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.
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.
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.
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.
5 Fierce Ways To Become The Ultimate Entrepreneur
What does the ultimate entrepreneur look like? The truth is that although we aspire to many of our role models, success is personal. Here are five ways to find your own ‘ultimate’ success.
For some, the ultimate entrepreneur might be someone like Elon Musk — working non-stop, rich beyond measure, but with no balance in life.
For others it might simply be someone who has built a business that will sustain them; an entrepreneur who is successful but also prioritises other aspects of their life. Take a second. Think about it. What does it mean to you?
In my view the ultimate entrepreneur is focused, has copious amounts of positive energy, a supportive network, is mentally tough, has their priorities in order and has a steadfast idea towards which they are working.
Here are five ways to go about building yourself into the ultimate entrepreneur (or at least my version of one).
1. Seed your day with energy enhancers
Your energy is your secret weapon. You should protect and enhance it at all costs. When I talk about energy I am referring to both physical and mental energy. There is an esoteric component to this as well, but we will leave that discussion for another day.
How can you enhance your physical energy? The simplest way is to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and clean up your diet. It really is as simple as that. Just get the basics right.
How can you enhance your mental energy? Remove friends and influences that drain you and replace them with a network of people who support you and can appreciate the level at which you are playing. I also suggest to my clients that they carry small symbols with them that can remind them of the goals they are working towards and other things that are important to them.
2. Train for mental toughness
Mental toughness is the ability to pursue your goals with a positive attitude amidst the challenges and chaos of life. The most important thing I want you to know about mental toughness is that it is trained. This means that you must put in the effort and time to develop a stronger mentality.
The two important skills to train are:
- Self-awareness. In other words, becoming aware of the moment that you start latching on to negativity or succumbing to images of a future that might never come to pass.
- Creating a strong counter visualisation. This visualisation ideally contains emotionally-charged images of the big goal that you are working towards, the person that you are becoming, and the things that matter to you.
Mental toughness does not ignore the problem. It simply allows you to keep moving forward while you figure things out.
3. Create a support network
It’s a great feeling when you finally find people who get it. They get what you are trying to build and the pressures and challenges you face. I’d love to tell you that such people are all around you, but the truth is that they aren’t. You must go looking for them. At events, on social media, at business forums, really wherever entrepreneurs congregate.
As with most things you need to realise the importance of time in building such a network. So, start sooner than later. One day you will wake up and realise that the people you once admired are now peers and form part of your network. It’s a great feeling. But start now.
3. Zoom out
You are not your business. This is important and difficult for entrepreneurs to hear. Business is such a personal thing. Especially in the early days when you literally are your business. At some point however, you need to realise that you cannot let your business consume your life. It’s one component of your life, not its entirety.
So, make sure that you are looking after and making time for your health, your relationships, your energy levels, your creativity, and your hobbies.
4. Is it all about the money?
This ties in to the previous point but also to a greater purpose. I get why money is such an important metric early on. We need it to survive, and to that end, focusing on creating more money in your business is a great goal. However, money always seems like an important thing to chase, until we have enough but are still found wanting for something more.
I think there is purpose in you just being alive, but I also believe that we create purpose with our intentions and actions. You might not currently know what a crafted purpose looks like, and that’s okay. I would encourage you to consider what your life (and business) looks like in the bigger context of serving others.
The ultimate entrepreneur is an ideal that you must create for yourself. Don’t copy the greats. Build your own version 2.0 and make it damn good.
Awaken Your Entrepreneurial Spirit
Got a great business idea? Here’s how you can awaken your inner entrepreneur and turn that idea into income – by Dr John Demartini, human behaviourist and founder of The Demartini Institute.
Whether you’re keen to start a business in services or hospitality, food or retail, all entrepreneurial ventures have two things in common: you, and the people you want to serve. Together, you form a community bound together by values, and this is what determines your success. That’s because the more your venture allows you to live by your highest values or priorities, the more prepared you’ll be to weather the storms that are an inevitable part of entrepreneurialism and ultimately be able to thrive. On the other hand, the more you’re able to fulfil other people’s needs, the greater your chances of success.
1. Find your niche
A niche is a gap, a need that is currently not addressed by existing businesses. There are all kinds of niches; some are completely disruptive (like Uber, which revolutionised public transport), others simply improve upon an existing concept. But, just because you have identified a niche, doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. You need to make sure it’s a niche that speaks to your market’s needs, while also speaking to your individual needs or highest values.
To do this, you have to make sure that you are clear on your own highest values:
- What is important to you?
- What are your priorities?
- How can you use your business to fulfil these?
