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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Are You An Ideas Explorer Or Are You A Rooster?

When an idea comes your way, do you recognise and fight for the opportunity to see it through? Because that’s what marks the heart of an entrepreneur.

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Ideas are a precious thing; it’s the entrepreneur’s job to recognise them as such and exploit the opportunity. Focusing only on what’s before him, the rooster seems content with his fate. He limits himself to the single task of gathering corn. He doesn’t consider expanding his horizons, and opening up whole new worlds of opportunity. His task is singular, narrow, dull, without curiosity or ambition — there is no vision, no passion.

Brutishly, he can’t be bothered with the discovery of a gem of an idea. He doesn’t understand how a good idea has the potential value of thousands of barleycorns. He doesn’t have to throw caution to the wind. Positive change will come with discipline and a good plan, hard work and vision.

Entrepreneurs are pragmatic dreamers, always keeping it real. But the rooster, unable to recognise any potential, without drive to develop and exploit, gets right back to his mechanical tasks; the comforts of his little box and the scarcity of food.

Related: Founder Struggles: How These Start-Ups Overcame Their Obstacles (And What You Can Learn From How They Did It)

He will never become an entrepreneur who seizes opportunities to solve problems and add value, and is curious about new life experiences, a sense of purpose, and a search for fulfilment.

Adding value to your idea — and yourself

Entrepreneurs add value to business ideas but also to themselves. Self-esteem and self-actualisation are the result of personal growth and discovery through new experiences and lessons learnt from overcoming challenges.

As the best dramatic characters have rich arcs, entrepreneurs become actors in their own dramatic journey.

Their need for independence and a personal locus of control are driven by passion, discipline and steadfast commitment. To the rooster, fulfilment is simply to peck at corn, day in, day out; and not to consider the gem as anything more than a pretty stone. His world starts and stops at the corn. But not so with the entrepreneur.

The Rooster as Entrepreneur

Now consider the difference if the rooster was an entrepreneur at heart. The sight of his starving family weighs heavily on his mind and soul — he has to do something to change their destiny. As a family man, the rooster feels the fire burning inside him. Necessity becomes the mother of invention — this gem, this idea will help him finance and build a business.

He can buy some inventory, build a network of distributors, take some accountancy and marketing classes. His discovery, together with his expertise, ideas and plans will benefit his children, provide them with opportunities he never had — expand their horizons, provide them with tools and skills to think out of the box and improve their lives.

Related: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Naming Your Business (Infographic)

The rooster’s drive comes from within, a struggle to effect change; fuelled by a powerful sense of love, duty, and care towards his family; strengthened by a strong sense of self-esteem and self-actualisation; and a thirst and hunger satisfied with the nutrients of creativity and spiritual growth. With this vision in mind, the rooster understands the importance of seizing this gem of an idea, to become an entrepreneur and become the change agent of his family’s destiny and that of his own.


The Rooster and the Jewel

The Rooster and the Jewel

A rooster, scratching for food for himself and his hens, found a precious stone and exclaimed: “If your owner had found you, and not I, he would have taken you up, and held you high in the light; but I have found you for no purpose. I would rather have one barleycorn than all the jewels in the world.”

The lesson

Precious things are without value to those who cannot prize them.

Alexander F. Goldsborough previously researched entrepreneurship at OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and was an Associate Professor of Practice at the China campus of Liverpool University (XJTLU). He is now the creator of Aesop For Entrepreneurs and the author of Creativity, Strategy and Leadership for Entrepreneurs. Visit www.aesopforentrepreneurs.com for more information.

Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Are You Building A Business Or Creating A Job For Yourself?

Is it just you behind a desk or are you delegating the work? The distinction is an important one.

Doug and Polly White

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We recently spoke with a member of our co-working space who owns a PR/marketing company and is the only employee of his company. His firm is successful and has been in business for more than three years since he left a large organisation where he was the head of PR.

