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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Are You an Entrepreneur?

Are you a highly innovative game-changer, or simply a self-starter? And what’s the difference anyway?

Tim Bishop

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ENTREPRENEUR – A term used far too lightly and what right do you have to call yourself one… and how does this go-at-it-alone philosophy affect SA digital?

We all go through stages where we latch onto a word or phrase and over-use it to the point where it loses its impact or real meaning. One example that comes to mind immediately is the word awesome. Awe is defined as ‘an overwhelming feeling of wonder and admiration’ or ‘a feeling of profound respect.’ Suffice to say the burger you just wolfed down, no matter how delicious is not awesome.

Another term which is suffering at the hands of over and incorrect use is entrepreneur.

Do a quick search on Twitter as to the number of people who include the word entrepreneur in their profile. It’s a wonder the global economy is in such a precarious position given how many entrepreneurs are broadcasting their brilliant existence via social media.

Let’s be honest, there are some fundamental criteria for being identified by society, rather than just by you and your mum, as an entrepreneur.

The makings of an adventurer

You are someone who has put their financial neck on the line, be it your house, savings or little Timmy’s university fund. You have put your existing career or job at risk by actively pursuing an idea, opportunity or vision. Prominent American political economist Robert B Reich defined the meaning as someone who also possess strong qualities in the areas of leadership, management, team building and has the ability to succeed, albeit success is never guaranteed.. .

Entrepeneur is therefore a rather big compliment to give yourself, as you are essentially saying as your career description ‘I am an all round brilliant human being who was clever enough to have (or take) a great idea and build it through my extemporary vision, skills in  people and structural management. Did I also mention my strong leadership and mentoring skills?’

Entrepreneur (a good one – as surely there has to be varying types) is not a title you should bestow upon yourself, instead it should be a term that someone might describe you as, in recognition of your achievements and the multiple qualities described above. I believe that Richard Branson is of course a great entrepreneur, I also believe that Kylie has a wonderful bottom, neither of which I’m guessing they choose to lob into introductory conversations about themselves.

The standard

There are of course people like Branson who genuinely are referred to by all as an entrepreneur, and have every right to use that label to describe themselves should they wish. But let’s be honest we’re in minority territory here and even the best generally don’t.

Entrepreneur must not be confused with a business starter, business owner, having an idea, freelancing, or anything else that falls outside traditional employment. Also, don’t confuse entrepreneurial with being an entrepreneur. Likewise the word ‘serial entrepreneur’ is also increasingly making the rounds of business lexicon in a thoroughly meaningless way. You are either an entrepreneur or you are not. You cannot be a serial doctor or a serial accountant.

Which brings me to entrepreneurial. The way most people refer to themselves as an ‘entrepreneur’ would define my housekeeper as an ‘entrepreneur’ and a good one at that. Whenever we need more help (extra cleaning, gardening, etc) she pulls in her friends and family and takes a cut of the wages.

She may not fit all of the qualities defined here for being a true entrepreneur but it certainly ticks a lot of boxes and she is surely more worthy of being labeled an entrepreneur than most who use that label so easily. Instead I would view her business acumen and practice as being entrepreneurial.

So, given that entrepreneur is such a widely abused term in SA which has been diluted to mean ‘going at it alone in some way’, I would like to highlight the danger within industry sectors where ‘entrepreneurship’ (from now on: going-at-it-aloneship) is widely promoted and glamourised. This buzz and promotion is flippantly given and seen by many as the answer to the country’s economic challenges, which in under privileged areas it may well be, but in over privileged areas such as digital and advertising I strongly disagree.

Going-at-it-aloneship

This glamorising of ‘go-it-aloneship’ is irresponsible and should be promoted with caution, not unlike gambling. The difference is that gambling comes with a health warning (responsible gambling) and so should the promotion of ‘go-at-it-aloneship’ as it is just as dangerous and frequently produces more losers than winners.

Responsibly promoting this ‘go-at-it-aloneship’ should at the very least be to those who tick the big boxes of entrepreneurial flair, have a lower risk of failure and crucially understand all of the risks both financial and personal.

At least gamblers have support structures and help lines for when things go wrong, ‘go-at-it-aloners’ do not! We have warnings all over any financial and investment adverts as well as the aforementioned highly regulated gambling industry. But what gives us the right to glamourise and oversimplify the fine art of business success with so much financial and personal collateral at risk?

