14th May 2020
Entrepreneurship – Is it for you?
These 8 and a half years of experience as an Entrepreneur has taught me that Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.
What prompted me to write my first article?
Recently one of my staff came to tell me that as a senior staff (who knows all the major operational roles due to her years of service) is leaving the company, she is concerned that the new staff might not have the experience and time to take over this portfolio successfully. I would then face a major problem that no one would be familiar with the operations and the whole business would be adversely affected. Especially when I am the director, a role which do not require me to perform bottom level processes. I assured her, as an Entrepreneur all these years, I know.
This incident triggered my inner thoughts. I have accumulated extensive experience all these years, and I have never thought of penning them down till NOW!
Different people have different reasons to be an Entrepreneur.
Some are not progressing in their careers even when a great deal of time has been invested in those positions.
Some desire to gain considerable life experience not taught in schools and not available in single function roles.
Some prefer time flexibility.
Some want to have full control.
Some have had enough of their bad bosses.
Some are just sick of corporate politics.
For me, I did not want to continue in a job that would not be able to fulfill my aspirations in 5 years no matter how hard I work.
Start from the bottom
Building a business is neither easy nor glamorous. Like the tip of an iceberg, people see only the successful side of an Entrepreneur: the work life balance, the quality of life, the fame, the control of time, the well-furnished office that we are working in now.
They do not see the initial hard work, hours of perspiration, the will to persist, countless rejections, sacrifice, and discipline behind this success. They do not see that most successful businesses are built from scratch. Some Entrepreneurs started from a garage, others from their own homes, while mine was from a simple desk and a phone in a shared office.
The “Secret Sauce”
One takeaway from my Neuro-Linguistic Programming class is – to have Grit in whatever we do.
As defined by Psychologist Angela Duckworth in her book, “Grit is passion and persistence towards long term goals”.
Grit encompasses various qualities, persistence, hard work, resilience, having a real purpose. There is no failure in the roadmap for a successful Entrepreneur, only feedback to tell us what to change. This is an important cycle that requires grit to fine tune! This is a sequence in which we will need to be flexible, rethink the strategies and do it again. If it is still not successful, feedback, repeat the same process, till success is reached! Many truly fails because they lack the grit to persevere and repeat this seemingly mundane process.
With no capital to hire any staff when I first started out, I had to do everything on my own. I was practically the “Head of ALL departments”, and these were the various functions that I performed.
Sales – I was the one who gathered leads, met my prospects, rapport with them, uncovered their needs, and pitched products to them.
Admin – From printing, photocopying and scanning to doing various paperwork, filling in forms, coming up with justifications for products recommended and preparing documents for clients, I had to do them all by myself.
Customer Service – I remembered all the birthdays of my clients and prospects so that I could send them greetings or birthday gifts. I would be constantly engaging them at different occasions to maintain a close relationship, as part of excellent after sales service. If they had any issues, I would be the one to assist them.
Marketing – My mind would also be thinking of creative ideas to market products, create attention catchy presentation kit, and develop the usage of social media.
Accounting – This is fundamental in all businesses. Handling the cashflow of the business, recording the revenue and expenses, calculating profit and loss, bookkeeping, designing multiple spreadsheets to ease these administrative duties. My accounting background helped a lot in this area.
HR – As a business expands, recruitment of staff and team members starts. I spent a large amount of time conducting interviews, completing administrative documents and following a series of standard process flow that comes with each successful hire.
Training – Once a small team is formed, I had to customise training for each member because every individual has different personalities, roles and responsibilities.
Mentor – This is when I pass on my experience gained to the team. Instead of having them “banging walls repeatedly”, one would want to accelerate their learning by teaching them the most efficient way of doing things. A successful entrepreneur is able to replicate success for as many people as possible.
With several roles to handle in a business, there is bound to be struggles in the early years. Entrepreneurs will have to be resourceful and find solutions single-handedly. These experiences are part of the steep learning curve that one must first overcome before attaining certain success. To view things positively, the arduous start equipped me with the skill sets and knowledge in these areas. Once the business took off, staff were hired to perform each role. In the event that any of the staff is gone, an Entrepreneur would still be able to continue the business effectively.
Tips for aspiring Entrepreneurs
If the above does not scare you, you have what it takes to be your own boss. Here are some tips to help you:
1. There is no failure, see every failure as a feedback to eventual SUCCESS!
2. Surround yourself with the right people. You are average of the five people that you are closest with.
3. Develop a Growth Mindset. Challenges make you stronger!
4. Multiple rejections are normal!
5. Have GRIT.
I am a successful example of an Entrepreneur that has progressed passed the most difficult phase, which is the ‘One-Man Show’ stage. There are also many others who have done it. If you are still pondering whether you should strike out on your own, I leave you with this quote. This motivational quote strikes a chord with me and has always kept me going when the going gets tough
“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs” – Tony Gaskins