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Entrepreneurs never stop learning

“The bridge between knowledge and skill is practice. The bridge between skill and mastery is time.” — Jim Bouchard

The Youth Fund was making news recently as various commentators spoke on the alleged squandering of funds by young people who hoped to be empowered and build their own successful businesses. An interesting point came up about the youths being handed cash without being availed with the necessary training required in starting businesses. It seems the majority of the beneficiaries had limited skills in business and failed to make the most from the funds given. Without a solid plan and a clear sense of direction, many ended up using the funds for purposes different from what they had written in their proposals.

sme’s chat with Phillip Chichoni

It is not enough to have a passion for business, one must acquire the necessary skills
It is not enough to have a passion for business, one must acquire the necessary skills

The question then arises: “Who should have provided the necessary training?”

Many young people grow up engaging in various entrepreneurial activities. When I was at primary school, there were a number of kids who would bring various items to school to sell to their schoolmates. The merchandise ranged from sweets and biscuits to toys and video games. Some would engage in enterprises such as vegetable growing and selling the produce to households in their communities after school. A number of such kids grew up to pursue building real businesses, a few becoming highly successful.

You might think such people were born as natural entrepreneurs but I wish to differ. There are many reasons why young people take to becoming entrepreneurs at young ages. These include poverty in the family, being orphaned, the desire to make one’s own money and spend it the way they like, being unsatisfied with the pocket money they get from their parents, the desire for financial independence and thinking big and beyond their current circumstances.

Entrepreneurs seem to have many similar characteristics, such as huge ambitions, imagination, persistence, passion and conviction. They have a deep belief in themselves that they can achieve great things and they work hard to make that happen. However, they were not born entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship is first and foremost a mindset. You are not born an entrepreneur; you develop the mindset over time. True, if you were in a room full of entrepreneurs, they would all look and sound, in many ways, alike. If you put professional wrestlers in a room, don’t they also look and sound alike?

The characteristics of entrepreneurs develop over time; they are shared as a result of the similar challenges faced by all entrepreneurs — the struggle to survive in business.

Entrepreneurship is the art of developing solutions to problems, in a profitable way. Every successful entrepreneur, every successful businessperson, has been someone who has been able to identify a problem and come up with a solution before someone else did. They habitually create and innovate to build something of value around perceived opportunities.

The one habit that most successful entrepreneurs share is that they never stop learning. Like I mentioned earlier, they are not born with the characteristics necessary for business success, but they acquire them over time through continuous learning. They make many mistakes, but they get up and ask themselves what they have learned from the experiences. Then they get up and move on.

There are many ways to learn business skills. You can take a course at university or college, take online courses, read books on appropriate topics or learn from other entrepreneurs through mentoring and networking. However, in the end, it is practice that matters.

Take the art of selling for example. If you speak to successful sales people, you are likely to find out that many struggled in the early days, some being shy and afraid to approach customers, others freezing in front of prospects or while on the phone. No matter how many books you read, or how many courses you take, without real-life practice you will never succeed at selling. It is one essential business skill that every entrepreneur needs. However, it can only be perfected through continuous learning and most importantly, regular practice.

Why is selling such an important skill?

Because if you cannot sell your product or service, you cannot build a business. Sales drive revenue, which is the lifeblood of business. With no money coming in regularly, a business will be doomed to fail. I wonder how many of our youths took time to learn the essential skills of business; not just selling, but also marketing, financial management, business planning, managing people and providing quality and complete service.

Even after failing, they must get a chance to start again, this time taking into their minds the lessons learnt from their mistakes. That is how many entrepreneurs managed to get ahead. Plus they have to take responsibility for their actions and decisions, being accountable for repaying whatever loans they may be provided with. Recklessness is a seriously bad habit that can easily develop if one is not accountable when it comes to using other people’s money.

Never stop learning. Until next time, keep on accelerating your growth.

Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. His new book Business Survival and Growth Amidst Turbulence is now available. You may contact him by email, chichonip@gmail.com. You can also visit his blog http://chichonip.wordpress.com

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