I challenge anyone to convince me I’m not every bit an entrepreneur as the people housed at NIC!
We speak of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs every now and then. Since the last decade, it is one of the most talked about things in the business community, academia, international aid agencies and of course by the youth in Pakistan. Today we see that the entrepreneurial ecosystem as many call it, though is still in its infancy, has grown bigger. Young graduates aspire to be entrepreneurs on the very first day after graduation and sometimes even before. It is not only a buzz word but is also what many of us like to believe is the way forward to success. Although entrepreneurship is not everyone’s cup of tea, some people are naturally/organically enterprising. However, they are not entrepreneurs in the traditional sense.
The definition of an entrepreneur is not only limited to someone setting up a business to make profit but also includes their agency to bring about a change through innovating ideas and providing solutions that can also help engender social change.
After covering a few stories from successful and not so successful entrepreneurs in the past one year, today I felt like writing about my own entrepreneurial journey. Some of my friends in the recent past have encouraged me to quit my job and set up my own enterprise because they believe I have an entrepreneurial spirit. As opposed to their common belief about entrepreneurship which requires you to register an enterprise to be an entrepreneur, I believe I am an entrepreneur without having a company registered under my name.
I compared a few definitions of the word ‘entrepreneurship’ and they all have been nicely summed up by Professor Howard Stevenson from the Harvard Business School, ‘entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity beyond resources controlled’. The keywords in most definitions I could go through were innovation, ideas, social change, risk and action. Though I am not an entrepreneur by that traditional definition, yet I consider myself one. Yes, you read that right. I am an entrepreneur and here I will tell you how. Below is a list of a few things you might already have heard about entrepreneurs previously, but, I would implore you to look at this list differently and think of how these points might be reflected in the lives of so many of us who are not entrepreneurs by that traditional definition, yet we are.
They are the face of the brand
At any given day, an entrepreneur is the face of their brand, even though the company is generally recognised by the brand name and the logo. Every company eventually hires a marketing professional who comes up with a distinct branding policy, logo, colours: Identity. Even if a company has gotten the branding right, if the leading face does not present the company just as it is desired by the many stakeholders including the founder themself, investors, clients and so on; so many things can go wrong.
A bad repute in the market, declining sales, not getting new clients and being unable to retain the existing clients, to mention a few. In today’s scenario, the competition is intense, and it is critical to ensure you have a positive image in the market or the ecosystem you work in. Sometimes a task as simple as speaking to a client over a phone call can lead to customer dissatisfaction which is why an entrepreneur takes several measures to ensure they are making every effort to retain their positive brand image. So we conclude that one of the things an entrepreneur does every day or struggles to do every day is brand management. There could be different ways of doing so but an entrepreneur chooses the most efficient and innovative means.
“It’s important to realize that brand is much more than a logo and slogan. A brand is who your company is: how you function and make decisions.” -Joanna McFarland, Co-founder of HopSkipDrive.
Having the numbers on your finger tips
Many a times an entrepreneur essentially has one core domain which is their thing. For which they are known as the ‘guru’. For example, Mark Zuckerberg is essentially a software developer. However, as someone who is leading a brand, they also know their numbers right. After all entrepreneurs are businessmen, too. And at the end of the day it’s all about money that an entrepreneur makes, right? I’d partially agree to that as money is not all that one should aim for – a successful business has much more to it. But for now we are speaking of finances and an entrepreneur must learn how to prepare budgets and manage their funds.
A talk on numbers is almost an every day’s critical topic which is discussed in the company; be it the number of new clients or the financial projections for the year, it all rounds up to the numbers going in the bank. So, in a nutshell, even if you have a finance manager on board, you have to have the know-how of fund management and its paraphernalia. You’re supposed to have control over more than just the finances. You’re supposed to know everything: marketing budget, profit margins, sales projections, 5-year plan, customer acquisition cost, etc. etc. It’s not just about money, agreed, but a part of your business is entirely all about managing the numbers right. Getting your numbers wrong could be a potential disaster and most famous entrepreneurs we know of, are well aware of their numbers.
Imagine you have all the required capital to start your own enterprise and a fantastic idea in your head and yet you are unable to kick off your enterprise. What could be one of the reasons? A team perhaps? Serial entrepreneurs are purely invested in their people and by people I mean their team. People who work together to ensure the business will be a success. A team that has one common goal – to make a difference in the lives of their customers through the product they are selling.
