VENTURES AFRICA – Entrepreneurs never sleep, nor should people who want to be involved in entrepreneurship, because sleeping is a rare commodity. Things do not always go to plan. The story of entrepreneurship has an inclination that suggests that it’s a survival of the fittest jungle, which offers the thick-skinned an opportunity to make something, and anything of their desire to create change and growth.
In reality, capitalising on strengths and overcoming weaknesses are essential entrepreneurial abilities in this unforgiving cut-throat environment. An environment, in which for every budding entrepreneur who has things turning out favourably for them, there are probably a thousand budding entrepreneurs who have to shed tears of disappointment, frustration, regret, perhaps with a familiar feeling contorted in anguish. As hard as they try to create change and growth, the end result is ultimately always out of their hands usually.
I came across an article by Ed Hatton about an entrepreneur who had asked if it was advisable to start a clothing business without the ability to sketch or draw designs. She has a good eye for trends and understands the clothing manufacturing process.
These things shouldn’t matter. None of it should matter. But it does, and it’s not only a feeling confined to this lady alone.However, it has provided me an opportunity to elaborate on the need to critically identify strengths and weaknesses by entrepreneurs-to-be, irrespective of a frail carrot of financial success dangling in the distant future.
Regardless of moral and financial support from family and friends, the starting point for any entrepreneur-to-be is to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses, if they want to acquaint themselves with being a successful entrepreneur.
All too often, entrepreneurs-to-be always believe that writing a comprehensive and impressive business plan, and looking for funding is the gateway to success in their endeavours to become entrepreneurs and forget to do a proper evaluation of themselves. Business plans can be deceiving; no wonder many then become frustrated when they can’t get start-up finance, since all their hopes are misplaced on a business plan. One venture capitalist, once remarked to me that he looks for the strengths and weaknesses of the people who bring any business plan to him, because anyone can get a very good advisor to prepare a business plan for them, however, strengths and weaknesses is reality at its far harshest, and can’t be easily missed even at a cursory glance.
Ed Hatton in his response to this entrepreneur states that, ”This entrepreneur-to-be has identified her major strengths and weakness. This is smart thinking. All too often would-be entrepreneurs simply dive into their dreams without evaluating their talents and skills, and then become frustrated when they can’t get start-up finance, can’t attract customers because they lack a vital skill, or simply do not understand the complexities of the business they wish to enter. In this case her strengths of having an eye for trends and understanding the manufacturing process are significant advantages in a business where being the first with a trend is huge competitive advantage. She worries about her inability to get her ideas on paper, and correctly so. If she can’t overcome this weakness then all the talent for spotting trends can’t be turned into saleable garments.”
Competitive advantage is a vital concept in business language, and it’s widely accepted that chances to gain competitive advantage improve with familiarity to your own surroundings. Furthermore, now that the entrepreneur-to-be has identified a strength or weakness, it provides an opportunity to define an entrepreneurial career that has a strong foundation for potential success in the future. For instance, possible creative solutions to this insurmountable weakness can be thought out and the best solution implemented. Being aware of the weakness of the inability to sketch or draw designs, the two most obvious solutions that come to mind are either to attend fashion design classes where one can learn to draw or sketch on paper, or electronically. Secondly, there is a possibility to outsource the drawing responsibilities to a skilled clothing designer. However, outsourcing needs careful research because there can always be conflict of interest if the designer also has his or her own products.
Realistically, an entrepreneur can’t merely rely on a business plan to drag them over the success line. It has to start somewhere, and the weaknesses also provide a vital source of relevant information about what the capital requirements would be? If you get that right, the achievement will be worth noting. As unlikely as it seems, a business plan prepared based on a comprehensive evaluation of a SWOT(Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of the individual entrepreneurs doesn’t guarantee that everything will be smooth sailing, in truth; it provides a backbone on which to build a sustainable business upon.
Lessons are always learnt; however, without a real-life example some facts don’t make the slightest of sense. Steve Jobs the acclaimed, most revered and marque technological innovator extraordinaire, whose claim to fame and fortune, was being the face of the innovation monster Apple, before the South Koreans became tired of all the Apple ululations, and all the superlatives in conjunction with narratives heaped upon the Cupertino, California based technology giant, is a prime example.Samsung decided to do the unthinkable, undertaking a manoeuvre that bordered on being a suicidal and ridiculous gamble, rather than the bravery that has led to their invasion into Apple’s fortitude.
Most importantly, though, the unspoken bond between Steve Jobs and Apple enthusiasts turned him into a rock star of technology. To put it into perspective, Steve Jobs was to technological innovation, what Michael Jackson was to pop music. Nonetheless, a scratch under the surface reveals that under the charismatic personality, was a technically challenged individual, he was not anyway near being the designer of any of the great products, albeit, Steve Jobs was great at motivating people to go beyond their limits. Furthermore, Steve realized his technical shortcomings and never let that be a hindrance to bringing to the world, products that people didn’t realize they needed. I have always realized that some of the entrepreneurs, who have enjoyed phenomenal success, build their success from realizing opportunities that lie before them, and then, evaluate their weaknesses in relation to the opportunity, before looking for people who are talented in that sphere, if they have any skills limitations.
For instance, during the early years after Apple had been founded, Steve Wozniak not Steve Jobs was responsible for the early designs of Apple products. “I wanted to design a machine that did something,” Wozniak said years later. “On a TV, you turn a knob and it does something. On my computer, you pushed a few buttons and switches, and lights would come on.” That was Steve Wozniak’s goal and he succeeded: things could happen.
Furthermore, anyone who has bothered to read about the computer-animation revolution would have realized that it was the genuine talent of John Lasseter, plainly put, who produced the full-length animated feature films that propelled Pixar to iconic status, and not Steve Jobs. No wonder, Disney wanted to use him as a negotiation pawn, whenever it was time to negotiate with Pixar, since they couldn’t re-engage him after having frustrated him as a new graduate, which led to his exit from Disney.
The moral of the Steve Jobs case is that he knew his technical shortcomings when it came to innovation, and realized that to be a success he had to be surrounded by the best talented people to achieve his goals. If he didn’t realize his weakness, we might not have got all these great and wonderful products that we attribute to the brilliance of Apple, at the times we got them. More often, i bump into frustrated individuals who just jumped onto the entrepreneurial ship without realizing the fact that they had to evaluate themselves first, before even thinking about looking over the fence to do a SWOT analysis of the competitor. Entrepreneurship is about building sustainable businesses, and therefore is not a casino where speculators looking for a quick buck go to, to get their desires fulfilled. Realistically, what kind of business can you build if you don’t know your weaknesses, and what future can you hope for your business to have?