Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just Do It! Yourself

Because of my busy weeks, whenever I come across an interesting headline on my Twitter timeline, I favourite it and read it later. Last week I saw a headline that read “Can Entrepreneurs Be Made” by Anthony K. Tjan (@AnthonyTjan) in the Harvard Business Review (@HarvardBiz).

The article discusses the big question of whether entrepreneurs are born or made. Do they carry a genetic formula that destines them for success or can anyone, with the correct interventions, be an entrepreneur. As you know I have covered this question before, albeit from one Prof Muhammad Yunus’ point of view, in my blog instalment Every Single Human Being Is A Potential Entrepreneur.
But what really caught my eye in Tjan’s article were two points he made at the end of his article. They resonated with me deeply.

“Entrepreneurs start from that place we call Heart, inner passion and desire that is not easily malleable. We are what we feel”
I am sure you have heard many entrepreneurs say don’t start a business with the sole objective of ‘making money’. Others have gone further to say “Money is not Everything”. Ever noticed how that always sounds better when it’s said by someone who HAS money, yet when you hear it you can’t help but think “Are you out of your mind. Why else would I start a business if my ultimate objective is NOT to make money? That’s why it’s called a business right?! And besides money may not buy you everything, but it certainly buys MOST things”

My view is ‘yes and no’. Let me explain.
Tjan talks about what drives entrepreneurs, or what makes true entrepreneurs in the context of whether they are born or made. Just like ‘anybody can father a child but not all are fathers’, anyone can make money but not all are entrepreneurs.

Just like making a child, making money really isn't that hard. Buy something for R100, and sell it R120. There! You have made money. That doesn’t make you an entrepreneur, though.

Entrepreneurs take risks for greater reasons than making money. It’s that Heart. That desire to achieve something of greatness. For some greatness is writing and publishing African language books for children and for others it’s inventing the Internet.

So please, don’t choose the life of entrepreneurship if all you want to do is make money. Choose it for more than that. Create something sustainable. Something that changes human behaviours. Something that changes lives. Something that makes the world a better place for you, those you love and your community at large. That, requires "heart, and inner passion".
However, money is important. Life is a lot easier WITH money than WITHOUT money. An entrepreneur WITHOUT money spells doom for the entrepreneur, the enterprise and those supporting the entrepreneur.

As one veteran entrepreneur once told me many years ago, “Andile, you must make sure your business can feed you my boy. You see if the stomach is empty, all your mental strength is driven by the empty stomach. So effectively, you start thinking with your stomach. And that’s the beginning of the end for you. You see stomachs weren’t made for thinking. We have brains for that. Ok?”.

I remember nodding slowly and hoping that all of this will make sense to me one day. It did.
Make no mistake money is important, in fact its critical. It supports the lifestyle you want to live. It supports those that support you as an entrepreneur and for some, it serves as a scorecard!

So by all means, please make money, make tons of it! But don’t become an entrepreneur just for the money. Find that inner passion and desire, first. You are going to need it.

Tjan goes further and says: “Turning that passion into a business reality obviously requires executing on it. It requires Guts. Unimaginable amounts of potential lie dormant because people don't have that minimum threshold of Guts to just initiate and not overthink it”
Over my years in business, I have grown to appreciate, immensely, the art of DOING. Most entrepreneurs want to see themselves as the Thinkers, the Strategists, the Innovators. Nobody ever wants to be the Doer.

In fact, once we have conceptualised the idea (which any case is often by chance rather than design), and strategized how we are going to take it to market with all sorts of innovative technologies and marketing stunts, we want to bring in someone else to EXECUTE.

Many entrepreneurs often think this is the way to do it, because of what they read or see about other entrepreneurs who have made it big. They see the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jay-Z and Richard Branson dishing out instructions to staff and delivering great products to the world and they figure “I need to be the ‘ideas’ guy. I then need to get some people to execute. Then I have arrived”.

No dude, you haven’t even taken off!

You see, what most people forget is that it’s not always been like that for these guys. In fact, quite the contrary! All of the examples I have mentioned above got their break into big business, by EXECUTING THEIR OWN IDEAS.

Writing about Jay-Z, a BBC article journalist says:

“As a young rapper he worked hard on getting his flow perfect, on making his lyrics full of the right references, on never writing down a lyric. When he couldn't get a record deal for this first CD, he and friends used the same street entrepreneurial skills they had used to sell drugs in Brooklyn's Marcy Projects. "We knew we had something the people wanted, so instead of quitting we built it ourselves," says Jay-Z. They sold copies of his first CD out of the boot of their car next to Gray's Papaya, a famous hotdog store on 6th Avenue and 8th Street in Manhattan. Jay-Z was determined to become the rapper with the best flow, and if selling his CD himself on the street was necessary to achieve success, so be it”
So Jay-Z conceptualised HIS own album, memorised HIS own rhymes (Yes, he doesn’t write his raps), and then recorded his own album and when he couldn’t get a record deal, HE sold HIS own album out of a boot of a car.

So, you say you want to be an entrepreneur, huh? Stop talking about it then. Just do it! Yourself.


  1. Reading this reminded me of one of the key ideas in Business Author Jim Collins' book 'Good to Great', he talked about the Hedgehog Concept: which (as he explains)is the point where the three circles: 1.Passion, 2.Economic sense and 3.The understanding of the fact that you can be the best in the world at your trade, meet. He sited this concept as the primary underlying reason why the companies in his research pool went from Good to Great as opposed to the comparison companies he studied over the same period of time.

    Thank you for sharing the wealth of your knowledge and daily discoveries with us, you are a mentor from afar.

    I'm fast becoming a fan of your blog, I always get gems of wisdom and encouragement in your articles. Thanks again for that and please keep them coming.

    1. Thank you very much Morake. For some strange reason I have not had the opportunity to read "Good to Great" though i have heard many good things about it. I like this Hedgehog concept. I have duly added the book to my list of Books to Read. Thanks for reading my post and sharing your own thoughts about the subject. I thoroughly appreciate it.

  2. Ahhh Andile, you make me so proud to be South African, and to be Black. Your writing is fine, simple, insightful and inspiring. I'm so glad to have bumped into your blog...