I was on a radio show discussing entrepreneurship on Tuesday morning and this article is inspired by the questions that people were asking during the session. Last week I wrote about facts that cause businesses not to launch. However today there was a heap of questions and queries about what you actually experience (on a more personal level) when you do venture out and start a business. I keep on encountering this question from a lot of people especially those who are leaving formal employment for a number of reasons such as retirement, retrenchment or choice. For a long time how people made it in business was almost kept a secret but I have now attended several forums and it is very encouraging to see more and more people open up about successes, failures, challenges, good days, bad days etc. That is the truth on the ground. So then what do you actually experience when you start?
Firstly, you will be scared of starting. You will not feel adequate. You will feel you are not experienced enough, lucky enough, confident enough, rich or liquid enough, you will feel like this is not the right time. It’s normal but you have to start anyway irrespective of your inadequacies. You can’t wait to feel enough anything to get started or you will never begin. Use the power of one to begin. One conversation, one client, sell one product, one pitch, one step. Before you start you are like a farmer holding a seed. Nothing will happen until planted. That first step is the planting. It is not time, money, networks etc. needed to plant the seed. It is just you. Ask yourself every day, what step you have taken for that day. You start a business by starting and then commit yourself to learning.
Many people have an idea that they think is fantastic. In business it’s not about what you think, but what your customer thinks (Click to Tweet this thought). Identifying opportunity is a journey, not a destination. Peter, a couple of years ago set out to launch an e-commerce platform. He thought it was a great idea and people around him had told him that they thought it was fantastic too. He got one or two clients but not enough to sustain it. As he was going through this, he would get people asking him to build websites for them. At first he dismissed them but later on started doing them. Now he runs a digital media company that has become a very sustainable business. There are many Peter’s who have given up and assumed that they can’t do it or that it doesn’t work. It would have served them to understand that opportunity is always work in progress. Others have even run businesses successfully for a while on that initial product/service but fail to recognise when the opportunity is evolving and hence miss out on the growth.
In your journey pay attention to the customer particularly the one who is willing to exchange money for your product or service and not the one who is speaking from the sidelines. You will quickly realise that you cannot do this alone. You only have twenty-four hours a day (of which a portion needs to be spent sleeping), limited skills, ideas, resources and networks. Some work environments do not prepare people for this. Yes, we may sing the song of team work etc. but not the practices needed in an entrepreneurial culture. When I say, you cannot do it alone, you need people on your side in so many aspects. You will find that you cannot do it without that one supplier who believes in you enough to extend thirty days credit. I remember being able to start the first Centonomy program because the venue we were hiring gave us this credit. You will need customers who have a great experience who will go spread the word so that you don’t have to personally market to each and every client. You will need partnerships/networks that enable you to multiply your reach. As you grow you will need to build a committed team that enables you to focus on the right aspects needed to grow your business.
As an entrepreneur you will face the pain of not having money, so you will often have to adjust budgets (Click to Tweet this thought). Last week I spoke about some practical things business owners need to look at but the experience is painful. It will mean cutting back for a while on personal expenditure and keeping business expenses to the minimum required to generate money. It’s really about the courage to have patience and not rushing to impress anybody else. You will find freedom in realising that you don’t die because you had to let go off certain things. Because of this and the other things I have mentioned, you may find yourself lonely. Maybe the people you socialize with can’t quite relate to what you are going through. Or family members who don’t understand why you are leaving your job etc. Their concerns may incorporate some things you need to consider but like many people you will have to draw boundaries between their opinion, the realities and what you will decide to do. You will also start forming networks and relationships that are about this experience.
So why do we still do it?
Because on the flipside, you also experience the fulfillment that comes from stretching yourself beyond what you thought you could accomplish. In business you learn to define yourself not by qualifications or logical definitions of what you can do (money, time etc.), but by your vision (Click to Tweet this thought), the growth of confidence when you keep putting one foot in front of the other and the fact that the seed that you planted has started growing and bearing fruit. Acknowledging that you are overcoming fear because what scared you last year doesn’t scare you anymore (usually because there’s something bigger to be scared of now) is only one other positive thing. The impact that you see as you become a solution for your customers and in time if you put enough efforts for the financial benefits, like many things we go through in life, is an experience that is out to change you. It is an experience you will live to remember, it will be your legacy.
By Waceke Nduati-Omanga
Waceke runs an Entrepreneurship Program at Centonomy that teaches you how start, run and grow your business. For details email her on firstname.lastname@example.org | Facebook/WacekeNduati| Twitter@cekenduati or visit register through our website www.centonomy.com