Lisa Illingworth of FutureproofSA posted the following question on LinkedIn a short while ago.
The burning question I have for fellow entrepreneurs today: what is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you became an entrepreneur? I’m interested to see what you wish you’d known before starting a business.
Since the mid 80s I have been employed a couple of times but for the most part I have been a solopreneur or partner in businesses with my spouses. Yes, 2 husbands, 2 businesses plus several side hustles.
The biggest mistake I made and I have done it several times (some of us are slow learners) is to keep ploughing my own resources into a business.
With a family business it is even more dangerous as both partners put all their rapidly rotting eggs into a single basket. Separating business and personal relationships is also extremely difficult.
We become entrepreneurs because we don't function in the corporate world, we don't like being bossed around, we believe we can sell, or do whatever, better than anyone else.
Entrepreneurship is touted as the antidote to unemployment which I believe is a mistake. Some make it but the vast majority don't. You need business skills, enough cash to survive at least 6months without digging into your savings, and a support network.
I have a brain that never sleeps and up until I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficity Hyperactivity Disorder) at the age of 51 in 2006, every "brilliant" idea at 3am was a perfect business opportunity for me. By 6am the business plan was fully formulated (except for the financials - ADDers do not do money) not on paper but in my head.
It was only when I did the Living ADDventure ADHD Coaching Programme in 2006 that I began to understand that not every idea was a business opportunity. Being easily bored with a wonderful imagination and an overdose of impulsivity, my life had been a roller coaster of careers and failed businesses.
Just as I have learned not to respond to emails at 3am which are inevitably damaging, I use a system of mind mapping to properly analyse my ideas before they run away with me.
Here is a little tale about a narrow escape.
In 1999 I decided I wanted a typical English garden in an area of my Gauteng smallholding. Of course a typical English garden required garden gnomes if it was to be truly authentic.
Well, according to me it did. The problem was that there were no gnomes of the size and type that I wanted available in my area. All I could find were small insignificant ones or even worse tacky plastic ones.
This should have rung a warning bell in my head but no it didn't. Instead I saw this as great business idea number 23 978!
What do you do when you have a great business idea? You research it of course. The internet was fairly new and we had a slow dial up connection but I persevered. I was a woman on a mission. Dave doesn't call me a "warrelwind" (Afrikaans for whirlwind) for nothing.
Whoopeee! I found a supplier in the UK who made concrete moulds and was willing to sell them to me. This was proving to be a doddle. Almost without drawing breath I planned my manufacturing facility, created a few spreadsheets about how I was going to market them and my bewildered mind bank account was overflowing.
Why had no one else done this before? Precisely Pat! Why hadn't anyone done this before? Because it was a stupid idea, garden gnomes were not in fashion, NOBODY WOULD BUY THEM!
Fortunately for my family a measure of sanity finally prevailed when I did the costings to ship these monstrously heavy moulds from the UK to South Africa.
If I am 100% truthful the real reason I abandoned the plan was because they would have to be sea freighted. This could take 2 – 3 months and by then I would have been on to business idea 365 854 and long forgotten why the hell I had ordered them.
Sometimes we need to be saved from ourselves.
Give me a shout if you have ADHD and would like to learn how to manage it better.