You Are An Entrepreneur If: You know that a business that is not growing is dying

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The basic definition of entrepreneurship is about starting something from nothing and growing it.

Growth is fundamental to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are different, there are those who happen to own a business of the same size for a number of years, from generation to generation Those are what we typically call life-style entrepreneurs. Their businesses revolve around their lifestyle.

A business that is not growing is a business that is dying.

The business environment is always changing and therefore if you are not innovating and growing, other new entrants will catch up with you and render your business less competitive.

Growth means exploring other markets, introducing new products, and sometimes acquiring other businesses through mergers and acquisitions. It is about challenging the status quo, continuous improvement. Entrepreneurs change things even if they are not broken in the quest to do better.

When your business is not ready for big clients, take it easy, grow organically with small clients, perfect serving small clients to an extend where big companies will see value proposition. Keep selling to small clients, the big ones will come. Perfect serving the small so that later on you can perfect servicing the big.

Be careful when you scale your business, don’t confuse growing too quickly with success.

You Are An Entrepreneur If: You don’t believe in retirement

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Being an entrepreneur is not an event, it is a way of life.

Being an entrepreneur is not a profession. It is your attitude, your approach and your view to the world. You cannot retire from being an entrepreneur. Yes, you can retire from your business, but not from being an entrepreneur.

As I grow older, I sometimes imagine how my entrepreneurial drive will change when I reach the age of eighty, ninety, or even one hundred. Will I choose to go into retirement? A life full of rest, travel, and quality time with my grandchildren? Or will I continue to work in search of the next great idea that will generate wealth, working long hours and going into the office?

While a leisurely life in retirement is appealing and is the lifestyle most people aspire to when they reach their golden years, I doubt that I will select that option. As I become a centenarian in 2079, I am sure that my entrepreneurial spirit will be just as strong and as ambitious as it is now.

I have learned about the natural, riveting quality of entrepreneurship:

Once you catch the bug, it never leaves you. The ambition and will to reach entrepreneurship’s highest levels are no match for common obstacles like age or even failure.

Even advanced age doesn’t matter. I am inspired by entrepreneurs like Richard Maponya, the eighty-seven-year-old founder of the Maponya Empire (Maponya Mall and other businesses) and Raymond Ackerman, the eighty-two-year-old founder of  Pick ’n Pay supermarket chain stores.

These esteemed entrepreneurs don’t let old age slow them down. Ntate Maponya continues to pioneer the Maponya Empire with deal after deal and there is no sign of him retiring soon. Mr Ackerman is still actively involved in the development of young entrepreneurs. We can all learn from these entrepreneurs’ amazing drive at a time when most people their age slowed down long ago.

Likewise, it doesn’t matter how disastrous an entrepreneur’s last business was. I have yet to meet someone who has totally written off entrepreneurship after failing at it miserably.

No matter how terrible their experiences in business, entrepreneurs have the unique ability to separate the results of their endeavours from the sanctity of the concept of entrepreneurship itself.

It could also be that the dream of acquiring financial independence and the ability to determine one’s own destiny has a strong human appeal.

Muhammad Yunus, microfinance pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, argues that entrepreneurship is as natural to our humanity as is our need to eat.

All human beings are entrepreneurs. When we were in the caves, we were all self-employed . . . finding our food, feeding ourselves. That’s where human history began. . . . As civilization came, we suppressed it. We became labour because they stamped us, “You are labour.” We forgot that we are entrepreneurs.

Perhaps Yunus is on to something. He seems to have figured out the most primal reason to explain why once you are an entrepreneur you are always an entrepreneur. Or as Yunus might say, “Once you realize your natural state of being as an entrepreneur, you’ll never return to viewing yourself as labour.”

Regardless of the reason, entrepreneurship is so captivating, we can all agree that it is.

Even if you return to a 9-to-5 job, you will never view it in the same way. You are just an entrepreneur in hiding or in transition. Those of us who have taken the “red pill” know this already. But if you are considering entrepreneurship for the first time, know that once you are in Wonderland, it is forever. There’s no turning back.

You Are An Entrepreneur If: You are not doing it for fame

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Two pieces of advice I tell start-up entrepreneurs that I wish I knew when I got started:

First, if you’re doing it for fame and fortune. Don’t do it.