However, here’s the catch. Why or how would a team be invested in that mission? In my opinion that happens when the entrepreneur has successfully sold the business idea to their team members and secondly when they show enough consideration for the team members. This consideration includes: belief in your team; respect; encouragement and empathy. These are the few attributes which differentiate an entrepreneur from any other manager. Whilst there are a zillion KPIs an entrepreneur has to deliver upon, efficient people management is one of the foremost.
“People are the most important thing. Business model and product will follow if you have the right people.”-Adam Neumann, Co-founder of WeWork
An entrepreneur is someone who thinks of a new solution to an age-old problem and profits off of it. This profit could be in terms of numbers or even in productivity. Innovation along with excellent management are the two best weapons of an entrepreneur. Whilst management could be delegated to someone else, however, innovation and creativity resides within the entrepreneur and trickles down from them. Successful entrepreneurs who are also influencers like Oprah Winfrey are the ones who came up with great solutions and did an even greater job at implementing them. Entrepreneurs also apply innovation in self-management. For instance, many entrepreneurs like to wake up at 4am in the morning just to exercise as they believe it helps them manage stress better that further allows them to perform at their best. Some find motivation in laughter therapy. You name it!
Why am I an Entrepreneur?
I believe every person whether they own an enterprise or not, one who works at an organisation and is leading a project, could be an entrepreneur. I am a Programme Manager at an international firm. (Apparently), the world may see me as a manager but I walk a few extra miles than just managing a programme. I do things differently!
Managing higher-level activities
On some days I do the tasks defined by my job description but on most days I manage funds, human resources, the brand and along with that I manage myself to manage the rest. But I believe that within myself, I am running a small enterprise of my own where I have to play all these various roles of a finance manager, HR manager, marketing guru and sometimes even an intern. However, what makes me enterprising is the way I carry out all these functions. Those ways include bringing innovation in the existing ideas, creatively delivering the project outputs, aspiring social change, estimating risk and having the agency to act.
Just like any other entrepreneur who feels their enterprise means the world to them, for me my work is my enterprise and I do everything to ensure it is running well according to what I have promised to deliver on. In a recent gig, I was challenged to work on a project that was lagging behind. (The challenge was not only to bring everything upto speed but also to design the whole thing all over again.) It was a daunting task, however, within three months’ time I was able to match the timelines promised a year ago.
How did that happen? Well, I had to think of efficient means to make sure all cogs of the wheel turned together harmoniously. And I had the right attitude – the winning attitude. Another example is from a recent event that I organised as a part of yet another small team – the SDG Hackathon 2019. We had only three weeks to pull off the entire event. Within this event, there were three different events. I was the commander in chief to organise one of the events – the Women SDG Challenge Cup 2019. Within a week’s time, I not only had to make sure the call for applications was out there but also had to ensure a few dozens of applications were received. This was followed by the shortlisting, follow-ups, and a lot of back and forth with the participating teams.
Everyone’s job is also my job
With every passing day, the challenge was burgeoning until the very moment when I announced the winners. All this in just a week’s time. It was as though my enterprise had to deliver bulk order within no time. Guess what, I did it. Again my ever positive and winning attitude helped me get through this challenge as well.
And though one may think that there is no financial risk involved while you are at a job and not an entrepreneur per se, I’d argue that it adds a bigger ethical responsibility to a person taking ownership of a project one is executing. In my case, though I get a guaranteed pay cheque at the end of each month, the financial risk is still there; for the company as well as myself. There is a greater financial risk of losing the job because of not being mindful of my given responsibilities and delivering on the KPIs or a poor work performance.
I have an agency to understand the urgency of certain tasks; an agency that allows me to think like an entrepreneur; an agency that holds the fort even when it is falling apart.
Basically, what I believe is that entrepreneurship is a ‘mindset’. It is not a designation, not a job, nor a profession. It is a mindset. I believe in it and so does Soledad O’Brien, the Emmy Award winning journalist, who believes that “being an entrepreneur is a mindset. You have to see things as opportunities all the time”https://matteroffact.tv/about-soledad/.
It’s important to understand what entrepreneurship really means and how is an entrepreneur different from any other businessman. All the attributes I listed above such as innovation, agency for social change, creativity, and an appetite for risk are found in entrepreneurs and anybody whether they are running an enterprise or not, if they have all these characteristics, are entrepreneurs.
If you think you could relate to this story, consider yourself an entrepreneur. And the next time if anyone questions you if you are an entrepreneur or that why don’t you consider having your own enterprise, now you know what your answer should be. You are a differently-abled entrepreneur!