At the start of this year, I wrote an article, Starting an SME isn’t easy which introduces the topic of the challenges faced by SMEs (Small and Medium Businesses). Little did I know at the time, what life had in store for the world in 2020. On 30 January 2020 the World Health Organisation declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern after the detection of a coronavirus disease in China the month before, which it named COVID-19 on 11 February 2020. An outbreak of the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been experienced since that of The Spanish Flu of 1918. What a blow that has been to world business, and what a damaging role it has played in adding to the list of challenges faced by SMEs, especially those that are start-ups or fledglings (less than 5yrs old ). For a business to stand a chance of success it needs to overcome various challenges. The challenges listed in the SEFA and SASME Fund Inaugural FinFind Report, include: Access to Finance, Limited Business Skills, Legal Compliance. I believe that soft skills support (for the entrepreneur) need to be added to the list.
Since embarking on the journey of entrepreneurship myself, a saying I have heard said and have since come to know very well is that “Entrepreneurship is a lonely road”. In his YouTube video, Entrepreneurship is a Lonely Path Roberto Blake speaks of something I too believe to be true, that “when you are an entrepreneur, for the most part, even if you have collaborators, friends and family who understand, or even a relationship partner, the reality is that most of your decisions, most of your successes and failures, are going to fall squarely on your shoulders and your shoulders alone and you are going to have to carry that, you are going to be in this, for the most part – by yourself.” This fact makes entrepreneurship daunting for most people; the through of having to go it alone.
Don’t let the challenges faced by SMEs cause your business to meet the fate of Dr. Black in the murder mystery game Cluedo, who finds himself killed by Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room with a candle stick.
I do not for a second believe that entrepreneurship is a game and neither am I lightening the complexity of the challenges faced by SMEs by using an analogy of a game. Elbert Hubbard said “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” So, throw your hands in the air and tour a serious topic in a fun way with me.
If you have never played the game of Cluedo, the object of the game is to guess who killed Dr. Black, where and how. Turning that game on its head, I propose that your business need not meet the fate of the proverbial murder victim, but rather be surrounded by characters that will support and in that way strengthen it to be the best you build it to be.
Firstly, for its survival, I propose the business needs The Visionary Strategist – that would be the entrepreneur. For the entrepreneur to be successful, he / she needs:
- Miss Scarlett – The Cheerleader
- Professor Plum – The Minister of Finance
- Rev. Green – The Pragmatist
- Colonel Mustard – The Team Mates (for high-fives)
- Mrs. Peacock – The Coach
These individuals or groups of individuals form the support that will hold the entrepreneur up and off the ground or up away from the crashing waves of the rough seas of being a small business owner.
Self-doubt. To an entrepreneur (or aspiring entrepreneur), that word says it all and I need not say more, so I won’t say too much. A weak team will feel like Hercules if they have the right cheerleader. With everyone telling you that you can’t (and sadly, that may be those closest to you), you need just one person telling you that you can, and doing so regularly.
The Minister of Finance
Whether you start your business after years of planning and saving, or out of necessity because there was no other way for you to earn an income, it is not uncommon that your financial resources will be depleted. This is normally where small businesses fail – when the cash flow runway abruptly ends. Having a financial sponsor to act as guarantor when you need it, will put your mind at ease (even if just slightly) or allow you those extra weeks or months to bridge the gap and allow for the business to enter a rhythm of a smooth running cash flow cycle.
The Oxford English dictionary defines a pragmatist as “a person who is guided by practical consideration than by ideas”. This person can at times be seen as ‘the mood dampener’, however the visionary, a.k.a. entrepreneur – if they are good at their job as visionary, need to be brought back down to reality occasionally. The pragmatist doesn’t crush the dream, but guides the entrepreneur to take one step at a time, which will improve their chances of success. Every actuality has its time and firstly we must crawl before we walk before we fly. The visionary would expect to be able to fly without taking the required growth steps in between.
The Team Mates
These are fellow entrepreneurs with whom one can share the joys and pains of entrepreneurship. Social Psychology suggests that human behavior is influenced by other people and the social context in which this occurs. Nothing says community louder than someone feeling your pain. A community can be established through finding coworking space or joining business forums (in person or virtually).
Sometimes, the challenges one needs to overcome to unlock their true entrepreneurial potential require the skills of a professionally trained psychologist, life coach or religious leader. Tough decisions need to be made at various stages of this entrepreneurial journey. Making the right decision for you and your business is in most times best done when you seek the assistance of external, skilled support.
In her article entitled The lonely road of an entrepreneur and how to overcome it, Aramide Abe’s 6th point on surviving the loneliness of entrepreneurship is to remember who you are. It struck a chord with me because it is very easy to lose yourself on this journey and remembering who you are and what you believe in, will be like that blurry flickering light in the distance. By keeping you eye on it, you will eventually get to it and marvel in its light and warmth.
Aramide ends off her article with the words “stay authentic”, and to that I add:
surround yourself with effective support.
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We have several articles on how to build a successful small business including, How to survive and thrive as a SME, Tips for Managing your Staff Working from Home, Businesses: How to Survive the Coronavirus Panic.
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Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.