Our conversation got around to the issue of extra help. When he needs additional skills to fulfill assignments, this man told us, he contracts with other professionals. That was interesting, we thought. Because, although our PR friend is talented and able to support his growing family, his comment about contracting out work raised a question for us.

“Was he trying to build a company or create a job for himself?” we wanted to know. It was a question that struck a chord with this man – one that he later came back to discuss.

In that context, we want to state that we think that we consider either choice a valid one, but one that should be a specific choice, nonethless. We work with and mentor dozens of small start-ups. And many start as single-person firms completing short assignments for a variety of other small or midsized companies.

 Most of these individuals used to hold positions with larger organisations doing essentially what they do now. Some left their jobs for the chance to build a company; some wanted more flexibility or the autonomy to choose their own assignments. Others lost their jobs and turned to freelance work out of necessity. Either way, they are now part of what we know as the gig economy.

There are more than 28 million small business in the United States. Of these, single-person companies are in the majority, representing three-quarters of all small businesses. These individuals, whether they planned it or not, have created a job for themselves. They will not hire employees or scale their businesses. Of course, this need not be negative.

Done right, a one-person business can actually make good money. It can give the owner the flexibility to choose assignments that are interesting and fulfilling, and to enjoy the flexibility of working when and where he or she chooses.

The “micro-business” category

A person working alone, or essentially alone, is a business category we call a “microbusiness.” The defining characteristic of a micro business is that the owner or principal is doing the primary work of the business, whether that means providing PR services or baking cookies. He or she may have helpers in the form of other freelancers, vendors or assistants, but the preponderance of the revenue comes directly from the work of this principal.

The key to the success of a micro business is how well the principal does its primary work, which includes selling. We find that the biggest challenge in a micro business is finding a steady stream of work. By the way, our consulting practice is a successful micro business. We have one paid full-time employee, our marketing assistant, but we do the primary work of our business – consulting.

The small business structure

Many people who own micro-businesses choose to stay at this size. However, if you want to build a business, you will need to grow, at least to what we call a small business structure, where the primary work is delegated to others. The owner might keep his or her hand in it, but others do the preponderance of the work. At this point, how well the principal does the primary work of the business is not nearly as important as it was when the enterprise was a micro business.

Personally, we found it difficult to transition to a small business structure in our consulting business for a couple of reasons. First, when people hire Doug and Polly to consult to their small business, they want Doug and Polly, not an associate. Second, we are limited in the amount we can charge to the very small businesses we serve. The fees we charge are not high enough to pay talent at the level we would want and still provide a sufficient markup for our firm. Therefore, Whitestone Partners has stayed a micro business.

Related: 4 Tips To Secure Funding For Your Start-up

It’s important to note that the role of the entrepreneur changes dramatically as a business moves from micro to small. In fact, at the point of transition, the principal has to let go of doing the very thing that made the company successful at the prior step. In a micro business, the business lives or dies based on how well the owner performs the primary work of the business. This makes sense. You have created a job, and you keep it or lose it based on how well you do the work.

But, if you choose to grow to a small business structure, success depends on how well the principal hires and manages workers. If you are the principal, your role will change. If you want to bake cakes, stay a micro business. If you want to run a bakery, you need to build a business. This is a scary step and one that can cause the principal sleepless nights.

Many people we mentor balk at this transition when they realise they will be responsible for the livelihood of others. However, to grow a business, yourself,, eventually, you will need to hire and manage employees.

Next . . . the midsize business

If you’re successful at the small business stage and choose to continue to grow, you will become a midsize business. The business has transitioned from small to midsize when at least one layer of management has been inserted between the principal and those doing the primary work. The principal has gone from managing workers to managing managers. This might sound like a small change. It is not.

To effectively utilise managers, the principal must delegate decision-making authority to them. This means giving up a measure of control, which is often difficult for entrepreneurs who are used to making every significant decision in the company.