Do it to change your little part of the world, to find a solution to a problem, to create positive change in society. Find 3 other reasons to start your business that have nothing to do with personal glory, income or recognition.

You might end up being famous and make a fortune, but that should be secondary if at all it is a factor. Don’t make it your primary drive.

Second, don’t go at it alone.

Partner(s), advisor(s) and a business coach are mission critical to success. As smart as you think you are, your mind will play tricks on you and get you to make some pretty dopey decisions along the way.

Having the right team surrounding you will ensure you get it as close to right as possible.

You Are An Entrepreneur If: You love the freedom to make your own rules

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Half the time I get people asking where to start, the step by step procedure on how to start a business. Once a person asks those questions, they want to comply, they want the easy route to follow. They mean well because to them they don’t want to repeat mistakes that someone else may have gone through or re-invent the wheel when it could be easier to purchase or learn from the existing wheel.

If you are going to be creative, to come up with new things, the first thing to do it to start with a blank sheet and draw your own map. This is where the art of being an entrepreneur comes into play.

Being an entrepreneur is like being an artist. For you to be creative all you need is a blank sheet and a brush. There is no map, you draw your own map. You write your own narrative.

The step by step question refers to science of being an entrepreneur. The challenge is to fuse the two (science and art) to create something magical, something new, innovative and sustainable.

Don’t limit your entrepreneurship journey to the question of science, but consider writing your own story.  That is what makes being an entrepreneur fun- its more fun to write your own rules than to follow others. You hold the pen in your hand, write your story…

Please stop waiting for a map. We reward those who draw maps, not those who follow them.

People pick up business books looking for a map. They pay attention in school because they want certainty: the certainty of good marks, a good job, a good career.

We transformed school from a place of inquiry into a facility optimised for meeting standards. This is something the industrial age taught us, that there are answers and that you need the answers in order to succeed. Memorise enough answers and you are set.

The connection economy asks you to turn all of that upside down, to not want or need or seek a map. Your instinct to search for a sinecure (that thing that was a safety zone and is now merely a comfort zone) is proof that you have been brainwashed.

The brainwashing is subtle: It doesn’t change our basic human need for safety. In fact, it uses that need to convince us that the safe place (the comfort zone) is the place where we do what we know and do what we are told.

Whenever you feel the pull toward compliance and obedience, feel it for what it is – a reminder of the way you have been trained, not a sensible or rational approach to the opportunity in front of you.

So here is a blog that instead of giving you a map (which business schools are supposed to do), refuses to.

The most rational thing to do is the irrational work of being innovatiove, . Seek out questions, not answers.

You Are An Entrepreneur If: You are so focused that sometimes you forget to eat

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This is the reason why I cherish breakfast so much. I get so busy during the day that I forget to eat.

Sometimes it gets to busy with deadlines, presentations, appointments and meetings that there is not enough time to eat.

I know health addicts are already cautioning about the benefits of a healthy diet. Yes a healthy diet is important, it is vitally important if you are an entrepreneur because it gives you the energy you so need to be productive during the day.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for entrepreneurs because it might be the only meal you have will for the entire day, until in the late afternoon.

It is important to eat healthy. This is one area that should not be neglected. Entrepreneurship is a highly pressured and stressful life, a healthy diet is crucial to keep you going.

*extract from my book: The Start-Up Revolution: Fit In or Stand Out

You Are An Entrepreneur If: The thought of having to work a 9-to-5 is worse than death

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You are working  for someone  and everything is okay, you are getting along with your boss and co-workers, then the bug hits you. You wake up to the idea in your head, a business idea, suddenly you start seeing opportunities everywhere you go. You spot opportunities all over, you get more and more fascinated by the entrepreneurship life.

You start spending lots of hours in front of the laptop, researching on your idea. You start talking about it to anyone who cares to listen. It consumes you, until after several years you decide to resign and invest your life-savings into your business.

The freedom that comes with being entrepreneur makes you regret why didn’t you actually leave your job earlier.

There is nothing more liberating than doing what you love. I always say those who are able to discover the reason why they were born are the luckiest people. If your business is your passion, your reason for being on earth, nothing is more blessing that living your purpose, living your business.

