All it takes is one look at the colour-laden covers of ‘wealth-chronicling’ magazines like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc, and you get the idea. The folks whose faces appear on those covers have got mostly two things in common – they are all making a mark in the world of business and they are all stinky rich.
These are some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. They are wealthy, flamboyant, independent, celebrated, and accomplished and it doesn’t take long before one begins to wish for the dream lifestyles of these persons. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be all that?
“I want to my own thing. I want to be my own boss.” That’s a common line these days amongst aspiring entrepreneurs (especially millennials). Unlike many years ago when you may catch a few perplexed looks at the mention of the word, entrepreneurship is now taking root among young people.
And that should come across as a good thing if only they weren’t drawn to the idea of entrepreneurship by mostly the wrong vibes.
I mean, entrepreneurship is an amazing global trend that is cutting through Africa as though it were a continent-wide revolution – creating employment opportunities for many who would otherwise be worse off and empowering isolated communities – but the problem now revolves around that of perception amongst those who are jumping at the idea.
To many, entrepreneurship is the new ‘gold rush,’ a passport to the good life. But as though it were something off the making of a movie, beneath the smiling faces on the cover of those high-profile magazines are several years of toil, trials, tribulations, rejection, and even failure – things you don’t get to see.
And that’s not to say the flamboyance that is evident in the lifestyle and manner of some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs is no more than a facade – far from that. I’m just trying to point out the fact these folks don’t look or live like what they’ve been through and you will be misled if you’re solely motivated by what you see in the moment.
Diamonds are priceless possessions but every sparkling piece you get to see and long for has been through a far less glamorous process that took a lot of doing.
In much the same manner, they’ll probably come across as celebrities with their trademark smiling faces, bespoke suits, fancy cars, and sprawling mansions, but there’s a long, arduous ‘process’ that you don’t see which lies just behind the visage.
It’s okay to become an instant hit by some generous stroke of luck and that happens too, but it’s safer to venture with the knowledge of what lies ahead in the process more often than not. If you’re looking to embrace entrepreneurship mostly because of a longing for the envisaged rewarding outcomes, here’s the other part of the story that you should also know about.
There’s no way around it – the journey to the top is a lonely journey until you get to the top. It is hardly spoken of but entrepreneurship can be a lonesome game, especially during those early days in business, and most especially if you are singlehandedly calling the shots and shouldering the burden.
So, don’t just expect to go out guns blazing and money-stacking once you set up shop – you’ll be too busy talking to yourself most of the time. And even if you’re luky enough to have a supportive business partner, co-founder, or mentor on your speed dial, you’d still have to be your own therapist – well, up until you can pay for one without making the business go under.
We just can’t help it, it’s the way of the world to want to associate with success and spread the world. It’s crazy that when you started out, nobody wanted to touch your business with a ten-foot pole. And having pulled it by the booststraps to some semblance of success, everyone suddenly wants to talk to you with microphones and cameras.
But that’s just reality. Near-misses hardly ever cut it and until that success comes, you’d have to make do with obscurity. It’s somewhat disappointing, though not entirely a disadvantage. You could channel all that ‘alone time’ into nurturing and growing your business without anyone putting you under a microscope – actually an invitation to extra pressure.
So, brace up for what’s coming – it’s going to be a very long journey and you may have to go through most of it on your own.
When you hear celebrated entrepreneurs talk or tweet, it’d seem as though they have everything figured out. To us, they are visonaries, people who are able to see clearly what others can’t quite wrap their head around. It’s as if they defy strongly-held beliefs that nobody knows it all.
Well, that’s not really the case with these guys. Actually, they do have visions but clarity of purpose and certainty of outcome are two different things altogether. You may hear them talk a big game and pull it off, but you’d be wrong to think they get it right all the time.
If you’re looking to venture into entrepreneurship, you must know this – nobody has everything figured out and even the best-laid plans often go awry. So, self-doubt will definitely pop up to haunt you just as it does the ones who you think ‘untouchable.’
There will be a turn of events that wlll test your confidence and make you second-guess what you’ve set out to achieve. You’d be pushed to the brink of despair by disappointment and frustration. In fact, you may actually fall a couple of times and begin to rethink the whole entrepreneurship thing. It happens to virtually everyone, the problem is we don’t get to hear a lot about it.
As humans, it’s natural for doubt to creep in whenever we take an action that doesn’t have a fixed outcome, but if you believe enough and your plan is good enough, you might just go all the way. The whole point of this is to let you know what’s coming.
It’s normal for persons to have money-making at their back of their minds as the key motivation for delving into entrepreneurship but here’s a dose of reality: you’ll probably lose a lot of money before you make your first buck. That’s especially true if you’re taking the bootstrapping route.
If you’re as committed to building a business as you ought to be, you’d naturally want to give it all you’ve got. This would entail taking care of all the expenditures and you may have to do this from your pocket for a while, up until the business is going well enough to sustain itself.
In between hiring the required expertise and procuring the necessary materials, you may find yourself in a bad place financially, and this may be the case for a long time.
Entrepreneurs are a lot like farmers, they just have to keep doing the most to keep things alive until harvest time, even if it sometimes means going hungry and being broke. Like a crop, that business just has to stay alive because it is the promise of producing a bountiful harvest that could make all the difference.
Essentially, you might well make money from the business you chose but chances are you’d have tasted scarcity of funds before that happens.
When people talk about entrepreneurs who have clawed their way to the apex of the pyramid, there’s a lot of emphasis on the fortune they have been able to amass, and this is probably what lures most people. But turning the story inside out reveals a backstory of risks and pains before the rewards – the part of the story nobody wants to go through even though the wealth and affluence are desired by all.
WeeTracker’s The Better Africa category, for example, is laden with tales of African entrepreneurs who have managed to build successful enterprises even though they spent the earlier parts of the story in privations and squalour. And then there are those stories of corporate workers/civil servants who abandoned their day jobs in favour of entrepreneurial pursuits.
We are regaled by stories such as these. These individuals are undoubtedly a source of inspiration and motivation. But sometimes, we fail to grasp the sheer enormity of the risk these entrepreneurs took on and the painstaking work they had to put in when they made those moves. And a lot of times, the whole thing seems like we envy their success more than we admire their guts, which shouldn’t be the case.
Now, let’s face it – the risks and pain involved in trying to build a business are real and some people are more cut out for it than others. If you want to venture and do successfully, you must have the stomach for the bumpy ride that is running a business.
So, it’s okay to wish for a measure of the success they now enjoy, it’s okay to want some of it. But before you take that step, it just makes sense that you know the full story. Most times, there’s a lot of pain, frustration, risk, and challenges on the other side – more than most people can handle.
This is no attempt to make you freak out and throw in the towel even before you had it in your hands, it’s just real talk aimed at preparing you for what’s coming, lest you go in blindsided. If you’re scared – and you should be – chances are that you’re on track.
Featured Image Courtesy: psmag.com