“How do I know that I am doing the right thing?”
This one is long but bear with me, it could change your life.
The entrepreneur is always faced with many questions and choices that make us think a lot. In fact I don’t know of any group of people in the world who think more than entrepreneurs. We are always thinking about our businesses. We wake up with a start at night with an answer to a question that had been disturbing us all week. We get ideas about what to do next when stuck in traffic and jot it down in our ideas notebook that is tattered and full of ideas, many of them not implemented because we are waiting to get the elusive money to put them in place. However, one question that bugs many entrepreneurs especially in the early stages is determining whether they are in the right kind of business or not.
Interestingly, knowing whether you are in the right business or doing the right thing at the moment is something that will continue to nag you for most of the journey. Usually, when things are going really well like when you just got that client you have been chasing for 2 years,when you get recognized in the media, when you receive an award or when a client mentions how your work has changed their lives, you feel at home, you feel like this is what you were created for. You feel ALIVE!
But then there is the flipside. There is that time when you disappoint a key client or when you lose a client account that pays half your bills, or when you are at a contract signing stage of your biggest deal and the client pulls out citing policy changes at head office.It can also be when that pivotal employee leaves, or in the worst case scenario, the dark days when the 3 unwanted visitors show up. The Taxman, unpaid landlord or Auctioneer. These are the days you want the ground to open up and swallow you. The days you barely sleep and dread when morning comes. These dark days come with some of the biggest doubts you have had about your abilities and whether you were ever meant to be an entrepreneur in the first place.
If you oscillate between the dark and celebratory days several times in a month,then take heart, you are quite normal.
Over time, I have come to observe that those who seem to be in their element and who thrive possess 3 key things . These are Passion, Competence and Products/Services that meet a definite need in the market. When these 3 ingredients meet, the result can be magical,even if it takes time to come to pass. It doesnt work for all,some success stories fall outside the 3 ingredients but this can help you think through your own journey and possibly point out where the frustrations could be coming from.
Passion is when your heart beats for what you do. You have an emotional connection and you think about it all the time.You have a big dream for it and always picture yourself in the future having made a difference when it all works out. You would do it for free, only that reality requires that you do get paid. Without passion, you will not survive the hard and harsh times . You will not commit to excellence and once money comes in and you will lose interest becoming just another player in the market making money but no impact to the society and industry. Passion makes you go the extra mile in all manner of ways.Be it to please clients,innovate or make amends when things go wrong. Passion will even cover for lack of competence sometimes and drive you to acquire it. This one is perhaps the most important.
Competence is either professional training,talent or extensive experience in the field that your company is operating in. You understand the technicalities behind your products or services. You research extensively about it. Maybe you have gone to school for it and understand how things work in the background .You can explain the deep concepts but can also break it down to be simple enough for your grandmother to understand. Without competence, you will be at the mercy of your technically adept employees especially when you are too broke to keep them for long before they find better paying alternatives. You will also find it hard to give strategic direction and drive your teams to be innovative. You can acquire it over time but the faster you do so the better. Those with large amounts of capital are able to buy talent easier since they can afford it but those who don’t need to incentivise their technicians creatively. Others partner with a technician and complement each other.If you are not competent, try in every way possible whether formally or informally to build it. You can read books and magazines. You can join your technical employees on assignments to learn what goes on. You don’t necessarily need to be the best at doing it but you need to know and understand what goes on. Don’t take vague explanations from your team.
Market need means there is more demand than supply and you have an angle that guarantees you will do it better than everyone else, or at least differently enough to capture a section of the market that hates current alternatives. Many people run companies that have products or services that look good on the outside but the market doesn’t really care for. They simply dont need it or want it,they are happy with the status quo until you convince them otherwise. These entrepreneurs live in a fantasy world where they believe that since they think its important then everyone else should. Clients vote for a business only with their money, not their mouths or empty praises and promises.Listen to the customer and give them what they need. It will save you time and make you a lot of money in future. Dont necessarily buy the Steve Jobs theory that the market doesnt know what it wants. To get to that level you need to have a very deep understanding of the market to anticipate what they need. For now, listen to them and start with where they are
Get to your area of highest potential. It will propel you forward.