A giant leap of faith is made by any individual who decides to enter the world of entrepreneurship and start their own business. The decision takes research, planning and guts, but to a certain degree it also takes being tired of the status quo and ready for a new chapter in one’s life. Whether it’s one of the various push or pull factors that first draws a person to entrepreneurship, it’s an adventure that few are ever truly prepared for.
Deciding to start a business
At the age of 28 I was prepared to take this leap of faith. The biggest push factor driving me towards entrepreneurship was that I was tired of the red tape which inevitably exists in all spheres of corporate business. I was ready to try something new and was presented with the opportunity to embark on a new voyage by two initial shareholders who assisted in the creation of Phase 2 Computers.
At times the life of an entrepreneur can be incredibly challenging. There are many moments where the need for a boss to take the pressure off becomes almost too much to bear. But entrepreneurship will never be a path which I regret taking.
With it comes a myriad of disadvantages, but many advantages as well, and in the end I am happier now than what I was working for someone else, abiding by their rules and enriching their lives at the expense of my own.
Within the IT sector, the biggest challenge with regards to starting one’s own business is that, for many companies, their IT go-to person is akin to their family physician. Due to the complexity and frailty of large IT systems, these companies would rather stay with an IT supplier that they have been using for years than risk bringing in a new supplier.
This makes access to new clients difficult, even if the new supplier could possibly provide a better product or service. Other disadvantages of entrepreneurship across the board include possible cash flow issues as well as the constant requirement to maintain and comply with BEE rules and regulations, which can become a minefield if not carefully navigated.
Why then would anyone want to become an entrepreneur? Because it has the potential to be very lucrative, there is freedom in owning your own business in the form of flexibility and when one makes something out of nothing, there is nothing quite as rewarding.
Bumps in the road
When entering the world of entrepreneurship, it’s important to consider the disappointments that one may face along the way. Although there are many achievements to look forward to when running your own business, if no preparation is done for those hardships that will occur, you’ll quickly reach breaking point.
One of the biggest difficulties I’ve faced at Phase 2 is that, as a business owner managing my own business, everything becomes more personal; from lack of support from the Government to customers’ ever changing needs and fickle attitudes, every small problem along the way can feel like a personal attack.
This is especially true in the business world where every business is striving to make a profit for themselves, there is no ‘community’; it is a cold environment to work in.
We have also experienced set-backs with regards to the level of crime in the IT sector. IT suppliers are often the targets of crime due to the fact that we trade in a high price commodity. Over the years Phase 2 has suffered many break-ins despite state of the art security, as well as credit card/electronic funds transfer fraud, which has left us with little or no recourse.
Freedom vs stability
You need to ensure that you’re prepared for the ‘lean’ times which all entrepreneurs inevitably encounter at some point or another, throughout the various growth phases of any business. It’s important to be vigilant with regards to the management of overheads; strategy is of utmost importance.
You need to be clear regarding the company’s procurement policy – know the intricacies of the supply and demand in your sector. Be careful with creditors, manage cash flow carefully and keep suppliers happy; without suppliers, there is no business.
In the IT sector it’s also incredibly important to ensure that, at the quoting stage, you are aware of exchange rate fluctuations, as this can severely affect profit margins and cause a lucrative deal to become a loss if not carefully managed.
Despite these set-backs and challenges, starting a business from nothing, building a strong base, surviving for eight years as a small business in South Africa and watching it grow is something to be celebrated, and makes the hardships worthwhile. The growth of the company also leads to job creation and this is possibly the most rewarding part of entrepreneurship; employing others and being given the opportunity to enrich others’ lives.
The biggest persuasive factor when deciding whether or not to pursue entrepreneurship is the balance between freedom and stability. Entrepreneurship certainly brings much freedom, if you manage your time correctly, and this can equate to spending more time with your family while you are the master of your own fate.
Yet being an employee brings a certain sense of stability, allowing you to rest in the knowledge that at the end of the month you will get your salary.
Personally, I choose freedom; if I had the chance to do it all again – coupled with the gift of hindsight – I would definitely still follow the path of entrepreneurship, hopefully making fewer mistakes along the way.
While it may have been easier to remain in a corporate environment having one area of focus and much less responsibility, running my own company has taught me so much; nothing grows a person quite like entrepreneurship does allowing one to improve oneself and work on your weaknesses, building a better person and businessman.