Before we even reach adulthood most of us would have acquired a fairly basic grasp of how the people around us behave and how we are supposed to behave among them. We generally acquire this very basic of skills from spending our formative years interacting with friends, family and the community at large. However those who attempt to venture into business for the first time are sometimes presented with a sudden change to the environment and the roles to which they are used to.
You may wake up one day realising that everything you thought you knew about basic human behaviour to be grossly inaccurate. While your new found views of humanity may not be completely life changing, the little inconsistencies between reality and what you thought you knew may compromise your effectiveness and ability as a business leader.
You overestimate yourself and it’s a good thing
Someone once said that you should aim for the moon so that if you miss, you end up in the clouds. Entrepreneurship is a difficult and risky career path for most people thus the CV is still far more appealing than the business plan. It is therefore almost necessary for those who go against the tide by striking out on their own to grossly overestimate both their capabilities and their capacity for dumb luck. As an entrepreneur you cannot go very far without having a slightly skewed world view. While most statistics and general wisdom spell doom for any ambition beyond finding a steady and well paying job, entrepreneurs promise themselves outlandish success in their endeavours. Ambitious people are more likely to feel like they relate better to the one extremely rare billionaire than the more statistically probable struggling small business owner.
Entrepreneurs tend to think they are smarter, more creative and more knowledgeable than the average person. How many times have we heard someone saying their main advantage against their very formidable competitors is their ability to offer a ‘far better’ product? This statement and its many variants is often said by someone who would then proceed to offer a product whose quality ranges from similar to far worse than the one for which they hold so much contempt.
Creativity may be a bad thing
When it comes to raw creativity, no two entrepreneurs are created equal. On one hand you can have someone who can crank out ideas with various degrees of awfulness in their sleep while on the other you have his counterpart who keeps his one idea close to his chest, making everyone from his mother to potential investors sign an NDA before they can even see the cover of their business plan. Though we may encourage each other to ‘think outside the box‘, the less creative among us may actually have an easier time in business.
For some people there is always a better idea (from their perspective). Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who invests large amounts of time and effort into bringing an idea to life only to be struck with the realisation halfway through that they may actually be a far superior idea that they can be pursuing instead. Depending on the individual’s self control and the influence of those they are working with, they may either end up being forced to work on something which their heart is no longer in or even worse, perpetually hoping from project to project without ever completing a single one.
Possibly worse than those coming up with a different business idea to pursue every Thursday, are those who cannot stop adding not only the bells and whistles to their current endeavours but also all manner of sirens. In the average person’s mind there are more terrible ideas than good ones so our creatively over-gifted peers may ruin their own great ideas by diluting them down with terrible ones.
Money is everything
Did you know that most people do not care about the so-called ‘job satisfaction’? For a lot of people all the satisfaction they require from their jobs is deposited into their bank accounts at the end of each month. In this age where buzzwords imported from Silicon Valley are slowly seeping into our young people’s vocabulary and two days of fame are just a single blog post away, it is easy for a young entrepreneur to start a business for the attention rather than the money.
Yes you may feel that there are things more important than money but you will soon discover that the people on your team and everyone else you are going to work with is more interested in their payday than the ‘vision’ you are trying to sell them. If enough people really knew this, we will have less people crediting themselves with being the co-founder of a ‘coming soon page’ on their LinkedIn profile. Because this is Zimbabwe where outlandish amounts of funding are limited to NGOs, no one is willing to work for free in the pursuit of someone else’s dream with no bright prospects of their own. It helps to remember this whenever you are having trouble building a team.
People lie a lot
Though this statement may sound unduly harsh, you will soon discover that despite (and sometimes) because of their best of intentions people tend to present several brands of dishonesty that are often overlooked in everyday life but which can very inconvenient when you are trying to run a business.
One of the most annoying is people’s apparent inability to keep promises. Be it the time to complete a simple task for you or the promise to buy from you at a later date you will discover that the adage ‘rules are made to be broken’ may be better suited for promises. However, rest assured, this form of dishonesty is directed inwards mostly. As human beings we tend to be unduly optimistic about our future behaviour, this means that at the time that promises are made the issuer is probably more confident in it than you. This phenomenon tends to manifest itself when the following through on the promise is perceived as having little to no benefit for the other party. This means that all promises bordering on favours have very low chances of being kept.
When you are doing the initial research for a new business idea you are often encouraged to ask people who are neither friends nor family. The premise is that strangers will be more honest than others who will often try to spare your feelings. Though this may be generally good advice, it ignores the fact that our whole society is built on doing our absolute best not to offend each other. If you do not believe this, think about how habits of greeting and general politeness have easily managed to perpetuate themselves across all cultures and generations. In this way you may actually get false compliments for your terrible product idea thus rendering all your market research useless. Entrepreneurs should be very mindful of this when designing market surveys and should know when to take positive responses with a pinch of salt.
You have been warned.