Many of us cannot but help celebrate the achievements of some notable Nigerians like Jim Ovia of Zenith Bank, Seye Kehinde of City People, Fola Adeola of Guaranty Trust Bank, Otunba Adeola of FCMB Group, and other successful entrepreneurs. These set of people are motivators and the special species of business owners who the aspiring entrepreneurs today should emulate given the fact that they started small amidst the downturn in Nigerian economy at the time they started their business.
I am privileged to have some of them as mentors, besides this, I have also been opportune at various times to listen to some of these great men while giving an account of how they started and consequently attained so much financial freedom. From my interaction with a few them, I have been able to discover that certain quality that many people may not have discovered. For example, they are very optimistic and courageous. If one observes them very well, one will discover that they all share a similar historical background in the way they started their business. Take, for instance, they all started small and have built the business over a long time to become a big brand that we celebrate today. At one time or the other, some of them acknowledge the fact that things were not initially smooth when they started but they endured all the challenges and today these great people remain icons of excellence in business. My walking through their path to success has given me the opportunity and the courage to understand what it takes to build a business from the scratch to a well-accepted brand in the face if challenges like the economic downturn and insufficient start-up capital.
Another unique courage I admire in these set of people is the way they have succeeded in moving from being employees to become employers of labour. I have been able to understand that they did not just start in one day to achieve their greatness. Their journey was planned and implemented in phases. This approach remains a mystery to many people that have been trying to transit themselves from applicant or employee status to become successful entrepreneurs. This reminds me of the frequently asked questions in most of the seminars/workshops I have facilitated on issues that relate to how to start and nurture a business successfully. How to start has been a setback to many of us. Many do not know how to begin the journey. So many people start wrongly and end wrongly. Many of us who have stayed too long on paid jobs usually find it difficult to start well simply because managing our own small resources successfully poses certain challenges which we may find difficult to cope with since we are all used to managing someone else’s big resources. Consequent upon this, many of us hate to hear such words as retirement, service no longer required, termination, retrenchment and all forms of disengagement from office.
Let us not deceive ourselves, no matter how high you rise in the office, one day you will have to retire and if you don’t want to retire, something will force you out. Therefore do not waste your time – plan your retirement now! This is the time you can reasonably think of the kind of business to do and how to go about it. As an employee that believes in financial freedom through entrepreneurship, starting your business in phases will enable you to see your dream come true. Many of the great men I have mentioned earlier were once employees but started their entrepreneurship journey in phases. While you are still working, you can start to put some things into place. This approach has proved has to be the best approach to moving from an employee to becoming an entrepreneur. This is because one is able to break the journey into realistic targets. For instance, having knowledge of what to do is one phase that should be taken seriously in view of the mental and physical ability which one requires. Some businesses require more mental and physical ability than others, while some require certain experience which we must acquire before starting.
Most people rush to start a business these days, shortly after they are out of a job. People in such circumstances usually confront many challenges which if not properly handled results in failure. Running businesses successfully in Nigeria and Africa requires long-term planning, and those who rush into business simply because they are out of a job, usually end up in problems as most of their actions are driven by mental imbalance arising from loss of a job. I have seen many people who were very good as managing directors or managers (employees), but could not manage their business well. It was not because they lacked the required knowledge. The matrix of their failure was because they failed to plan the gestation period of the business very well. Starting our own business systematically before disengagement from work, therefore, allows you to manage inherent risks and the challenges methodologically.
We can achieve whatever we want to become in life without cheating our employer. As an employee, having your own business is the greatest thing that can happen to you. Before you finally disengage from that paid employment, there are certain pathways that those successful great men have trodden to migrate from being an employee to becoming an employer. I want to recommend this to those in employments who are praying to become financially independent in future through entrepreneurship. These pathways have proven simple successful for many of my mentors that have used them.
1. Build a positive attitude that sees opportunities in difficulties. No matter what you are going through, remain positive in your ambition. I have realised that most of the time when we achieve success in any area of life, it is an outward fruit of our attitude. Our attitude is a prophet of our future. It is our best friend in the time of distress and finally it is the lubricant that pushes us to move to the next level of our success. Therefore, for any employee or applicant to migrate to entrepreneurship, such will need to build the right mental attitude that one can succeed with or without a paid job.
2. Set a target for yourself. I have a mentor that resigned his appointment two years ago on getting to the post of an AGM in his bank. Doesn’t it sound funny and stupid to you? No – that is the power of target. When I asked him why he resigned from such a good job, his reply was simply, “Sam, I gave myself a target to spend a certain number of years as an employee and when I completed that number of years, I had to resign to demonstrate the potential in me.” Two years later, this man and his business are worth ten times his worth when he was an employee. Many of us will achieve success if only we can work on time and target. Just ask yourself how long you have spent and how long you can afford to spend on that job you are doing. Not until you do this, quitting a paid job may become too difficult. I know this is not easy for some because our job is too comfortable to quit, but remember that no matter how high you are placed today as an employee, you are not the owner of the business and you cannot claim its ownership.