What makes a successful entrepreneur and how to build a business were two questions addressed by Alliance Boots boss Stefano Pessina, Space NK founder Nicky Kinnaird and Mohammed Alshaya at the World Retail Congress in Barcelona.

Commitment, passion and luck all emerged as common themes.

Pessina said: “To be a successful entrepreneur, you must be persevering; you must have passion, the desire to build; you must have the perception of what could be an opportunity and the courage to seize it.

“The most important thing is always luck – you must have the opportunity to do something. If you have the qualities, but not the opportunity, unfortunately you can’t build a brilliant future.”

Kinnaird said: “It’s having a passion for something you truly believe in. Starting a business from scratch, it’s going to be three years before you even see a scratch of light at the end of the tunnel. It can be scary, but you learn something new every day.”

Alshaya has built up a big retail franchise business in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, which began with a Mothercare franchise in Kuwait. The retailer was thrown into turmoil when Iraq invaded the country in 1991, but he rebuilt the business. Alshaya now has more than 1,500 stores and holds franchises for names such as Next, Boots, H&M and Debenhams.

He said: “Most importantly, you have to have vision. You have to have a long-term plan and you have to surround yourself with top-quality people.”

All three agreed that, along with strategy, the most important and difficult part of building a business is the people factor – recruiting and retaining the best.

Pessina, who built his businesses through acquisition, said: “Our main effort has always been to integrate people, to convince them to buy into our values. The key word in our company is partnership – with suppliers, customers and, above all, between ourselves.”