One of the most popular words in this dispensation is “entrepreneur”. The entrepreneur is becoming a business slogan among people who see it as fanciful and the popular title for people doing well. Whereas a business slogan is to help a company to summarise its product or service offerings to people, create a connection with the customers and drive home a message, entrepreneurship is the act of being productive. We have turned the word “entrepreneur” to a slogan as everyone wants to be an entrepreneur or known as one.
It is not out of context for one to desire to be an entrepreneur. The somewhat inappropriate meaning we have attributed the word entrepreneur is the boss, the freedom of a person to do whatever he or she wants or to have no reporting responsibility to anyone or someone who is “on his own” without taking instruction from any higher authority. It is, therefore, typical for most of our youth and graduates to desire this self-independence even without any concrete vision or product offerings to others. I have seen the so-called entrepreneurs without products or services they are rendering to others but flagging around with saggy trousers claiming to be business owners. We have misused the word entrepreneurship in its real sense.
Entrepreneurship is being productive in rendering services or selling products to others with value for the effort and fulfilment for the entrepreneurs. It could take any form from being self-employed to being in partnership with others or even in the employment with companies or organisations. We have been interpreting being an entrepreneur to someone who set up a business and takes all the financial risk alone. It is out of context to think someone in employment might not be an entrepreneur except he or she is the owner of the business.
Thus, we have people who are career entrepreneurs. They are in employment intending to get to the top of their careers and not necessarily to set up the businesses of their own. They are like the owners of the company in terms of the involvement and contribution to the brand, customer service, bottom-line and often speak well of the companies that work for. One of the attributes of a career entrepreneur is his or her interest to do something extra for his or her employer outside the agreed primary job functions.
A career entrepreneur will invest in herself, pay to attend the relevant training even if the company does not sponsor her, identify the emerging opportunities, volunteer to start a new department and she is a go-to employee. A go-to employee will always be interested in what is going on in other aspects of the company, including the profitability of the business.
In my engagement with graduates either at interviews or during my speaking events, I have noticed the pride of wanting to be known as entrepreneurs even without a concrete value proposition. A graduate once disclosed at a meeting that he would instead be an entrepreneur than taking a job with a company which he considered a low-key and one-person business. My question to him was, sell me the products or services of your entrepreneurship efforts and what you are doing to get funding from some of the notable institutions that support entrepreneurship development? To my greatest surprise, he has no idea of what he wants to be an entrepreneur in, not to talk about looking for funding opportunities. Yet he declined to join a company with opportunities to learn and develop competencies for adding value to the society.
As graduates from the school system, being an entrepreneur is a journey that starts with your ability to identify what you love to do. Your capacity to identify and know the activities that will fulfil you will determine your eventual vocation or career of fulfilment. If you are interested in entrepreneurship, it is better you know whether your interest is in being a social, serial, occupation or lifestyle entrepreneur. The next step to the identification stage is to develop your interest and learn the skills relevant to the identified area of vocation. This might require you working as a staff of some organisations-small or big to acquire the knowledge and industry expertise to start your business.
Many graduates have disdain for small business or one-person entity. It is good to have a big brand on your resume if you are a career person. However, working at the appropriate work environment to gain knowledge and skill, no matter how small the entity is a panacea to becoming a successful entrepreneur in the future. The advantages of working for a small firm are the opportunity to learn directly from the owners and managers of the business, to understand the value chain process and the nitty-gritty of the industry within a short period. And perhaps if the desire to a business entrepreneur changed, working in a medium-size entity aid career growth faster than being in a big entity. After all, one might be better off being a big fish in a small ocean and being an unknown employee with no authority after years of service in a big entity.
My parting shot for our graduates is not to be without alternative skills. There is nothing as job security again but skill security. If you cannot acquire extra skill while in school, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has provided a platform with her Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) Programme. The year of serving Nigeria could be a year of skill re-orientation for our graduates rather than a “Jollof-rice” year for roaming the cities aimlessly.
Finally, as a graduate, do not underrate any employer of labour. Before you turn down the opportunity for the employment, check for the possibility of acquiring a life-long skill in services or products that could be the bastion of your entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is a call to serve others with value and not a slogan for being idle.
Babs Olugbemi FCCA, the Chief Responsibility Officer at Mentoras Leadership Limited and Founder, Positive Growth Africa. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org or 08025489396.