I believe that entrepreneurship is killing entrepreneurship. The current hype, message and approach to entrepreneurship is parasitic, leading to the death of the entrepreneur and eventually the death of the business. I have tried this approach and failed, as have many before me and many to come. A re-thinking about entrepreneurship is needed if we are to reap the rewards that entrepreneurship holds - not just for economic uplifted and inequality, but also for human development.
The parasite business
I have been an entrepreneur for more than 18 years and was lucky to grow up in such a household and today I am involved in entrepreneurial development and business coaching. That does not mean I am the flawless entrepreneur many other entrepreneurs want you to believe exists. It does not. I have seen, experienced and lived through the parasitic approach to entrepreneurship and nobody wins.
Entrepreneurs sometimes wear the the sacrifices they make to their business as a badge of honour. The 80 to 100 hour work weeks. Sending the family on vacation while staying at work. Not eating regularly and healthy simply for the sake of efficiency. This approach slowly depletes the entrepreneur and this is worrying. The entrepreneur is the seed of opportunity. They are the creative force behind the birthing of this new opportunity which has been born in the form of a business. But this approach is slowly killing the seed that sparked it all. It is killing not just the current opportunity, but all future opportunities.
It is near impossible to be creative, curious and entrepreneurial when you have to use sticky tape to keep your eyes open. Or to try to find the energy to solve new problems when you are running on the energy provided by a low priced sandwich you had two days ago.
The business is slowly sucking the life, creativity, curiosity and future opportunity out of the entrepreneur. I remember those days in my life like yesterday, when people would ask me how business was I would bemoan the work load, I would talk on and on about all the sacrifices I made every day in order to have this supposed "dream" I wanted. Deep down, I did not want the business anymore as much as I wanted a job. I felt trapped, I felt frustrated. What was the use of doing this business if it was slowly depleting me of all that I am as an entrepreneur, a person, a social creature, a partner in a relationship, someone with dreams? We sacrifice all of that in the hope of maybe having success one day while the truth is that there is a high chance of this business failing, as well as the next and the next and then maybe the fourth time it will work. If I spend 5 years at a time on a business and I only get stuff really successful after the fourth time I have spent 20 years of my life on that.
If I did the parasitic approach where I sacrifice everything I have done the following. An equal amount of time to become a father, raise a child and have them leave the house. An amount of time many will measure as a sign of a successful marriage. I realised I have a finite number of years on this earth. Why can I not chase my dreams through my business but in a way that gives me life, energises me and strengthens my personal relationships at home? There is a way of achieving this, there is a way out of this trap.
I propose a new approach to entrepreneurship, one that leads to the growth and development of both the business and the entrepreneur. Where the growth of the business leads to the personal and mental growth of the entrepreneur. An approach that positions the business as a building block within the life of the entrepreneur. I am not proposing an end to hard work and putting a lot of effort in during the beginning of the business. That will always be needed. What I am proposing is an awareness and clarity within the the entrepreneur on how this business is helping them become all that they can become. How the business helps them grow mentally, financially, socially and familially. There is an alignment of goals between business and entrepreneur. If the business is successful then the entrepreneur is successful. The business serves the owner as much as it serves the customer. The owner serves the business as much as it serves them. The business ensures that the entrepreneurial seed that sparked its existence is well looked after and will keep on growing. This is a win-win situation that will ensure the survival and growth of entrepreneur and the eventual benefits that entrepreneurship present in this world.
Knowing what your business should give you as the founding entrepreneur is not a natural occurring process. Ask yourself, how many business owners have you met that clearly stated to their business exactly what the business needs to give them? This is where life design comes in. It gives the business owner the opportunity to get clear about what they want from the business. You can then engage in a “dialogue” between owner and business to ascertain how each will give each other what they need to grow and be successful. Stop asking “what should the business give the customer?” and start asking “what should the business give me and the customer?”.
Since I made the change in my own life, having a clear idea of what I want and communicating it to the deals, people and businesses I get involved in have resulted in a different life, a different way of earning and living. This is not where we strike a new balance between work and life but instead where we integrate work and life. Life without work is expressionless, work without life is motionless. I stopped killing myself in my own business, it is possible. Start designing your life and your business together.