It was a Friday night after work when I decided to hang out with a couple of friends at a favourite bar.
After a couple of pints to catch up, we finally called it a night. As I was driving out, I was approached by a random lady who I guess was being friendly and through her curiosity asked the type of business I was into, as honest as I could be, this lady was a skeptic of my response when I said I was an accountant working for a mining company.
To her disbelief, she wondered how on earth an accountant could afford a G Wagon if he’s not really a business owner! Of course, the doubt of this lady was expected because the concept of the Bentleys and the gold signet ring is often linked to the entrepreneur or the “self-made man”.
On my way home, I began to reflect on what had transpired at the car park a couple of minutes ago. My reflection wasn’t about whether accountants could afford G Wagons or not, but as the lady rightly implied at the car park; you need to be a businessman to be able to afford this luxury because we all know that most successful and wealthy people do not work for salary but rather for profits. One thing that puzzles me is why most of us have failed to pursue entrepreneurship despite its rewards but rather have been so much ingrained in the idea of working for a distant corporate boss.
I guess most of us are/were attracted to the corporate world because of the lustre of working within the corporate. A reasonable sum of us may also be reluctant to venture into businesses simply because we see it as challenging, coupled with our profoundly rooted mindset of failure. We often misrepresent entrepreneurs as mysterious breeds.
Indeed, nothing good in this life comes easy. Still, from personal experience, I can testify that setting up and running your own business is a lot easier than we might think and as a matter of fact, it’s easier than looking for a job. Research has shown that only “1 in 10 people is actively involved in starting a business”. We can somehow conclude that most of the remaining 9 are also actively looking for a job which may be the inevitable corollary of the tight job market.
This pandemic will create opportunities that are mixed with difficulties, and there has never been an opportune time like this to start nursing the idea of starting a business. Unlike my father who worked in one company for over 30 years till his retirement, the idea of a job for life is long gone. I have come to the realisation that loyalty and hard work means nothing to the employer when it comes to significant layoffs.
With scandals, discrimination, unfairness, politics and sometimes harassment now so much associated with life in the corporate world, working for oneself either full-time or as a side business has never been this appealing.
In 2008, the early years of my career I lost my job in a bizarre circumstance. I felt I was unfairly treated by my employer, which indeed the tribunal confirmed when I took the case to the employment tribunal. Since that day, I told myself, never again will I put my destiny in the hands of my employer and never again will I give my boss control over my finances. I started to run my own business in addition to my full-time jobs, and indeed this has paid off over the years. Not only has it paid off financially, but in exposure, confidence and knowledge.
Writing is not my forte, but I will try to translate my experience in the best language I can, though it may seem awkward. Words are clumsy sometimes when you choose to explain something from the heart, but I will endeavour to make this as valuable as I can. The past few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster. From having over 300 colleagues laid off at work, restructuring in the organisation, highs and lows in my businesses, worried about family members who caught the virus and having to advise clients whose businesses are severely impacted by this pandemic, life has never been this stressful.
I have been particularly worried about those who have lost their jobs, and I want them to use this awkward moment as an opportunity to decide whether they still want to keep their destiny in the hands of their employers. As someone once said, “it’s not that necessity is the mother of inventions but, refusing to accept things as they are”. And there’s never a time when this was truer than today. Just as days follow nights, opportunities follow difficulties and expansions follow recessions, so I am overly optimistic that this pandemic will open up new business opportunities that most of us can tap into to begin our entrepreneurship journey.
To all those who have lost jobs in this crisis I sympathise with you and I know at this point what you are yearning to hear is how maybe you can get another job, but as the disciple of Jesus Christ said to the lame man at the temple gate, “silver and gold, I have none. What I do have is what I give to you”. And indeed what he offered the lame man turned up to be bigger than his expectation. Regrettably, I have no jobs for you or leads that will lead you to find a new job. Still, brethren, I beseech you; this is the time for us to try something different and put our destinies somehow in our hands by venturing into entrepreneurship be it part-time or full time.
When Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank got fired from Southern California Home Center chain store, instead of them going around looking for another job as salesmen, they rather set up the home depot store which now has over 100 stores and now makes over $2.7B in annual sales.
Let the Bernie and Arthur story inspire so we see the silver lining in this pandemic and let’s start to think about the little things we can do to wean ourselves from employer dependence and by doing this we can also be able to provide solutions to other people through our service. I believe entrepreneurship is worth trying because of the following reasons;
It’s a lot easier than we might think
I usually refrain from using Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates as examples because it doesn’t encourage us as it ought to. We see these guys are geniuses who appear once in every generation. I instead prefer to use the story of the John Blogs next door as it’s easier for us to relate.
In one of my previous roles working for a small accounting firm, we had a client who walked people’s dogs as a business. Intrigued about her job, I decided to find out from her how she chose to walk dogs for a living.
I found out she started by walking her dog and realised how she likes it. She then decided to help other people who were busy to walk their dogs, and this hobby eventually turned into a business. She printed leaflets and dropped them in letterboxes advertising her service. The response she received was enormous, and this generated into an annual income of about £40k.