My next point is that the promotion of ‘go-at-it-aloneship’ creates talent dilution, not least in industries with an already starving talent pool. There is no doubt that when great minds and visionaries get together, amazing things can and do happen.

Diluting strengths vs capitalising on them

In my industry, the digital industry, where we already have a huge talent shortage, the very best people that you would really want in your team are already ‘going-at-it-aloners,’ and to be fair in a few exceptional cases, worthy tech and digital entrepreneurs.

What this creates is something that continues to dilute our depth and quality versus world class digital standards.

It does that by fragmenting great brains through the creation of hundreds of small digital companies or talent silos, headed up by the ‘going-at-it-aloner’, each of which is consumed with the 50% wastage of running that business. Less time for digital brilliance and breakthroughs when you have to invoice, pay salaries, keep the VAT man happy and so on.

More often than not our gifted but creatively lonely ‘go-at-it- aloner’ is the sole driver without the benefit of true collaborative and strategic business thinking, resulting in offerings that can quite often only be extremely niche, spread too thin or competing in an overcrowded and competitive market fighting for the same small slice of pie.

The beauty of teamwork

Don’t underestimate the time, money and the collective brains required to be truly digitally innovative and deliver world class products and campaigns on a large scale. With very few exceptions, these silos will never unlock the true potential of the visionary spearheading them.

The best analogy for the digital industry in South Africa? What we should and could be as an industry is an FC Barcelona, World Cup winners Spain, Manchester United or the entire Premier League in football terms. In essence a team made up of the cream of the crop.

Instead we have a culture of ‘go-at- it-aloneship’ that tells each of these players that they can easily setup and manage teams themselves, make lots of money, all run their own stadiums and cleaning staff and then perhaps a Russian billionaire will come and buy them for squillons of dollars. In most cases, this may spawn the odd (but rare) good team, many mediocre ones and lots of minnows, struggling to attract fans and financial returns and of course scrapping over world class team talent.

The reality is the greatness of those teams lies in the collaborative teamwork of all those combined  talents which unite to create something truly world class.

Of course FC Barcelona and Manchester United wouldn’t exist if someone hadn’t started the team, but you get my point.

So what then is the answer?

Instead of blindly promoting the ‘go-at-it-alone it will be great’ philosophy, there needs to be other outlets for entrepreneurial minded individuals.

Companies need to look at promoting and harnessing the essence of entrepreneurial spirit. Offering infrastructure and the relevant rewards, ownership and control for people with the added benefit of personal de-risking with a ‘not so hard landing’ should it not work out

I believe that true entrepreneurs can be born and housed within companies, they too will need to fit the criteria as discussed, and they still carry risk, it may not be monetary, but in order to succeed as a true entrepreneur you will always be making some kind of personal sacrifice. Keeping the brains and entrepreneurial drive together can only mean great things for digital or any other industry on the world stage.

Alternatively, in a land of ‘go-at-it-aloneship’,  most of those labeling themselves  tech and digital ‘entrepreneurs’ need to drop the self appointed labels and look to create an ‘entrpreurlaboration’ approach where by collaborating and joining these small silos of great talents would deliver creative  solutions, products and ideas far greater than the sum of the parts.

As a rule of thumb, for collaboration to be effective it requires leadership. Not typically ‘do as I say’ leadership but rather a form that is social or decentralized, a form of leadership that can be liquid and malleable. By that I mean where a skill set is strong a natural leadership will be formed and where that person was weaker they would automatically look to support the leadership of another in the group more suited to particular task with the shared goal of a common vision.

Entrpreurlaboration

The collective, collaborative leadership should all of our ‘go-at-it aloners’ work with an entrepreurlaboration approach would have a profound effect on South Africa’s digital landscape and its global competitiveness

Why? Because it is a way of coordinating ideas from the best of breed to generate wider and more impactful knowledge. Think of it as an ongoing brainstorm with the best and brightest brains in the field, with people who have insight and the willing to take what’s inside your head and make it better.

Collaboration with a selected few firms as opposed to collaboration with a large number of different firms has repeatedly been shown to positively impact firm performance and innovation outcomes.

Neither of the above are likely, but the constant dilution of our nations great brains in this way is detrimental to a country trying to claim it’s rightful place in the global digital economy, but if you must go at it alone, please do it with caution, it’s hard out there

For all of you self-labeled ‘entrepreneurs’, let us instead park the egotistical titles and work harder to make the digital landscape greater. Entrepeurlaboration can create true digital greatness for South Africa and within that is there is still room for others to think of you and label you as a true entrepreneur.

