School leavers and graduates facing a tough job market would do well to consider entrepreneurship rather than conventional employment, assuming they have the requisite mettle and appetite for challenges.
There are thousands of talented people out there who may struggle to find work in the highly competitive and constrained South African job market and who can, instead, use their skills and ambition to create their own jobs by becoming entrepreneurs.
Starting a business is extremely challenging, and entrepreneurship is not an innate talent for the vast majority of people. Instead, entrepreneurship — like success — is largely a choice.
With the right research, self-awareness and both the willingness to fail and the desire to succeed, it’s possible to take control of your own career and, in many cases, create additional jobs in the process.
Often people get retrenched, begin looking for another job, and only when they’ve all but run out of money do they entertain thoughts of entrepreneurship.
While this has the benefit of potentially forcing someone to start a business, doing so can be made more stressful and difficult because of a lack of capital which planning might have alleviated.
Overcome the fear
The biggest obstacle to starting a business — whether one that’s been meticulously planned, or a business created out of personal necessity — is the fear of failure.
The fear of failing and, potentially, losing everything is a universal one. The trick to overcoming it is learning to embrace failure.
You will, inevitably, hit the wall from time to time — it’s the ability to change direction and keep moving that sets the successful apart from the rest.
Create a successful new business
Those looking to start their own businesses need to understand the ingredients and strategies of entrepreneurship if they’re to succeed. There’s great value, not only for individuals but for South Africa as a whole, in creating more new businesses.
The mainstay of our economy is small business and it is the future of meaningful, sustainable job creation. The corporate and public sectors are tightening belts and simply aren’t creating the number of jobs our country so badly needs.
Rather than creating jobs, government should focus on cultivating the sort of environment that allows people to start businesses and keep them in business.
As many as 90% of businesses fail within the first 1 000 days. Government should look to removing red tape during that period, insist that it and corporate South Africa pay small businesses within 30 days (especially as delays to payments is the leading reason new businesses fail), make it easier for small businesses to become vendors for large businesses or government, and alleviating the taxation pressures start ups face.
Do what you love – but make money too
When it comes to picking a suitable new business one of the most important things is to find something you love doing, but also something that is economically viable.
It’s crucial you understand your own core competencies and use that to answer the questions “what would make me happiest?” and “what would be acceptable to market and market conditions?”
For some this might mean turning a hobby into a job, for others it might mean taking a personal experience and turning it into a training course for others.
One of the advantages of today’s knowledge economy is that it is possible to start many sorts of businesses with very little capital. This means the ability to start small and take one small step at a time, rather than taking on debt.
By starting from zero with very little borrowing, entrepreneurs can maintain control of their young businesses. Nothing loses you control as quickly as debt.
Don’t give up
Starting small also means when you do fail you can bounce back more quickly and have lost less in the process. Which brings me to the most important question entrepreneurs need to ask themselves: Are you prepared to lose everything and come back despite adversity?
Remember, we don’t read about entrepreneurs’ failures in the press, only their successes, but behind those successes are dark times and struggles. You need to be prepared for that, because the honeymoon phase will be over quickly.