You are an Entrepreneur! Are you really?

You are an Entrepreneur! Are you really?

Not all small business owners are Entrepreneurs! I’m not sure why everyone believes that just because you had the inclination to open your own business that you become an entrepreneur by default. Just because you sleep in McDonald’s, it does not make you a hamburger.

So, now you have had enough of bureaucracy, strict policies, set business hours, rigidity, a stable income, security, getting enough sleep – and you decided to become an Entrepreneur. It has a nice ring to it – “Hi, I’m an entrepreneur” – people tell you you are brave, you have the guts to do it – and although they often commend you for it, no-one prepares you for the loneliest game you’ll ever play: The Entrepreneurship Game.

It is interesting how the very people who tell you to “Go for it!” don’t support you. They first want you to make it, prove your worth…but was that not what your corporate career was for? You learnt what you could, were a sponge, but often you got frustrated that your ideas were never explored or implemented. They tell you to give feedback, but after the fifth 3hour meeting several months apart about exactly the same topic, you realise that Intrapreneurship was merely a buzz word used by the company. They never wanted you to think differently and enact change. They just wanted to make you the best copy of their corporate image.

So you learn, you learn policies and procedures, you learn what you do and don’t like – you learn exactly what kind of manager you will be – you will be the authentic, inspirational leader who has an open-door policy, the servant leader who supports, nurtures and grows…I mean, you will be the best damn boss the world has ever seen…And, about 2 months into your own venture, you are this sleep-deprived, stressed wreck that pushes people for deadlines. This monster who starts to micromanage, who puts policies and procedures in place, because you need more structure and because contrary to popular belief – clients do not flock to you. They do not pay you on the terms that you ask – carrying a corporate customer for 30/60 days when you have accountants to pay, material to purchase, salaries to pay – it can kill a small business who does not have the financial backing. Not every quote gets accepted. And you look in the mirror and you actually want to call your previous corporate manager and apologise for pushing back so much – because low and behold…you just became her.

So now I will ask you – if you gym, do you have a coach? If you want to learn a new skill, a mentor? If you want to learn a new Language, a teacher? No foreign concepts – seems normal enough. The funny thing about Entrepreneurs – you can do everything yourself, right? You are this individualistic, ambitious and driven individual who wants to change the world.

You have dreams and then you realise that you need to pay overheads, subscriptions, mailboxes, hosting of websites, internet, marketing, you need to eat, pay insurance, medical aid, rent – and none of these run on empty promises of emotional support of your families. And then you lose momentum, you have a little wobble because the whirlwind absorbed you, your family and friends reassure you that if this venture fails, you can always go back to corporate because let’s be realistic, the failure rate of small businesses in the first year is alarming…. Doubt starts, demoralisation creeps in and sorry, a glass of wine won’t fix it.

Then I tell people that I see a psychologist – Oh! The shame. The questions and comments start:

  • “Why, you seem to have your life together?”
  • “Can you not handle the stress associated with Entrepreneurship?”
  • “Maybe this is not for you then…”
  • “What does talking about it help anyway?”

So, let me tell you – I have a coach for exercise, had lecturers on my MBA who mentored me – and now I have a psychologist who helps me create a filing system for the chaos in my brain. I have the answers – or I know where to find them. My experience and academic learning taught me to find sound information. My psychologist helps me to structure it – and not lose sight of my vision. If you are an Entrepreneur and don’t have a life coach or a psychologist. Get one. ASAP! We share academic theories, discuss articles I read and how my implementation plans will work in my business. How to get balance, how my business ambition impacts my personal life. No, not: “And how do you feel about that” (If you want her contact details, message me, she honestly changed my life).

Now, what sets an entrepreneur apart from a business owner? Why are all the world’s problems solved when you sit in a bar at 1 am, however, the next day nothing ever changes. It is like one of my friends, Debbie Du Plessis, told me: “What is your verb? Stop giving me all nouns and adjectives – what are you doing?” You can complain about less than ideal market conditions, lack of support and people just not seeing the value in your offering, but are you constantly changing your business model or are you so stuck on this one idea and way of doing things that you will be the reason you fail.

The market will tell you whether you are getting it right. How? They will spend money with you. Are there enough of them to make it a viable business model? You don’t know – ask. If you don’t have money to do proper test marketing, then ask friends, but do not start a business based on the opinion of only your closest friends and family – because chances are, they will tell you it is a fantastic idea to spare your feelings, but not buy whatever you have to sell. Do you know who will buy your product? Do you know how to talk to them? If they are not like you – you need to communicate to them in a way that THEY understand, not in a way that you are used to communicating.

You need to further think whether others are outperforming you – if they are better than you – why would someone spend the money with you instead of someone who is more affordable, have better offerings than you or who just knows how to sell better than you. Are you solving a problem in a more creative way, are you offering it faster than someone else? Or are you a pleasure to work with? I firmly believe that people buy from people, they don’t buy from companies.

So, the question remains – are you an entrepreneur? Can you spot opportunities everywhere? Are you driven, dedicated, willing to work 18 hours a day? Give it your all. Fail. Get up. Learn. Fail again. Change. Try. Fail again. Dust yourself off and try again – and surround yourself with the right people who can give you honest constructive feedback and not tell you how brave and amazing you are without supporting it financially? Because if not, you may merely be a small business owner. 

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