Nigeria has over 36 million businesses in the MSME category, this is over 99% of the Entrepreneurial workforce, Small Enterprises account for about 68,000 plus while Medium Enterprises are a little above 4,600 (nigerianstat.gov.ng SMEDAN report 2013). These are a lot of people who are branded as entrepreneurs but with little or no training. The maxim by Mark Twain that success comes from making good decisions, and good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from making bad decisions expressly describes these set of individuals. They are not deterred by failures or past personal experiences, but they keep forging ahead with their passion and drive to succeed.
From Insurance, we know that the cost of insuring a vehicle or health may never materialize, but it helps to sleep better at night. When it does materialize, whenever it does, you are grateful you had the cover. Similarly, the cost of education for entrepreneurs is an insurance cover that is more likely to materialize for entrepreneurs than pregnancy will materialize as delivery for the expectant mother. If entrepreneurs can plan, learn, and invest some time into understanding the rudiments of business and financial management aspects of the same, it would be a most profitable investment.
I tell people that there is a University of the streets, which charges a premium. And if its certificates were offered any value, many entrepreneurs who are doing well today may have multiple professor degrees, on the back of how much they have coughed out in needless losses to the Registrar of the University of the Streets. N50, 000 will get you a certificate course or diploma in many federal universities, if losses of N50, 000 would account for a diploma in the US (University of the Street), think of how much people have lost to learning reactively. Many entrepreneurs can offer you tales of losses ranging from N50, 000 to N5 billion. The right training or certifications would have prevented some of these losses. There is a lot of value we can get in setting up systems that technically insure entrepreneurs through proactive training. Any intervention that addresses this massive community, that is responsible for employing over 84% of the labour force (The total number of persons employed by the MSME sector as at December 2013 stood at 59,741,211, representing 84.02% of the total labour force – SMEDAN AND NATIONAL BUREAU OF STATISTICS COLLABORATIVE SURVEY: SELECTED FINDINGS (2013)) would create massive economic growth.
What do we need to train entrepreneurs on? What is the skill gap observed in entrepreneurship? These are valid questions, questions that experiences have helped us create answers to be able to make a difference. The assumption that many entrepreneurs make before starting, is that the only requirement they need is technical mastery at their trade of choice. A Medical Doctor believes that he is well equipped to start a Hospital and health services business, a lawyer decides to venture into the legal business. A consultant feels, haven did this as an employee for years, who better to provide this service that I’m so skilled at? Traders feel that buying and selling, and having a good shop will command traffic. These assumptions are usually the beginning of many years of failure and frustration, in a battle where many entrepreneurs sink, stagnate and a few win the lottery. There are plenty of non-technical areas, where many entrepreneurs need to learn and build capacity to be able to grow their businesses and maximize their profits.
The first one, which I’ll dedicate the remaining part of this article too, is understanding who an entrepreneur is. Understanding entrepreneurship and who an entrepreneur is will guide entrepreneurs to know where to focus their energies, what to look for, and what capacities to develop.
An entrepreneur is a visionary, who is able in the face of imminent risks, to bring resources together intelligently in ways that allow him or her to harness opportunities profitably and sustainably. Now, this is a definition from the streets of doing business. A breakdown of these qualities reveals what the focus of an entrepreneur should be.
An entrepreneur must be skilled in the art of spotting opportunities. The main distinguishing factor between career people and entrepreneurs is the ability to see possibilities. He or she must be committed to continuous learning to sharpen their skills and improve their vision. We live in a country that is awash with problems, complaints, and grumbles. I daresay there is no better environment for testing ideas or solving problems. Finding the opportunity behind the problem is what differentiates entrepreneurs. What do you see? What is possible? You don’t need to have it all figured out. You need not be a doctor to own a hospital. Entrepreneurship begins with seeing correctly, and the next step would be analyzing the risks, evaluating the resources required, and crunching the numbers to see if the venture is worth the investment or not… To be continued