Let’s face it. 2018 was a big year for entrepreneurs all over the world.
This should not be surprising given the fact that the shape and scope of global progress hinges on the growing and sustained promotion (and celebration) of the entrepreneurial spirit as a key factor in social development.
The reasons for this connection can stem from many factors, including the shift away from a pronounced reliance on traditional big business and mass production as the main path to economic growth. This shift, in turn, paved the way for many entrepreneurs to step up to the wicket and usher in the entrepreneurial economy.
Then, there is the predominance of small businesses as the engines of growth in emerging and developing countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China (the BRICs).
Going farther afield, even in lesser developed countries, where economic prospects are typically much fewer, there has been a deliberate shift in national policies to promote youth entrepreneurship and inculcate essential skills and business habits as a way of seeding the next class of business owners.
A Brave New Entrepreneur
Given the above, it is reasonably expected that entrepreneurs will contribute significantly to growth and employment creation across the board and for all players.
While the Gates, Jobs, Musks, Bezos, and Zuckerbergs are few and far between, (and some would argue, rightfully so), this does and has not negatively impacted the rise of the entrepreneur, according to the published figures. If anything, these forebears have encouraged and motivated countless others to take that leap of faith.
And leap they did.
But what does it really mean to be an entrepreneur? Or better yet, what does being one mean in the context of a community, an industry, a nation, or the world?
These days, many people self-identify as a business owner, creator, or founder. While their primary goals and plans may include the drive to commercialise their projects, products or services in order to generate a revenue stream, or to protect a revenue source, for themselves and stakeholders, in light of the critical importance of entrepreneurship in global development, being an entrepreneur has to mean much more.
In other words, being an entrepreneur has to be more than just about “making bank” and “cashing out.” There must be that deep-seated and fundamental responsibility to provide environmental and social benefits at the local level, and over time, as the business grows from strength to strength, the national level.
Considering that the failure rate outstrips the success rate for first time entrepreneurs, whether through incompetence, lack of managerial experience or any experience for that matter, it should never be believed that starting and running is a business is a “get rich quick” scheme. The media is awash with the fates of those who thought that way…and not in a positive light either.
Being an entrepreneur requires hard work, often times just as much, if not more than the average number of hours worked per week as an employee. It necessitates specific skill sets and a commitment to excellence in every aspect of the business. It involves a study of the past with an eye to understanding how the lessons and stories of those who have gone before can affect your future. It calls for creativity, flexibility, and adaptability. It demands sacrifice. It warrants a hunger to succeed. It is defined by the will to stay the course despite obstacles and challenges. And there will be plenty of those.
It even takes a fair deal of luck.
The Duty of the Entrepreneur
Truth be told, it’s hard to be an entrepreneur. The statistics for first timers can be discouraging with less than 1/5 succeeding in the first go, and those who have failed before and tried again having a 1/5 chance of success.
Those statistics only capture the tip of the iceberg. This brave new world, in which we live and must protect, all but dictates that even more falls on the shoulders of those who choose to forge and chart their own destinies as entrepreneurs.
Much in the same way they devise solutions to their individual problems, they are going to be tasked with bringing solutions to the table as the cries for greater social, cultural, and environmental development increase.
Indeed, they already are.
A 2016 HSBC study said 64% of entrepreneurs believe it is their duty to have a positive social and economic impact on society, while 74% regularly invest in worthwhile social good causes in the previous year. Going a step further, approximately 33% contribute to society through volunteerism.
Given the tremendous value that entrepreneurs hold, one can expect that the ask of them will only increase as the years go by. However, in the same breath, the State and Big Business will have to act upon that responsibility to do more to encourage the rise and sustainability of the entrepreneurial class.
More than adding to bottom lines, the proverbial national basket of goods, and generating greater material welfare, entrepreneurs must also be the drivers of solutions to intricate global challenges – such as climate change, immigration patterns, and even money laundering and terrorism.
It’s a brave new world we face and we are going to need brave new entrepreneurs, working side by side with everyone, and not selfishly in the pursuit of their own “get rich” agendas, to successfully chart it.
2019, therefore is a make or break year for the entrepreneur. The more of them that understand this, the more of them that will make it and the fewer to be broken by it.