Entrepreneurship is hard, and as statistics show, not everyone makes it. Most of us fall somewhere along the spectrum – at times we succeed, and at other times, we fail.
Yet, we’ve all heard of entrepreneurs who experience success time and time again, in different industries, with different teams and different market conditions. So what is it that these people have that most of us don’t – aside from the seven- and eight-figure bank accounts?
That’s what I’ve tried to figure out. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but based on my experience, the problem is you. When you ask yourself – “why have I been failing as an entrepreneur?” – what answers come up?
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For some of us, the following subjects may feel oddly familiar, and it may shed some insight into why you haven’t yet reached your full potential.
If you’re willing to work on yourself, it may even unlock the key to finally accomplishing what you’ve always dreamed of.
1. You’re afraid
“So deeply seated is the emotion of fear that one may go through life burdened with it, never recognising it’s presence.” – Napoleon Hill
Fear is a tricky fellow, and it is not to be taken lightly. Chances are, you have fears you aren’t even aware of that are holding you back in some significant way.
Whether it’s cold calling, showing your product to the world or pitching high profile investors, fear is capable of stopping most of us in our tracks. Unconscious fear often shows up as indifference, indecision, doubt, worry, over caution, procrastination, lack of ambition, jealousy and a myriad of other ways.
If you’re showing any of these symptoms, ask yourself, what am I avoiding?
Some people are scared of the truth because they don’t want to admit their own shortcomings, and they fear embarrassment.
Others may be afraid of success, because they don’t feel that they deserve it. Some are afraid of failure, and never try anything so that they can avoid failing. But perhaps the strongest grip of all is the fear to be different.
We’re both biologically programmed and socially conditioned to fit in with the crowd and conform. It can be hard to break away and do something truly unique.
The first step to overcoming your fear is to accept that you have it. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
2. You don’t know how to let go
Small-scale entrepreneurs and small business owners are notorious for wanting to do everything themselves.
In my consulting business, Profit Fox, this is one of the number-one things I see preventing small business owners from finding real success. Their unwillingness to get help prevents them from ever taking their business to the next level.
While you might think this is the only way to get things done right, your need for control may be standing in the way of real success, not to mention a little breathing room.
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If you can learn to let go, delegate, build a team of talented people and give up mental ownership – and perhaps financial ownership – of some aspects of your business, it could benefit you in a big way in the long run. It is better to have a percent of something large, than the entirety of nothing.
What can you let go of today in your business in order to concentrate on the high-value tasks?
3. You lack persistence
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave–up.” – Thomas Edison
When I talk about failing as an entrepreneur, I am referring to giving up entirely. Setbacks, temporary failures, uncertainty and even failed businesses are all part of being an entrepreneur.
It’s the individual who can keep getting back up over and over again who is going to be triumphant.
Even the best of the best fail from time to time, but failure may become less frequent, less severe and a greater teacher as you hone your entrepreneurial chops.
Sometimes it takes enduring effort or repeated rejections to get to where you want to be. My own app has been in the app store for more than three years and is just starting to gain real traction.
Tim Ferris was rejected by 25 publishers before finding someone to publish his book, The Four Hour Work Week. The iconic book went on to launch Tim’s career as an author and investor and has spent over seven years on the New York Times best-seller list.
Are you willing to take 25 rejections to get one yes? How about 100?
4. You’ve stopped investing in yourself
“I think that much of the advice given to young men about saving money is wrong. I never saved a cent until I was 40 years old. I invested in myself – in study, in mastering my tools, in preparation. Many a man who is putting a few dollars a week into the bank would do much better to put it into himself.” – Henry Ford
Just like investing in a business, investing in yourself can pay heavy dividends down the road.
If you ended your education with the end of your formal schooling, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The work roles of the future aren’t taught in school. They haven’t even been invented yet.
If you want to succeed in today’s fast-paced world, it’s best to continue to invest in yourself as if you were a business, whether it’s with courses, coaches, trainings or even getting a personal trainer to stay healthy. Invest in yourself, and you may find yourself experiencing greater success not only in business but in all aspects of your life.
5. You’re getting things done, but not the right things
“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” – Peter Drucker
Is it better to do the right things, than to get things done. Many of us feel like we are too busy to take a second out of our day to have a nice meal, or think about our future.
But are all of us really busy – or are we just filling up our schedule with more and more things, failing to say no to the unimportant and letting our lives be dictated by other people’s agendas? I’m looking at you, chronic email checkers….
