One of the things I dearly miss is lecturing an MBA class at the now defunct AIBT Zambia Campus. The other day, I was going through the notes for one of the modules I managed, ‘Managing Globally and Locally’, highly engaging material about managing a business. I dug out one of the courses, ‘Entrepreneurship and small businesses’. One sentence that caught my attention this time, more than it did ten years ago when I managed the course, was about how entrepreneurs are motivated by the internal locus of control.
The reason I found this issue extremely powerful is that I am experiencing it right now. I am living the life of an entrepreneur! I am away from a controlled professional life. When you work for a state-owned enterprise, you have significant limitations in your creative power: whatever you think must be aligned to the broader culture that is symbolically in the hands of boards of directors who, themselves, have no stake in the entity. They define the mission and vision and whatever you do, should be in line with the expectations of a parastatal.
I also worked for a multinational organisation which, though encouraging creativity among staff members, rarely embraced it. Work systems and strategies were developed in South Africa and the template sent to you to fill in. There is also another international organisation I worked for: It was almost impossible to introduce your thoughts in a 70-year organisation, rich in bureaucratic history and whoever joined it had to find space in its cast-stone equation. Like David refusing to take the armour handed to him by Saul in his charge towards Goliath, I also thought twice and exclaimed, ‘I am not used to this!’
Entrepreneurship, when well planned and coming at the right time in your life, can be a huge breath of fresh air. It becomes the stretch of your imagination and, in an environment where there is openness and overall (political and government support), the sky can be the limit. This is when you feel the value of existence and daily feel energised to do something new- unhindered! Three weeks ago, I wrote, ‘entrepreneurship is you’; yes, it’s a reflection of your dream, your personality and your passion.
By ‘Internal’, it means you can make things come out the way you want them to. This is because when you are an entrepreneur, you are motivated and driven by three things:
HIGH ENERGY LEVEL: Entrepreneurs can commit long hours of work without feeling it. At times, I feel as though entrepreneurship, and the motivation that comes with it, is like a dosage of an energy drug. You just want to work and work. You also get overwhelmed with new ideas such that even when you consult your team, no one can stand in the way of your dream. I know entrepreneurs who wake up early, sleep late, cover long distances of flight but never complain; to whom and for what?
All you feel is a strong dosage of energy to do and try new things; choosing your product or service; rebranding and marketing your business; choosing the team that works with you and even how you manage the money. Its in your power to make things happen. Entrepreneurship gives you a more flexible lifestyle as the boss who can determine more realistic hours from which you choose to balance work and family.
NEED TO ACHIEVE: There is also a financial motivation for enterprise. You want to make lots of money and never be shy about declaring it. Your goal is to to achieve financial security for you, your family and those that work with you. To make this happen, you must achieve your business goals by constantly iidentifying new business opportunities. Every day, I see gaps in the market within the line of business I do. I have noticed many Zambian companies want better results from their employees and we are introducing a product to respond to this need. I have spent hours on end studying and perfecting the product before we role it out.
SELF-CONFIDENCE: We grew up dreaming to work for someone. Unfortunately, we spent those working lives complaining about how we are exploited, abused and underpaid. Working for others, albeit extremely necessary, has its own impact on self-esteem. You are always not very sure how long you will last in that job and whether your contract will be renewed.
The brand you so dearly propagate today will be your most disliked tomorrow when you change from one mobile company to another. This condition takes away your self-confidence. However, when something is yours and you see it grow, you have that feel-good factor; some level of satisfaction you are doing what you were born to do. In short, entrepreneurship injects a sense of self- confidence in those that run businesses. Do feel good about your business even if its not making money as at now.