Imagine you are going somewhere by boat. Along the way, the boat has an accident and you are thrown onto an island.
You are the only survivor. What will you do? How will you survive? Will you look for a strong stick to make into a spear to hunt the wild pigs you have seen on the island?
Will you start digging a well using whatever you can find so that you don’t dehydrate? Or are you going to wait, probably hiding in a cave, until someone comes by and rescues you?
This is your life either as an entrepreneur or just an ordinary person holding a full time job. You are either waiting for a job to come along or you are living your life hiding in the comfort of your cave.
You are holding on to the job you don’t like and can’t wait for Friday. Or you are holding on for the day when you can now get your pension so that you can now build the house you always wanted or buy the car you wanted, but could not get in all these years.
By this time you are not younger than 40. Or would you rather take charge of your life right now and make the world you want. Life is not a rehearsal.
If you wait for help to come, if you wait for the weather to change and bring friendly boats to help you, if you wait for the social, political, economic environment to change, then you could wait for a long time.
Of course you may be rescued eventually but you have not grown. The reality is that we were created to grow and keep growing. It is a great feeling when you set goals and achieve them, but also, most importantly, is the fact that you get to grow when you set goals, you learn new skills and you become a different person.
Question is, would you like to be waiting in the comfort of the cave where it’s safe, ordinary, boring and plain mediocre hoping that good times will come your way? As the saying goes, it is crowded at the bottom. Everyone who is scared of taking risks is there, among the pigeons.
Or would you rather take the bull by the horns and say to yourself: “I am special, I have gifts, skills and talents in me and I am going to use them to live my life to the full.”
The tragedy on that island is that if you choose to crawl into that cave, living in the comfort of the cave, then you deny yourself the chance to explore your talents, skills, abilities and great ideas hidden in you. Only when you move out of that comfort zone, do you begin to realise what is inside you.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a theologian and philosopher, was asked: “What’s wrong with people today?” to which he replied, “People simply don’t think.” The comfort of the cave, the comfort of the job deny us the ability to think our way to success, to our greatness, to our goals, to all whom we were meant to be.
For most of us we are caught in the comfort of a pattern: go to school, get a degree or diploma, get a job and wait for either promotion or pension. Tragically, like what Myles Munroe said: “The richest and wealthiest place on planet earth is the cemetery.”
What talents, skills, abilities, ideas are going to be buried with us? With what is inside, you could employ one or many other people. With each person you employ, there will be five or 10 or more others who will benefit from that employment.
Why should I start a business?
Now this brings us to the topic of Startups. Some call them small-scale businesses and others entrepreneurship. Whatever name we give it, this phenomenon has come to stay and, contributes greatly to individual and economic growth of countries. This is possible when startups are started with the goal to grow and not just to supplement family income.
Startups are ventured into based on two motives. Firstly, the business is basically for supplementing the existing income. There are no plans to grow the business. Secondly, others may start the business to create wealth. It is the second motive which I find most important and most defining.
Going into startups to create wealth will ensure growth since there is proper idea generation, market research, assessing your strengths and weaknesses and other things which will help build a growing and thriving startup. A startup created to make wealth, is like a living organism, and like all living organisms, it grows.
Only dead things do not grow. These startups give tremendous opportunity for us to use the talents, skills, abilities and ideas in us. In addition, they give us a chance to make money while doing what we like.
There are varied reasons to venture into start-ups in addition to the two basic ones mentioned earlier.
For some of us it is because we want to provide service to community; improve living standards of family; improve our status; be my own boss; have a change from what I do at my job; get a chance to socialise and have fun and pleasure.
Do I have why it takes?
There is need to start a business for these reasons given. The next thing to look at would be, how do I know if I am a business type?
Here are a few pointers; am I hard working? Do I like dealing with people? Am I reliable and trustworthy? Am I able to make decisions quickly and firmly?
If your answer is no, to two or more of these reasons, then reconsider your decision. You may not yet be ready. If we decide we are the material for startups, there is now need to look critically at the following; what are your strengths and how will they contribute to your business? What are your weaknesses and how can they work against your business and what are you prepared to do about them”
A startup is part of you and it will not rise beyond your level of self-image. How do you see yourself?
Starting a business is costly. It will drain energy and time. It means cutting down on some activities. For example, I once ran a tuck shop. Well, it started small but every evening I would go to the shop and ponderously check what items were bought, what items remained and which items were customers looking for.
Within a year, the tuck-shop sales and profits had increased considerably. Every sweet or gum was accounted for. We bought whatever we needed from the shop. We did not just get and say, hey, this is our business.
We trained the shop assistant to follow up on us if we delayed paying up what we had got from the shop. Running a business to create wealth means daily discipline in recording sales, buying new stock, finding what customers want. All these cost time, energy and social life, among others.
Are you prepared to do whatever it will cost to grow the business? On a scale of one to 10 with one being the lowest and 10 the highest, how do you rate your passion to start and run the business? n
*Charles Zimunya is a Lilongwe-based small-scale entrepreneur