Tim Bishop spearheaded Prezence Digital UK’s expansion into South Africa in 2002 and is currently the company’s CTO. With more than 18 years in the online and mobile industry, his focus is 'mobile for the masses' and he has been instrumental in high profile mobile web and application developments, brand strategy and enhanced user experiences throughout Africa.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

(Podcast) Being An Entrepreneur Is Painful

There is a pain attached to running your own business. It’s time to discuss how tough it is – address the reality and you might just be one of the successful few.

Nicholas Haralambous

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Entrepreneurship is fun. But on the whole, running a business is hard. Far fewer business owners succeed than fail. Statistically your business is going to fail. Those are the hard numbers.

There is a pain attached to running your own business. It’s time to discuss how tough it is – address the reality and you might just be one of the successful few.

Listening time: 5 minutes

Related: (Podcast) Playing To An Audience Of One

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

3 Dangerous Entrepreneurial Myths You Need To Ignore

This terrible advice won’t actually get you anywhere.

Entrepreneur

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Entrepreneurial Myths

We’ve all heard the numbers about how hard it is to build a long-lasting business. While there are many factors at play to get there, without effective marketing and sales a business cannot survive.

Unfortunately, there is a multitude of dangerous and destructive marketing advice swirling around the heads of vulnerable entrepreneurs. Like vultures seeking their next meal, “gurus” pontificate nonsense that these hard-working business owners follow, only to discover that what they tried doesn’t work.

Often, once the damage is done, it is too late for them to do anything else about it.

If you want to not only survive, but thrive, here is some of the terrible advice you need to start ignoring:

1“You need to be everywhere”

I’m sorry, but how do these people sleep at night without the use of narcotics? “Experts” spew out dribble to make headlines saying you need to get on Snapchat, get on Periscope, do YouTube Live … be everywhere! They’ll say you need to get on this platform or that social media network. Oh, and use LinkedIn Live! And make sure to post on Instagram three times a day and Facebook twice a day. And don’t forget those Facebook Lives. Make sure to do them every day.

Related: The Journey Of Entrepreneurship: How The Tough Get Going

ACK! Just writing that paragraph stressed me out. How the heck are you supposed to be on all of those channels, never mind doing it all effectively, and still run your business? Of course you can’t. And you shouldn’t. (Unless self-torture is your thing, in which case have at it. There are books about that, but I’m not giving any titles because I’d have to Google them and then I’d be retargeted by the ads and that would just be gross.)

It is impossible to spend even half an hour on each major network and still get any work done. Forget about focusing on measurement, profit and return on investment. They don’t mention that on purpose, because then these crazy-pants suggestions would really make no sense. But, then these “experts” would stop making the headlines, so they keep serving up spoiled advice for the poor folk who chow down and then get sick on it.

Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to their plots of deception. Demand strategies that value your time and produce results in a significant and measurable way quickly.

2“It takes money to make money”

cash-flow-management

I didn’t take the easy way out. I am part of a group of scrappy entrepreneurs who have a lot of hustle and heart and little/no/negative funds. I didn’t come from family money, and the big banks certainly weren’t lending to businesses like mine.

The only way I was going to get a big pile of cash was if I won the lottery. And since I’ve only played about four times in the last decade, the chances of that happening were slim. What I had to find was the same thing you most likely want – a solution to predictably bring in customers when there is no marketing budget to play with.

3The Schmo-bags

The worst are who I call the “Ferrari Marketers.” They rent a sportscar for an hour or two, hang out in front of it and then sell us shiny object strategies that they haven’t even used in their own business.

Related: 6 Timeless Strategies That Drive Successful Entrepreneurship

They are abhorrent, hideous and dangerous. Not only are they crooks stealing the money of the people who are seeking a solution from them, but they may prevent really talented people who have a gift/service/product/offer to share that can help someone else from ever reaching them.

Did I mention they suck?

But, once you discover a game-changing system, you are responsible for implementing it. You can’t be distracted by shiny objects any longer.

As Jack Welch says, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Don’t allow yourself to be enticed or distracted by fads or the “latest and greatest/not greatest” new social media strategy, channel or tactic.

Once you uncover how to truly get results, be strong-willed and stubborn. Repel any idea, strategy or initiative that requires you to keep spending money to make money. If you keep throwing dollars and time at a goal, hoping and wishing that it will work, yet not tracking or measuring the results and scaling accordingly, then you cannot expect results.

