Amongst the many myths of entrepreneurship, the most jarring is the existential question:
Am I really an entrepreneur?
This is the self-doubt that almost every entrepreneur faces at some point. The reasons for this self-doubt are many, and include the hero status that some entrepreneurs have. In the face of outstanding success by these entrepreneurs we wonder whether we have the insight, determination, product and skills to build what we dream. The narrative is intended to empower, but may have the opposite result.
The video below dispels several of the myths associated with entrepreneurship, including understand who and what entrepreneurs are. The video draws on the excellent work of Saras Sarasvathy, who has introduced the concept of “effectuation” to the entrepreneurial world. The video starts with super entrepreneurs, and helps us to learn lessons. Most importantly, through understanding the myths, it helps us deal with self-doubt and get started.
Myths Of Entrepreneurship
The important learning for me from this video are:
Entrepreneurship is Not Extraordinary
At one point for all of us, riding a bike was extraordinary. After a few stumbles and bruised knees we learned to ride a bike. In doing that riding a bike became both enjoyable and ordinary. In the video the same point is argued, entrepreneurship should not be viewed as extraordinary, but that each of us have this capacity.
Start with available means
I have seen business plans that need such huge investment that no bank or investor are likely to finance it. The ideas underlying the business plan are often sound and sometimes inspiring. The problem is that it is just a plan, the company has literally no customers, and they have not taken the time to test their idea. Starting at a different point would help these entrepreneurs. They should instead start with what their available means. Tapping into networks, using money to build a prototype or even getting commitments from potential clients are all within our available means. It may even help getting finance for your business, but more importantly it may allow you to bootstrap your business or in the worst case realise that your idea is not that good.
Personally I have many, many ideas. This creates a huge problem of focus for me, and everyone tells me that I need to focus on one idea. Effectuation looks at ideas and actions differently. It encourages having various possible goals and to develop solutions to these specific problems. Importantly, it asks you to reassemble your available means in creative ways to reach a goal. A word of warning though, managing multiple ideas, goals, action plans and customer service is extremely difficult, and not what I am suggesting.
The learning point is rather not to fixate on one outcome, but rather be open to various endpoints.
This is a lesson we learned at Zapreneur. I started this looking to develop an online publication focussed on economic inclusion and small businesses. My intention was to run this as a paid subscription model. In the process we learned that South African entrepreneurs have a very different set of problems, and that we could develop small and useful online applications that could solve real problems. Proposal Desk is our first attempt.
Dreaming of making a million bucks in a year or even a month? Dreaming of buying an island? Stop!
Rather than focus on the upside, focus on the downside potential. Knowing how much you can afford to lose is vitally important. It provides a constraint to your ideas, and as a result brings discipline, effectiveness and reduces financial stress. In fact, go so far as to have a very specific number in mind. You need to know for instance that, I am willing to lose R 10 000-00, and willing to invest six months of time into starting this business. Knowing that allows you to plan your expenses, pay the kids school fees, design a realistic marketing plan and know your breakeven point. That is an incredibly empowering position to find yourself in.
Create The Future, Do Not Predict It
The exciting part of entrepreneurship is that we have the opportunity to create products and services that make the world a better place. Through using principles like affordable loss and using available means, creating the future becomes more action orientated . See you at the start line !
(Over the next few weeks, I hope to discuss effectuation in greater detail and with examples. )