The actual experience of starting a business

Friday May 19 2017

You only have 24 hours a day (of which a

You only have 24 hours a day (of which a portion needs to be spent sleeping), limited skills, ideas, resources and networks. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By WACEKE NDUATI OMANGA
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Last week, I wrote about the facts of why businesses fail to launch.  However, today there was a heap of questions about what you actually experience (on a more personal level) when you venture out and start a business. I am being asked this a lot, especially by people who are leaving formal employment. For a long time, how people made it in business was almost kept a secret but I have now attended several forums and it is very encouraging to see more and more people open up about successes, failures, challenges, good days, the bad ones, among other things.

So what do you actually experience when you start out?  First, you will be scared of starting. You will feel not experienced enough, lucky enough, confident enough, rich or liquid enough and even that this is not the right time. It’s normal but you start anyway irrespective of your inadequacies. You can’t wait to feel ready enough to get started, otherwise you will never do it. Use the power of one to begin. One conversation, one client, sell one product, one pitch and one step. Before you start, you are like a farmer holding a seed. Nothing will happen until the seed is planted. Start the business and then commit to learning.

Many people have an idea that they think is fantastic. You will learn that it’s not what you think, but it’s what your customer thinks. Identifying opportunity is a journey, not a destination. Peter, a couple of years ago set out to launch an e-commerce platform. He thought it was a great idea. He got one or two clients but not enough to sustain it.  As he was going through this, he would get people asking him to build websites for them.  At first, he dismissed them but later on, he started doing the job. 

Now he runs a digital media company that has become a very sustainable business. There are many Peters who have given up and assumed that they can’t do it or that it doesn’t work. It would have served them to understand that opportunity is always work in progress. Others have even run businesses successfully for a while on that initial product/service but fail to recognise when the opportunity is evolving, hence miss out on the growth.

Pay attention to the customer. You will quickly realise that you cannot do this alone. You only have 24 hours a day (of which a portion needs to be spent sleeping), limited skills, ideas, resources and networks. You will find that you cannot do it without that one supplier who believes in you enough to extend 30 days credit. You will need customers who will go spread the word.  You will need partnerships/networks that enable you to multiply your reach.  As you grow, you will need to build a committed team that enables you to focus on the right aspects needed to grow your business.

You will face the pain of not having money. It will mean cutting back for a while on personal expenditure and keeping business expenses to the minimum required to generate money. It’s really about the courage to have patience and not rushing to impress anybody. You will find freedom in realising that you don’t die because you had to let go of certain things.  Because of this and the other things, you may find yourself lonely.  Maybe the people you socialise with can’t quite relate to what you are going through. Or family members who don’t understand why you are leaving your job. Their concerns may incorporate some things you need to consider but you will have to draw boundaries between their opinion and what you will decide to do. 

So why do we still do it? Because on the flipside, you also experience the fulfillment that comes from stretching yourself beyond what you thought you could accomplish.

The growth of confidence when you keep putting one foot in front of the other and the seed that you planted starts growing and bearing fruit. Acknowledging you are overcoming fear because what scared you last year doesn’t scare you anymore. The impact that you see as you become a solution for your customers and in time if you are willing to put the work in the financial benefits. Like many things we go through in life, it is an experience that is out to change you.

Centonomy runs an Entrepreneurship Program that teaches you how start, run and to grow your business.  For details email Waceke on waceken@centonomy.com | Facebook/WacekeNduati| Twitter@cekenduati