Start measuring, tracking and demanding results from your time and money, rising above others and landing in the successful minority that thrives instead of survives.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

5 Mindset Changes You Must Make When Going From Employee To Entrepreneur

As one prominent author wrote, “Entrepreneurs don’t finish when we are tired. We finish when we are done.”

Sujan Patel

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entrepreneurship-mindset

Thousands of people dream of the day they can quit their jobs and escape the 9-to-5 life. In fact, Gallup found that 87 percent of the employees it surveyed worldwide did not see themselves as engaged.

But quitting your job and starting your own business is only half the battle. You need to prepare to be an entrepreneur. Besides getting your finances in order and having a plan in place, you also need to prepare your mind.

Your habits dictate your success, and if you’re still stuck in that 9-to-5 mindset, your endeavors will fail. You must adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and start thinking the way the world’s top leaders do.

Being an entrepreneur is very different than being an employee, and the way you envision it may be completely off base. Here are five changes you must make to your thinking in order to prepare yourself for the realities of being an entrepreneur.

1Train your mind to think outside the box

Once you leave your office job, you’re no longer confined by corporate life. That means you need to open your mind to new possibilities – possibilities that may not have been an option in your old life.

Related: For Shatty Mashego Success Lies In Maintaining A Positive Mindset

In an article for TIME magazineWarren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said, “People will always try to stop you doing the right thing if it is unconventional.” In short, others may not see your vision, but you can’t let that stop you. You need to be creative with your business, offer something new and be different to be successful.

2Develop both short-term and long-term vision

Albert Einstein once told the New York Times, “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”

That new type of thinking needs to be focused on a strategic goal. You must have a vision for your company – an idea of where you’re going and how you’ll get there.

As an entrepreneur, you are the leader of your company, and your team members are looking to you to show them the path to success.

What’s your plan? You should be able to see the big picture as well as all of the steps it will take to reach your main goal. Then, you must communicate that vision to those on your team and ensure they each understand their individual roles in the plan.

3Let it all fall on your shoulders

stress-on-shoulders

Becoming an entrepreneur can be scary. Your success is now completely dependent on the work that you do. You can no longer fall back on a salary or benefits.

As an employee, if you had a bad day at work, you were still paid your salary, regardless. But as an entrepreneur, if your business isn’t successful, you won’t make any money. Plus, you now have others relying on you for their livelihood.

Ryan Farley is a typical example of corporate employee-turned-entrepreneur, quitting a fast-paced finance job to start lawn care marketplace LawnStarter Lawn Care. “I was used to working extremely long hours in the corporate finance world,” Farley told me. “I thought that would have conditioned me well, but nothing can prepare you for this amount of stress.

“It’s pretty common for founders to have the stress get so bad it affects your physical and mental health,” Farley continued. “But you have to press on, and you’re better off for it.” Prominent entrepreneurs like Brad Feld and Mark Suster, have expressed similar sentiments.

Working for yourself also means you need to be your own motivator. You no longer have a boss hounding you to get your work done. You need to stay organised and focused, and you’re going to have to be comfortable with hard work and long hours.

Related: 8 Mindsets That Will Set You On The Path To Success

4Get ready to be a jack of all trades

As an entrepreneur, you can’t say “That’s not my job.” Every job is your job now. There’s no one else to pick up the slack but you. You need to make sure everything in your business continues to run on track, and that may mean doing work you aren’t used to doing. You may need to be the accounting department, IT, marketing and more in addition to leading your company.

Entrepreneurs wear many different hats and are constantly learning new skills and working hard. If you think becoming an entrepreneur means you get to sit back and kick your feet up, you’d better stick to your day job.

As entrepreneur, author and investor Robert Kiyosaki has written on Twitter, “Entrepreneurs don’t finish when we are tired. We finish when we are done.”

5Be flexible, focused and positive

Attitude is everything in business. You can’t let challenges get in the way of your dream. Entrepreneurs need to be optimistic and stay focused on their goals. Your passion must drive you.

Related: An Entrepreneurial Mindset – Why And How To Develop One

As Steve Jobs once said in an interview with the Smithsonian Institution, “Unless you have a lot of passion about this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. So, you’ve got to have an idea, or a problem or a wrong that you want to right that you’re passionate about; otherwise you’re not going to have the perseverance to stick it through. I think that’s half the battle right there.”

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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