Wednesday, July 24, 2024

From Ordinary to Extraordinary

The life of an entrepreneur is not easy. You get sledgehammered by challenges from every possible angle.

When I was a lecturer, life was idyllic and easy. You had a routine. You had just one objective, get the students enlightened enough to pass exams well and get into universities. And you were responsible for just your performance in your job. You teach for like an average of 5 hours a day at most, with some days only needing to clock in 2 hours of teaching time. We had long holidays when the semester breaks come in. Best part of all, you make a positive impact in students’ lives and they remember you with fondness. It was an ideal job with little to no stress.

But I was not happy because I felt life was passing me by. I felt insulated in a bubble, away from the rest of life. Students graduated and become important people in various companies and as I cheered them on from my stable little comfort zone, I wondered how could I get myself my own adventures and test the limit of what I can do. And how far I could fly.

And that is perhaps the most interesting survival instinct we have. To not remain stagnant in our lives and keep learning, doing, being and climbing one step further and one rung higher. To think bigger that where we are and try what may seem impossible.

So when I started my own business and took that plunge, it was all or nothing. I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. At the back of my mind, I told myself I could always go back to teaching – there is always a job for me to fall back on.

It was an adventure alright and not what many think running a business is. It takes every inch of your strength, wit, confidence, faith and resilience to keep going. “Running a business is hiring a good team of people and getting a great group of clients and then innovating to keep growing it,’ they say. There are many books with gurus telling you how to manage people, manage clients, manage growth, and manage yourself. It seems that all one needs to do is have the knowledge from these wonderful books, practise it and you can be on Forbes Top 50 list within the next 10 years.

But that is so not how life works. The books don’t tell you about the hidden heartaches and inevitable disasters. People you train and invest time and effort in will want to try different fields and move on to what they perceive as bigger opportunities. You can’t do anything about it, you just have to bless them and start all over again with grooming the second in command to take his/her place. Sometimes to a new entrepreneur, it may seem personal, but it almost always isn’t. It is the same survival instinct I spoke about earlier and their innate sense of adventure – to try, experiment, learn and evolve into what they believe is their real them. Everybody is on a journey of discovery. Everybody. Even Elon Musk.

Then there is the competition that grows as you grow. Innovating and staying one step ahead of the game is a constant. Being aware of what is needed to stay ahead, and managing a constant inflow of positive income so that your financial books look healthy is an integral part of running a business and an entrepreneurs biggest focus. It’s never just about bringing the business in and showing a great turnover, it has to be perfectly in tandem with quality of service and products that are delivered so that the reputation never dips, and expectations never get side-lined.

This involves constantly evolving products and services to match with changing demands of a rapidly evolving market, while training and managing a team that can evolve accordingly. There will be ups and downs in a company, but through it all the spirit needs to be up.

Then there are external market influences one cannot control. Banks raise interests. Wars start and borders close. Prices fluctuate. Covid happens. Policies change overnight. Companies shut down and go bankrupt and payments get frozen. So agile companies adapt accordingly and agile entrepreneurs and their agile team steer the ship to the safest course through wild and choppy waters.

This is all part of the adventure, a wild ride that sees moments of sheer exhilaration and moments of utter desperation and it is not just for the small companies, it is also for the biggest ones. However, what sustains it all is the passion for that vision that hangs in front of the face like a carrot. The passion that lights the fire, burning through all difficulties and setting us free. That is what makes the difference – to go from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

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