The Challenges of Entrepreneurship

The Challenges of Entrepreneurship

When I was a kid in elementary school, I used to sell drawings to other children in my classroom. Images of Pokémon were among my best sellers. I made these drawings because I enjoyed art; I didn’t really view it as a business. I wasn’t the only one making money at my school though. There was another kid in my classroom (Jorge Lucas) that sold candies. Mexican candies were his best sellers, but he would also experiment with other types of treats to see what sold the most. He peddled candies because he loved making money and enjoyed bringing happiness to others. He eventually grew up to become an entrepreneur.

As an adult, he continued to buy and resale products. He had ideas for other business ventures but didn’t know how to acquire the capital to pursue them. His friends would encourage him to attend networking events to find investors and business partners, but he said that wasn’t for him. He looked for business partners on various occasions, but he couldn’t find anyone that approached commerce in the same manner as he did. He decided to run his retail business alone. He locked himself in his office every night, doing market research on his computer to see what products were profitable and why.

One day, Jorge decided to become a vendor at a public event. He paid $200 to set up a stand and sell customized t-shirts at the event (he found selling t-shirts to be a profitable business). When he arrived at the event, he saw that various other vendors had teams of people working together. He, on the other hand, was by himself. He also saw glamorous logos branded on everyone’s stand. He didn’t have a logo because design was one of his weak points, and he never hired anyone for the task. He also saw that vendors were engaging with customers and talking to everyone that passed by. He, on the other hand, was an introvert and did not attempt to communicate with people. Needless to say, he had a bad day at the event. He only sold three shirts. After weeks of sulking, he decided to take a break from entrepreneurship and began looking for a day job.

Many people dream of starting their own business. Being a boss, working on your own schedule, coming up with concepts for products, and having a team dedicated to your enterprise are all ideas that lure people towards entrepreneurship. However, there are various aspects about being an entrepreneur that are not very glamorous. According to a survey conducted by Fits Small Business, approximately 82% of entrepreneurs work over 40 hours a week, with 49% working 50 or more hours every week (Kanapi, 2017). This statistic illustrates that being an entrepreneur is not all traveling and closing deals. There is a lot of hard work that a person must perform in order to be successful. Carol Cox (Internet Marketing Course Director at Full Sail) and Michael LePlante (Full Sail Graduate and Business Owner) discussed they keys to becoming a successful entrepreneur at a Hall of Fame event in February, 2018. They state that starting a business is not easy. One must protect themselves legally, perform market research, and make difficult decisions in order to be a successful business owner (Full Sail University, 2018). Their main points, however, include the following:

  1. Find a contrasting business partner that compliments your skill sets
  2. Seek help from others, including mentors and professional experts
  3. Talk to current and potential customers to improve your products/services

Overcoming conflict can contribute to growth. That’s why it’s important to find people that will challenge your perceptions and opinions. In the story of Jorge Lucas, he wanted a business partner that shared his approach, but he should have been looking for someone with a contrasting style. According to Michael LePlante, when you are seeking a business partner, you should seek “an opposite that counterbalances” your personality and approach (Full Sail, 2018). When everyone conforms to your opinions, you tend to become overconfident in your capabilities. That overconfidence can lead to complacency and a nonchalant attitude, which will bring trouble to any business. You want a business partner that will help you improve as an entrepreneur. For example, if coming up with ideas and products is your strong suit, you may want a business partner that’s strong in the field of product manufacturing or service implementation. Since Jorge Lucas was an introvert with strong research capabilities, it would have been beneficial to join forces with an outgoing partner with a strong background in sales. If two people start a business together and have extremely similar strengths, wouldn’t they have the same weakness as well? You want a business partner that can cover the areas you may be deficient in; a business partner that compliments your skill sets and challenges your ideas. This is the most efficient way to grow and expand an enterprise.

