I want to talk about why you should get a job before setting out as an entrepreneur. Or better explain as to why you should never get a job. Oh, pardon me. I just want to play the devil’s advocate and not to put you in a box. I had never been in a 9am-5pm type of job until I got into my international fellowship in Washington DC United States and had an opportunity to work with an international development company as a ‘Business development and Partnership fellow’ for 1 year(thanks to the Atlas Corps, States Department, and the White House). Well, I worked as a freelance consultant with a couple of companies, job shadowed my mentors and volunteered as project leads to some non-profit organization while I maintained my status as an entrepreneur- but I must be sincere with you, ‘it was a lonely journey.’ Now I feel obliged to share 10 reasons getting a job before setting out as an entrepreneur looks cool in comparison to threading the lonely path of entrepreneurship.
My mission isn’t to force you out of business to get a job as an employee but to help you know what you are missing, and ultimately prepare you for the journey. I am a strong believer in ventures creation and I think we all will do better if we start up early. But when you know what you are into, you stand a higher chance of survival.
Starters Financing: We all know what it looks like when you leave college and university; you can no longer depend on your parent totally. Right! You need an apartment, you need to buy things, nice clothes, you want to go out with your girlfriend, get some cool stuff for yourself and in fact, get your first car. The bad news is that you can’t use your business profit to do most of these things. When you are under a very tight budget, you go low. Going low has a way of killing your moral. Well, the best option here is to get a job if you’re not willing to sacrifice and pay the dues. Imagine you have someone pay those basic bills for you! Like a parent somewhere, at least for the next 3 years while you focus on your enterprise. Well, that is a fragment of my imagination. Many of us never had one- so we looked somewhere for some other stream of income. I spent 2 hours per day doing something somewhere that gave me some small funds. Like facilitating some training for other companies. Whatever it is, you have to pay the dues and stay on course. Well, the beauty is that once you start as an entrepreneur you will learn to be lean and self-sustain on little or no funds. I don’t know if that is a good thing but it explains why I lived in the expensive Washington DC for 5 months on 200USD per month while my good friends couldn’t survive on 700USD. I have learned to be very frugal for 4 years. On the other hand, once you start making money, you adopt an expensive life and it’s tough to go back to the bad days. An instance was when I visited my friend in Zenith Bank; her chair broke down and was replaced within 10 minutes. Unfortunately, if I don’t have money, no one replaces mine.
Pride: If you can’t walk into a room with all the charisma, and sell yourself fast- – then you are dead. Entrepreneurs only have 7 seconds to say something or they are kicked out. I quite remember a good day I went with my best friend to the movies. We both walked up to some old girlfriends, excited and willing to talk, grab some drinks and share. He said, ‘I am with Mckinsey.’ and the room went quiet. The cutest girl in the room said, ‘oh-oh, that’s my baby.’ Well, I melted for 5 seconds. I was blocked out. That is what you miss when you are a start-up entrepreneur. Back to the business settings- you can’t quite parade yourself as a professional because people rationalize your competence by the age of your company. That is the hard reality here! Being an entrepreneur doesn’t just teach you to be very volatile and flexible, it teaches you to stand tall in situations like that- you learn to introduce yourself and sell quickly. While my friend paraded himself a Mckinsey consultant, I quickly used that opportunity to introduce my company’s presence in the United States and noted that we are moving fast across West Africa.
Experience is the best friend: I have had this debate many times and I am just yet to convince the world that the best place to get good experience is a start-up. It’s all work under pressure. You learn to compete with the big dogs. In fact, its either you compete or you are completely blocked. When I started my entrepreneurship journey, I was the everything in the company. I would wake up very early to drop training materials at our study centers, come back home to shower, pick the customer calls, respond to all the emails including the one I opened for a ‘hypothetical PA’, manage the finance, be the CEO and also the vice president. I did everything. That’s the best place to learn. To adapt and adjust- it’s called volatility. Unlike working with big companies, no one teaches or guide you in the office(that’s if you even have an office). You teach yourself by watching every youtube videos on your limited internet data. You read all the articles to find answers to your questions. You do not just learn how things work, you create a model and it becomes a code. The things you learn as a professional working with the big companies are basic coded encrypted and started by start-up entrepreneurs. They started every bit of it and now they are called best practices. On the other end, entrepreneurs miss the lessons of scale. I have a friend who was teaching me how to set up training rooms for big companies. Well, I am a bush boy. I had always set the room for small companies that play on a low budget. Isn’t that why I brought in my partner, Gideon? He’s got good experience working with bigger brands and we can use his experience.
Network and Professional Trust: Being an employee gives you an opportunity to connect with lots of people. As many people the company can connect to, you also have access to them. When I was in the business development team of Creative Associates in Washington DC, I could literally tell anyone in the office to connect me with anyone I wanted to meet. Unlike a startup entrepreneur who has never worked as an employee, you don’t have to build your contacts and networks for yourself. When you move from a job to a business, you can do well to leverage on the name of your company for a while. You can even do business with some old clients. You know what the exit emails do? It’s huge leverage. That email you send to everyone in your contacts when you are leaving a company asking them to connect with you personally- that is the start of something good. But for a startup entrepreneur in this context, you have to start from the scratch. One good thing you can do is to have a board of very experienced professionals. That can at least help you jump the hurdle.