Let’s not assume anything here, it is true, that you, at least, have some basic skill or a set of the same, and so do I. I have a friend, Michael, who does repairs (for free) to my laptop anytime there is some malfunction. Also, o I have another one, Wilbur, who when it comes to programming problems, he is your guy, but be rest assured that by the end of the lesson you will have to buy him lunch. Better still, I have another friend, Anthony, with both of these skills. Anthony however, ends his lessons (which are often taught well) with the statement, “If you feel I have helped you, then fail not to appreciate, in any way you can.” It is true, Michael and Wilbur have skills, and Anthony have a skill set. I have not an issue with any of them or with any other individual endorsed with skill(s) and what they do with those skills. It makes sense what these guys are into, but what will you call them? Entrepreneurs? Hobbyists? Employees to their friends? Or would you like the rather most likely, volunteers? Make your choice. Hopingly by the end of this article, you will know who is what and what made him that. Consider the dialogue below to further understand what Michael is.
Mrs. Grace: Michael, thank you so much for setting up the wireless printer. I’m happy to pay you for your service.
Michael: That’s not necessary, Mrs. Grace. I do this sort of thing all the time for my friends.
Mrs. Grace: You know, Michael, you have expertise that many people would be willing to pay for. In fact, just being able to use a computer is something a lot of my job placement applicants need. I am trying to set up a basic computer training class here at the agency. We’re going to need four or five computers and they will need to be networked.
Michael: Do you have the computers?
Mrs. Grace: Not yet. We’re trying to find inexpensive, used computers that are in good shape.
Michael: I’ve rebuilt used computers for my friends. I can help you with that.
Mrs. Grace: That would be great Michael, only this time, let’s discuss payment for your services.
Michael: I don’t know what I would charge or how to figure that out.
Mrs. Grace: Maybe I can help.
Having a skill (say programming) and sitting with it at home makes you a myopic individual; using the skill to develop your own fun games makes you a hobbyist; using the same skill to develop software for the company in which you are employed as a software developer makes you an employee; using the same skill to help a nearby start-up software tech hub makes you a volunteer. None of these people makes it to my list of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is not what people make it look like. Starting up a small road side business for selling vegetables like spinach doesn’t make you an entrepreneur; especially if ten of you are operating the same business in a small area. Or if everyone in the neighbourhood has a farm or two of vegetables. But still it can make you an entrepreneur, it all depends on the market situation.
Entrepreneurship is the capacity and willingness to develop/start, organize and manage a business venture along with any of its risks in order to make a profit. For you to be called an entrepreneur, you have to first identify a market gap, it is then that you begin taking the necessary steps. A market gap is an unmet consumer need or a group of potential customers who are not yet purchasing a good or service. As I thought you might have understood, Investment is not entrepreneurship. This subject of entrepreneurship is at the core of the dynamics of life that I felt the need to make the reader become one. I aim to make the reader understand the concept of entrepreneurship and how they can become one. It is for this reason that the following paragraphs attempt to make you an entrepreneur. They are arranged in the order of which comes first.
Identify your skill set
The first step into entrepreneurship is to identify you skill set. A skill set is a combination of skills that enable a person to do a job. For example, the skill set that is needed to add memory slots to a computer includes knowledge of a computer's internal hardware and the ability to dismantle and reassemble the hardware. But, if the job is to teach others how to add RAM slots into a motherboard, the skill set would have to include both the technical skills (hard skills)and the ability to communicate effectively (soft skills).
How does one identify his skill set? You might begin by asking yourself these few questions. What do I do at home or at school? What do other people tell me I do well? What do I love doing? What work experience do I have? What training do I have? What trophy have I won? What certificates or degree do I have? When through, you have to organize those skills on a scale of preference i.e. what skill(s) is in demand by what market? If considering your local/surrounding market who are not literate enough to use your application to order vegetables from your store, use that software development skill somewhere else or take the risk of educating your market on how to use your app. It is an expenditure worth it. Only use what is necessary to get what is necessary.
