As it appeared in the Daily Nation on December 5th, 2017
Businesses especially small and medium enterprises all around us are an engine for social-economic transformation. Not only do these businesses provide a livelihood to their owners they also create employment both directly and indirectly. Some of these businesses were started and are owned by entrepreneurs. The entrepreneur identified a viable business opportunity either intentionally or by accident. The entrepreneur then took a calculated risk and kept working on the business idea with the intention to grow it into an enterprise.
I have closely worked with and studied business enterprises of all types and sizes. I believe that there is a unique spirit that enables people to take risks and to grow a start-up. The spirit known as the entrepreneurial spirit has been widely recognized by many and is studied in most entrepreneurship classes. The entrepreneurial spirit helps the entrepreneur to dream, take risk and keep working on a business idea without giving up. The question is – can we cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit and if we can, how?
I consider entrepreneurs as visionary, passionate, optimistic, creative and hardworking individuals. Successful entrepreneurs invest their energy, time and resources to make their ideas succeed, they are resilient, they have their eyes into the future they are creating, they seek solutions rather than focus on problems, they experiment and they consistently take action that moves them closer to their dream. In addition, such entrepreneurs have great leadership skills. In my first entrepreneurship class almost 15 years ago, our professor asked us to read “The E-Myth Revisited” a book by Michael Gerber that has since become one of my favourites. Gerber says that most entrepreneurs are merely technicians suffering from an entrepreneurial seizure with most failing because they are working IN rather than ON their business. Gerber shares Sarah’s story showing why many small business fail. Gerber helps us differentiate between owning a small business and being an entrepreneur and contends that we can cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit as we go into business.
Whilst some entrepreneurs are born in families where entrepreneurship is the custom, others are self-made. One of the world’s most successful entrepreneur of our time Sir Richard Branson of the virgin brand says he was not really interested in being an entrepreneur. In one of his blogs, Branson says he wanted to be an editor or a journalist but soon found he had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep his magazine going. Branson further says that no two successful entrepreneurs are the same and looks at the world as having numerous opportunities for those with an entrepreneurial spirit mindset. Similarly, social entrepreneur Prof Mohammed Yunus Founder of Grameen Bank thinks that all human beings have the ability to become entrepreneurs. Many people have turned entrepreneurial at varied ages, some as early as 20 years and others as late as 60.
I believe that each one of us has the ability to become an entrepreneur by cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit. Like most people, many viable business ideas have crossed my mind. I have implemented some but failed to take action on others. As I reflect on the entrepreneurial spirit, I think about the fear of failure that holds us back from taking action. On the contrary, I think about the failures that have made many great entrepreneurs the success they are today. If we plan for success and prepare for challenges, we will be better placed at cultivating the entrepreneurial spirit!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy