By virtue of this meeting, I believe my audience is a crop of aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs who are ready to take their world by storm. So, I don’t see myself speaking to some young ladies and gentlemen (as the case is), but with young entrepreneurs who will grow to become business giants in a few years to come. Then, you’ll remember but may not recognize this little giant standing in front of you – because he would have grown really big too!
Let’s thank God for ideas. But, if ideas were to equal entrepreneurship, every one of you would have been great entrepreneurs, great inventors, great businessmen, and women. Entrepreneurship is a subject that goes beyond starting a business and staying a business owner! It’s not about blowing your trumpet, giving yourself ego-centric titles: CEO, COO, OM, OPC, EFCC – because you have formed yourself into a company. No!
The bitter truth is that as profitable as entrepreneurship may seem, its venture is not for everyone. A senior friend once said to me in an interview discussion I had with him: “You need the right mindset and skill-set. Don’t try it (entrepreneurship) until you understand these two!”
I want to sound a note of warning too. Entrepreneurship is not a plan B. It is not an alternative for those who couldn’t get white-collar jobs. Thank God for mouth-watering salaries, but entrepreneurship is not a choice you make because you could not secure employment at Shell or MTN! A prospective student, who makes a federal-owned Nigerian university his /her second choice of the institution at the time of filling the forms, has already decided his/her fate!
Really, the increasing toll of unemployed graduates has forced many to look inwards. Ironically, this situation has its positives. In those days (as we were been told), as a graduate, you have an assurance of a good job awaiting you. But today, the reverse is the case! Even with your M.Sc or MBA, you may need to back it up with a professional certificate and several years of hands-on experience.
I do not care how many MTN, Shell, or Chevron that has rejected your employment request; all you need is God to smile at your seemingly-looking small business. I see because giants arise from this meeting. You will go out there and storm your world!
What then is entrepreneurship? Who is an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is truly a unique individual. Entrepreneurs find it difficult or impossible to work for someone else, although they do work for their customers/clients. They are willing to put everything on the line for the passion and love of seeing their enterprise grow… and sometimes live with several failures.
An entrepreneur is one who has the ability to dream big. The entrepreneur has the qualities of a leader. A leader is one who knows what he wants. He is the one who created ideas, unique opportunities, and conceptions. He is ready to take risks.
The following people have something to say about entrepreneurship:
Alan Sugar: “An entrepreneur, if there is such a thing, is a born schemer and thinker up of things.”
Hunt Greene: “Everything is always impossible before it works. That is what entrepreneurs are all about – doing what people have told them is impossible.”
Michael Smurfit: “The entrepreneur is like an eagle… he soars alone, he flies alone, and he hunts alone.”
Tom Peters: “Entrepreneurship is an unreasonable conviction based on inadequate evidence.”
The Nigerian business landscape consists of entrepreneurs who, despite their humble backgrounds, withstood the storm and are still standing tall in their pursuits.
Here is a list of some of them:
1. Mike Adenuga (Globacom)
2. Femi Otedola (Zenon Oil)
3. Aliko Dangote (Dangote Group)
4. Jimoh Ibrahim (Nicon Insurance)
5. Frank Nneji (ABC Transport)
6. Tony Momoh (Channels TV)
7. Tony Ezena (Orange Drugs)
8. Samuel Adedoyin (Doyin Group)
9. Alex Ibru (Guardian Newspaper)
10. Folu Ayeni (Tantalizers)
11. Dele Momodu (Ovation Magazine)
12. Otunba Gadaffi (DMT Mobile Toilet)
Let’s take a look at some of the most basic factors that have helped them come this far.
I. You need ideas: Ideas are your connection to the world of business exploit, and this can be gotten via inspiration. Ideas that fly to the high heavens have been the harbinger of the most successful businesses across the globe. Ideas are like good wine, they need no bush. All entrepreneurial ventures start from ideas. Therefore, you constantly need to be creative, innovative, and resourceful. Never underestimate the value of an idea. Every positive idea has within it the potential for success if it is managed properly.
II. You may start small but think big always! As a start-up, you may not always have enough funds to start on a large scale. More than 60% of new businesses within and outside Nigeria are usually faced with the challenge of start-up and running capital. Start with what you have. Starting small does not in any way mean you are going to remain small. You are permitted to start small, but understand that you need to think big; “for as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” You need to paint a picture of your dream business in your imagination. You need to “act” as though you were managing a big company. This kind of feeling should reflect in all that you do – your communication, your dress sense, your business environment, etc. Starting small is not a crime, thinking and remaining small is. The Word of God admonishes us not to despise our little beginnings. He knows there would always be little beginnings! For many of us, it is a time to learn and be strong enough to cope with the challenges associated with big businesses.
III. Be creative and innovative: Your business cannot survive without some creative thinking. It amuses me how some business owners run their businesses as though they are the only enterprise offering a kind of product or service. You can’t afford to be lazy in your business approach or strategy. Constantly create an activity to make your business, products, and services the news worth thinking or talking about. If there are 1001 fashion outfits in an area, aim at becoming the best!
Everett Rogers said, “Invention is the process by which a new idea is discovered or created. In contrast, innovation occurs when that new idea is adopted.” If you use yesterday’s tactics and strategies to manage today’s complex business challenges, you’ll go out of business tomorrow. Arthur Koestler also posited that “the principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.”
You need creative approaches for managing current business trends and anticipating future ones. Ask yourself strategic questions. “What can I do to improve on my existing offerings?” Tom Peters puts it this way: “Ask dumb questions. ‘How come computer commands all come from keyboards?’ Somebody asked that one first; hence, the mouse.”
You have a creative mind – use it! You can’t read about creativity; you have to begin doing what every creative action requires – taking the first step into the unknown.
Do you have a new (creative) idea? Take action. Turn it into implementation, and inspiration into execution. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” (Walt Disney). As Ben Franklin once stated, “Well done is better than well said.”
IV. Search for relevant knowledge in your area of specialization and interest. The knowledge they say is power. The Word of God says, “a man is commended according to his wisdom… a man’s wisdom makes his face shine.” Don’t think of decorating your home, shop, or office with your degree certificate; instead, decorate your mind with current innovative strategies, techniques, and trends that will help grow your business or career. Search out new pricing and sales techniques. The truth is that you cannot be better, bigger, and more successful than what you have on your mind. Your actions and inaction can be traceable to your knowledge power, and your knowledge power determines your thoughts! Remember, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Creativity and innovation are 90% within and 10% without.
V. You need a defense against discouragement. As an aspiring or emerging business owner, you should have a mindset that success does not come easy; not even in business. Usually, at the onset, we brim with ideas for starting a business; the enthusiasm is high and we devote both time and energy to the success of the new venture. At this level of your business, you never really knew that on the flip side, business management means coping with stress, challenges, disappointments, failures, and outright rejections!
In a research study of two hundred and forty-three entrepreneurs in Lagos, Nigeria; among the problems encountered by entrepreneurs, unreliable employees were the most critical. A weak economy, electricity shortages, and unsafe location were also mentioned as obstacles preventing entrepreneurs from achieving their goals.
At every point of your business growth, you need to shield yourself from discouragement; you need to trust God for help and believe in yourself to stay strong till you conquer fear. As a small business person, I have been tempted on several occasions to apply for a paid job somewhere else. As a matter of fact, I have submitted applications for some! Owning and managing a business is not a light issue. You need to be aware of this from the onset. Business is life – don’t let it die in your hands!
Be focused. Be persistent. Be consistent. Be strong. Indeed, you can truly become a business giant! See you at the top!