Entrepreneurship and the growth of small and medium enterprises (SME) are essential in the economic transformation of Africa. This is especially true considering the fact that about 80 percent of Africa’s economy is informal – an indication of the prevalence of the entrepreneur culture in Africa.
However, the nature of entrepreneurship and small business development in African Economies greatly differ from those in developed market economies, due to the unfavourable financial and capital market conditions.
That notwithstanding, African entrepreneurship has been on a gradual rise, and today we see more young people start their own ventures or trade their skills in the gig market. Just like any other entrepreneur, Africa’s young entrepreneurs are achievement-oriented and always focus on creating solutions for the continent’s problems.
Entrepreneurship, for centuries, has been the biggest wealth builder, driver of innovation, and a big enabler of the human civilization. History has rewarded and recognized those who have come up with new ideas, and had the shrewdness to follow them through with hard work – entrepreneurs.
We must, therefore, continue cultivating the ever-evolving entrepreneur culture among the young people for civilization to move forward in the next century.
The young people hold an immense potential to be dynamic entrepreneurs with high levels of energy and great degrees of perseverance and imagination. Leveraging on this potential, combined with millennial’s willingness to take risks, young people can be empowered to transform what often began as a very simple idea into a solid business.
That said, a good culture will definitely have some bad aspects that if not mitigated, can ruin the good culture as we know it. The focus of this article will be on the bad traits that have infiltrated the present-day entrepreneur culture, making the entrepreneurial success elusive.
Fear of what-ifs
Fear is part of any entrepreneurial journey, much like it is an unavoidable part of human psychology. The human brain is wired to perceive fear as a mechanism to avoid danger.
Most entrepreneurs will fear failure and this erodes the invaluable entrepreneurial culture. This is totally understandable as it is one thing to develop a business plan and set business goals. But, it is a totally different thing to commit your resources to a business venture without clear and assured returns. Thus, for entrepreneurs, committing to a business expense will seem risky and failure will always look a very likely possibility.
Truth is, fear of failure has little to do with your chances of failing in your venture and a lot to do with your ego and pride. You have to understand that there is almost no way you can move your business forward without taking a risk and investing in it.
Sadly, the constant worry and negative thinking will sap your emotional strength, and leave you with a dry feeling of wanting to quit – if you allow it. Fear feeds on more, and the more you try to avoid launching your business or making next level decisions, the deeper your anxiety grows, thus holding you back from your next move.
Remember, as an entrepreneur, you will always doubt your business acumen. However, a successful entrepreneur will be willing to invest in his dream. Ask for help, always seek feedback from other successful entrepreneurs, get a mentor, and bootstrap your resources, but don’t let fear make you second-guess your entrepreneurial drive. Such will quickly plateau your business or your desire to establish one.
The need to be in control
Control is an important aspect of running and managing a business. Successful entrepreneurs are effective leaders who understand that control is needed when running the functions of management. By controlling vital aspects of your business, you can check mistakes and stay on top of emerging challenges. The success of your start-up thus hinges on exercising effective control.
However, control becomes a negative tenet for the entrepreneur culture when you become obsessed with it. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs, especially solopreneurs and small business owners, might find it hard to let go of control, because, for them being in control means fewer mistakes and saving time. They believe that ‘to do it right, you must do it yourself.’
However as much as these may be legitimate concerns, just like fear, the desire to control is driven by ego and deep-seated trust issues within the entrepreneur. Thus, to be successful, you must learn how to cede some control and let go of the functions that would otherwise hold you back. You can then consider delegating or out-sourcing such duties.
One way to cede control is to avoid viewing it as giving up control of your business, but rather view it as an opportunity to focus on your business strategy. You should also evaluate the downside of not giving up control. Ask yourself: What is the cost associated with not giving up control? What will I lose if I give up control? What inconveniences will be created if I don’t give up control?
This way you will understand your business’ sense of purpose and focus on being where the action is – giving your start-up a momentum.
Strong Sense of Distrust
Trust me on this one. There is nothing that will kill your startup faster than distrust among your team. Distrust is a feeling that someone or something cannot be relied upon. This is a bad trait for the entrepreneur culture. Distrust isn’t always easy to spot because it knows it is unwelcome. And, the distrust that will ruin your business is the one that comes from you.
Ordinarily, many startups will either have a cofounder and/or a team of employees. Having a team with different strengths and talents gives your business the potential to accomplish more than a solopreneur would. However, if you sow distrust within and among your team, then you are setting your business down a dangerous path. Distrust will lead you to be overly controlling and end up micromanaging the people you ceded control to.
You can tell you are distrustful as an entrepreneur from how you carry yourself around. If you break promises, are edgy, miss client deadlines, or exhibit a pattern of unreliable, unethical, incompetent, or uncaring behavior then you will lose not only your clients but your employees and consequently your business.
It is important to note that distrust does not happen overnight. It develops progressively. It is bred on your doubt, suspicion, anxiety, fear of rejection, need for control, and your need for self-protection.
One way to sow trust in your business is to establish effective communication channels, own up to, and take responsibility for your startup’s mistakes. This will help you build trust faster and adjust to your clients’ and prospects’ feelings. Remember, customers will only buy from businesses they trust.
There is an attitude among today’s entrepreneurs that every startup must be a tech company. Why would you think the next great payment app will create more value than the new Kindergarten? Oh wait, I will tell you why. It’s the attitude that a notable startup has to be a customer-facing tech startup and this is a bad mentality for the entrepreneur culture.
Today, due to the rock-star status given to techpreneurs, many entrepreneurs only dream of venturing into the tech space without understanding what it takes to run a tech venture.
For some time now, this has been the elephant in the room that no one wants to address, and it is eroding the entrepreneur culture. Just because you are a digital-first millennial does not mean that your calling is in establishing and running a tech start-up. Agricultural ventures, eateries, etc equally stand a better chance of generating great income for entrepreneurs.
This however does not mean that you should not make your business (in whatever niche) tech-centric; by all means, you should. But, to succeed in entrepreneurship, venture into a field that you are not only passionate about, but you understand well.
Lust for applause
Have you ever enjoyed something so much, that you don’t understand how others make do without it? Perhaps. It is a natural human desire to want to be liked, appreciated, or even applauded. But most of us lust for applause a little too much. We want to be applauded so badly that we are willing to sacrifice our values.
Entrepreneurs are highly driven people with a high need for achievement and success. This trait has shaped most entrepreneurs’ behaviors and imparted in them a strong desire to compete and win in their entrepreneurial quests. However when this desire for applause and approval goes overboard, then it fails to serve its purpose. Quickly, this becomes a very fast way to end your entrepreneurial escapades.
Such entrepreneurs feel inadequate, insecure, insignificant, and not good enough; thus they behave like cons who are gaming the system. To cover their feelings of inadequacy, they will always express this overriding need of wanting to be heard, applauded, and recognised – they have a strong need to show everyone around them that they count.
Thus they are always sad and hate their ventures, their competitors, or themselves. These are the people who exhibit an intense need for control and have a strong sense of distrust.
Do the onus
Several bad personality traits and habits that entrepreneurs possess will somehow seep into the entrepreneur culture – even the most successful startups may fall victim. But the onus is on entrepreneurs to point out bad behavior within the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The entrepreneur culture is an indelible part of the entrepreneur ecosystem. It should be preserved and passed down to the next generation of entrepreneurs uncorrupted.