A major decision I made in 2017 was to undertake an 18-month course in Coaching. It is amazing how you sign up for one thing but end up being gifted with so much else that you never anticipated. I have met some amazing people. They are driven, passionate and committed to their causes. They are also as knowledgeable as they come. In my brief coaching encounters I have met young women doing some great things.
They seek coaching sessions because they want to make sure they are doing the right things and I took up the coaching course for exactly the same reason. I wanted to legitimize my trade as a mentor and coach by fundamentally understanding how I was doing and how I could do it better. In a generally sceptical world where people question everything I needed an anchor to lean on for authenticity. We are all out there looking for answers! Coaching makes you punch way above your weight sometimes and deal with issues that you could never have imagined in your normal life. We are all constrained by what we know and what we think we are good at. Coaching is like being under water. If you can float you are able to deal with loads way bigger than you. Coaching, by its nature, helps one to continually introspect, interrogate your strategy, identify and rank choices that lead to better appreciation of your problems. It clarifies where there is doubt or exposes a multiplicity of opportunities you didn’t know existed so as to focus on that one solution from a sequence of several which will deliver the best results under the circumstances.
In the many years of mentoring people about financial fitness it was not apparent to me that being financially fit may not have been a top priority to those people at the time. In their reality, putting money aside was less important than having a baby, changing jobs, getting married or supporting family or siblings. It never occurred to me that even though being financially secure was important in the long run, it was not a priority to those people at that point in their lives.
The question that begs an answer is: How does the coach break through and convince one that saving is important no matter what?? A very simple answer. Make them aware by sharing the principles, not your experience. Make this about them not about you! Let them see themselves in the situation whether in summer colors or black and white. Probe and bring out the conversation they should be having with themselves. Then they will make informed choices.
Since I became a coach, I am often asked what it takes for an entrepreneur to be successful. What is success? The endurance and survival of the company. The growth in sales of the goods and services. The popularity of the services and goods produced by the company; the applicability of the product in solving/ meeting people’s needs. The ability of the entrepreneur to be innovative and creative enough to keep ahead of the demand curve. More importantly the character and commitment of the person behind the idea.
The mushrooming of small businesses everywhere (with some doing the same thing as everyone else) means that we almost all have an entrepreneurial streak in us. What sets us apart is whether we succeed or not. How do we view competition? Do we see opportunity or obstacles? Do we copy what everyone is doing which seems easy or do we remain true to our unique ideas on things?
Most small businesses will not survive competition and will surely die. Your guarantee to survival is uniqueness. Another factor that entrepreneurs battle with is capitalization. Anyone thinking of starting a business must have a realistic funding plan. It is not realistic not to have your own money to invest in what you believe is a very good business proposition. Stake your money in the idea and try to get it going no matter how small. After all, the advice often is to start small. Starting is the opportunity to exhibit what your products are for the buyers to experience it. If indeed they are interested in your product partnering will come easy; they will know what they are buying into. There are different capital requirements for different stages in the business. For example, a beauty salon requires a lower capital threshold than starting a bank. While the two examples are worlds apart, the primary principle is that they are still businesses targeted at a particular segment in the market.
The advent of technology has changed things by leaps and bounds. Computer prices have fallen and software is widely available; some of it custom made and plenty of it free to be downloaded from the internet; and still more software for specific activities can be developed to do just about anything. The Internet is a gold mine for all sorts of information for learning and trading. Add social media to that and we are good to go. There are few barriers. Further the integration of technology with every everyday life makes production of many things possible!
This is the challenge and opportunity that today’s entrepreneurs face. On the one hand, the world market is at your feet with rock bottom production prices and speedy transportation around the world like never before. A global market from India, China, the United States and Australia. The competition is on quality, skills and conformity to standards. Funding has also gone global. The markets are open for easy entry and exit. A good and unique business idea will be easy to attract funding as long as the product is saleable production scalable. So going back to the question of what makes a business successful. Funding is critical to the business. If the idea is scalable this is an attractive business proposition that investors can see including access to global markets.
Whether by design or necessity, I am convinced the time and environment is ripe for this to happen. Technology, Internet, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and numerous other social mediums available are within reach and mostly free or low price to enable participation even from low incomes. As long as one has a smartphone, there are many creative and innovative opportunities to try out something new. The principles of business still apply. Strive Masiyiwa, a regular blogger on Facebook writes that People, Product and Process are the hallmarks of a sustainable growing business. In short, whether you are aided by the current technological conveniences, every business must focus on the client (people); a product that meets a need and is delivered at the right price.
In short, there is no short cut to excellence and knowledge. You have to invest in your business to become world class so that they compete at the highest level. Whether you are in music, medicine, entertainment or developing software applications, the products must resonate with the needs of the market. The young entrepreneurs must complement zeal with real learning and a lot of daily grind to create excellent products. There is no substitute for formal education in your chosen trade. An intimate understanding of your trade is not optional. Not surprisingly, it is this understanding that will give you the edge of longevity in your business.
Lastly, your character. When investors come to invest in your business they are actually investing in you. So if other people are going to invest in you, why can’t you invest in yourself first? Investment in self is necessary (Character building and awareness); this ensures that the company vision is articulated well. It will help you to navigate the competition out there, develop appropriate products that meet peoples’ needs and recruit the right talent to bolster production (efficiency). In short, the front and back operations of the company must be well co-ordinated…by you! I look forward to coaching an entrepreneur who is at the center of a web of innovation and creativity.
As a coach, these are some of the avenues that must be explored. While it is not the job of a coach to offer answers coaches must understand that where is a yawning gap between action and intent, sometimes the chasm must be filled by education. Not necessarily formal but can also include deliberate informal discovery of what one needs to acquire to become better at what they do.
*Note: Beatrice Nkanza is mentor and life coach specializing in Financial Literacy and personal savings strategies for wealth creation.