The thing you’re procrastinating is often the most important thing you could be doing.
Tackle your most valuable task first thing in the morning before you do anything else, and you can make more progress in a couple weeks than you did all of last year.
6. You’re not a finisher
“Look, young man. You’re like most people. You think the grass is greener on the other side. What’s going to happen if you go into another business is you’re going to spend another six months, another year, another two years, learning the technical skills of another industry, so you can go out and repeat the same bad business habits that have caused you to be a failure in this business. What you need to do, young man, is learn fundamental business skills. Because once you do, you can apply those to any industry. But until you learn how to make a business work, it doesn’t matter what industry you go into – you’re still going to fail at it.” – from The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellis
If you have a pattern of starting strong on a new project or business for a couple of months and then giving up, or switching to the next project, you may have a problem with finishing.
It is only through persistence that you’ll confront your own personal limits and get enough momentum to get anything worthwhile off the ground. Overnight successes are almost always years or decades in the making.
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Know when to cut the cord on a losing endeavour, but don’t give up just because you aren’t a millionaire three months into your new project, or your new app hasn’t attracted VC funding yet.
There is one more thing I want to remind you of. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur all the time – it’s ok to take a couple of hours off and wear a different hat. Be a sister, or husband, or father or friend. Get some exercise, do what makes you happy and stay balanced and healthy. Your business will thank you.
If you learn from your mistakes, and get a little bit better every single day of your life, success will take care of itself.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Youthful Entrepreneurs Light The Way
If there’s one thing these go-getters have in common, it’s a determination to succeed. As we celebrate Youth Month, let’s learn from their example.
South Africa is already a very young country with 45.88 percent of the population under 24; by 2050, this proportion will have increased as the youth population is expected to double to 830 million. Already, 50 percent of the youth are unemployed, so it’s very clear that young people can’t sit around waiting for jobs to come their way – if they want a satisfying life, they will have to take charge of their own destinies.
This is just what these four inspirational young people have done
1. Imke de Villiers
All of them started young. Imke de Villiers, the youngest of the four, is only eleven, but her first book, The mouse hole, is available on Kindle and in online stores. It is evident that a big part of her success is the lead given by her parents.
“At the beginning of the year, we all had to write down three goals for the year, and the book was one of those,” Imke says.
“I have very supportive parents. My sister and I are challenged frequently to think outside of the box. We tell stories, think of money-making ideas and always use our creativity.”
2. Ingrid Moruane
Ingrid Moruane was also an early starter. “Since I was in high school, I’ve always seen myself as the boss. I’m a very driven person, and love working under pressure,” she says. Ingrid was fortunate to get some work experience as a project manager and optical assistant before following the advice of her then-boss to go out on her own, which she did in 2015. Now, aged 24, she will be moving out of her home office to premises in Joburg’s trendy Melrose Arch.
Ingrid’s business is Ing Management, and her concept is a unique one: she provides a portfolio of non-core services to government entities or corporates – event management, team-building events, catering, stationery and even office furniture. She uses trusted subcontractors to get the work done – what she provides is the vision and management. It is a turnkey service designed to remove a lot of detail off the to-do list of a corporate employee.
She sees funding as one of the biggest hurdles she has faced – and this is something one hears a lot about when talking to entrepreneurs. However, she pays tribute to the innovative approach taken by her bank, which stretches to introducing her to potential clients.
“More banks should do the same kind of thing,” she believes.
Believe in yourself
3. Sheldon Crabtree
Sheldon Crabtree has a similar drive to succeed on his own terms. Although his parents sent him and his siblings to good schools – he is an alumnus of Pretoria Boys’ High School, which also produced Elon Musk – there was little spare money. “If we wanted personal things, we had to work for the money,” he says. As early as Grade 5, he would save his pocket money to buy sweets to sell at school; he also refurbished items for resale.
No surprise, then, that he decided not to go the route of getting a degree and a “safe” job, but rather took responsibility for his own life. He likes the idea of benefitting from his efforts.
Now aged 24, Sheldon is the proud owner of a woodworking business and the Deep Roots Night Market, which is held on the first Friday of each month in Groenkloof, Pretoria. The market provides not only gourmet food but also entertainment in a beautiful setting. Around 3 000 people attend each event.
Like Ingrid, he found start-up capital a major challenge – his solution was to take a part-time job that gave him some seed money and spare time. The woodworking, which began as a hobby, also provided some initial funding.
