The truth about entrepreneurship!


It’s definitely the buzzword over the last few years and the little darling that everyone affords their immediate affections toward! We look at entrepreneurship as the engine room of the economy and the substance dreams are made of but I’m not sure the world generally understands the intricate details of the process!

Of course I write these very words to you as an entrepreneur but I’ve sat on both ends of the spectrum and I’d like to share this perspective with you!

Consider for a second the role your career plays in your life. Everything you do from the second you wake up is preparation for work which means that graft doesn’t only start once you arrive at the office. From there, you give the best part of your day to work and it’s the time of the day where you have the most energy. If I were to invite you to the beach or a theme park, we would prefer to go during the day but that would coincide with work.

Once you leave, you still analyze the happenings of your day while driving home and perhaps share these thoughts with someone after that. Maybe later you even prepare for the next day ahead. On this basis, work plays a bigger part in your life than anything else. For many, work may not feel as important as family, hobbies or chill time but it generally takes up more of you than all these other interests and activities put together!

So when I think about it like this, I believe it is a near criminal offense not to be thoroughly excellent at what you do for a living! You are your work. But looking around at the average South African employee, I think the standard is rather low to average at best (if you’re into flattery)!

There are a lot of factors that contribute toward this happening but the one I want to touch on is this… Some people only want to give it their all once they start their own business. They picture wealth and satisfaction as soon as they become their own boss but I think dramatically differently based on being the person who hires staff for the last 8 years!

When I worked for a boss, I was an average employee who gave my best in small glimpses (enough to keep me around) and then one day I became an entrepreneur. I even did really well at first which convinced me even further that I was a genius. But I didn’t understand the value of being entrepreneurially-minded in the work place. I had never truly been put in a situation where every facet of the business fell upon me! Quite quickly the cracks began to show and I wilted.

My eventual saving grace came in the form of a call one day from the bank telling me there was a chance I could lose my house. Nothing quite put the fear of God into me like that day and from there, my attitude toward the world and my business was dramatically different!

Generally, our perception walking into this showdown is wrong. We look to replicate the famous stories of business people like Mark Zuckerberg who’s idea was great, setting and location never better and timing perfect but in reality, there are a million other people who think they have a great idea that’s going to make them zillions but business rarely serves up such perfect conditions! You have to put the real hard yards in and you have to accept responsibility for EVERYTHING!

Starting your own business is like buying a car for the first time and you don’t know how to drive it. As you get to the dealership, you always think your capital is going to afford you something more but you don’t account for all the optional extras and what they cost.

And then it’s time to drive off the showroom floor but your new investment’s battery is flat because every bit of force that’s going to make this vehicle move is going to come from you and only you! And I’m being generous by allowing you to drive out of that showroom on a flat road; sometimes your idea isn’t as good as you think, sometimes markets are tough or timing is bad, sometimes people are dicks… Because of this, sometimes you have to jump start this vehicle up an incline.

The trick is learning how to drive at the same time you’re exerting yourself to the max. Most times, you’ll start at the back of the car pushing with everything in you then as you get a bit of momentum, you’ll have to run around to the driver’s seat and you’ll have to figure out all these confusing mechanisms like the clutch, gears, indicator and the steering wheel and it won’t all work like you pictured it so you’ll have to start all over again.

For this reason, entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone and while it can be rewarding, it can also suck the life out of you. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from becoming an entrepreneur. I’m just trying to give you a realistic picture of what it’s really like.

Of course, I’m not saying that working in a corporate environment or for a boss doesn’t have its own challenges but I do think it’s a simpler process. You have to master your area and be attentive to how other people do what they do. Bit by bit, you gotta add value to other people’s areas without being a trouble starter until you become indispensable. That’s being entrepreneurially-minded in the workplace.

When I look around at employees who can’t operate their own space with success, I wonder how they expect to handle the responsibilities and pressures of running their own venture… It’s a problem in South Africa for sure. We almost have a sense of entitlement; we don’t want to put the hard yards in at our current setup just because it’s not ours!

All I know is this… Good staff are not the norm, they’re the exception. There’s so much space to move within a company and any boss who’s worth their salt will move heaven and earth to keep you and promote you if you’re good enough! You have to wonder why so many aren’t moving? We’re not short of time or practice!

I do hope that many of you go on to start profoundly successful businesses but more then that, I hope many more of you make an immediate difference in your workplace and thus change South Africa’s landscape in the process!

PS. Watching someone operate with ambition and zest is contagious. You don’t know who’s going to catch alight because of you!

Mark Sham is the owner and founder of Suits & Sneakers and believes emphatically in informal learning and human development. You can like him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter!

If you would like to keep in the loop with all things Suits & Sneakers then please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We actively use social media channels to educate you and even entertain you!