Going into business is a fascination for most people. Some have determined that they are not ‘cut out’ for it, and so avoid it. Some others however can only ‘be in business’ than anything else. Somewhere in-between this wide spectrum, are people who are not sure either way. It is important to find where you belong. And as I have said previously, no option is better than the other. It is just up to you.
Going into business, like any other major decision in life, is one that needs to be taken seriously. We have in the past discussed the traits of entrepreneurs, testing the feasibility of your business idea etc. In this article, I want to you to check the level, and if necessary up the level, of your mental preparedness to the challenges that can come your way by opting to go into business. If you are expecting me to talk about funds, business planning, etc, you will be disappointed. As important as they are, it is the ‘soft’ issues that come first and that is what will really determine your level of preparedness. For you to be convinced that this is correct, just find out the capital with which most billionaires started their businesses. Now, how prepared are you?
Do you really love what you want to get into? Having passion for what you want to do is key to success. Search yourself and be sure that you really want to be in business. There are two reasons why this is key. First you will need a lot of continuous supply of energy. Love and passion will supply that. Secondly, when you love what you are doing, your imagination is always at its best and everything seems easy and fun. So, be sure it is what you really want to do. Checkout what Jeff Bezos said: “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.”
At the beginning most people start businesses to make money. But as you climb up the ladder, that will hardly be a sufficient reason for you to remain in business. And think about it, most billionaires spend a very small proportion of their wealths on themselves, and really they don’t need more than that. Yet they do not stop. It is the excitement, the fun, the challenges etc that keep them going. They simply love what they are doing. The money they make is just an outcome and a measure of the degree of the excitement, the fun and the challenges. Will those also keep you going? Remember what Oprah Winfrey said “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job, and not (have to be) be paid for it.” (Explanation, mine).
Are you mentally and emotionally be prepared? The ‘soft’ preparation can not be a replacement for the hardwork that awaits you. But it is absolutely necessary if you are to enjoy and be able to go through the challenges that business will throw at you. The simple way to test your mental and emotional preparedness is to read the autobiographies of successful business people that have gone through incredible challenges and yet succeeded. You should also read through the stories of other business people who in spite of all their efforts failed and some even ended up bankrupt. How you feel about these stories will indicate your mental response to the challenges they faced. If you think they are stupid not to have just given up, I think you should stop reading here and get a paid 9-5 job. If however you feel excited and almost yelled ‘Hey Trump, why didn’t you call me?” I think you are getting ready.
For further reading on this, I can recommend the book ‘Never Give Up’ by Donald Trump and available on Amazon:
Our childhood and life in our teens and early adulthood is a massive store of information of the kind of people we really are. Looking back into your life will reveal your pre-disposition to risks and challenges. Just look at what psychologists called critical events in your life over those periods and remember how you responded to them. That will indicate if you are the type that tend to face, avoid or flee from challenges. Of course nothing is ingrained in stone and we can always make changes and improvements.
Are you willing to put in the long hours? Are you thinking of going into business so that you will immediately make some easy and good money and live happily thereafter on some island? That is possible, but that neither reflects the majority of what happens nor indicate the thought process of most businessmen. Entrepreneurs and businessmen are people that thrive on grit, determination and handwork as keys to their successes. You may never be able to understand it until you go through it. The least you could is to prepare your mind. One of the suggestions I made above is to read the autobiographies of successful business people that have gone through the mill. Another way is to have an experienced mentor who can share his experiences with you.
Going into business will demand the most from you. You must have a continuous supply of the burst of energy of a sprint athlete as well as the stamina of a marathon runner. It is almost a contradictory combination. But thats what you need and you have to come up with your own way of providing it.
How do you take failures? As long as you want to be in business for the long-run, you can be sure there will be failures, set backs and countless challenges that will come your way. You have to learn to handle them appropriately and timely. And for you to be a real success, there should be minimal negative psychological fallouts arising therefrom. Nobody likes failures or set backs. But they are constant companions of anyone in business. The way we see them mentally, the way we handle them emotionally, and the way we respond to them physically is what sets those who ultimately succeed in business from those who do not. Some of us simply give up at the slightest appearance of an obstacle; others make some benign effort and let go; a few others take the bull by the horn . It is only the last that stand a chance to succeed.
