I’m super passionate about business. I always have been.
And I love hearing stories from entrepreneurs.
Somehow I never tire of connecting, learning more and relating to the people I get to meet all around the world.
Business chat comes up naturally in most of my conversations, yet without any steer from me a common theme has emerged in 4 different conversations in 3 different countries over the past 21 days.
First in Jamaica with my friend and housemate Ashley, founder of Touch the Road, a tourism and entertainment company based in Kingston. And with Melissa, the visionary behind eco-village Jardin d’Eden located just outside of Montego Bay.
Then in Berlin with Kromanteng, musician and founder of the Ghanaian-based social enterprise, Gutta Soles.
And finally, here in Nairobi, with Franck, one of the guys behind J’s Fresh Bar & Kitchen and an agricultural entrepreneur from DRC.
The consensus is that entrepreneurs all share something in common.
the fundamental trait
You’ve got to be willing to take risks.
Sometimes those risks are going to be big and scary.
Sometimes those risks will not have enough evidence to support them, but you have to take them anyway.
Sometimes those risks aren’t going to work out.
But to make it in business, it’s the fundamental trait that you can’t escape from!
you’ve already done it
Every single one of you has taken at least one risk – you’re willing to leave the idea of ‘stable’ employment behind in order to start a business instead.
You’ve decided give up the reliable paycheck. You’re not sure if it’s going to work out. You possibly have no back up plan. And there’s no guarantee of income for months (and in some cases years).
You understand that this could have a dramatic impact on both your personal and professional life, but you’ve chosen to do it anyway.
Congratulations! You’ve already shown you have this fundamental trait of taking risks.
You’ve chosen a path that the majority of people are afraid to step on to.
but there’s more risk ahead
You’ll take a risk with the product or service that you launch. You’ll take a risk with the market you choose to target. You’ll take a risk with the prices that you charge. The geographic location you settle on. The way you sell. How much you sell.
The list goes on and on.
So although risk-taking in business is inevitable, there are ways to cushion the potential downside of the unknown.
don’t put too much money in
It’s inevitable that you’ll have to throw some personal capital into your business before you can really start. For some people, this may mean living off your savings for awhile. For others, it may mean holding on to a part-time (or even full-time) job while you’re getting going. And for others still, it may mean borrowing money from somewhere.
But ultimately, it’s a personal decision on how much is “too much”.
My business didn’t require a lot of financial input, but I still needed to survive while I was waiting for sales to come in. I calculated that I could comfortably exist for about 6 months with zero new income before I had to reconsider my options.
So have an honest look at your finances and how much of it you’re willing to sacrifice. And then…
have a plan B
When calculating any risk in business, you should always consider your alternatives.
When it comes to finance, ask yourself what you’ll do if the money runs out. For me (and many who have left their employment), my backup plan was initially to go back to what I was doing before. I knew I could easily slip back into my old industry if necessary.
As time went on and I became further and further removed from what I used to do, my back up plan was to get a different type of job if necessary. Fortunately, I never needed to, but there’s no shame in it if you do!
When it comes to other decisions along the way, ask yourself “what are the alternative outcomes of this decision?”, both positive and negative. Things rarely turn out the way that we expect them to, so if you think of the other possible outcomes before they happen, you can also think of your plan B and how you would respond / react if those outcomes were to happen.
surround yourself with the right people
Someone once said to me “opinions are like a**holes…everyone has one”. People will ALWAYS have something to say about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. If you listen and react to everyone’s opinion, you’re not going to get very far.
And so, I’m very selective about whose advice I take in business.
I don’t want people who will enthusiastically support every decision I take nor do I want people to always pick holes in my thinking process.
I listen to people who I trust, who have some experience in what they’re talking about and who help me to look at situations objectively, regardless of how passionate I may be about it.
I’m much more receptive to conversations that begin with “have you considered x, y, or z” rather than those starting with “you should do x, y, or z”.
And much to the dismay of friends and family, I don’t often listen to what they have to say unless they are experienced in business, too.
don’t see risk as a barrier
Your ability to take risks is the fundamental trait of entrepreneurship that you will need to hone. Because risk-taking is inevitable in starting and running any business.
But don’t see it as a barrier.
Remain ambitious. Do things that others are afraid to do. Stay motivated. And keep putting one foot after the other.
over to you
I always love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and share the biggest risk you have taken so far in your business. How did it turn out? What did you learn from it?