#1 - I don’t have all the information and knowledge I need to start a business
One of the biggest reasons many of us will never start a business is because we want to first be certain before we take action. Have you ever wondered why many of the smart people you know are not entrepreneurs? We think we know why. It’s something (a syndrome) we like to call ‘analysis paralysis’. It’s a condition many of us suffer from that makes us want to know everything and have ALL the information about a business before we start. We analyse our business ideas so much that we end up very confused and often too paralysed or afraid to start.
Over-analyzing a business idea can often lead to paralysis. In the end, you’re just too afraid to take any action.
The good (bad) news is, you will never know everything or have all the information you need before you start a business. Of course, you will have to do your homework; only foolish people walk blindly into a business venture. This is why entrepreneurs are known to take ‘calculated’ risks. Calculated risk means that rather than allow the things you do not know to stop you from taking action, you start by working with the things you know. Focus on the half-full part of a glass of water, not the half-empty part. It’s your perspective here that really matters.
Starting a business is like driving your car to work. You know where you want to go (your office) but you’re not totally sure about the condition of the road that leads to your destination. There may be serious traffic, pot holes or diversions due to ongoing construction work on some parts of the road. As a result, there is no way to ‘absolutely’ to be certain beforehand of the nature of your route to work. In spite of our poor knowledge, every morning, many of us still get on the road knowing that whatever challenges come up, we will find our way past them. We may need to use alternative routes to beat the traffic, drive carefully to avoid pot holes or call the office to tell our boss we may be arriving late due to a road block. However, in our quest to start a business, we behave quite differently. Many of us never get on the road because we want to know exactly how many pot holes and road blocks there are before we start the business.
Because you cannot be certain about everything before you start a business, you need to have a plan. A business plan allows you to put your thoughts together and disciplines you to focus on your destination. It helps you to anticipate the road blocks, pot holes and traffic on the road to your destination (business success).
All the entrepreneurs profiled in the Get Inspired section of smallstarter.com didn’t know everything about the businesses they were getting into until they started. A couple of them lost money, others made mistakes. The most striking feature of their success stories is that they learned from their good and bad experiences and used the knowledge to improve and grow their businesses. Knowledge is important but it is action that will determine if you ever start a business in your lifetime!
#2 - All the great business ideas are taken...
If lack of a great business idea is your favourite excuse, think of innovative and cheaper ways to fix an existing problem; find a need that people have and see if you can satisfy it; copy or recycle an already successful business idea and make it better (Facebook did it!); inspire yourself with the success and ideas of other African entrepreneurs. All of these and more are some of the interesting ways to find good business ideas according to our popular article: 3+ Guaranteed Ways to find profitable business ideas in Africa.
Lack of a good business idea could be a good excuse and may be true in other parts of the world but not in Africa. We live on a continent that is neck-deep in problems and challenges. There are countless business opportunities that exist in solving our problems of hunger, unemployment, disease, poor education, insufficient electricity and several other problems. In a previous article, we looked at eight serious problems facing the African continent that provide lucrative opportunities for entrepreneurs who can unlock them.
We live on a continent that is awash with business ideas and opportunities. The sad thing is, many of us (Africans) do not see many of the opportunities that lie under our noses.We may be blind to these opportunities but the rest of the world isn’t. Every year, thousands of Americans, Europeans and Asians come to Africa in search of investment and lucrative business. We have barely scratched the surface of the business ideas and possibilities on our continent.
For as long as we live on a continent where many basic needs are still not being met, it is a bit too early to complain about a scarcity of ideas. Maybe it’s a lack of imagination or creativity, or good old laziness on your part but you just have to stop using the excuse that ‘all great business ideas are taken.’ You should check out our Browse Ideas section to explore some interesting business ideas you can use. Our Get Inspired section also contains profiles of some successful African entrepreneurs who started small and were once just like you.
#3 - I don’t have enough startup capital
Lack of capital is one of the most popular reasons why many African entrepreneurs have not started a business. It’s true that life is hard in many places and cash is tight. To make it worse, banks prefer to give loans to big businesses and will often not look your way as a small starter. Many a business dream has been unrealized because of lack of capital. Does this mean that all the successful entrepreneurs around you got their startup capital on a platter of gold? We don’t think so…
Tanzania’s Patrick Ngowi, who now owns a million-dollar solar energy business, started his entrepreneurial journey with $1,800 he borrowed from his mother. Colin Thornton, who owns ‘Dial A Nerd,’ a South African computer service company, had to borrow 5,000 Rand (about $1,000) from friends and family to start his small business in his parents’ garage. Today, his company is valued at several million dollars and has grown very rapidly in size. We can go on and on with many more examples of successful African entrepreneurs who found a way around the ‘no startup capital’ excuse.
We are by no means saying that a lack of capital is an unreasonable excuse to not start your business. We are only saying that it’s not as bad as many of us make it seem. If you are a guy, we want you to think back to a time when you wanted to buy a lovely birthday present for a girl you were deeply in love with. You knew you didn’t have enough money to buy this lovely present but you still had to make it happen. In the end, you very likely were able to ‘find’ the money to buy the gift. How did you do it? If you are a lady and you’ve found this lovely dress that you love but do not have the cash to buy it, what tricks do you employ to get your heart’s desire?