In Africa, we have a particularly defensive mentality about failures. That makes us shrink from taking even sensible risks with excellent possible positive pay offs. But the cost of not taking chances can also be dire, especially in the long run. I think one of the fundamental reasons for this is that we do not seem to realise that even in ‘failure’ there can be success. Just imagine this: could you really call the contraption of the Wright Brothers an aeroplane? Yet that was what set the race for what we now enjoy as one of the most comfortable transport system that can take us thousands of miles within a few hours. In reality, most of what we see and enjoy today as success, are built on the ‘failures’ of thousands of men and women of great courage who did not fear failure. They remain the unsung heroes in our annals of history, but we owe a debt of gratitude to them, if only we know.
“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really: Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, so go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.” – Thomas J. Watson
The idea is not to set yourself deliberately to fail. The idea is that when we are faced with failures, we should learn from them, get wiser and better, thereby enhancing our chances of succeeding on the next deal.
Can you see what others don’t? All successful business people are ‘visionaries’ to some extent. Your success is determined to a large extent by the degree to which you are able to see what others do not. But that is not sufficient. You must also be able to pursue your dream with all the zeal and determination that it will require. You will have many people, who sincerely wish you well, doubting what you want to achieve. Listen to all that matter, but never allow the nay sayers stop you in your tracks. Most successful people have been advised against what they started by many others not seeing what they saw.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs
Can you enjoy the journey as much as the destination? I know I have said this before, the road is really long. So the only way we can get to the destination hale and hearty and in sound mind, is by enjoying the journey itself. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and the landscape on the path! This is to say that for you to really enjoy a life in business, you must enjoy all the components that makes it up, or at least most of them. The long meetings, the disappointments, the frequent travels away from loved ones, the occasional set backs, the competition, the betrayals, your own shortcomings, etc. ‘Enjoying’ all these and more simply means you have the right mental attitude to them. You must know which things never to take personally and which things can be taken up personally to your advantage. Learn the art of compartmentalisation to help you.
Now, assuming that with all your best effort everything fails, will you feel regret, anger or even resentment? Or will you be able to smile at yourself and be satisfied that you have tried your best? This is a fundamental difference between those who succeed in entrepreneurship and those really not prepared for it. Look at what Vince Lombardi had to say: “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
Can you work with others, be alone, and share the successes? Like inventors, explorers, and sportsmen, entrepreneurs are an incredibly determined people. I have said of a boss that I worked for: If all his employees will abandon him overnight, he will go to the office the following morning and start the process of recruiting another set. Before he gets every position manned, he may be set back a year or so. Before his factories return to full operation, he may be set back another year. But nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, will stop him. This is the stuff successful entrepreneurs are made of. Unfortunately, this also makes them think they can or they do it alone. Obviously, that is not entirely correct. So you must have the capacity and be willingness to work with others. Enjoy it. Sometimes you will be emotionally and even physically alone. Be comfortable with that. And you must be able to enjoy the successes and share it with those who contribute and provide support. This obviously includes our families, our co-workers, friends, customers, our communities etc. Nothing gives satisfaction as much as giving joy to others. Give credit where it is due. And whatever you do, do it sincerely.
At the end , it must be you that decides whether or not you are prepared for the journey. In summary, you need:
1. Genuine love for what you want to do. Otherwise you will easily give up when difficulties come a long the way,
2. Mental and emotional preparation. There will be many lonely moments,
3. To expect that the journey will be long and eventful. I mean really long and really eventful,
4. To be determined and ready to work hard,
4. To expect disappointments, and be ready to handle them positively,
5. To let set backs make you wiser, better, stronger and even more determined,
7. To remain positive and focussed on your target,
8. Belief that you can succeed. You just need to the identify and do the right things necessary for that,
9. To share and enjoy your success with others.