4. Zwelakhe Khuzwayo
Zwelakhe Khuzwayo, 26, is a great example of somebody who saw entrepreneurship as a way to make lemonade out of the lemons that life gave him! He lost his job but, nothing daunted, drew on the inspiration of his friend, Thulane Maestro Mathebula, to set up his own business making promotional videos and producing music.
“I’m one of the few people doing this kind of thing in the north-eastern areas of Pretoria, where I live,” he says. “I hope to gain recognition for the work that I do and hopefully my company will grow and expand.”
What all these inspiring young people agree on is the need for entrepreneurs to start young, and to believe in themselves.
Zwelakhe says that if you put in the work and effort, you will never go wrong.
For Imke, it is all about daring to be who you authentically are – you will always find a way to achieve what you want. “There are always other ways, other options,” she says.
Ingrid has stayed true to her childhood ideal of being the boss.
Sheldon (like Imke) says that parents have a big part to play. Being supportive is part of it, but it is also important to get their children on the right path. “Let your kids understand the power of creating their own wealth. On top of the set chores, let your kids do extra chores for money,” he advises. “Ask the school if they will be able to sell anything during break time, and make sure they get to grips with the social, financial and planning aspects of business.”
As the old saying has it, the child is the father or mother of the man or woman. That is very true – but it also helps if there is an adult helping the process along! As adults, let’s make sure we fulfill this role in the lives of our youth.
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The Kindling Of The Entrepreneur Spirit
The principle of entrepreneurship is to observe challenges and find ways to improve them while simultaneously weighing up the relevant costs and benefits.
Many university students are funnelled into a conservative career such as a lawyer, engineer, actuary or accountant. This is often the popular choice and has the advantages of receiving stable income and benefit packages – it is a “safety net” career and offers the prestige of the title and security of the degree.
That being said, there are a lot of insights that you may miss if you use the narrow definition of what entrepreneurship means in the traditional sense – “starting your own business.” Entrepreneurship is more than that and, in my view, should be looked at using a three-principles based approach. The principle of entrepreneurship is to observe challenges and find ways to improve them while simultaneously weighing up the relevant costs and benefits.
Principle 1 – Adding Value Within Organisations
In my field, being an actuary with a data science background, you always need to find a better way of doing things. We need to use our resources, skills, and systems in a manner that would support our organisations to ensure that we add value to society.
In essence, we need to use statistical or modelling techniques responsibly to ensure that three key focal points are met, which is easily adapted to becoming a viable entrepreneur, with a trusted reputation:
- We do not mistreat or take advantage of consumers;
- The results of initiatives or strategies are measured appropriately; and
- There are no biases based on torturing data to get the results you want.
In addition to doing a good job, we needed to ensure that the work we do can be repeated, with ease and automated where relevant. This will ensure that our influence is long lasting and scalable, which is also critical to starting your own business or initiative. Most long-term solutions should also be flexible enough to add value to society, in whatever touch-points they are impacting.
Principle 2 – Benefitting Society
This is not about how much you give but rather what impact you have. We need to be honest with ourselves and determine appropriate measures to monitor success and what our ROI is aimed at becoming. This is often a challenge and is oversimplified or overlooked by many. For example, we may celebrate success metrics by reviewing how many scholars we fund or how much money was given to upcoming entrepreneurs.
This measure will have little benefit if all the scholars drop out or all entrepreneurial initiatives fail, we will essentially be celebrating an empty figure. The impact we have needs to be long-lasting and setting up society for success, with or without your continual influence.
Responsible and appropriate ways of measuring benefit will help add value to many initiatives. It’s a significant risk starting an initiative without any key performance indicators or measures of success, as you will have nothing to benchmark against and no measure to celebrate or punt as transparent and real success measures.
Principle 3 – Starting an Entrepreneurial Initiative
Some skills are necessary to start your initiative and working for a large organisation may help you build these skills or refine them. Key performance indicators are often used within larger organisations, and these companies may have proper structures in place to learn communication skills, the importance of planning, setting up budgets, pitching ideas or tracking results over time.
As such, some young adults prefer entering the world of work as a first step and then using what they learn to start something new in the years to come. Whichever approach you take, ensure you are learning as much as you can and are open to mentorship, guidance and constructive criticism, we can’t possibly know everything, and there is always more we can learn and improve on.