I bet you have seen an individual with technical skills but who is very poor at delivering it to the less technical minds may be verbally or in written form or both. Successful entrepreneurs identify these skill sets or the necessary skills early enough; and if they lack them, they often find a way to impart themselves with the same. Maybe by asking for advice from a fellow entrepreneur with the skill or taking an online course on the skill. Even if it means employing an individual with the missing skill, the entrepreneur will jump into that course of action. Also, soft skills have a very large part to play when it comes to the success of your business. How else would you convince an investor into a deal if you can’t even whisper a soothing sentence? Thinking about weaknesses can be difficult. But acknowledging weaknesses can save valuable time and money in the future.
Are you in or out?
You have to review your skill set. If you are like one of my above-mentioned friends, you have a decision to make. You could continue doing small jobs for your friends either for free or for a lunch, were you like Michael, volunteer your services to community organizations like Mrs Grace’s employment agency. You could also seek employment that would use your computer skills. But why would you not think about starting your own business and begin charging for your expertise? Here is why you should not. Entrepreneurship is not like killing a dead lion, nor is it heaven, where there is no pain at all. Starting a business involves more than just charging people for the work that you do or writing an invoice. There are social, ethical, and legal requirements of a business that if you aren’t ready to sink your teeth into, then I advise you leave to the mature jaw. “But who are you to tell me that?” ok, I get it, I’m a nobody. Empty your cup first, you can’t fill it while already full.
You must ask yourself: Do I want to start a business? People who own their own businesses are called entrepreneurs. The rewards of entrepreneurship include the opportunity to control your time and also the chance to build a valuable business. But there are risks to entrepreneurship as well: Do you really want to be the person making all the decisions? Are you willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary to complete the job for the customer? Consider yet, do you have the self-discipline to manage your time? Can you risk losing any of your time or money? Seriously, you might not have the answer to all of these. Move to the next step, therefore.
Have a living mentor or just a coach?
But who are these people? Coaches use their own experience to help other people solve problems, evaluate risks, and stay excited about something, in your case, the business idea. They have to listen to, motivate, and guide the person that they are coaching. They often help provide a complete evaluation of your skills. We all know the benefits of this. It leads to an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses. Only after reviewing your list and the comments of your coaches, you become more confident in your strengths as they relate to your skills. If you have very poor communication skills, the coach will identify this first hand and with much help from them, you can become better.
Idea versus opportunity
Having been made to understand your skill set, in the process you must have, at a time, realized that your skills have value and provide the basis for a good business idea. But still, there are some filtering to do. Before you risk your time and money, you must determine if your idea, maybe of providing computer services like Michael, is a good business opportunity. A business idea must pass a validity test before being considered a good business opportunity. Michael's idea to start a business using his computer skills is not a business opportunity unless he can prove that other people need his skills and are willing to pay for them.
An idea may be a good business opportunity if:
- other people need your product to solve a problem they have
- your product can be supplied at a price people are willing to pay, while still high enough for you to make a profit
- the entrepreneur has resources (and technology) to start the business
- The business is sustainable, can you keep it going even when drought hits your heart?
- It is ethically acceptable to the community to run such a business.
How else can the above if statements be validated for your program to run? You do what we call a market research. A market research is the collection of information about the industry that the entrepreneur wants to enter. In Michael's case, it is information about the need for computer services in his area. Starting a business is like walking into a pit latrine, you went there with one aim, to relieve yourself. But it is a tricky place to be, you can either relieve yourself or, by bad luck, you can fall right into the pit. Not walking into an entrepreneurial venture blindly is justified hence. Entrepreneurs always gather information first about the industry they are entering. Even according to Sun Tzu, the best way to defeat your enemy is to have the fore-knowledge about who you are fighting. This information helps entrepreneurs determine which customers they will serve and who the competition is (other businesses that are offering the same services).Market research provides entrepreneurs with facts so that they can make good decisions.
Hopingly, now you can confidently say that none of my above friends is an entrepreneur. This topic is wide, however, therefore we will break at this point. In the next article on entrepreneurship, I will begin by walking you through how to do a market research. We will then cover how to identify your product and then touch on product pricing. Finally, we will do a little of how to determine your business focus.