I get pleasantly surprised when I scour the internet and observe people responding to cabin fever and isolation by engaging in meaningful self-developing activity, then posting it online : singing, dancing, cooking, baking, cleaning, farming, working out, writing, acting, drawing, miming and on and on. What social media has truly demonstrated to us in the face of a global crisis, beyond a shady of doubt - is that we are a multi-talented and gifted species, capable of doing almost anything we set our mind too. We actually have super-powers.
Will the wave of brilliance last?
How many of these skills on virtual display will go on to being something superior in the market place?
Or are we just displaying our hobbies to all and sundry, not for profit or economic growth but more to appeal to that most basic and crucial of human needs: contact, communication and a need to be affirmed? That, I guess is a blog post for another day.
Today, I am more concerned with just ONE word. Because this word has nearly cost me my finances, livelihood, family, indeed..my life. I'm talking about : entrepreneurship.
Now, lest I bedevil this greatest of human endeavor, let me clarify that from my own experience I am more than convinced that entrepreneurship is the closest we can get as human beings to positively impacting billions of people from a relatively small place in the shortest time possible. It is THAT powerful and a force for good. The danger concerning entrepreneurship lies more in : understanding what it is.
I will not go into the definition of entrepreneurship. Vusi covers that quite well here, and to give credit where it is due: Robert Kiyosaki in The Cashflow Quadrant covers it in even more detail. I will instead focus on the dangers of misunderstanding entrepreneurship , which quite often befalls the wannabepreneur, the wantrepreneur or what I fondly refer to as the corporate entrepreneur. I should know, I was one.
When one experiences a disconnect between where they are NOW vs where they PERCEIVE themselves to be (goal-wise), low self esteem, guilt and eventually, anxiety will be the result. This happens often with the wantrepreneur. He or she WANTS to be an entrepreneur, dreams of being one and in their hearts of hearts know they are, but life consistently reminds them otherwise and the psychological impact of that realisation can lead one down quite a lonely road of self-disdain.
So, can anyone be an entrepreneur? I do not know.
As an entrepreneur though I will say this, not everyone must be an entrepreneur. We are all different and social pressure should not push you to conform to something you do not want to be or lack the character to become. Whether we are unemployed, employed, self employed, investors, entrepreneurs or a fascinating mix of some is a beautiful facet of diversity. Each matters in their own way.
What is more important for me, is this: understanding WHAT entrepreneurship is, then you can understand the WHY and HOW of entrepreneurship better. You can then lend purpose to your business pursuits and in the process become more fulfilled and less....anxious.
So, if you are honest about yourself and want to make that journey from wantrepreneur, wannabepreneur or corporate entrepreneur to REAL entrepreneur, do read on.
These points are not picked off any book or internet post. They are 100% curated from my own personal experience and come from a place of love.
Over the next week and more I will be going into quite some detail into the horror story of the wannabepreneur, a script I took up as screen writer, director, camera man and lead actor. Trust me, I would not wish this on my worst enemy.
Hope you learn from my pitfalls and become a better entrepreneur for it.
The 30 Differences Between Wannabepreneurs and Entrepreneurs :
1. IMAGE FANATIC
I had been in the corporate sector for nearly 15 years and if there is one thing I carried into my entrepreneur life thereafter, it was the whole illusion that image is all that matters. I came to realise quite late in the game that the customer (who, by the way is the reason the entrepreneur lives) is more interested in your solution to their need, rather than the colour of your tie or the scent of your cologne.
Another thing I came to realise is that the customer is more drawn to your charisma and your mastery in communication ( how articulate and consistent you are on message) as opposed to your qualifications and resume trail.
2. MR. & MRS. PERFECTION
Documentation is the secret ingredient to any successful social media campaign for the entrepreneur. The wannabe lives in procrastination avenue, endlessly seeking the perfect angle, filter, message, partnership, product, clientele and time to launch their dream to the World.
The entrepreneur on the other hand doesn't care for perfection and just doles out content, time after time. Content that is infused with value and solution-oriented to the customer needs. He or she is less concerned if the picture is blurry, audio low, logo poor or accent awry. As long as the customer itch is relieved.
Over time the entrepreneur wins over the wannabepreneur because: consistency leads to credibility which leads to profitability.
3. THE PROCESS ADDICT
The wantrepreneur is addicted to the elusive oasis of perfection. Even as I type this, the wantrepreneur in me is obsessively looking for the spelling flaw in my words and the grammatical inconsistency in my sentences, tempting me to put off putting out this blog until I get the 'feel' of it right.
The entrepreneur has an idea today and puts it out as a business within a month. The wantrepreneur is still taking Udemy classes, posting endless motivational posts across Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn WHILE attending numerous webinars and reading motivational and inspirational business books, for a month, a year or so...infinitely developing an idea which unfortunately, may never become a business.
4. STRUCTURES TALLER THAN CUSTOMERS
As a wannabepreneur I was always harping on structures in my own business. Because that is where I excelled in the corporate World : developing business structures. Accounting, marketing, sales, IT, tax structures. I was less about the customer and more about how the business model looked and felt. Because.
I felt that the more corporate my small business felt, the more appealing it would be to customers, never mind that it did not offer a direct, concrete and communicable solution to my customer base.
Were these structures bad? Of course not. BUT, they were not customer- centric.
Needless to say, I struggled to keep the customers coming back. Good clients just wouldn't stick to my business and I could not understand why!
5. SYSTEMS LEADING TO THE LAND OF NOWHERE
Hot on the trail of processes and structures is the need to put in place a business system before one has any business to begin with.
In my early business years, I would spend hours on end working on payment and receipt systems, customer interactions processes, marketing and sales information data and how I can use this to grow my small idea into a multi-million shilling or dollar (you never know!) enterprise. I attended trainings, networked in ties and suits and rubbed shoulders with other fancy, cologne infused and perfume drenched wannabepreneurs (misery after all, loves company doesn't it?) building castles in the sky financed by bank loan backed images. A lot of talking with no commensurate action (more on this in the next blog post).
My beautiful systems had one fatal flaw: I did not even have ONE customer to begin with. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Not even one shilling coming into my bank account. Ironic, because systems cost money. Eventually, my bank savings account started bleeding dry as I pulled from it to set up systems that inadvertently lead to a city called nowhere.
So you tell me, which is more important...the customer or the system?
One problem with system addicts is that they honestly believe that a good system will actually draw customers to a business from scratch, much like honey to the bee. They honestly believe they do not have to go out and interact with people, tell them a story, sell them a concept, market to them a product and convert the client in the process. The system will do that for them. The system will magically funnel customers to their laps. As if.
I still have 25 MORE habits that wannabepreneurs embrace with reckless abandon, no fault of theirs. I will delve more into some of these in my next blog-post.
Have an insightful week ahead!
The author, Jan Okonji is an entrepreneur, speaker, coach, and Founder of the Pan-African accelerator BGS – Business Growth Solutions.
Jan is passionate about helping employees transition safely into entrepreneurship whilst turning their great ideas into profitable businesses and has helped entrepreneurs collectively grow their revenue to over $ 10 Million in the course of running BGS.
Get in touch with him and book a personal session HERE