Being an entrepreneur is a hard life, it is not an easy life – long hours, slow paying customers, sometimes no customers, cash flow problems, and sometimes you get to a point where you ask yourself why am you are doing this in the first place.

Then as if someone is watching you, comes a job opportunity, a good post, a good salary. You look at that salary and think to yourself ”With this salary I can pay all my outstanding debts, my children’s school fees is behind, some of my friends are not even talking to me because I promised to pay them a while ago and I haven’t and some have even wrote me off as their friend. My house was almost repossessed, its as if the bank official already knows that he is earning his salary just to chase me for payment”.

If you are not an entrepreneur, you might think I am exaggerating;  trust me, I am not. If you are an entrepreneur, you are already smiling about this because you can resonate with the story. It is as if this offer is made for you, you even say to yourself, “God does love his kids, this is a perfect offer”. You look at the monthly expenses and say to yourself, “The way I have been scrapping by in the last few months (sometimes even years) I can even save a lot of money with this salary”. The thing with being an entrepreneur is that you manage to live on such small amounts, amounts that you never thought you can live by. You get used to not seeing money.

The notion of going to buy clothes, gadgets and fancy things when you are a start-up entrepreneur is foreign.

The funny thing about such offers, is that you are not even worried about whether you can do the job or not, of course you can do the job, you are an entrepreneur, you can do almost everything! If you don’t how, you will figure it out,.Nothing is impossible for you as an entrepreneur. You will make a plan. In South Africa we say: “’n boer maak ‘n plan”- meaning a farmer always make a plan to always keep the farm operational.

Besides the challenges of the corporate job, what makes the prospects of going back less appetising is routine. You will be doing more or less the same job for a year or even more, everyday, with not much opportunity to be innovative or think differently.

The only other problem with going back to corporate is the 9 to 5. The fact that you have to sign in at a certain time and leave at a certain time, report to a boss, smile and be nice to everyone (its okay to be nice when you want to, but when you have to, it is something else).

The thought of going back is worse than death. You feel like you are betraying yourself. You feel like you are selling your soul for money.

A lot of entrepreneurs end up looking at their financial responsibilities and how the financial situation is making them irresponsible and then bow to the pressure of going back to corporate to earn a living. But they know deep down that they are selling out their souls.

I have seen entrepreneurs go back to corporate and pick themselves up and I am so happy for them.

The challenge with corporate is that it sucks you in, if you go back, it becomes a challenge to come out. You get into the comfort of a salary, you are paying off your debts, for the first time in a long time you are able to buy yourself clothes, not because there is an event coming and you have to look smart, but because you can.

You can plan for that holiday, budget for it and go on holiday. I mean the independence of being an entrepreneur can wait a bit, you need a break, you deserve it.

But for those who decide to stick it out and persevere as an entrepreneur, going back is as good as being dead. You rather look for other opportunities, you rather be a boer and make a plan. There has to be other things you can do.

*extract from my book: The Start-Up Revolution: Fit In or Stand Out

Graceful?

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There is a never-ending worldwide shortage.

Graceful is artistic, elegant, subtle and effective. Graceful makes things happen and brings light but not heat.

Graceful does not mean invisible, hiding, fearful or by the book. And graceful certainly does not include lecturing or bullying.

A graceful person gets things done, but does it in a way you would be happy to have repeated.

A graceful person raises the game of everyone nearby, causing a race to the top, not the bottom.

Graceful is the person we cannot live without, the one who makes a difference.

The innovator. The artist. Everywhere I turn, I see people bringing grace to their families, their communities and their work.

The thing is, no one is born graceful. It’s not a gift, it’s a choice.

Every day, we get a chance to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Every day, we get the opportunity to give others our support, our confidence and our trust. And yet most days, we hesitate.

There are so many things on our agenda, so many people who want a piece of us, so many things to do, so many obligations, of course it’s tempting to merely get it done, to phone it in.

None of those shortcuts will make the impact you are capable of making, and none of those approaches will bring you closer to those you are here to serve.

The industrial age is ending, and a new one is beginning. It produces art instead of stuff and it rewards gracefulness.