Entrepreneurship in a Global Economy
BY: Prof. Simon N. Gicharu, CBS, Chairman and Founder, Mount Kenya University
Entrepreneurship is an intriguing concept. It is not easy to define. However, what I can tell you from experience is that it is engaging, involving, even addictive. Once you are into it, it transcends from a noun into an adjective. It can define who you are as a person. Entrepreneurship has transformed -and continues to transform – individuals, communities and nations, through creation of jobs and spurring of economic activities.
Entrepreneurship has been described as the “greatest asset to society.” I truly believe that to improve our country, we must embrace entrepreneurship as the universal enabler to opportunities.
The key ingredients of success in entrepreneurship tend to be ecumenical; they are of worldwide scope and applicability.
Today, thanks to development in ICT and infrastructure, we are living in a Global Village. The global economy is intertwined like never before. Economic changes in one part of the globe reverberate in another. When the price of crude oil rises in the Middle East, an entrepreneur in Nairobi feels the pinch, since his transport costs rise too.
This global connection has opened up opportunities too. Gone are the days when an entrepreneur could only look at his neighbourhood, county or country as the only market. To a modern entrepreneur, the world is his oyster.
However, to compete effectively in the global economy, you must adopt very high standards be it in the services you are providing or goods you are selling. You must align your enterprise with industry’s best practices, meeting the requisite international standards of certification and professionalism. As an entrepreneur, always ask yourself;
“Do my products/services meet the highest international standards?”
“Are they cost effective and affordable?”
“Are they unique?”
“Are they competitive, among the best of the best?”
Even though your business may be local, you must always think globally.
INGREDIENTS OF SUCCESS
Resist attempts to externalize problems
Everyday, entrepreneurs face many problems, particularly when they are starting out. These problems may be financial, management, or pertaining to government rules and regulations. In many a times, promising entrepreneurs fail because they externalize their problems, and in the process immobilize people within their environment who would have otherwise provided them with solutions. Externalizing problems only fosters a sense of dependency and helplessness. The mostcommon example of externalizing problems by entrepreneurs is that cry over “lack of capital.”
As you may know, the word “entrepreneur” comes from “entreprendre”, which is French for “undertake.” As an entrepreneur, this is your constant calling: to continously “undertake” your calling, without externalising the problems you face. look for solutions, and don’t worry about challenges.
Sometimes the biggest challenge we have is that many of us stifle ourselves by taking what may be referred as “safe paths”. It is the fear of taking risks that hold us back from realizing our potential. Risk taking entails doing something we believe in; in such a way that we are almost indifferent to the consequences. In fact sometimes we have to be prepared to lose before we can gain.
Assess your life: Assess your motives
The other important principle is to assess your life and your motives. If you feel that the path you have taken as an entrepreneur is not as rewarding, be willing to change so that you can take a new direction. With the growth of ICT and infrastructure, you can even extend your scope and go global, if that is where your heart is. Adjust to face new realities. In entrepreneurship, the only constant is change itself. So base your life choices on the desire to grow, rather than a reaction to fear.
Don’t over-plan and over-manage
The fourth guideline has to do with planning and implementation. Evidence in business indicates that successful entrepreneurs focus more on action than planning. If you analyse a scenario too much, you will be stuck in paralysis of indecision, what is referred to, “paralysis by analysis.”
Entrepreneurship in the global economy is very competitive and situations will arise where you have to make split-second decisions in order to survive. You can never make such important decisions if you over-plan or over-manage.
Some would-be successful entrepreneurs talk a lot and do very little. Even the little they do is implemented haphazardly because they lack action plans and implementation timeframes.
Decide what you want to delegate
The third principle that I have found critical is to decide what you need to do and what you should delegate. Often, entrepreneurs get into the trap of micro managing every aspect of their business. However, a successful entrepreneur is also a leader; a leader whose work is to ensure that what needs to be done is accomplished.
