It’s a question academics have been asking themselves for years. But, as yet, no one has really agreed on a definitive answer. But it’s an important one because true entrepreneurs are, according to The Economist, those who find worth in the worthless and possibility in the impossible. INEOS is a company which prides itself on being entrepreneurial, but what does that really mean?
Entrepreneurship runs through the heart of INEOS.
With it comes passion, determination, innovation, a vision and a desire to act swiftly.
In today’s world, when companies must be able to move quickly to be the first to take advantage of opportunities, those qualities matter more than ever.
“Entrepreneurship, at least within INEOS, can be summed up in four words: speed, risk, drive and fun,” said Bill Reid, business director for INEOS O&P Europe (North). “Speed of response to the opportunity, a willingness to take risks, a strong drive to continuously push the company forward, but also to have fun in an environment where INEOS Capital entrusts us with a great deal of responsibility at a very early stage.”
Hans Casier, CEO of INEOS Oxide, said INEOS Chairman Jim Ratcliffe laid the foundations for an entrepreneurial mindset to flourish when he cofounded Inspec, a high-margin speciality chemicals business which owned a former BP petrochemical plant in Antwerp. It is that plant in Belgium which Jim bought and renamed INEOS in 1998.
“On that very first day at Inspec we were asked whether we could produce more glycol,” said Hans. “We had an idea which had been hanging around for years but BP had never implemented it and had no interest in the site. Jim told us to just go and do it, but make sure it was done quickly. It was a completely different view of running the business. He had a vision and ideas. He didn’t want to stand still. He wanted to make it better and was prepared to consider the risk and to move the business forwards. That is the spirit which came into the company from day one. Building on the site’s ideas allowed us to produce 22 kt more glycol very quickly. It was just the start. The Antwerp site, which had been on the way to closure under BP, is now three times as big as it was back then, and it is flourishing.”
Calum Maclean, CEO of INEOS O&P Europe (UK), says that entrepreneurial spirit has always been with INEOS and believes nurture is more important than nature in harnessing people’s talents.
“I think true entrepreneurs are born not made,” he said. “But they can develop an entrepreneurial spirit by encouraging people around them to approach business differently, to think about solutions not problems, thinking ‘outside the box’, setting an example through their behaviour.”
He believes entrepreneurial employees exist in every company but often their potential is crushed by rules and bureaucracy.
That’s something you won’t find at INEOS.
“We don’t have a big head office of people who manage from a distance,” said Calum. “The armies of people or committees that you would find in other big head offices just don’t exist in INEOS.”
Jim Ratcliffe, who last year became the first Briton to win the Petrochemical Heritage Award for his visionary approach to the global petrochemical industry, believes bureaucracy is the biggest passion killer of all.
“It suffocates businesses,” he said.
Instead Jim’s own entrepreneurial approach to running a business has helped to foster a culture where innovative solutions are sought every day.