It will be interesting to see what the collateral damage of the recent COVID-19 pandemic lockdown will be on businesses. We are all looking forward to 2022, but I suspect it’s going to be just as challenging as 2020 and 2021, with new “uncertainties” added to the mix, such as the China-USA friction, collapse of logistic chains, higher inflation, and the potential rise of interest rates. Also, what about the supposedly “Global Resignation”, how will that eventuate? What about the global consequences of the COVID pandemic itself, including the “collective social trauma” inflicted? Finally, what about the rise of cryptocurrencies, how will that play out, as people start to lose faith in the system, that was supposed to serve us? Will, there be a real estate collapse or crypto bubble (again) or will they remain on a long-term growth trajectory. The question is will our newfound resilience again carry us through these events, as it did in 2020-21 during the COVID pandemic?
Will business ever be the same again? Clearly, online businesses and eCommerce are booming, as they have adapted and taken on new opportunities, whilst other “Bricks and mortar” businesses are floundering, many unable to reinvent themselves. Or will these businesses have the resilience to bounce back? Furthermore, will we be ready for the next pandemic, and if you believe the scientists, it’s not a matter of if, but when.
The solution will have to be to try and become “COVID-proof”, in preparation for the next anticipated global upheavals. At least by now, we have some idea of how to handle it, but either way, we are heading for some interesting times ahead! I would love to hear your opinion.
There is an age-old question about entrepreneurship: “are entrepreneurs born or made”, and can it be taught? Well, I’ve done a Masters in this field, and after spending years researching this particular theme, it’s still an unknown to me.
Whilst, research by Taylor from Northeastern University has shown that 42% of entrepreneurs launched their first venture during childhood (i.e. lemonade stand, swap cards, etc.), it can be argued that no one is born an entrepreneur, (just like no one is born a leader), because, there are certain characteristics that can only be developed through one’s experience and their environment. However, there are certain intrinsic behaviours that are important to be a successful entrepreneur, such as having personal “grit”, risk tolerance, and the ability to deal with ambiguity or uncertainty. Arguably, these traits are most likely discovered through observation and personal experience.
Until 1985, research was focused on personality traits and characteristics, as it was believed: intrinsic psychological factors had a significant influence on the individual’s decision to become an entrepreneur. Subsequently, it has been discovered that: environmental factors also play a contributing role in the decision-making process to start a venture. These include the existence of an entrepreneurial eco-system, cultural factors, and exposure to business in early life, (such as your parents running a business when you were growing up). Furthermore, circumstances such as personal need or access to opportunity are also pivotal.
Then, the question is: can someone study a course in entrepreneurship and become an entrepreneur? Research by Taylor also suggests that whilst entrepreneurship skills can be taught, the desire or drive to be an entrepreneur is usually not. It seems as though the enterprising spirit must be “discovered” within an individual, NOT developed by an individual’s experience. This discovery can be initiated through imagination and “play” activities. Furthermore, risk-taking behaviour can also be taught, through simulation and gaming, where individuals can develop these skills in a safe, “no consequence” environment. Hence, the reason why Gen Z and “Centennials” are the most entrepreneurial generation of our time.
Notably, universities are not adequately preparing students for careers in entrepreneurship. Today’s education needs to be a customized and self-learning experience for students, one designed to enable curiosity, imagination, problem-solving, and game theory, which instil “risk-inclusive” behaviours, all in a trial and error, and “failure tolerant” environment.
If you want your child to be entrepreneurial, then schooling will not help, in fact, it’s a hindrance. Yes, you can learn skills that are required, but the entrepreneurial spirit has to be discovered. Furthermore, a child’s curiosity must be stimulated and not shut off as the child gets older. Thus, the earlier your child begins, the less likely that these mental faculties are not disengaged.
Are you wondering why most startup businesses seem to fail? Perhaps that they are built on an unstable platform or around an unsustainable basis.
Based on 27 years of my own experiences as an entrepreneur, here are my 15 Golden Rules for startups to avoid some of the greatest pitfalls when starting a business.
Rule #1: Start your business with a REAL purpose in mind: Do something you love and are good at, that people need and you can make money from, then passion will be your driver. The Japanese call it “Ikigai”
Rule #2: Your business MUST create wealth for you and your family. Otherwise, it can ultimately lead to heartache, headache, and opportunity cost.
Rule #3: Don’t JUST focus on making money: Aim to become the best in the world at what you do, then the money will come.
Rule #4: Trust and credibility are cornerstones for a successful business: No trust, no credibility, no business! So, build yourself into an expert!
Rule #5: Listen to your market (carefully): Having the right customer insights can save you a lot of time, effort, and money!
Rule #6: Learn to solve a complex problem: The more complex it is, the more money you can make!
Rule #7: Timing is the MOST important factor in business success, your team is second, then factors such as business model, idea, funding arrangement, etc.
Rule #8: Forget about writing a business plan: Instead spend that time and effort finding a customer, learning to understand their needs, and creating a solution for them. (The plan comes when you have worked out what you are doing).
Rule #9: No money to start? Then you have to “hustle”. Become a “deal maker”, broker, or help someone solve his or her problem.
Rule #10: Learn the rules of the “Industry Game”: Who are the major players and your competitors in your industry, who are the ones to watch out for, and who are the “400-pound Gorillas?” Then go develop a profitable niche. Who knows? They may need you one day!
Rule #11: Learn to form alliances and partnerships: having trust and credibility is a starting point, but having something to offer them, (such as a way to make or save money), will be the decisive factor.
Rule #12: “Traditional” marketing does not work for Startups as: “nobody cares about your business”. Instead, find someone that will, by providing them a solution to their problem.
Rule #13: Learn to delight your customers: Give them a reason to talk about your business (in a good way of course): by under-promising and delivering above their expectations.
Rule #14: Get to market as soon as possible: Don’t wait for your product or service to be “perfect”. Customers aren’t looking for perfection, but rather function; 80% is near enough. Launch your product, get their feedback, and improve along the way.
Rule #15: Always begin with the “exit” in mind: Understanding how you will “exit” the business will ultimately determine your path and long-term strategies.
I hope that has given you some insight into the challenges of starting a business as an entrepreneur.
The main takeaway is: start with a purpose and get to market as quickly as possible; 80% is near enough (as long as it works and is not crappy), the customer’s feedback will steer you in the right direction. So, listen, learn, and repeat until you are able to reach excellence!