Seeking help is also very important. I remember when my 15-year-old nephew was having trouble with his math class. Although he was passing, he was among the lowest achieving students in his classroom. I sat with him one day and reviewed his homework. While looking through the work, I noticed a trend in the answers he was having difficulty with; they all revolved around square roots and exponents. I asked him if this was the reason why he was struggling, and he replied, “Yes,” almost ashamed of himself. I asked him why he didn’t simply ask for help, and he stated that he didn’t want people to think he was dumb. It turns out he missed a few days of school due to an illness, which resulted in him being absent during the lecture on square roots and exponents. I sat with him and gave a full lecture on the topic (thanks to YouTube and Google). After a few hours, he understood the matters and never had that problem again. The first step in acquiring help is asking for it. Often times, we may be hesitant to ask for help because we don’t want to come across as weak or needy. However, everyone needs help at one point or another. Carol and Michael both pointed out how they have invested money in seeking advice from business coaches (Full Sail, 2018) in order to overcome plateaus and improve as entrepreneurs. Investing money on a business coach can be very beneficial to an entrepreneur. Business coaches can help you see issues from an objective point of view and can identify solutions to problems by providing fresh insight. You’ll never get this help if you are afraid to seek it though. The first step in finding help is admitting that you need it. The second step is to ask for it.

According to McFadden, in order to be successful “an organization needs to continuously change and adapt to their customer’s ever-changing needs (2013).” This requires business owners to constantly communicate with customers. In the story of Jorge Lucas, he didn’t put enough effort in talking to customers. He relied solely on internet research. Not every product or idea will be an instant hit, but a business owner can start with a product and slowly develop it into a better creation using customer feedback. During the discussion, Michael LePlante tells the story of a small business that started with a group of people brainstorming. They combined all of their ideas to create a product and immediately put it out to the market. The CEO of the company would then call customers personally to receive feedback on the product. Using real customer feedback, the CEO would suggest improvements to the team, which will implement them immediately. Once the modifications were made to the product, the team would relaunch it into the market and go through the same process; contact clients, gather feedback, make improvements. Michael goes on to say that the business ended up being very profitable and was eventually sold to Ticketmaster for a large sum of cash. The team has continued to follow this routine and has created several successful enterprises (Full Sail, 2018). This story illustrates the importance of speaking to customers. They are the ones that will buy your product (ideally), so in order to improve you will have to understand what they like and don’t like about the product. The best way to get this information is to have a direct conversation with them.

The most impactful part of the discussion was when Carol Cox stated, “early entrepreneurs spend way too much time chasing funding… rather than chasing customers (Full Sail University, 2018).” I find this to be extremely true. Often times we focus on identifying investors, when we really should be focused on identifying customers. Entrepreneurs should be shifting their mind state from raising capital to creating problem-solving products and services for customers. All the start up capital in the world will not make a a bad product successful. At the end of the day, it’s the customers that will decide whether or not you prevail as a business owner, so it’s best to center your strategy around them and not investors.

References

[Full Sail University]. (2018, February 13). The do’s and don’ts of starting your own business. [Video File]. Retrieved March 20, 2018 from https://youtu.be/8-dg-bmL50E

Kanapi, H. (2017, July 30). 15 entrepreneurship statistics that you should know. Retrieved March 24, 2018 from https://fitsmallbusiness.com/entrepreneurship-statistics/

McFadden, K. (2013, March 19). Why it is essential to put customers first (and how organizations do it!). Retrieved March 24, 2018 from http://smartbusinesstrends.com/why-it-is-essential-to-put-customers-first-and-how-organizations-do-it/

McKnight Kurland. (2016, March 3). 5 visual content statistics and infographic. Retrieved March 24, 2018 from http://www.mcknightkurland.com/brand-experience/5-visual-content-statistics-and-infographic/

Novellus, R. (2017, April 5).The pros and cons of entrepreneurial partnerships. Retrieved March 24, 2018 from https://www.inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/the-pros-and-cons-of-entrepreneurial-partnerships.html

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