The passions relating to love, survival and business success are no different. Experience shows that humans are willing to break down walls and jump over mountains if they are driven by very strong passions. How badly do you want to start your own business? Is your passion for entrepreneurship strong enough to convince your friends and family to invest in you? Are you motivated enough to endure the long and often tedious processes involved in applying for and getting a small business loan from your bank? Especially in Africa, getting the capital you need to start a business can be tough. Only the determined, who are prepared to do what it (legally) takes will get it.
In a recent article titled: ‘REVEALED! 10 guaranteed ways to raise the capital you need to start up and grow your small business,’ we looked at some innovative ways to get money to start a business. Some of these sources of startup capital like banks, friends and family are well known to you. However, business plan competitions, partnership and angel investors are some of the underexplored sources of startup capital in Africa. No matter your excuses, these sources provide millions of dollars every year in start up capital to aspiring entrepreneurs like you. You should try them out and see what you can get. What have you got to lose?
#4 - I’m waiting for the right (perfect) time
This could be the perfect excuse if you are still a student waiting to finish your secondary or university education. We also find that this is also the preferred excuse for most people who are already employed but dream of quitting their job one day to turn that great business idea into a successful business.
Well, the thing that happens with time is that it never stops for anyone. Time is a moving train with brakes that do not work; it cannot and will not stop or wait for you to get on board. Today may be a perfect time to do something you’ve always wanted to do. There’s no guarantee that tomorrow’s conditions will be as good as today’s. Bottom line: there’s nothing like a perfect time to do anything. If a perfect time exists at all, it would be NOW!
The excuse of ‘perfect timing’ is probably the single deadliest killer of business and entrepreneurial dreams. ‘Waiting a little longer’ is very tempting because it is convenient and allows us to delay making our tough choices and decisions. Many business dreams will be buried and forgotten in the sands of time because many of us keep waiting for the right time to turn that brilliant business idea into a business.
Some people want to wait until they finish university before they start something. Ope, Deji and Lekan started Jobberman.com while they were still at university. They used their spare time to work on and fine tune this brilliant business idea. Soon after they left school, they jumped straight into this business which has become Nigeria’s Number One job search and recruitment portal. Today, Jobberman.com is a lucrative business that has attracted funding from some of the world’s top investment firms and has won several awards. What if they just waited for the ‘right’ time?
Another interesting example is Lorna Rutto, who quit her comfortable banking job in 2009 to start EcoPost, a small plastic recycling business. Her business uses plastic waste collected from dumpsites and garbage bins across Nairobi (Kenya) to manufacture fencing posts. Lorna saw an opportunity to start an interesting business and, instead of waiting for the perfect time, she made the hard decision to quit her day job. Today, her business has generated more than $150,000 in yearly revenues since it started and has saved over 250 acres of forests in Kenya! What if she delayed the decision a little?
The truth is, many of us will delay the decision to start a business until we never make it. Life happens; we get married, have children, get comfortable and avoid ‘risky’ ventures. In the end, we are likely to blame the problems and distractions in our lives for the chances we did not take. Successful entrepreneurs make their own perfect timing; they don’t wait for it.
#5 - What if I fail?
Well, what if you succeed? Why have you chosen to see this glass of water as ‘half-empty’ instead of ‘half-full’? The fear of failure is the most crippling reason why many of us will never start a business in our lifetime. We admire successful entrepreneurs as if they knew from the beginning that they would succeed. You should know that they had the same doubts like you do. They all feared for an uncertain future, an irregular income and total failure.
What if you fail? What if your business idea doesn’t sell or work? While these are very important questions, you may never know the answers unless you try. In the world of entrepreneurship, success and failure live in the same house. If you’re afraid of failure, there’s a very thin chance that you will ever taste success. How do you win a boxing match if you’re afraid of entering the ring?
Business is all about risk. That’s why entrepreneurs are known as ‘risk takers’. Make no mistake about it; there is an element of risk in everything we do in our daily lives. Walking or driving to work (or school) everyday is risky. Have you really thought about it? What if a car comes out from nowhere and crashes into you? Is it possible? Of course! Did you let that fear stop you from getting to work (or school) today? Definitely not! You still left your house this morning knowing that the risk exists that you may not return.
Starting a business is like writing an exam. You cannot read the examiner’s mind to know what questions will be asked but you still show up and write the exam. You took a risk; but a calculated one. By studying hard for the exam and practicing some questions on your own, you were able to increase your chances of passing the exam. And what do you know, most people who study hard usually pass exams. To pass or fail an exam, you have to write it first. The same rule applies to starting a business. How can you know you will fail or succeed if you don’t start?
Like the hardworking student who studies hard for an exam, a smart entrepreneur must have a business plan. A business plan is a guide that often helps to reduce the chances of failure in a business. A student who has prepared well for an exam is more confident about her abilities to answer the exam questions and adapt to any ‘surprises.’ The same confidence applies to an entrepreneur who has taken the time and applied some discipline to prepare a plan.
My most favourite quote that inspires me in times of fear comes from one of our continent’s greatest icons - Nelson Mandela. It goes: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nobody else could have said it better!
What excuses have you been giving yourself lately? Let’s talk about it. Don’t forget to share this article with your friends and colleagues using the Facebook, Twitter and Google+ buttons below. You might just inspire somebody today!