Opening a Business and Keeping it Open (1)– The value of research

Opening a business is not the same thing as keeping a business open. There are two sides to every successful entrepreneurial activity: establishing a business and sustaining it. These two aspects of the functions of an entrepreneur are distinct and require different strategies, attitudes and orientations to accomplish. In other words, opening a business and keeping it open may sound alike or even tautological but there is a big gulf between the imports of both words. They are two sides of a coin that may look alike but actually have very little in common.

Those who have attempted to set up any kind of business may have discovered that certain steps are critical in the process of founding a company. Every successful start-up begins with somebody desiring to have a place in the driving position of an enterprise – somebody anxious to lead a team, achieve results and leave a legacy. Acquisition of knowledge in the field of business into which the entrepreneur intends to venture is a beginning point. On the other hand, to keep a business open, meaning to keep it running and successful, somebody is desirous to work very hard; usually with deferred gratification. These two activities demand different mindsets and aptitudes.

To open a business requires knowledge of the trade. The ideal take off point is to do some research into that area of business, with an eye on one’s own personality. To research into oneself is to cross check one’s capacity and character to follow through the business. The research is not only into the business but also into the founder. Otherwise, one may start a business only to discover he does not have the staying power or the mental and physical wherewithal to keep the business open. A lot depends on the extent to which the nature of the business agrees with the character of the entrepreneur, when it comes to keeping the business open. This preoperational research is sometimes misunderstood to mean just a study of the business with regard to the market situation – what may be termed an environmental scan, to determine existing players, market size, concentration ratios and such. These details are important but they are just a part of the things the entrepreneur must find out before he takes any action. Another equally important part of the research is the one he must carry out into himself. Anybody who wants to start a business must evaluate himself to find answers to certain questions regarding his personality and capacity to run the business.

In trying to find out why you want to set up a business, you also get the answers to some other preliminary questions. For instance one should also from this outset be sure of the kind of business one wants to run: what kind of business should you go into. Once you can explain why you want to run a business, the next thing to do is to be sure of what drives you. What is your passion? This will also reveal your capability with regard to expertise and staying power. An entrepreneur must look into his mental, physical and financial capacity to set up the kind of business envisaged. This includes the capacity to find the capital if it is beyond his personal savings, the usual first port of call in the search for initial capital. Essentially, environmental scanning should include self-scanning. In this regard, the entrepreneur should view himself as an element of the equation that must be in harmony for the successful birth of the business. This aspect is very crucial because it reveals whether one is actually ready to be an entrepreneur.

Many businesses have failed on account of the inability of the founder to effectively run the business he successfully launched. Successful entrepreneurs have certain characteristics, which are not evenly distributed among men and women. They are always ready to defer their gratification. Some businesses fail because the founders do not realize the virtue in allowing the animal to mature before milking it like an adult cow. They go after the benefit entailed by their new office as founders rather than the work in the office. Successful entrepreneurs take the labour first and ask for the pleasure when the animal they raised is old enough to withstand several milking rounds in a day.



Emeka Osuji