This also is the transition with which growing companies most often struggle. Letting go of some control is a scary thing for entrepreneurs, and they are right to feel trepidation. Ineffective delegation can lead to the ruin of the business – we’ve seen it too often. To enable effective delegation, the principal will need to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure is in place. This means making certain that the business has the right managers, that processes are well-documented and that appropriate metrics are in place.

Meanwhile, if you want to create a life that has flexibility and autonomy and allows you to work when and where you like, you should probably choose to stay a micro business. As we like to say, you can create a great job for yourself. If you want to build something more, you will need to move to a small business structure. You will know that you have transitioned from micro to small when you have delegated most of the primary work of the business to others.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

To truly scale a business, you will need to transition to midsize or larger. You will have done this once you’ve delegated day-to-day decision-making authority to a layer of managers that is between you and those doing the primary work of the businesses.

Each choice is valid and comes with its own challenges. However, we believe that it should be a conscious and specific choice. If you are unsure which direction to take, find an experienced consultant or mentor with whom to explore your options, skill sets, and desires. Then move forward with purpose in the direction that works for you.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Why Optimism Isn’t Enough – You Need To Also Accept The Brutal Facts

Entrepreneurs tend to depend on optimism in the same way that fish depend on water. It’s absolutely crucial for survival. In fact, it’s arguably the single most important character trait that a successful entrepreneur can have, but it also has a dark side…

GG van Rooyen

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A realistic path to success

  • Lead with questions, not answers
  • Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion
  • Conduct autopsies without blame
  • Build red flag mechanisms.

No matter how bad your day’s going, it’s probably nothing compared to your average day at the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. This was the euphemistically-named prisoner-of-war camp (actually called Hoa Lo Prison) where American soldiers were interned during the Vietnam War. Pilot Jim Stockdale was shot down on 9 September 1965 and sent to the prison. While there, he was tortured, denied medical attention, kept in a windowless cell and locked in leg irons at night. Stockdale spent almost eight years in the prison, and while many other American soldiers died there, he survived.

This brings us to the topic of optimism. You don’t survive eight years in a prison camp by giving up hope. Despite almost impossible conditions (and odds), you need to stay optimistic. Stockdale never lost hope.

“I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade,” Stockdale later said about his time in the prison.

Related: Shark Tank Funded Start-up Native Decor’s Founder on Investment, Mentorship And Dreaming Big

The Stockdale paradox

So, Stockdale was an optimist right? Yes, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Jim Collins interviewed him while writing his seminal book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t. After hearing how Stockdale refused to give up hope and stayed optimistic throughout his internment, Collins asked him who didn’t make it out alive.

“Oh, that’s easy,” he replied. “The optimists. They were the ones who said: ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say: ’We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.

“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

From this, Collins identified one of the key things that differentiated great companies from others: The ability to accept brutal facts. Greatness demands optimism, but not in the face of obvious disaster. Collins called this the Stockdale Paradox.

Too much optimism

What happens when a bunch of executives enter a boardroom with their charismatic founder? The founder is optimistic, inspiring… and demanding. He has absurd expectations. He wants the impossible. (Steve Jobs was a good example, who employees said had a ‘reality distortion field’ around him). The executives are eager to seem equally gung-ho, of course, even those who know that a crucial deadline won’t be met, so the brutal facts are ignored.

“We’re going to be shipping product by Christmas,” they all say. And Christmas comes, and Christmas goes. Then they say: “We’re going to ship by Easter. And Easter comes, and Easter goes. And then Thanksgiving, and then it’s Christmas again…

Related: 10 SA Entrepreneurs Who Built Their Businesses From Nothing

An overdose of optimism is a dangerous thing. While optimism is a crucial tool in the entrepreneurial kit (especially when it comes to motivating employees), it can lead to disaster if administered too liberally. Like morphine, a sensible amount can take the edge off a scary reality, but too much will distort reality to such an extent that you become oblivious to existential threats.

