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Are you open for business?

REALISTIC: Asamoah says budding entrepreneurs must accept that running a business is hard work

ARE BUSINESS leaders born or made? It’s a question that has been around for a long time. Sonia Brown talks to accredited business advisor and marketing and training consultant Laurence Sofowora, principal partner at Uplifter Associates and Denis Asamoah, founder and CEO of TheNetLocation, the UK’s official graduate and young professional network, to find out if it’s talent or mindset that is going to give you the competitive edge in business.

Laurence Sofowora has worked with small businesses for nearly two decades and is passionate about supporting entrepreneurs to accomplish their financial and personal goals.

In the current business climate he believes that it is going to be very difficult for many professionals to make the transition from being salaried employees to entrepreneurs because many will have been working in environments that do not encourage innovation, creativity and strategic thinking, qualities that are crucial for success in business.

“Having the right mindset for business needs to be either cultivated or you just need to have the appetite to make it happen,” says Sofowora. “Look at the environment a person is coming from because this will determine their mindset. A positive, go getter with a can-do attitude is more likely to succeed and have the leadership behaviour required to run a business rather than someone who believes that the world owes them something or is conspiring against them.”

PROFESSIONALS

Sofowora believes that if professionals who have decided to work for themselves and run their own companies don’t have what it takes to re-engineer their mindset then they will be amongst the 50 per cent of businesses that fail within the first five years.

He recognises that, even with this change of mindset, budding entrepreneurs will still need support such as strategic mentoring and networking which can prove vital in the early stages of a new enterprise. However, with the closure of organisations such as Business Links and the Regional Development Agencies, business support has moved online. But Sofowora says it is offline support that gives entrepreneurs the competitive edge.

“The biggest challenge with the government’s mentoring schemes is that many start-ups will not be plugged in and if they are, meeting once a month will not be sufficient. If you don’t come from a background where you were in business or know successful entrepreneurs, then it will be difficult to relate to the mentor giving you the support because you are not comfortable with them.”


POSITIVE MINDSET: Business adviser Laurence Sofowora

He says that in addition to having a positive mindset, new business owners must want to push themselves to achieve and get connected with established networks that can help them reach their goals. He also warns people against using all their savings to fund the dream of running their own companies.

“They need to be innovative in their approach, whether that is working part-time while running their business or seeing if they can get a soft loan because it’s impossible to get grants now,” Sofowora advises.

Graduate and business owner Denis Asamoah agrees that a positive mindset is a critical part of entrepreneurship, especially for young people. “Since the launch of my business I’ve learnt that you’re never too young to start,” he says. “I would say just do it, as the only real failure in life is the failure of not trying. More importantly I have also learnt the importance of networking – it’s not what you know, but who you know. Environment is critical because if you hang around with the wrong crowd it means you set low expectations for yourself. It’s important to try different things until you know what you want to do when you are older. That is what I did and once I found what I was passionate about, I realised I wanted the freedom, creativity and wealth that only enterprise can give you.”

REALISTIC

He continues: “A lot of people think they want to run a business but in reality they want the security of a 9 to 5 job and that’s why they don’t commit when starting out. You have to be realistic that growing a business is hard work. It’s long hours and you don’t have the same resources that you took for granted in the workplace, so you have to practice deferred gratification. You cannot spend recklessly because in the beginning you won’t be paid at the end of each month.”

According to a number of studies, fear of failure is one of the main factors that hold people back from self employment. However, Asamoah says that professionals need to understand that once they go into business they need to be resilient, learn how to deal with rejection and bounce back.

“People are surprised that not everyone likes their idea. You have to build your business in the background, put in a contingency plan and once your business is making enough money then you can take a measured risk and work full time in your business. It’s about being committed to doing activities that create the opportunities that will grow your business especially if finance plays a key part.”

He further advises: “If you want to become a successful entrepreneur go for it! It doesn’t matter where you are from, background or age. It all depends on you. Bill Cosby says success doesn’t come to you, you go to it. In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure. Failure makes and breaks people, but if you want to become a successful entrepreneur you have to learn from your mistakes, be committed and work hard!”

The Net Location is a forum for graduates and young professionals. For further information visit: www.thenetlocation.com

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