Back to basics: We cannot all be entrepreneurs

I remember how years ago when the craze of motivational speaking took over our landscape, people were blatantly lied to that everyone could be an entrepreneur. I shook my head, cautioned as many as would listen to me, and warned that this was a very bad lie.

Expectedly, there were those who responded to me with the argument that everyone could learn entrepreneurial skills and become great business pushers. I remember speaking at a number of events and telling participants that they were either entrepreneurs or they needed to partner with entrepreneurs. I have repeated this at tech events ad nausea.

Fast-forward to 2013, and here we are with many who ventured into the entrepreneurial space having gone bust, their fingers burnt, and I am observing how the mantra is gradually changing. Experience is such a good teacher. People are seeing first hand that not all of us are entrepreneurs, and that not all of us have business skills or can learn them.

Saying that anyone can learn entrepreneurial skills is like saying that anyone can learn to code, learn to fly a rocket, or learn to split atoms. That is just so stupid. It is so stupid that no-one should ever have believed it. We all have different leanings.

There are those who will never be able to draw a tree properly, no matter how much devotion they put into it. At least, they will never be able to master the art of drawing well enough to be regarded as professional artists. Sure, anyone can learn certain basic things pertaining to entrepreneurship, but that wouldn’t make them any more entrepreneurs than being able to fix a light bulb makes anyone an electrical engineer.

There are those who will never be able to handle the business side of things on the scale required to build business organisations. And there are those who will never be able to understand more than a few lines of HTML, much less code extensively in PHP or in anything else.

Being a great web developer does not translate to being able to run a successful web development business. One thing is involved in the former – web development skills. Two are involved in the latter – 1) web development skills, and 2) business skills.

Passion for (and skills in) a field is one thing. The ability to turn that passion into a thriving business is another. If you have a passion for something AND you have (or can master) the entrepreneurial skills to get it going, blessed are you. There are not many people like that. Find out as early as possible whether or not you are like that, and if you are not, do yourself a favour and hire or partner with someone who has those skills. Do so, or find out later that you have believed a lie.

We cannot build sustainable businesses if we do not get the basics right. The very basic is that you understand your capacity and look for the right people to plug any holes that you are incapable of filling. No; we are not all entrepreneurs, and we can not all be entrepreneurs. Those motivational speakers sold people a very dumb lie.

Motivation is a good thing, and I have nothing against it. But peddling falsehood and misleading people is not acceptable.

What was most amusing about listening to those motivational speakers then (from a distance where I stood) was how most of them had neither run a business nor obtained any training in business management or administration, but were able to pass themselves off as authorities in entrepreneurship. Do you have a skill and want to build a viable business with it? You might not need to be the CEO. That sucks? Yes. Save yourself the heartache and get someone with the right skills to fill that need if you are unable to fill it yourself.

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