Yes, this title is deliberately sulphurous… And yes, dear reader, you are still about to read an article dealing with the great trend of the moment: entrepreneurship.
It’s everywhere… On TV, any news program that respects itself must have a forum dedicated to start-ups. In radio channels, these innovators of a new kind, often very young and with tech products, are jubilant. And what about the many fairs or forums around the creation of companies?
Rereading the previous paragraph, I can’t help but pout… I’m getting old and sour… Don’t be embarrassed to have thought about it: indeed, it is.
Dear reader, far be it from me to lecture you or discourage you. However, I have been professionally active for more than a decade and more than 80% of my income comes from self-employment. That’s why when I read some things about entrepreneurship, I can’t help but cringe times…
I’m sure of one thing: I would probably never go back to the classic CDI. But I’m also sure of another thing: the many myths about starting a business do more harm than good.
Starting with this one.
1/ The entrepreneur is released, issued
Que nenni! Dear reader, if you plan to become an entrepreneur to work only when and if you want to, you put your finger in your eye…
Technically, it is true that in the absence of a hierarchical superior, there will be no one to shout at you. It is also true that nothing will force you to get up before 10 a.m.
In fact, it is something else entirely. You will no longer have one but hundreds or even thousands of bosses. Taxes will knock on your door every end of the month, your employees will expect a lot from you and especially your customers will hold your life in their hands… Disappoint them and they will lead you to ruin through harsh criticism or by going shopping elsewhere.
By setting up your own business, you have the power to create without limits. But as Spider-Man’s uncle said so well:
“great power implies great responsibility”.
If you’re not willing to make some sacrifices, don’t go down the path of entrepreneurship.
2/ Bigger is better
The success stories of giants such as Alibaba, Amazon or Facebook make you dream… Dear reader, I know that somewhere in your head, you dream of being the next Bill Gates and that’s good… But not everyone will create the next Apple and that’s just as good.
Just because your product doesn’t (yet) have the power to lift 25 million people out of misery doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Yes, your target market is your borough of residence, so what?
You can probably imagine it from my writings but I want to clarify it: I am anything but a fan of start-up culture.
What I deplore is the race for big numbers. No sooner is the product/service more or less viable than the entrepreneur is pushed to raise funds… And not small budgets sir, here we play in the big leagues. As if for a project to be good, it had to require millions to even penetrate the market…
What I regret is this race for numbers and medals. Since when do we open a company for the sole purpose of convincing business angels,winning pitch competitions or winning titles?
It is quite possible to start a business with a small budget and turn it into a multinational. Paradoxically, this is what most models of start-up culture have done. And today, those who take them as examples dream of raking in millions before they have even sold 01 items…
3/ Young people are the torch of entrepreneurship
Yes I know… In your mind, business creator = 21-year-old Marck Zuckerberg coding Facebook in his student room… Even if I have a certain aversion to the Business version of this social network,I must admit that the storytelling of the company is excellent.
I don’t have official figures to give but I think that Marck Zuckerberg’s epic has greatly motivated young students to embark on entrepreneurship.
On the other hand, what I can give figures on is the reality on the ground. Dear reader, you are beginning to know me. I like statements supported by concrete evidence. And let me tell you that you may fall from high…
In Cameroon, according to a report by the National Institute of Statistics (INS),35% of businesses are created by people aged between 30 and 39 and 23% by 40–49 year olds. In all, 53% of businesses are launched by 30–49 year olds. So we are very but really extremely far from the myth of the revolutionary entrepreneur of 22 years…
If you are Cameroonian, I know what you are about to tell me: “Cameroon is Cameroon”, “this country has been confiscated by people of the 3rd age for a very long time… , “elsewhere, things don’t go that way…” ,etc. So let’s go explore what is being done elsewhere.
At the end of 2019, Guidant Financial published figures on American entrepreneurship: 60% of companies are opened by people between the ages of 40 and 60. In France, if we rely on the figures of the site economie.gouv.fr,the average entrepreneur is 38 and a half years old.
If you drink the front pages of magazines like whey, this data may surprise you. If, on the other hand, you observe the entrepreneurial scene with more pragmatism than utopianism, it is not a surprise. Entrepreneurship is neither the miracle solution to unemployment, nor a way to create an immediate income. Before launching your business, you must develop specialized skills in a specific field, weave your relational network and especially put money aside.
Which brings us to the fourth point, that of the painful.
4/ Money doesn’t matter
FALSE! Money is crucial to success as an entrepreneur. You need money to ensure current expenses, to pay your providers and incidentally, not to starve.
So, I know… Today, with crowdfunding & co., it seems easier to launch your business.
Nevertheless, I would like to make it clear that the company that started with 0 francs does not exist.
Even to test a concept online, you need money. How do you think you will have a website, a professional landing page and maximum reach? One of the best ways to stay poor is to refuse to look money straight in the eye… Add to this a certain denial of reality and you will understand why the poor remain poor.
Without becoming stingy, it is impossible to properly manage a company if you are uncomfortable with the numbers.
5/ To succeed, you must be accompanied
This part will be a little special… It may shock many of you, which is why I kept it for the end… I’m far from stupid: if I had placed it at the beginning of the article, you would have slammed the door from the first lines.
Dear reader, in this section I will put a special emphasis on incubators.
I’m not a fan ofthem (yet!?)simply because I have trouble seeing their real impact.
Before you file your machete and slash me virtually, let me explain.
Two of the best things that have ever happened to me in my life is to participate in the Cameroonian Leadership Academy (ACL) and to be selected at the YALI Dakar.
In the first case, I learned so much about myself as a person… In my way of acting with others, I can say that there is a before and after ACL.
What about YALI Dakar? Words fail me to say how much this training has opened my eyes to my company…
When I returned from Senegal, I understood what was wrong, how to remedy it and above all I had a very specific plan of attack. I did a total redesign and by applying the lessons learned, I was able to create Careness that works better on all levels.
How many entrepreneurs incubated in an incubator can say the same? Dear reader, I don’t know how things are going in your country and I would be more than happy if you told me in comments, but here in Cameroon, I don’t feel that incubators are really productive.
How many of them can say, “Here’s a start-up we’ve mentored. Today, it has become a profitable business”? . On the other hand, how many young people in these structures can say, with figures to back it up: “Since I was incubated at X, my income has increased by Y%?”
A year after I started selling massage candles, I had written a review article in which I talked about the big dream bad guys… Unfortunately, many incubators fall into this category. They need start-ups to have partners, sponsors and therefore money — because yes, the promoters of these spaces have to live, which is perfectly normal.
The problem is that on the other side, the project leader has neither the technical support that had been produced, nor the mentoring or the connections that were promised to him. If apart from pitching his project left and right, he does not do much, it is because there is a serious problem.
And, unfortunately, from what I have seen, this is what happens in most Cameroonian incubators.
So yes, “alone we go fast but together, we go further” provided that the collaboration is of quality. Otherwise, do not forget this other adage: “it is better to be alone than poorly accompanied”.
Did you start a business and what did you learn along the way? If you frequent an incubator, how do you feel?