Laid Off ? Try Entrepreneurship
Thursday, September 20 2012
THERE comes a time in everyone’s life when there is need to change direction in a radical way. It might be ‘push’ or ‘pull’ factors. Pull factors might be an attractive opportunity. Push might be your current career is going nowhere. Sometimes, as in the case of WASA, the organisation is going through a major restructuring and everyone is being offered a separation package. What options does someone have?
There Are Always Alternatives
When one is faced with a dramatic change that impacts our earning ability, the first thing is to analyse your situation. If you are offered a package and have no choice but to accept, then do so. Then what do you do with the money. Are you old enough to retire and have enough money to last me through all of life’s commitments (health, debts, vacations, etc)? If so, then retire but you may still want to think about what do you do with all that time.
Another option is to find another job and many find that attractive even accepting less compensation with a less stressful job. This is the easy way out.
But there are those who have an idea and now the separation package that can fund that goal of starting a business. This is no walk in the park as launching a new venture is full of obstacles and requires a different mindset.
Employee To Entrepreneur
What exactly is the transition to being an independent business person? Entrepreneurs do have a different wiring. By wiring I mean a different psychological makeup and a disposition to environmental conditions. As an entrepreneur your brain works differently. You chart your own destiny and make decisions essentially on your own. The entrepreneurial journey is one that is full of uncertainty. If you do not have resilience, you face the many agonies of failure and challenge at every turn and must know how to deal with them.
Can you make that mindset transition?
Risk taking and dealing with uncertainty is not something the average person likes. If you do not like to explore and take the alternate route, then this will keep you back from achieving your dream of being an entrepreneur.
With risk what level should you take? The less risk the better as more risk means you can lose your shirt. But less risk carries less return and of course more is the potential for greater return. So you will have to analyze where you are in the continuum. Commonly, entrepreneurs tend to gravitate towards moderate risks steering clear of being a gambler.
Your intention is say to start a retail business selling disaster supplies and you decide I will work out the concept. You plan to be different and target individuals who believe that the end is near and a catastrophic event is going to happen. In other words, you are targeting the people who watch a show like ‘Doomsday Preppers’ on National Geographic channel. They want to stock large supplies of food and other vital survival items.
You launch your business after careful research but make a key assumption that like Americans, enough Trinidadians will ‘believe’ that the end is near and then prepare for the apocalypse. You start and after some time you find out from your customers that they do believe that there is something moderately catastrophic coming but not the extreme one as in the TV series. You find out however, that many believe that there will be chaos from a hurricane or earthquake and want to prepare. This challenges your original assumption. Fortunately, your retail concept only needs some product change and some re-branding.
When you start a business you will never have all the resources. You will therefore need to be creative and innovative to maximize the use of what you have. Successful backyard gardeners know the value of discarded containers as planters instead of using expensive off the shelf ones.
Resourcefulness may mean that you will have to do much of the work yourself. So when you choose an area make sure it matches your skills so the learning curve will be fast.
Closely related to resourcefulness is being able to use creative thinking to solve problems and capture opportunities.
Here is a story of a tenacious Bette Graham who had dreams of becoming an artist who had taken up a job with a Texas bank in 1951 as a secretary to support her young son. She worked hard and rose to the position of executive secretary to the chairman. Her typing skills however were not very good and she often had the challenge of typing over documents. Bette got an idea one day to use wall paint and a small paint brush to cover over her mistakes. Using her artistic skills she mixed more paint to match paper colours and was giving them out to her colleagues and so was born the Liquid Paper Company.
Entrepreneurship is not for the weak hearted. Things will go wrong even with a solid business plan. A plan in a changing world becomes out of date quickly. Just like the person who assumed that Trinis act just like Americans to the expected collapse of society, you have to be prepared psychologically for setbacks. Successful entrepreneurs know that things will go wrong and focus on the learning.
You must have the ‘belly’ to analyze the situation and know what happened. Your new business is like a laboratory and your laboratory is your business.
By choosing the entrepreneurship route you get a chance to leave something behind. As an employee you leave little from a business perspective for the next generation.
You will be remembered as one who took the alternate route and navigated through the maze of uncertainty and built a successful business. Maybe you will have your picture proudly on the office wall and your name on the business after you are gone.