And how do you keep your company off the morphine? Collins suggests four things: Lead with questions, not answers. Engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion. Conduct autopsies without blame. Build red flag mechanisms. If you do this, optimism becomes a powerful tool, and not a ticking time-bomb.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Alan Knott-Craig Weigh In On Living Your Entrepreneurial Dream

From raising capital to getting the most from your employees, business ownership is all about living your dream.

Alan Knott-Craig

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How do I chase my dream? — Sam

First, you need money. Moola. Cash. Capital.

Chasing your dream without enough capital is akin to having a premature baby. All the baby’s energy goes into survival rather than growth. Start-ups are not about survival (paying the bills). They’re about growth (getting rich).

Before you chase your dream, make sure you have enough capital. Keep your lifestyle simple and living costs down. Save up enough to last two years. Or marry rich.

I’m considering selling my business. I need help. — Clark

Before you enter M&A conversations, first decide: “Am I a seller?”

You won’t find it easy backing out during negotiations. Don’t start a process you can’t finish. Don’t look for buyers if you don’t want to sell.

Most people I know that sold their business regret it, unless they had a very specific reason: i.e. the business was about to die, or the business can’t grow without a big brother, or they want to leave the country. If that’s your reason, go ahead and sell. If it’s simply to have a pile of cash, reconsider.

Related: Your Questions Answered With Alan Knott-Craig

What are you going to do with the money? Put it in your bathtub and wash yourself with notes? Buy fancy cars? Buy a fancy spouse?

Lots of money in your pocket can only tempt you to the dark side. Eventually you’ll get bored and you’ll want to start a business again, and you’ll start all over. If you don’t need to, don’t sell.

How do you instil an ownership mindset in your staff? — Johan

It’s hard to work with people that have no drive. Some people just come to work and go home with no planning or vision or energy. Start with getting rid of the bad apples, then start fine-tuning recruitment to only let in the folks with a good attitude.

Use some of these methods to motivate and encourage buy-in from staff:

  • Ask staff for feedback.
  • Do not tolerate mediocrity.
  • Make sure everyone knows their job.
  • Share information. Keep everyone in the loop.
  • Look after your staff and they’ll look after you.
  • Lead by example. Pick up litter. Be first to office. Be last to leave.

How do I determine what venture to dedicate my energy to and when do I know when to stop pursuing one of the opportunities? — Mike

Go with whatever gets traction first. Ruthlessly scratch everything else off your to-do list. Generally speaking, go with the business with the most tried-and-tested business model. 

I left my former employer to move away from the legal side of things. I know that I have the technical skills in this area and I have used that in completely running the legal side of the micro lending venture, but the ultimate aim is to be an entrepreneur/businessman rather than constantly seen as the ‘lawyer’. Do I discontinue the legal consulting or slowly taper off? — Mike

If you can live without the sideline income, do so. Focus 100% on business. If you need the money, keep selling hours on the side.

Related: Alan Knott-Craig’s Answers On Selling Internationally And Researching Your Idea

I have a very successful farm store. I’m considering expanding countrywide. Any advice? — Elo

Ask yourself “why?”

If the answer is to get rich, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to scale your successful farm store.

Maybe a better option is to take the free cashflow of your farm store and invest it in a different business. An annuity revenue business. A business that will make money while you sleep, rather than only when you’re behind the till. Cash cows are hard to come by. If you don’t want to lose your cow, don’t try to scale it unless you’re 100% sure you never have to sell it.

Can you help me flesh out the detail of a pitch to investors? — Mamkhele

There’s only so much you can rely on others for. At some point, you need to man up and do the work yourself. You need to answer the questions yourself. The answers for all pitch-related questions are on the Internet. Google it. No one will save you, only you will save you.


Listen to this

Alan’s audible book Be a Hero: Make Life an Adventure is now available on amazon.com and Audible.com

Read by Alan himself, Be a Hero is a collection of stories on how to make your life an adventure by changing your mindset and tackling adversity.

Go to amazon.com or audible.com to download your copy. Be a Hero is also available in Kindle and paperback through Amazon.com.


Read ‘Be A Hero’ today

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