Disclaimer: if you started a new business with a fat bank account, this does not apply to you. If you started unidirectional and steered the course steady and true, this does not apply to you, you lucky you. If you have had a solid bailout strategy beforehand that has worked, then this definitely does not apply to you.
This applies to those that said, “oh I have an idea, so let me leave or supplement the safety net of my 9 to 5 and start a business”. It applies to those that feel like they’re suffocating because the business hit a rough patch, and still feel like they’re suffocating when the business is going well.
Read on. This is an opinion piece, and we shall stick to facts collected from many young business owners I run into on a daily basis with similar experiences from running their business.
Being an SME Entrepreneur sounds fantastic… until it isn’t.
It does sound glorious, doesn’t it? Choosing whether to go to work, whenever you want to go to work. Deciding when to wake up. Having staff follow your orders. Having the choice of working from your living room or the office or the beach. Creating your dreams just how you imagined it. Having nobody to boss you around like with your old job. You’re your own person and everything will work out great, right? Well not exactly.
Starting something from the ground up can be genuinely exciting but if you’re to succeed, if you’re to get it self-sustainable, you will not have a lot of free time on your hands, not if you’re the brain child of the ideas. You should be looking at 12+ working hours and forget about weekends and holidays. The moment the idea takes off, the whole train stops when you stop. Say goodbye to your “work whenever you want” life.
Also, you’d have to cope with bad reviews of your products or services, amongst many others. If you’re a ‘startup’ in the typical sense of the word, chances are you’re gonna really suck to some clients. You might think you have the best product or service so that automatically translates to cash. No, it does not. Low monthly sales will hit you! And it’s a heartbreaker too, with a sprinkle of customer complaints every now and then.
The title CEO is overhyped
If you’re a young lad with a business then you’re probably aware that it fades pretty quickly, that euphoric feeling of “Boss this” “Boss that”. Yeah, your head might swell in the beginning but that title starts to come with headaches and accompanying liabilities that will have you sigh whenever you hear you’re being sought after by your staff. You know that means it’s go time. You know that means you have to find a way through a brick wall. You know that means figuring out a way around everyone’s problems and putting yours last.
Oh, you want to be the next Bill Gates? Dangote? Osei Kwame Despite?
Bill started a software company and at one point was the richest man in the world. He’s still worth over $100billion. Dangote is the African King of Business. Despite Group pretty much grows by the second. You see the flashy cars, the houses, the jets, and it’s all glamourous.
But wait. There’s stuff these guys have had to deal with that’ll make you feel sorry for them.
Taxes that can fund a whole city. About 24hours worth of meetings every week. Crazy schedules. Nonstop calls and messages and emails and people from all corners clamouring for attention. Your most important people quitting on you. It gets pretty mad when you live such a life.
Being an SME entrepreneur sounds great until you get the bonus package of problems.
It’s not all bad though
When someone’s backstory matches your current predicament and has made it really big, it tends to jolt you to want to live a little bit more life. A national climate that supports entrepreneurship like Ghana’s echo to all that if you work hard enough, and have the right idea, you can make it. All the images and videos and stories of our very own local champions going forth to amassing huge fortunes is a testament to the very limitless nature of the capitalist global village we find ourselves in.
So while you type out that business plan, while you gather those savings or take that loan, you know it’s your chance to get really rich and create enough wealth for generations. But it’s not for everyone. There’s no shame in a salary or working as an employee for someone. Those that follow the calling to fight the fight and win do so with a purpose.
So here’s the trick: Find Your Purpose!
Find your purpose and create initiatives that align with it. There are people that just cannot sit at one place for 8hours doing the same thing day in day out. It’s just not for them. But what is then? Find it. Know it. And stray not from it.
Quick reminder that this piece is not about how to be an entrepreneur. It’s about what happens AFTER the move to being an entrepreneur. Maybe your journey has begun to feel a little lost of late. I’m saying find the purpose for which you chose this life, and reroute your affairs through that. Because being an entrepreneur, especially an SME entrepreneur is not easy.
Here’s your real chances of making it
It’s not looking good. If everyone made it, or if most people did, it would be easy and we’d be bumping into millionaires at Shiashie every two steps. Only the success stories of building a business are popular. We celebrate the huge successes of the business world because the materialistic market of the country we are in feeds on these stories and judges these people are most-worthy to be popular, literally by popular demand.
Still, it is not unreasonable to imagine yourself being the next Osei Kwame Despite or Oprah. All these are still attainable. But keep in mind that only a very small number get to be these people, out of the possibly hundreds of millions of small businesses in the World.
There’s a 90% chance you’re still going to fail
If your heart skipped a beat, it’s good. It means you get it. It’s a hard life being an SME entrepreneur. If you’ve not made it already then you better buckle up. The stats are terrifying. When I read this some time back it made sense that a majority of startups should fail but why the 90%? It is a commonly reported statistic, that 90%, is the percentage of startups that fail. As defined by those surveys, what is the definition of “failure”. What’s the time frame? I don’t know. Help me in the comments or on social media as you usually do. This is an opinion piece.
SME Entrepreneurship - The journey a little bit down the line
A little bit down the line you realise there’s been a give and take relationship with your work. By now it has taken your time, your peace if you’re dreaming big enough, and definitely your money. But you gained also.
By now you have gotten that sense of fulfilment that accompanies building a business from the ground up. For many people they become entrepreneurs to fulfil an inner desire. Maybe to start something one can be proud of. Maybe to leave a legacy for one’s children to inherit. To lead a team to fiscal freedom. Whatever the case, that feeling of fulfilment is one that no regular paycheck can compete with.
A little bit down the line, you also have experience and the freedom to use it to get more. Even if you fail now, you can deploy the lessons from this one into the next one as you gather more experience. While you are your own boss, opportunities start to crop up everywhere because you now have the freedom to do and get whatever you want.
The contacts you’ve made will be invaluable by now. Being an entrepreneur gets you to move around and that brings visibility and awareness to you and your business. That can lead to everything you ever wished for. One contact can make your business a success.
The successes in the first few years do get short-lived because they come with newer challenges, a bigger appetite, which means doing much more with the more you just got, which should seem relatively little compared to the size of the next hunt. You can get very well to do. Would I recommend it? Errrr… get a safety net first. Like a skill. Or an alternate income source. Because you’ll need all of that and a tough skin to weather the storm of a little journey as an SME entrepreneur in the current world.
Believe in what you’re building. Get paid. And no it’s not going to get better any time soon.
These are all facts. And this has been an opinion piece… I haven’t said that in a while.
Hit me up on social media and let’s keep the conversation going! I read all the feedback you send me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Also, feel free to throw at me topics you’d like to read on the Macroeconomic Bulletin.
Have a lovely week!
Maxwell Ampong is the Group CEO of Maxwell Investments Group, an International Trade and Business Development Solutions Provider. He is also the Property Investment Consultant for Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Ghana. He works with a team of motivated professionals, governed by industry experts with experience spanning over a century. He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces.
LinkedIn:/in/thisisthemax Instagram:@thisisthemax Twitter:@thisisthemax Facebook:@thisisthemax Website: www.maxwellinvestmentsgroup.com Email: [email protected] Mobile: 0249993319