why some entrepreneurs are more active than others in pursuing their goals. In answering this question, we were able to identify the psychological dimensions of such behaviour. Our findings show that being entrepreneurial does not depend on a certain personality type, but on small behaviour habits that are relatively malleable and thus learn-able. This is helpful for individuals who want to change their behaviours and in doing so, become small business owners or entrepreneurs (therefore being enterprising).
Q: In your opinion, to what extent does a PhD ensure/boost business/career success?
A: My research on personal entrepreneur behaviour has practical application in the world of commerce in that it can be applied in entrepreneurship education, by practitioners in the field and by funders of entrepreneurs.
Q: Are you happy with the way your career has evolved?
A: Yes. However, mastering the demands of academia has been challenging.
Q: What are the most compelling/rewarding aspects of your current job?
A: I am able to work on a start-up firm or Behaviour Lab that will offer performance psychology and action control based advice and experiential learning to entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: I did all of my post-graduate studies at UP, and during that time, I had great mentors from among my lecturers and supervisors. All of them guided me in my career.
Q: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt from your studies/lecturers at the University of Pretoria?
A: It is not something in particular, but rather the emphasis on striving for excellence in all that you do.
Q: What is your “golden guideline” in life, in other words what keeps you on track?
A: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Q: Going forward, what are your career and personal goals?
A: I want to help small business owners create the businesses they want and share with them what it takes to make it happen.
Q: How is the SA economy, and business in general, likely to be reshaped post COVID?
A: The coronavirus has brought everything (including the economy) to an abrupt halt, and it will take time to recover from such a shock. I am uncertain about the outlook, but I know that life will not return to a pre-pandemic normal. The impact on some industries, such as e-commerce, has been limited and demand in fact surged for their services. Other industries, such as tourism, were not so fortunate. Most small businesses will battle to stay afloat, and their owners should now urgently look at how they can re-imagine their business models.