If you can’t answer these questions, you may find that you don’t have the energy or resilience to invest in what is an undeniably challenging career path. At the same time, you also need to make sure that you are in tune with the dominant buying motives or highest values of your market. If not, you are simply assuming that there is a need for your product or service, when there might not be. The more you are able to answer the market’s highest need or value, the greater your chances of making a sale.
2. Think innovation
The most successful entrepreneurs are those who improve life for others. Again, Uber stands out as a great example. That’s why it’s not enough simply to have a good head for business: If you’re set on an entrepreneurial career, you need to cultivate an inventive mindset. You need to be constantly on the lookout for the gaps in current offerings so that you can address them and, in so doing, offer people an improved product or service. It’s about creating efficiency and convenience. But, as I’ve previously mentioned, innovation isn’t always new; sometimes, it’s just better.
Richard Branson stands out as a prime example of an entrepreneur who finds dinosaur companies with big brand names that overcharge people because they are well known. He offers to do the same thing at a fraction of the price. He’s not offering anything new; but he is offering improvement and greater efficiency.
3. Focus on problem-solving
You need to be clear on the fact that entrepreneurialism isn’t solely about making money. It’s also about upgrading people’s quality of life. In this way, entrepreneurialism has an inextricably humanitarian component. Once you start focusing on how you can solve the problems that dog our society, you’ll have found a truly rewarding niche – one that’s not only financially rewarding, but one which allows you to service the largest number of people.
4. Keep looking for opportunities
The ability to identify and pursue opportunities is hardwired in most entrepreneurs; it’s part of their DNA. It must be, because this is the only way you will be able to keep refining, building and expanding your business.
4 Entry-Level Jobs That Will Prep You For Entrepreneurial Success
Success is a journey, not a destination, so think hard about where to start.
Entrepreneurship might look like an unruly beast, especially when larger corporations are involved. However, those in the daily grind of entry-level positions are already developing the necessary skills to bring this wayward creature to heel.
“One of the first truths you’ll learn about entrepreneurship is that you’re 100 percent responsible for your success or failure,” says fellow Entrepreneur columnist Mike Monroe.
Entry-level positions in many different areas – including sales, marketing, development, project management and customer service – provide the perfect environment for future entrepreneurs to learn that truth and hone their skills.
Learning to fly from the ground up
While the average entrepreneur is 40 years old, younger people eager to make their own way have plenty of developmental opportunities that can help them hit the ground running. According to a 2017 survey from Heidrick & Struggles, nearly 15 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies started in the sales department. These high-powered executives didn’t waltz into the C-suite on day one; they learned the tricks of the trade on the front lines with everyone else.
If you crave the life of an entrepreneur, don’t let the barriers to entry get you down. Take one of the following entry-level jobs and use your time in the workforce to get the experience you need to launch your own business.
Inbound or outbound, sales experience can give any would-be entrepreneur a leg up. Not only do you learn how to communicate effectively in a sales position; you must also understand the products you sell (and the brand behind them).
A job in sales will teach you to stop trying to convince people that they need what you have and start listening to what they want. Once you recognise that the market dictates what you sell, and not the other way around, you’ll be prepared to run a successful start-up.
2. Human resources
HR pros keep businesses running. If you work as one, you will quickly learn how much things like timely payment, accurate sick-day counts and health insurance matter to workers. To keep your team happy, you’ll need to know what employees consider to be important. What better way to learn that than to take a job where they let you know?
Jobs in HR also provide crash courses in communication skills and legal compliance. For example, it’s much better to learn that a manager can’t force an employee with folliculitis to shave his beard before the decision affects your pocketbook.
3. Customer service
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in: If you deal directly with customers, you learn how to handle tasks quickly while keeping a friendly face.
Customers range from the kindest people you will ever meet to those who become enraged when they can’t double their coupons. As an entrepreneur, you and your team will deal with all of them. Learn how to respond to customer complaints on someone else’s dime, so that when it’s your turn to do so, your learning experiences won’t have a negative impact on your bottom line.
To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you must learn how to lead a team. Leaders invariably learn some tough lessons at the helm, but if you wait until you are running the whole operation, those lessons could cost you some of your best workers.
This may seem like an odd suggestion for an article on entry-level positions, but note that you don’t need to be in a leadership position to learn leadership skills. From your first day on a job, your supervisors will be sizing up your initiative-taking ability and your critical-thinking and time-management skills to determine whether you have the capabilities necessary to take on more complicated projects. Look for opportunities to listen effectively and motivate those around you – this will help you hone your leadership craft until you get the opportunity to take on the role for yourself.
These positions and skill sets provide invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, but they’re hardly the only ones. Reporters, insurance adjusters, accountants, teachers and consultants – these jobs and many others are full of learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.
If you have to work for someone else before you found your own company, don’t treat the opportunity with disdain. Learn everything you can on the job, so that when your time comes you can use those lessons to lead your company to success.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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