I wish to begin today’s post with a big thank you to all of our readers. Thank you for letting us into your lives every weekend, even though it is the time most people love to relax and spend time with family and friends. Our heartfelt gratitude also goes to readers who leave comments on the blog (I’m particularly feeling the comment from the HR person!) and we just wish to add that you may kindly share the posts on facebook and twitter so that others can benefit from the blog as well. (Find share-icons at the bottom of the page.) Here we go…
Just as the person of the entrepreneur can be an asset to the business, so it can be a liability. In fact the majority of foldups can be traced to the attributes of the entrepreneur than any other factor. And this was the point that a lecturer was trying to convey in his enterprise management class when one of the students interrupted him. The student claimed that bad ideas more than bad personality traits and habits make for business failures and he began to describe how a flawed business idea like selling air conditioners to Eskimos destines the business for doom. To bring his class back on track, the lecturer asked the student if he had ever felt the heat coming from the rear end of a window-unit air conditioner. The student replied in the affirmative and the teacher continued that he knew some ‘crazy’ salesmen who would install the air-conditioner backwards and sell it to the Eskimos as a heater. The student slunk into his seat and did not interject his class again.
Eskimo: "This is an air-conditioner."
Salesman: "No it's a heater, I will just install it facing backwards."
The person of the entrepreneur is very essential that business angels or venture capitalists look out for it when they are hunting for businesses to bankroll. Let us assume that a benefactor, say Dangote or Oprah or someone who is itching to finance a startup, comes around and finds you in a group, why should he choose you? If she had a few moments to assess your bankability versus liability attributes, will she be attracted enough to you to finance your business? Let us quickly examine three fatal personality traits that can easily reduce one’s chances. Get ready for some new words!
Let me explain. This trait is found in folks that are ‘all over the place but are nowhere’ when it comes to going into a business; they are long on rhetoric but short on specifics, they can intimidate you with statistics on the rate of unemployment in the country and the comparative analysis of employment policies of various economies, which they reel off like a teleprompter. They might continue with the chances of success in a number of business sectors and conclude that those who work for themselves are the smart ones. But if you ask them for the business they want to go into, they will just bury you under another round of statistics. They will do everything they can to avoid giving you a precise answer, saying they are considering this sector or that one. Sponsors don’t invest in a sector, they do in a business!
When sponsors see would-be entrepreneurs like these they pass because their ilk is full of intentions but lacking in action. If you cannot answer in a sentence or two what business you want to do, where you want to do it and who your target group is, you might have lost them midway into your conversation. Committed people have clarity of purpose because they are dedicated and you can feel their devotion bubbling over the moment you open the tap. Before you continue reading, kindly write down in one sentence (not a page-long sentence, please) what you would answer a benefactor if he asked what business you are going into.
Employers will not leave you to intuitively run their business but will train you, guide you with job descriptions, put you under a probationary period and under a proficient supervisor; but on top of all that, they will still ask you for some years of experience! A sponsor who wouldn’t likely be there to check on you and how you administer his funds will not ask you for any less. He wants to know what you know and wants to be assured of what you are bringing to the table. While experience sounds more like an aptitude than an attitude, the sponsor will be on the lookout for that attitude of seeking experience from the entrepreneurs they are going to back.
We discussed this in detail last week so I will not belabour it more than to reiterate that those who lack the experience of working at a business seldom have the prudence to manage one.
I am not talking about the medical condition of inability to learn; rather this is the unwillingness to learn. I take this to be the most damaging trait of all in an entrepreneur. Everybody can do almost everything but not everybody can do everything well, until they learn. A toddler can feed himself and should be allowed to, but if he is not taught how to do it properly the floor will be littered with rice and more grains stuck to his face.
Just about anybody can stick the key in the ignition and move a car but those who fail to learn how to drive are those who, as my sister would say, drive around with an invisible L-plate; the L in this case stands for lunatic though and not learner.
Sponsors don’t expect you to be born with all the skills you need or to have gained all the knowledge to become a successful entrepreneur, but they want you to still have the ability to learn something new. Being teachable demonstrates humility in admitting that we do not know everything, it further reveals an appreciation for the input of others – an essential ingredient for team building.
You are as current as the last book you read or seminar you attended on your business. The half-life of new discoveries in most businesses today is getting ever shortened with fresh facebook posts, tweets and Youtube uploads. If you don’t ‘update’ you would be like the car salesman whose client was schooling on the specifications of the cars he was selling.
Honestly, when last did you learn something new? During the past few days, I learnt the meaning of the word ‘splurge’, I learnt that even though social media was designed to connect people it is doing a lot more to divide them and I also learnt that the manufacturing landscape is rapidly changing with the explosion of 3-D printers (imagine making synthetic cell phone cases of up to 16 colours in your bedroom with a N200,000.00 3-D printer!).
Are you open-minded enough to at least see things from a new perspective? They say we begin to die, the day we stop learning. Even if that sounds dramatic, I can assure you that your business dreams begin to die the day you lose your ability to learn. Don’t be a dinosaur; don’t go extinct.
Have a splendid weekend learning something new.