In a bid to preview this article, I will share with you my views on what a start up is, common challenges experienced and my untold story. I would however start with this quote by Ajaero Tony Martins a successful entrepreneur and investor: “Starting a business is like building a ship and embarking on a voyage, armed with a plan, a map and a team. You will have to sail against storms, unpredictable weather and uncertainty. If your ship sinks, it’s either you quit or you swim back to shore, build a new ship and sail again. A start up is simply a new venture, an organization or a business. Startups are often referred to as Small and Medium Enterprises [SMEs]. There are many definitions of SMEs and these are significantly country specific. SMEs are the bedrock of most economies and they are the key source of economic growth hence they constitute the dominant segment in more countries. In Africa, particularly in Nigeria, they have more than 95% dominance when compared to large multinationals or blue chip companies.
Startupers or entrepreneurs as they are usually referred to [in my generation] experience similar challenges in their setup, deployment and continuity. These challenges can be categorized into three  major lines i. e. Planning, Financial, Strategy and Implementation. COMMON ISSUES AND CHALLENGES Planning – this is salient in the conceptualization process of a startup – according to a popular phrase: “failing to plan is a plan in itself to fail”. Planning is critical in the lifecycle of an entrepreneur. Indeed this is a recurring decimal. Why is planning germane?
It is critical to plan, by articulating the vision and idea which can be regarded as raw [unrefined]. Most individuals come up with a buzz, a sensation and immediately want to hit the road. The reality is such that there is need for adequate planning. This planning entails, charting a course or direction for an identified need or needs. This challenge is mainly in the process of coherently gathering the thoughts and imaginations associated with an idea to a business plan which needs to be done through a proper feasibility. Another area where startupers experience challenge is FINANCE.
In fact for most people this is the most important. Finance is pivotal to the growth or actualization of any idea; it is critically necessary and poses a major challenge for entrepreneurs. I would classify this into two  categories i. e. * Lack of startup capital / initial capital * Lack of access to finance The lack of initial capital is when there isn’t any fund available for the business particularly a la planning and feasibility which will ultimately lead to other sources of finance. The other category is the lack of adequate structures / enabling systems which make access to finance easy.
Thus making most entrepreneurs stuck in the middle having garnered robust implementable information. STRATEGY AND IMPLEMENTATION Most people assume that this is an easy ride, whereas, strategy and implementation having gone through the stages of planning and access to finance is essential. This is where the thoughts on papers need to be adjusted and appropriated accordingly. This phase portends the ability to make or break any enterprise. Inadequate and improper strategy and implementation are the bane of most startups and this is a major topic of discussion amongst business students and practitioners.
OTHER ISSUES: * Lack of entrepreneurial infrastructure * Legislation * Government regulations * Social cultural factors and intentions Having articulated some of the challenges which business people face, one begins to wonder what the solutions are. Alas! Unlike the challenges outlined, there are a plethora of solutions which are unique and exclusive to the individual or group concerned. There are also various available resources online, discussion groups, entrepreneurial development schools like the Business School Netherland etc where guidance and training could be mustered.
MY UNTOLD STORY My venturing into business started at a very young age i. e. the moment I could dial a number on the telephone. In one of those instances, I picked up a phone directory and because of the incessant power problem which still linger today, I contacted Sunlight Limited – manufacturers of candles changed my voice initiated a business call which was eventually sealed up by my mother. In that instance, we were appointed area distributor in Festac Town in Lagos state of Nigeria.
However, there was no adequate planning even though there was a need and obviously it met the social cultural need – where my mummy would recall the scenario amongst family members, friends and colleagues. It made me [us] feel good and I felt I was contributing to the wallet of the family. However for some reason or the other that business failed reasons which are not different from the problems which linger today. The company supplying us folded up. I was too young to under the dynamics. This first thrust in business fueled something in me and I have since that moment seen myself as a businessman.
HARDCORE: I have had my rough patch of these issues having gone through the school of hard knocks however lessons learnt are innumerable but purpose of this article I have narrowed them to the following: INCURABLY AND UNREPENTANT OPTIMISM This is the unyielding spirit which endears us to keep on ticking even when the odds are against us. It is that hope which must drive an individual or group in addressing threats and weakness which are easily not discernable in the quest. This trait is intrinsic in any business endeavour – I often refer to it as a competitive advantage.
Some refer to it as the “WINNERS MINDSET”. PASSION According to a popular business trainer “When you choose to open a business, your chances at success—and satisfaction—are greater if you love the work you do”. Business is faced with a lot of hitches and hurdles which must be sufficiently addressed through optimism however in the course of moving through this route there is an inner resolve fueled by what you love. This is best described in the hedgehog concept of Jim Collins – which is simply simplifying a complex world into a single unifying idea that underlies and guides everything.
He illustrates the idea with the story of the fox and the hedgehog. The fox is cunning, creative, sleek and able to devise complex strategies in pursuit of the hedgehog. The hedgehog, on the other hand, simply defends himself from the repeated attacks by rolling himself into an impenetrable prickly ball. The hedgehog always wins. The hedgehog is slow and steady thus coming ahead in his business. This is possible because he is able to set goals and targets which maybe far reaching however the spirit: PASSION ensures and endears it to achieve results.
CONSTANT SELF IMPROVEMENT AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT This is not a title of academic discourse but an essential trait which should be pursued by individuals and entrepreneurs alike in a bid to improving our everyday life to achieve our set goals and objectives. It starts with “SELF” – which is the operational word. This is further bolstered by the Japanese concept – “KAIZEN” – continuous improvement. The KAIZEN philosophy focuses on continuous improvement of every aspect of our life. When adopted in the corporate setting i. e. tartup, it invariably eliminates wastages, develops effective and efficient systems and processes of operation and creates an opportunity to evolve and innovate new ideas and strategies. LEARNING FROM EVERY MISTAKE: Drawing from a remark made by Thomas J. Watson, Sr. , founder and former CEO of IBM: “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t as all. You can be discouraged by failure — or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you will find success. Successful entrepreneurs are proactive learners who learn constantly and immediately tweak their businesses to align with the gaps noticed or experienced. HARD WORK / SACRIFICE In my world these two are inseparable and are intrinsically linked – they remain the bedrock for the continued survival of any business or venture. Hard work is grunt work – hitting the road, shoving the spade into the soil, it require tenacity, persistency and unusual strength. It takes a lot of this grunt work to make a business survive – people don’t just become millionaires overnight and even if they do, there is need for sustenance.
In conclusion, I recently watched a blockbuster movie “Social Network” which aptly narrates and describes the cycle of startup in these three cycles as earlier elucidated in my opening remarks and I must admit – it was like reliving those experience I had faced – the only difference is that is has turned out to be a billion dollar company – so I will also again retool myself, imbibe the lessons discovered in the process of developing this article. One thing is certain – if you can see it you can achieve it. Let’s rock our world and start making a difference because – You’ve Got It In You!!!