One of the most critical skills you will need to acquire is time management. The saying “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week” is the gospel of entrepreneurship

It goes without saying that in Botswana, small businesses (also known as Small, Micro and Medium-sized Enterprises or SMMEs) serve as one of the economy’s key drivers of growth.

The good: The sector is said to contribute an estimated 75% of formal sector employment, making it the highest employer than any other sector.

The bad: The sector contributes only 35% to Botswana’s GDP.

The ugly: Harvard Business School shows that 75% of all start-ups fail. This means as the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development funded 847 companies to the tune of P101 154 046.30 last year, 636 of those businesses will fail. That’s a success rate of only 25%.

 The ugly face

Before you quit your day job and decide to venture into the unknown, you may want to first of all seriously consider what you will actually be doing. Dropping out of school will not make you a Benny Thomas (owner of Brightstone Mining, Benchicks Investments and Palapye Shell Filling Station, among others) and neither will quitting your job necessarily position you to be the next Gaothogwe Radikwata (owner of two Barcelos fast food franchises and a mining prospecting licence, among others).

While of course we have rare exceptions, a 25% success rate suggests that you are far better off getting your degree and working your way up the corporate ladder until you are in a better position to handle the risk (having enough savings or investments to support you). For the first few months, and most probably first few years, in monetary terms you stand a better chance of making more money working as a cashier at a supermarket than you will ever make selling your new products or services. Lean start-ups are called lean for a reason.

Blood, sweat and tears are engraved in the DNA of any business success. In order for one to make it in business, one needs to master self-motivation because there will always be dark days where one will ask oneself why one quit one’s day job. In the beginning, you will always need to be Superman. As much as an ‘entrepreneur’ is said to be described of as a VERB and not a NOUN to describe someone, it should also not be thought of as a singular job. This means you will often be driven to be multi-disciplined and wear many hats before you grow to have a team. You will need to be the CEO, CFO, CIO, CMO, the driver or messenger, the administrative clerk, the receptionist and so on.

According to research studies, a mammoth 82% of businesses fail because of cash flow problems and your entrepreneurship venture will not be exempted. This means you will not have the luxury to be purchasing your dream car or building your dream house any time soon should you wish to make your business more sustainable. You will need to master the art of bootstrapping but be careful to not drive over the edge of cost saving.

One of the most critical skills you will need to acquire is time management. The saying “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week” is the gospel of entrepreneurship. While you think you now have 24 hours a day to do as you will, it will no doubt imbalance your work-life and spill over to public holidays and weekends. Being your own boss in a start-up often means you don’t have anyone to do the work for you.

This is often stressful in addition to the million things that need to get done, especially when you discover the fallacy of the business plan that we were taught in school. In a start-up, the business plan needs to be seen as a research exercise that is regularly updated with customer input and market developments in order to make it remain relevant and useful. You will often be forced into accepting that the theory you learned in business class will not necessarily present itself as steps 1,2 and 3 boxing you in a corner and causing you to think outside the box.

The harsh reality is that being an entrepreneur can – and will – be rough around the edges. What is worse is that failure is part of the success process and requires a shift in the mindset of the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs fall and what makes them is their getting up after each fall, taking each failure as a tested and tried roadmap to their success. While it’s easier said than done, meekness is required to survive the humble beginnings. Faking it until you make it sometimes is a smile one must wear and sacrifices will need to be made with no guarantee of success.