The Paradox Of Entrepreneurship
Ok, you have for some time been sick and tired of working for other people and you have decided to start up your own business. You have mustered the necessary courage and have finally made the decision that it's time to work for yourself, doing what you like, when you like it. Great! You start to feel the excitement and a sense of expectation filling your heart as you boldly face what the future is going to bring you. After all many other corporate people have taken that step and you are just following their lead. All this sounds so fantastic, doesn't it?
In many ways it should and it certainly could be so. The reality however tells a different story. It should not surprise us then that one out five new businesses fail in the first year of trading and one in three fail within the first three years (DTI figures). I wonder why? What is causing such failures? What is the problem?
The fact is that anyone can start a business but not everyone has the ability to maintain and develop it successfully. The hard reality is that your previous corporate experience is not what will make you an entrepreneur. At best it would make you a good start up business but it takes much more to make you an entrepreneur. Anyone can start their own business if they have the guts to do so; but not many are going to be entrepreneurs.
The fact is that there is a paradox contained in being an entrepreneur. On one hand you need to run a successful and growing business that will produce enough income and revenue. What all this means is that you need to focus very clearly on what might be successful and well accepted in the market place. On the other hand, if you really want to be an entrepreneur, you need to be able to be a pioneer; take risks, going against the flow and somehow have the long sight of things to come. All this may take some time to develop.
Let me put it in another way. On the one hand you are pursuing the safety that comes from doing what you know best, possibly your experience from the corporate world. Your desire is simply to replace the income received from the corporation you used to be part of with an income that comes from your own direct efforts. And however noble that might be that is not what will make you an entrepreneur.
As opposed to that some of us have decided to go down the creative route. We have considered the risks but have brushed them aside because of our compelling vision to create something new, whether a different product, a new service or a new approach to something already existing. In all accounts your new business venture starts with a high dose of risk. Thomas Power (Chairman of Ecademy) recently said quite clearly that it is only the person who is prepared to run risks that can claim the name of "entrepreneur". Sadly, many people starting businesses are not and in so doing they miss the opportunity of entrepreneurship.
One of the problems facing "business creation" these days is that we live in a society where we have grown increasingly afraid of stepping out of our comfort zone or stepping forward whatever the risks involved. We have left the security of our corporate positions with our guaranteed salaries and stepped out expecting to have the same income and the same benefits. As soon as we discovered that this is not happening frustration, loss of confidence, disappointment and failure follow rapidly thereafter.
The tragedy is that whilst before we most probably had a long term vision for the company we were part of we are now bound by short term objectives and goals. Which in many ways condemn our new business to a meagre and short life. Often we lay our dreams and visions aside to simply bring the bacon home. And as a result we find that the passion for our job, our expertise and knowledge quickly dwindles away and is replaced by harsh reality of marketing plans, sales strategies, finding new clients and the administrative burden that comes from being on your own.
Is there a way out of this paradox? I believe there is and it focuses on re-discovering the true spirit of entrepreneurship. That is what I teach in my courses and I speak about at every opportunity. We need to rediscover entrepreneurship and make sure that this spirit inspires and guides every thought and action that we take. The choice before us is simple: we can carry on being a simple, ordinary, often boring start up business or we can be an exciting, extraordinary enterprise. There is only a positive way to solve the paradox of entrepreneurship and that starts with clearly understanding what entrepreneurship is all about. What are the characteristics, both personal and professional, needed to be a successful entrepreneur. Being a successful entrepreneur has little to do with cash flow and business plans; every business needs them. Rather, being an entrepreneur has much to do with vision and passion. Entrepreneurship has little to do with marketing plans and sales strategies that every business needs; it has much to do with setting clear goals and strategic thinking. Succeeding as an entrepreneur has little to do with systems and policies but it has a tremendous amount to do with creativity, innovation and USPs. Being a great entrepreneur has little to do with management but much to do with good leadership of the right team to work with you.
As corporations worldwide change and breakdown we are more and more living in the time of entrepreneurship, even in the U.K. We have a number of very successful entrepreneurs who have started their businesses with a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve and have been willing and ready to face the risks that come from stepping forward, often in unknown territories. I am thinking of people such as Richard Branson or Anita Roddick who let's face it have had their share of mistakes but who have persisted to build successful organisations and they are just two of the many that could be mentioned. So let me challenge you, do you want to just start a business or do you want to be an entrepreneur? Do you want to simply use your knowledge and experience trying to make an independent living out of it? Or do you want to "boldly go where no-one has gone before"? The choice is yours.