If as an entrepreneur if you try to do everything, you will expend an incredible amount of energy with little or nothing to show for all the efforts. Share your dream with others and appreciate that delegation is not inability. Furthermore, delegation is an important aspect of time management. As an entrepreneur and principal owner of the business, you need to spend your time doing what others in your business cannot do.
Delegation cultivates loyalty and responsibility amongst your employees.
Strive to build collaborative networks
The next principle is: strive to build collaborative networks
I know of many entrepreneurs who have failed not because they lack the zeal and the aggression to run a business, but because they failed to build alliances and collaborative networks.
We live in a world that is increasingly coming to be defined by the groups we refer to in public relations as stakeholders or publics.
Increasingly, more and more, criteria for success is being determined by one’s capacity to work effectively with others and ability to lead interactive forms of development.
Build functional alliances with government officials, peers, clients, contemporaries, and other parties who are integral to the growth of your business. These collaborations are a very rich treasure of different synergies.
Focus on the fundamentals
Focus on the core business and most immediate requirements of your enterprise.
Sometimes, even when we have developed very good strategic plans, we fail to properly focus resources and energies on what we must do. Focusing on the fundamentals is all about generating priorities. Ultimately, the success or failure of your business will be determined by how well you have done in the core business of your organization. Most entrepreneurs have a reputation of being jacks-of-all-trades….and masters at none.
To compete effectively in a global economy, you must always align your business to international best practices not only in customer delivery but in business management too.
8. Respect your critics
The buzzword in today’s leadership jargon is reform. However, most entrepreneurs are still stuck in the old school of thought. Dissent and suggestions over new way of doing things, especially when coming from junior partners in an enterprise, are often ignored or silenced. Much to the detriment of the business. The story of the near-demise of a renowned photography company, which for 133 years was a byword for photography in the world best, illustrates this. As the world was sprinting fast towards digital photography, the company was stuck in a time warp, insisting that digital photography was just a fad that would fade away eventually. This is in spite of repeated advice to the company’s senior managers by junior –and obviously younger – employees.
“Incorporating naysayers in complex times is necessary because they often have some valuable ideas and criticisms, and you need them for implementation,”says Michael Fullan, a leading Canadian educationist. The tricky part for most entrepreneurs is how to accommodate critics. In my experience, it is through respect.
The Wonders of Humility
Humility is the other very crucial principle. The world-renowned Enterprise Development guru professor Malcom Harper said, ‘the more you are as a person the less you need to proof about yourself to others.’
St. Bernard said, “humility is the truest concept of oneself.” Having the truest concept of yourself means you are honest with yourself. You are honest with your checks and balances. You are honest with your limits and capabilities. Humility will help you stay true to the course of your dream, by shaping your ambition since you will never rest on your laurels. Many entrepreneurs with huge potential for success fail due to pride. While pride breeds complacency, humility breeds ambition. Humility also helps you to stem excesses. The secret to engendering loyalty, trust, and respect in the workplace is humility.
Don’t be a professional complainer
Michael Fullan, the Canadian educationist cautions against the culture of always complaining. To paraphrase his argument, Fullan says that even people we think are poor and mediocre have something worth praising. When an enterprise has one or two bad workers, it is usually a problem with the individual workers. But when it has many bad workers, it is a problem of the proprietors/ managers.
Don’t die with your potential
George Bernard Shaw, the famous Irish writer once said that a “life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing”. Moreover, he was very philosophical about the essence of life. He famously said, “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live”. George believed that life is no brief candle to him, it’s a sort of splendid torch which he got to hold up for the moment and wanted to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to the future generations.
Give up the search for the “silver bullet”
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must be in touch with the demands of your customers in every step of the way. In addition, never sail with the wind or ride with the bandwagon.
Enabling policy environment
The 12th guideline is to be involved in advocacy by raising what is good or bad for the sector. Agitate for an enabling environment from the Government in order for you to do what you want to do to succeed as an entrepreneur.