The total life plan of the average person in Africa is fairly straightforward:
Step 1: Go to school, work hard, get good grades.
Step 2: Good grades take you to university or college for a degree or diploma.
Step 3: With a degree or diploma, you will get a good job.
Step 4: Sit back, enjoy the fruit of your hard work.
Few people start life considering a future that does not revolve around getting a job and being paid for it. Till the grades fail to add up, and the search for a job turns up nothing, then self-enterprise comes to the realm of possibility.
On the face of it, there is nothing wrong in channeling time and energy towards the achievement of good grades. In fact, it should be every student’s ambition, and goal, to get the best grades possible. However, education should not simply prepare people for the job market. It should help students develop their inherent abilities so that they are able to use their peculiar gifts and talents to their own benefit, and that of society. As things stand today in Kenya and most of Africa, our education systems don’t encourage self-enterprise, rather, the heavy workload mostly impedes the realization of full potential.
Self-enterprise, or entrepreneurship, is the use of one’s talents, gifts or abilities to meet specific needs of society, or market. The entrepreneur does this either by identifying existing opportunities and responding to them, or by creating new opportunities altogether.
So, you want to be an entrepreneur? Let me share with you some qualities of an entrepreneur. If you have most of these qualities, or if you can develop them, you are ready to start your own business:
1. An entrepreneur burns with passion. To succeed as an entrepreneur you not only know who you are and what you want to do, but you also have a self-igniting fire within. The entrepreneur’s inner fire is more than just a flame; it must be able to propel you towards your goal in a sustained manner. The true fire of entrepreneurship does not depend on what the seasons of life bring or fail to bring. Through the storms and lulls of life, it burns on.
2. An entrepreneur looks for opportunities. Entrepreneurs are opportunity-seekers. Everything they see, hear or feel can be an opportunity or the scent that leads to one. They buy the newspaper for news but as they read from page to page, their eyes are open to possible opportunities within the news. Lunch or breakfast meetings are not just meal times but a chance to latch on to something.
For the entrepreneur, everything has potential to be turned into an opportunity. She sees as much opportunity in what other people need and spend money on as in what they throw into their dust-bins. Just as she relishes the opportunities that are opened by success, she also finds and embraces the opportunities that ride on the wake of failure. The entrepreneur recognizes that opportunities do not come labeled as such, neither do they announce their presence.
3. An entrepreneur is not satisfied with the status quo: Even when she is riding on success, the entrepreneur keeps asking herself: “How can I make it better?” She combines her eye for new opportunities with an eye for a better and more productive way of exploiting existing opportunities.
The true entrepreneur does not have to reinvent the wheel. But just because the wheel has already been invented, she does not fail to see the opportunity in wheels. She is constantly looking for ways to make the existing wheel last longer, resist punctures and offer a smoother ride. You don’t have to come up with fresh ideas. You can develop new ways of doing old things.
4. An entrepreneur puts trust in their own ideas and instincts. Starting out as an entrepreneur requires determination, persistence and a high level of self-discipline. Continuing as a successful entrepreneur requires even more persistence, determination and self-discipline:
- Determination because you have set before yourself goals that must be achieved in spite of difficulties and opposing challenges;
- Persistence because you will experience setbacks, discouragement and even failure; and
- Self-discipline because what needs to be done must be done the right way, at the right time and by the right people using the right tools.
5. An entrepreneur dreams miles ahead while remaining focused on what they are doing right now. You’re a dreamer, but not a daydreamer. Even though your dream is in the future and you are laboring towards it, you are keen to mind where your foot steps next. You envision your impending success, but you are not lost to the fact that what you are doing today is what will get you your dream.
Quoting from Stephen Covey: “Everything is created twice. The first creation takes place in the mind.” In our minds we see a vision of what we shall become in our success. Then we start the second creation; to recreate that which we see in our minds in the physical. If we get marooned in the first creation, then we are day-dreamers. If we pursue and succeed in the second creation, then we are dreamers.
6. An entrepreneur has a healthy ego and is open to learning. Although he has no intention of putting others down, an entrepreneur needs to have a strong sense of who he is and what he can do. He must believe strongly in his own abilities. A healthy ego is essential for success. How can you take risks, power forward and succeed if your sense of your own ability to succeed is wanting? How can you commit others into a journey whose destination, and your ability to get there, are suspect?
Faith in who you are and what you can do is not synonymous to self-sufficiency. Thinking you are everything and you need no one’s input is having an unhealthy ego. Be prepared to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out.” The entrepreneur has the mind-set of continuous improvement and seeks to gain new insights and learn new or different ways to do things.
7. Finally, an entrepreneur never gives up. Entrepreneurship is about enterprise. Once you see it in your mind, you stay focused on achieving your goal. You have faith, confidence and determination to achieve success. You may change strategy, you may reorganize your team, but you do not give up.
Next week, we shall look at some expensive mistakes entrepreneurs make and how you can avoid them.
©2014 David Waweru