Dear Mr. Entrepreneur, today let me share with you a modified part of a speech I gave to some University students some years ago. I had been invited to talk to business and entrepreneurship students who were about to graduate from the University. Of course among them were some lecturers who were also interested in the topic. My objective then was to focus on some fundamentals of entrepreneurship, let the students know the possibilities in the entrepreneurship world, and also provide some motivation that could trigger action towards setting up micro and mini-enterprises.
Now, you can agree with me that summarizing the key issues in entrepreneurship in a two-hour address is quite a task – but I found a way to just KISS it (Keep It Short and Sweet). Below are some of issues that I talked about in respect of critical thinking for an entrepreneur. Of course, what might be critical to me might not be critical to you, OK? Nevertheless, I will share with you my viewpoints. Before these I think every entrepreneur requires self-awareness. You need to know yourself and your motives including what you want to do in the business world. Short of that you might just accompany other entrepreneurs, with little impact. So let’s have a look.
- What is your business proposition? What do you intend to do? This deals with your mission, vision, goals and objectives. What are the products or services you are offering, and what added value is in them compared to competition? How do people identify your products and services? Do you understand your customers? What is the core value proposition, as perceived by the customer, of the opportunity? How will the core value proposition change in future? This could be expressed as a mission statement but needs to be clear and concise. If you choose to be opaque and vain, with the foggiest definition or identification of your business proposition, you have only yourself to blame. Isn’t it?
- What about your processes and operations? How will you get things done? Do you have an operational plan? What are the critical success factors? What materials do you need? How is the enterprise structured? What are the key processes and relationships? How will these be enabled and supported? How will you measure performance of the processes and operations? What role does information technology play? As I write this I know there are entrepreneurs out there who hardly understand what I mean by processes and operations! Am I lying? Of course not. May God help us entrepreneurs! I mean, you can only deliver value if you understand processes and operations. The job of Chief Operations Officer (COO) in those large entities does not arise out of nothing. Do you get me Mr. Entrepreneur?
- What about the market place in which you are going to play a part? How will you reach your customers, sell to them, keep them, and grow them? What are your promotional plans? Do you actually know and understand your market? Where is the market? Who are the customers and competitors? Is the market enough? Can the market grow? Who are your competitors and what makes you unique from them? What is the market trend? What market segment are you targeting? How easy is it to enter and exit the market? This could involve analysis of market and industry to identify segments and gaps. I have in the past laughed at some budding entrepreneurs with ideas of ‘lucrative business’ requiring urgent funding, and yet they can hardly look you in the face and speak confidently about the market they intend to operate in. Come on Mr. Entrepreneur, you have to style up if you intend to continue existing in this modern business world!
- How about the people you need? What are the skills you need and where will you find them? Who are the leaders, management team and network of advisors, customers, suppliers and stakeholders? Does your team have what it takes for success? How does social capital and networking support the business opportunity? Let me give you a piece of advice here. You cannot grow your enterprise and be successful without people by your side. It’s up to you to decide what kind of people you want to be surrounded with in your enterprise, but don’t come back crying. OK? Can we agree on this?
- How will you finance and control your enterprise and be accountable and get the desired reward? This deals with finance and accounts including the profit motive. Please, I beg you, if profit motive is not fundamental to your entrepreneurial objectives; you need to re-check why you are into business in the first place. So, what funds do you need and what are the sources? What is your cost structure? Why do it? What are the real returns? Have you considered the financials, gross profit, net profit, forecasts, KPIs and capital required? Is there a social return? Do you have an alternative plan in case you don’t achieve your objectives? This might also include a consideration of the ownership structure and exit strategy.
- What about other support services you need such as administration, information technology etc? Do you know that enterprise aspect such as planning, execution, efficiency and effectiveness, and others can determine your business future? Do you understand that these can give you a leading edge?
I know my write-up today has been full of unanswered questions, and in your mind you could be saying I’ve lost it today. Or probably thinking I’ve gone just too far by this approach. Wait a minute Mr. Entrepreneur. I simply want to trigger your thinking along those critical areas of entrepreneurship; because I’m pretty sure that they matter. Don’t blame me, OK? I will continue with other issues that I think form part of an entrepreneur’s critical thinking, in the second part of this presentation. Just keep following this blog.
Till then, Respectfully
The Wise Entrepreneur