2017 was a successful year for me in my entrepreneurship journey, when the UK government decided to enforce the IR35 law. I was privileged to provide tax planning advice to a friend who was working as a consultant doctor for the NHS and was severely going to be impacted by this law. This advice mitigated his loses. Pleased with this, he referred me to many doctors who could benefit from my knowledge who in turn referred me to similar doctors. This line of business generated me huge revenue between 2017 and 2018. With little investment in time and resources, I made this whopping amount for my business.
Martin Lewis, the money-saving expert, started a website with £100 to provide money-saving advice initially for free in 2003 to help people better manage their finances. In 2012, less than 10 years after starting this website he sold the website for £87M. How easy can this be? Though I am an amateur when it comes to the Bible, the Bible is so true when it says he who wants to be great must choose to serve. By our service, we can make a fortune. In the examples above, all those involved decided to serve, which later turned into a money-making business.
Tip Number 1; devise ways to get as many people to get what they want, and you can also get what you want. Just concentrate on getting answers for people and your needs will also be supplied.
It’s a good idea to have another source of income
It has often been said that wages make you a living, whereas profits make you a fortune. So it’s really up to us whether we intend to live an average life by continuing to depend on our wages or live above-average life by venturing into a business. We can decide to combine these two strategies, to making a living and at the same time trying to make a fortune. Starting a business is an excellent way to increase or complement your income which accelerates your journey to financial independence.
Again, let me refer to the Bible. In Ecclesiastes, the Bible advises not just to rely on one source of income because we do not know what risk lay ahead and also, we do not know whether profit will come from one source or the other or even both. That is pure wisdom irrespective of our faith. The average millionaire has 7 streams of income. Having multiple streams provide a net of safety for you in times of layoffs or when one source of income takes the hit.
It might not always be that smooth, but there’s still a lesson to learn
I am currently working with a client on one of my biggest projects and this client a few years back lost his business. He used to own an airline company but lost everything a few years down the line when he decided to expand. Normally one would have expected this guy to give up on his entrepreneurship dream, but he didn’t and instead ventured into other businesses. He is now in a powerful pole position to win this $2B project. According to him, the day he lost his airline business was his saddest day in life, but that loss could not let him give up on his dream. To him, it wasn’t a failure, but a lesson well learnt. Like every good thing in life, you will encounter obstacles when you decide to walk the entrepreneurship path. Not to think so is naïve but that shouldn’t be a reason for you to quit. “You have to see failure as the beginning and the middle, but never entertain it as the end”.
You don’t often need money or the skills or the time to start a business
Money, time and skills have most often been a barrier to our desire to enter into business. Unfortunately, this shouldn’t be the case. All you might need is the business idea, and you can utilise other people’s money, time and talent to bring that idea to fruition. A friend who couldn’t get a job several years after graduating from the business school had to team up with another friend who could make clothes to start a business. Few years down the line, these two friends have built a very successful fashion business, and the profits from this business far exceed what they would have made working for someone. This friend didn’t have to be a fashion designer to get into that industry. He just needed to leverage the skills of his friend. Most real estate businesses build their businesses with other people’s money (OPM) by selling their properties off-plan to raise the needed cash for the project.
It is possible to succeed without breaking the bank. Also, it’s always a good idea to start small.
Tip no 2; just connect with people and resources.
The knowledge and experience you gain from running your own business is enormous
When I first started running my part-time business, I lost an excellent client because I spelt his name wrong on the front page of a report prepared for him. To him, if I could get his name wrong on the front page, how can he trust the content of the report? After this incident, I have bettered my craft and have learnt how to pay attention to detail. The point I’m driving home is, running a business improves your skills, knowledge and attitude through your continuous learning and development to serve your clientele better. Speak to any seasoned entrepreneur and you will be amazed as to the knowledge they possess. They know from archaeology to zoology. Not only does entrepreneurship reward you financially, but the skills, knowledge and the grandeur it comes with is phenomenal.
Many people wrongly associate entrepreneurship to life in the fast lane, and that’s the reason why most often we associate the G wagons, the Bentleys, the Royce Rolls etc. to people in business. Entrepreneurship isn’t primarily about material worth, but it’s about providing solutions to people’s problems. To be able to succeed in the journey, the driving force should be the desire to create a product or service that makes the world a better place as rightly said by Kawasaki.
As humans there is the tendency for self-doubts sometimes and as Steve Job summed it up “When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is … Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it; you can influence it … Once you learn that,” you’ll never be the same again.”
Last year I was privileged to meet the new owner and chairman of the company I currently work for. The last time I checked he is the 51st richest person in China. I had the opportunity to dine and interact with him. After making a presentation to him and other senior executives he referred to me as a smart guy. My point is, like him I have met other investors and business owners who have set up big businesses employing 1000s of people. These guys might possess specific attributes that I might lack but what I do realise is these people are in no way smarter than I do. So, if they can do it, why can’t I? What separates these guys from the rest is their desire to achieve their potential.
I conclude this with a quote from Mark Twain; “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Let us, therefore, begin to think entrepreneurially, see entrepreneurially and act entrepreneurially.