After I wrote the article about not giving up (Star MetroBiz, Oct 22, 2013), a number of people wrote to me echoing similar sentiments and suggested meeting up to continue to spur and inspire each other in our journey of entrepreneurship. And so we did. A small group of us met up several weeks ago and I was encouraged by their stories.
Most of them started their journey way before me – with more than 10 years in business. I told them that I was a toddler compared to them with barely four years under my belt.
Two of the entrepreneurs I met were in the training business and both have unique business models. Inquisitive, I asked many questions.
What are their challenges? How did they go through the tough times when cash was not coming in fast enough? How did they get the support of their families and wives when they were not contributing to the family’s income as much or at all compared to their spouses?
What intrigued me the most was that these two businessmen stayed true to their business model. They believed in what they were selling and offering.
One of them told me that for a brief period, when times were not so good, he did leave his business and tried being a property agent as it definitely generated better income.
But that did not work out because he said it was just not him. So he went back into doing what he did before and is still soldiering on. He said, after a while, money was no longer the main motivation for him, albeit it being important for livelihood.
He is a firm believer in the training concept he has developed and for 30 minutes or more was fervently espousing the concept to us.
In a separate meeting, I listened to yet another entrepreneur who started his business at the young age of 20. After a few years of surviving on grants and his own funds, this brilliant young man finally managed to get a major investor for his business. Now with this big boost in funding, surely he would have enough financial muscle to expand his business and see it grow. Alas, it was not to be that easy.
He shared that when the money was his own, he called the shots. Now, basically he has to get approval for every ringgit used as well as go through several meetings to justify returns for funds used. For the first time since he started his business, he felt “caged”. The loss of control and power has not been something he can immediately get used to.
I told him that he should have expected that because, after all, the person who pays has the say.
Having an investor who holds the majority stake in your business means you are no longer the boss.
You have just let someone else “adopt” your baby (business) and you no longer have all the rights to it. If the investor’s shareholding is substantial, you are actually more an employee than an entrepreneur. Decision-making freedom is just one of the things you may lose. What if your investor dictates a totally different business direction than your vision for the business?
Some entrepreneurs start their business because they believe in their dream – that what they offer can help make the world a better place.
These are the ones who will hold on steadfastly even if they have to brave it alone until they find like-minded people who share the same vision. I am one of them.
In the past, some business acquaintances had expressed an interest to invest in my company. But, being careful to only select those who share my vision and dream, I have declined the offers. To me, that is the between entrepreneurship and being a businessman.
True entrepreneurs believe in their dreams for the business regardless of circumstances while a businessman merely wants to earn a profit, regardless of the type of business and how it is done.
We do not know where our belief or dream may lead us but, at least we have the satisfaction of trying.
Jeanisha personally finds 2014 a terribly scary year because it will not be a year of “same old, same old”. It reminds her of the feeling she had when she was summoned to the dentist as a child. But like her father always said to her, “Everyone goes through it, so why can’t you?” Talk to her at email@example.com.