Bringing It All Together
Starting an entrepreneurial initiative will require a lot of bravery and resilience, an open mind, a good idea, relevant skills and support (financial and social).
What I admire, is that a foundation such as the Make A Difference Leadership Foundation has robust structures in place to support and encourage their scholars, should they wish to start an initiative in the future. And despite the prestige or the safety in obtaining a degree, the foundation inspires the scholars to follow their dreams, no matter how audacious they might be.
With the vision of the Make A Difference in mind, we believe that our scholars and fellows will be able to contribute and add value to organisations. Some may start their own initiatives and those who don’t will still use the principles of entrepreneurship in their daily lives. We all aim to continuously identify solutions that will add value to those around us.
Going It Alone In Business? 5 Reasons That’s A Really Bad Idea
Being a solopreneur sounds great, but it’s actually a poor choice for your business.
When we read about Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and all the other business giants – we immediately see a single champion. Much like old literature traditions where the hero triumphantly wins alone, our legends in business are often portrayed as the singular hero.
Steve Jobs reigning over Apple, Bill Gates towering over the giant that is Microsoft and Richard Branson stylised in his cape throughout the veins of Virgin – this kind of mythology and idealisation of the single hero in business has spurred a new wave of entrepreneurs who call themselves “solopreneurs.” We idealise the entrepreneur who does it alone and doesn’t need a team or support.
If you’ve been doing it alone or aspire to become a solopreneur, let me share with you five reasons to not be a solopreneur – and why the myth of any singular hero, whether in literature or business, is a misnomer and will only hold you back from having the most significant successes.
1. You’ll become a jack of all trades and a master of none
When you are a solopreneur, it’s practically impossible for you to master every skill needed to substantially grow.
Running a business takes a lot of capabilities: Mapping out content, creating it, sharing it, building a tribe, sending out emails, doing sales, attending events and growing the network, coaching, consulting and building out products is a small list of what a profitable business requires.
If you’re weak in some of these areas, it will hamper your business growth and fun.
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Trying to do it all will soon see you doing low-level activities that pull you away you from making sales, doing projects for your high-end clients and doing the things that help keep the business growing.
2. You can’t scale or grow
Business strategist Jay Abraham says there are only three ways to grow a business. You either get more clients, increase the cost of each transaction or you service your clients with more products. Two of these methods will mean more work.
If you increase clients or increase the number of products you sell, you will most likely need to increase your output.
Since there are only so many hours in a day, you’ll either become your own bottleneck and slow business down – or decide to outsource some of the tasks to your team and ensure business runs smoothly.
3. You won’t have time to do everything you want to do
When you’re overworked and doing it alone, you have no one to relieve the pressure. You have no team to support you, and you have no partners who can take some work off your plate. That means when there are emergencies, you won’t be available.
If a client needs you, your kids need you and a new client wants to pay you a lot for a new project – you’ll have to decide which is most important.
While having a team may not save you from making hard decisions, ideally you aren’t so thinly spread out that you find yourself saying no to more clients, family emergencies and serving current clients to the best of your abilities.With a team, you’ll be able to free yourself more, and you can say yes to more opportunities.
4. You’re more vulnerable to mistakes
Imagine if didn’t have spell check your documents and emails. Or what if this magazine didn’t have editors and any article got through? I’m sure you’d agree, the quality would be lost, and it’d likely result in many lost customers.
In my life, I’m lucky to run a business with my wife and my team. Having a team helps me to not only “cut once and measure twice,” it also relieves some of the pressure to be perfect. It helps me to do my work, knowing my team will help me, and that inspires me. Doing it alone would be too stressful.
Having a team will allow you to call upon a support network, hand off jobs and have an extra set of eyeballs when you’re delivering a service.
If you’ve aspired to be like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington or any highly successful entrepreneur – take some time and study them and you’ll find they love building and being a part of a team. Soon you’ll find out all these legends have a team, an incredible support system, and they don’t do it alone.
5. You can’t ever sell your business
In most entrepreneurs’ minds, the idea of selling isn’t there until decades after starting the business. But, it’s something that if given the opportunity most of us would do.
Even if you wouldn’t sell your business, isn’t nice to know that if you wanted you could take your business and get paid one lump sum equaling years of work?
Or if you don’t want to sell your business, maybe you want to step out of business but collect payments and keep it in the family – well, if you’re a solopreneur it’s tough to ever to work yourself out of a job.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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