Getting it right
This series on Entrepreneurship is motivated by the need to educate people on how to engage in successful entrepreneurship rather than relying only on job-seeking to earn a living. Most people go into a business without knowing what it takes to be successful, and as a result, they fail. They do not also know that there is a significant difference between being a Business Owner and an Entrepreneur. People and schools also confuse vocational skills with entrepreneurial skills which are not the same. For instance, braiding is a vocational skill, but the entrepreneurial skill lies in seeking to create value by providing a more convenient and affordable means for people to get their braids done. The entrepreneur could commercialise this value either selling braid-wigs which provides instant braids and therefore saves time, or create an app or website where people can request for braiders who can go to braid their hair in the comfort of their homes or any location of their choice. The entrepreneur is therefore more likely to make more money than the braider, because more value has been created and people are willing for it.
Unfortunately, most people enter business more focused on the money alone, rather than meeting needs or providing solutions first. This is what drives patronage and consequently profits. They forget that the customer is only willing to pay for what he or she needs or perceives as value. This profit-first mindset is one of the reasons for early business failure. This series on successful entrepreneurship will therefore focus on the principles that will help all aspiring and established entrepreneurs understand what it takes to build a successful and sustainable entrepreneurial venture.
It is the wish of most university graduates to get a fantastic job upon the completion of their studies. This is however gradually becoming an illusion as there is an increasing shortage of employment opportunities. Education in entrepreneurship invariably becomes a safe-guard to ensure that the graduate is guaranteed of earning a living after school because they are enabled to explore both the option of being employed or becoming an employer, by starting a business. The point here is on the fact that the school curriculum should not limit graduates to “job-seeking” or “I beg to apply”.
Unfortunately, for decades, the failure rate of venture backed start-ups has been 75-80%, and in more recent times, the rate has risen to 90%. This points to the fact that there is a problem with the way people are prepared for business since the failure rate continues to grow. Considering that SMEs employ over 80% of the working population, the imperative of equipping individuals with the ability and skills to be successful entrepreneurs becomes more urgent if we are to ameliorate the present challenge of unemployment. Consequently, effective training in entrepreneurship is an urgent imperative, says Dr Henrietta Onwuegbuzie, Senior lecturer in Entrepreneurship and the Academic Director for the Owner-Manager Programme at the Lagos Business School.
The Nigerian Bureau for Statistics notes that over 33.1% of youths are unemployed and another 22.1% are under-employed or underpaid. When you add to this, the number of those who lost their jobs during the 2016/2017 economic recession, we find that a very significant proportion of the population in their prime, have been left idle. Worse still is the fact that some graduates earn as low as N25,000 to N40,000 monthly, while several barely educated artisans like tailors, hairdressers and carpenters earn, well over N100,000 monthly, with traders making the same amount daily. This questions the ability of the current school curriculum to position the average graduate to earn a decent living. Not too long ago, the Dangote group advertised job vacancies for Drivers and received applications that included first degree, Masters and PhD holders. Further, the poorly paid Police force, received one million applications for 10,000 vacancies. These examples show that whether it is for the sake of reducing unemployment or for individual well-being, we have to understand that current system of education is both inadequate for today’s job-scarce society, and sub-optimal, as many educated people now earn far less than uneducated traders, artisans or entrepreneurs. Very few people have jobs that can provide them with a decent standard of living.
Onwuegbuzie also noted that recognising the consistently high failure rate of startups, exposes the need for a more effective preparation to ensure higher success rates of entrepreneurship. While this has been widely recognized at national, state and communal levels, unfortunately, the most frequent belief is that money will solve the problem. There is evidence that it has not done so, and is not likely to do so, because training, mentoring and if possible, apprenticeship, need to come first. Funding has a part to play in supporting businesses, but it is not the first or only ingredient for business success. Many significantly successful businesses today, started without money and have gradually grown in leaps and bounds. People need to understand the magic of starting small, while thinking big. In the subsequent articles to be released in this section, we shall be discussing topics like why entrepreneurs fail; why some entrepreneurs are more successful than others; and critical steps for successful entrepreneurial outcomes. We shall also feature entrepreneurs, who will share their entrepreneurial journeys and will analyse their stories to highlight key learning points that can inspire and guide upcoming entrepreneurs.
Dr Henrietta Onwuegbuzie is a globally certified Management Consultant and a Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Lagos Business School: Twitter: @honwuegbuzie; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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