As it appeared in the Daily Nation on December 15th 2020
Dr Lucy Kiruthu
When I left formal employment, it was difficult to explain to my parents what I was getting into. My first client was a young entrepreneur in the technology space who needed support in defining his company’s strategic direction. Eleven years later, I have met and worked with many entrepreneurs across diverse fields. I have also keenly followed the amazing stories of entrepreneurs across the globe. These entrepreneurs have taken on major risks and created new enterprises. Most of these enterprises have transformed the way of doing business; they have created new products and services. Many others have opened new job opportunities. As I have worked with entrepreneurs, I have learnt from both their successes and their failures. I cherish the experience of working with entrepreneurs.
Without entrepreneurs, the world of business would be stale. Generation of innovative and sometimes disruptive business ideas and creation of new businesses is at the center of what entrepreneurs do. That does not happen with ease. It often means venturing into the unknown and sometimes being misunderstood. Entrepreneurs quickly become dissatisfied with the status quo and are always trying to create. They are also on the lookout for solutions to everyday problems; they test ideas, listen to others and learn new ways of doing things. They seek to find what else to do and how to do it better. I believe that the entrepreneurship journey is not well understood, neither is it sufficiently appreciated. As a result, many entrepreneurs seem to walk the journey in a world that only they understand.
On November 18th, INC via their Twitter account sought to find out which books others think all managers should read. I was quick to propose “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. Tony is the entrepreneur behind Zappos.com, which he later sold to Amazon.com and was the CEO until three months ago. Tony has greatly influenced my thinking about organizational culture and the focus on the customer. As a result, I have given away his book to a number of my clients. On November 27th, Tony’s death was made public. His death hit hard and left me feeling sad and curious. What followed his death were many beautiful tributes of a kind-hearted and somewhat eccentric man who had influenced many positively. Soon after, the story behind the story of his death made headlines across key business news channels. The revelations about a downward spiral in his life left many astonished.
As I reflected on the death of Tony, I started to wonder whether many entrepreneurs might be going through life in solitude yet in the company of a multitude. I spoke to Joram Mwinamo the CEO at SNDBX a community that supports entrepreneurs. He alluded to my observation that the entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. Joram linked this to the failure of friends and family members to understand an entrepreneur’s journey. There are many lessons we have learnt from Tony’s life and many more that we can learn from his death. How are the entrepreneurs in our circles doing? Do we as a friend or family member seek to understand them? Are entrepreneurs feeling misunderstood and belittled? How is their mental state? It is vital to check on those entrepreneurs in our circles often. We need to find out how they are doing not only how their businesses are doing.
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy