An entrepreneur, according to Dictionary.com, is defined as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”  Forbes goes a step further to state that ‘entrepreneurs find a need – any need – and they fill it’.

An entrepreneur is said to be a money multiplier – they invest to gain rewards, but at the end of the day, they run businesses.  What is the point of a business if it’s not going to make a profit?  In that case it’s not a business, it’s a charity, or a non profit organisation or maybe even a non-governmental organisation.

The reason I’m banging on about this is because I’m not sure if the point of being an entrepreneur is really understood in Zambia.  Some of my clients think I should lower my prices or discount everything for them because they work in developmental work and so I’ll be aiding in national development if I do this work for free!  Erm, no, I’ll be aiding national development if I am successful enough to provide jobs for other citizens of this country and pay taxes (more than I pay now due to more revenue :)).

Or the other day I was told about a three day event from a foreign government to learn about how entrepreneurs can aid in sustainable development.  I was baffled.  I costed out the potential lose of business to the company – as in my line of work, everyone’s time is charged out – and the outcome of this venture was for the business to understand its role in sustainable development?  Not the potential to win a really large contract?  Not an opportunity to pitch a sale?  Not an opportunity to showcase our work (so that we can attract new clients)? Potentially an opportunity to network (which is never a bad idea, but can be done in one day).

 It got me thinking – is it that we have a different role as entrepreneurs in Zambia?  Is entrepreneurs seen as the new darlings of development, the NGOs and non-for profit have had their day so now it’s all about the cute, fuzzy entrepreneurs cropping up around Africa trying to make it on their own?  

 Ok perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, I’m sure the thinking behind these entrepreneur workshops are well intentioned, and maybe if the workshop was specific to my industry, or just a bit more clearer on its objectives as a whole I won’t think of it as so ‘insulting’ to my entrepreneurial spirit!  

 I guess it came at a time where I was just angry, angry at how difficult the path is for an entrepreneur with challenges that can’t solely be solved by workshops (though you can make great connections).  Unless the workshops are targeted at real business challenges that all SMEs face, about operational cash flow, about access to finance (and not the BS ones the bank tries to sell you), on management, on product development, processes and whatever else entrepreneurs get caught up on, it’s just time away from growing my business. 

 The entrepreneur in Zambia is not applauded, despite the fact that in our economic climate, it might be the only way to go, it’s certainly not easy to get a job!

 Though with some of the young people out there, who think it is easy to get a job, maybe this is why being an entrepreneur is not such a big deal.  I have had two young people work with us recently, who frustrated me no end – it’s amazing how kids today can say they want to be the best of the best and then not actually do the work or learning to make them the best of the best.  Anyway, there was a real disconnect, as if they were doing us a favour by working here!  In fact one who left recently was totally chuffed that they were going to work as a PA for a start up they know nothing about!  It was like being here was a holiday, and now they suddenly have a real job.  I shrugged my shoulders, thinking was I really than vacuous at 21?

 Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I believe that we’re the best of the best (yet), or the number one choice place to work (yet), or the super successful, trail blazing business (yet), but hey, I do know potential when I see it!  And I think for some businesses maybe those type of workshops are necessary and important for them, they’re just not for the type of business I want to be.

 Ok perhaps if they asked me to speak at the event I would have gone 🙂  Seriously though, I think when you set out to run your own business, you have to know what you’re in it for, and there are lots of reasons to run your own business that aren’t based on profits alone, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, if your business isn’t making a profit, and it can’t sustain your needs, then why have the business?

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.  It’s hard, it’s long hours, it’s emotionally draining and there is so much failure involved.  But it’s also fun, rewarding, and life affirming!  I just wish that people in Zambia would regard it as a serious endeavor instead of some new craze.

 Oh dear, am I beginning to sound just a little bit too angry?!

Advertisements