You are lucky if you have been in this town long enough and have not had someone tell you, ‘Si, you open your own biashara.’ This is a ubiquitous phrase thrown around a lot - especially to new job seekers or the people in-between jobs.
But although this phrase is endearing and meant to evoke inspiration and morale, starting and running a successful business is not easy. More importantly, it is not for everyone. Behind the scenes, a successful business comes with a lot of hard work, long hours, tears, and in many instances, no recognition at all.
Telling someone that you run a business is a ‘flex.’ It is a prestigious sentence that comes packed with capability and potential.
However, not everyone has what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. In fact, statistics show that 1 in every 5 businesses fail within the first year after the launch, and half of those that succeed past one year fail within the first 5 years.
So before you decide to sell your soul and jump both feet in, you need first to determine if you have what it takes. Here are a few key pointers to help you do a quick self-check.
A business is a giant ball of risks. If you are someone who craves security and stability, this might just not be for you. Entrepreneurship is just like walking on a tight rope 500ft above an active volcano. You are never sure what the next minute holds.
An excellent example of how unpredictable the business landscape can be is the quail farming business boom in Kenya in early 2010. It was hyped as an instant money-spinner. Many people bought into the idea. Some even quit their 8-5 jobs and put all their life savings into the business. Some took loans hoping to ‘make it’ overnight.
However, not long after, it all came crumbling down. People lost millions in investments as the market for the birds dwindled. Although this business had quite a few red flags and people went in blindly, it is an excellent example of what is possible in the business world.
Business is a gamble. So stop and think, ‘am I willing to take the gamble?’ Will I be ruined if it all went down the drain?
You might already be wondering, ‘why would I take the risk if not to make money?’
That may be true. But you will not last long on the entrepreneurship journey if that is your only motivation. You need much more than that. You need to be passionate about what you do and enjoy creating a solution for people.
It might not be immediate, but the money will follow. Many entrepreneurs will tell you that they went years without getting any cheque from the business. For example, the co-founder of Lyft, Logan Green, went three years without a salary after their launch.
It takes a lot of sacrifices before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Why do it now when I can do it later? Well, if this is your mentality, you will make a very lousy business person.
Entrepreneurs are expert time managers. Remember, you will not have a boss breathing down your neck and pushing you through milestones. Most times, you will be the boss, and ‘mtu wa mkono’ merged together.
If you need to be reminded about deadlines, your probability of building a successful business is very dim. On every waking day, there will be dozens of overlapping ideas, projects, and tasks that need to be completed.
A good entrepreneur needs to understand how to prioritize. In his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steve Covey came up with this highly effective priority matrix that works like a charm. You should read this book if you haven’t already.
Nothing is perfect about entrepreneurship. Things will be messy. A lot!
There is nothing wrong with wanting to do a perfect job on every task. However, in entrepreneurship, this is unattainable. It is also essential to keep in mind that you have no scapegoat. If things go wrong, then you hold full responsibility. But also keep in mind that it is okay. It is just part of the process.
Your success will depend on how fast you adapt—how quickly and how effectively you adapt to changes and clear a new path to travel. This has nothing to do with your ability to do a perfect job on the first try.
Depending on the kind of business you are starting, there will be a lot of waking up to do the same exact thing you did yesterday. For example, suppose you have retail business premises in the CBD. In that case, your routine will mainly involve going to the business premises, sitting at the counter, and checking out customers after they make a purchase.
This can get boring very quickly. Some people will even swear that there is no stimulation. But the number one characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is persistence. They are willing to do whatever it takes to propel the business forward.
Maybe once the business is stable and can afford it, you can hire more people to handle the routine while running the exciting part of the business. But for now, you are willing to stick it out and run the routine.
Running a start-up is more like running through a thick forest on a rainy night with barely any direction. It can be dark and scary. Half of the people you trust will likely think you are crazy, and the other half will not believe you — even friends and family.
How prepared are you to tough it out and stand by your dreams? Are you someone who is easily swayed by other people’s opinions?
Entrepreneurs have a tough skin. This is what allows them to make tough business-defining decisions every day to propel their business forward.
Believe it not, business is not a station for a Mr. Popular. Even studies have shown that the most antisocial people are more likely to succeed in business than the all-friendly people.
You have hundreds of tough decisions to make every day. These decisions do not need someone who needs approval from other people. For example, You have to hire and fire staff, negotiate deals with business partners, decide on the next best strategy, etc. So you need to know how to stand by your decisions despite what the other party thinks.
If you are someone who can not stand confrontations, then you should probably rethink your decision. However, this does not mean you should be mean and intimidating.
In summary, a lot goes into running a business successfully. It is not all diamonds and roses. If you are not cut out for it, it will be a very uphill task for you.
However, if you choose to go in, prepare to invest blood, sweat, and tears in reaching your goals. Also, prepare and make friends with failure. But in the end, it will be all worth it.