we traders or entrepreneurs?
At many a forum analyzing strengths and weaknesses of the Sri Lankan
business sector or when comparing the focus, the commitment to pursue
niche export and local market opportunities and the pursuit of sustainable
competitive advantages the question often asked is – Are Sri
Lankan business persons traders and not entrepreneurs? The book
titled “Business as Unusual” authored by Anita Roddick,
the founder of the Body Shop provides an effective check list that
the Sri Lankan private sector can use in answering the often asked
never set out to be an entrepreneur, I’d never heard of the
word and I was not interested in its definition. But since those
early days I have had plenty of experience of the ups and downs
of entrepreneurship and I’ve met many other entrepreneurs
I have liked and admired, so I feel I can discuss the subject with
a little authority. After a quarter of a century trying to reinvent
business, I’ve come to the conclusion that the qualities you
need to be a natural entrepreneur include a combination –
at least – of the following: -
vision of something new and a belief in it that’s so strong
that it becomes a reality. Vision-making is also obsessive, a type
of psychopathology. It is inherently crazy. If you see something
new, your vision usually isn’t shared by others.
* A touch of craziness. There is a fine line between
an entrepreneur and a crazy person. Crazy people see and feel things
that others don’t. An entrepreneur’s dream is often
a kind of madness and it is almost as isolating.
* The ability to stand out from the crowd because
entrepreneurs act instinctively on what they see, think and feel.
And remember there is always truth in reactions.
* The ability to have ideas constantly bubbling
and pushing up inside until they are forced out, like genies from
the bottle, by the pressure of creative tension. But all these ideas
are nothing, of course, unless someone can expedite them, which
is where you thank God, or the gods, or both, for the people who
have that skill.
*Pathological optimism. Everything is possible for
an entrepreneur. This extraordinary level of optimism bears no relationship
to any degree of planning
covert understanding that you don’t have to know how to do
something. Skill or money isn’t the answer for the entrepreneur,
it is knowledge from books, observing or asking.
skills. Most of the entrepreneurs I’ve met have had an innate
desire for social change. They understand that business isn’t
just financial science, where profit is the sole arbitrator; it
is just as much about taking part in political and social activism,
using products as conduits for social change. That gives entrepreneurs
enormous freedom to experiment with what they want, but it also
makes them dysfunctional in hierarchies and inert structures.
course it’s easy to talk about creativity, but in essence
it remains a mystery to me. I have never heard or read anything
that explains how people behave creatively, despite the fact that
we constantly glory in human creativity. Einstein said “Imagination
is more important than knowledge’. Dali claimed: ‘You
have to systematically create confusion, it sets creativity free’.
Maybe creativity is magic, maybe it is bestowed by the gods, maybe
it is just polished opportunism. I just don’t know and I’ll
probably go to my grave not knowing.
ability to mix all these together effectively. For me, becoming
an entrepreneur was a consequence of simply trying to blend the
skills I possessed into creating a livelihood. I learned by experience.
So I don’t believe you have to go to college and study at
the feet of some nutty professor of entrepreneurship.
you have to ask questions of everyone, and never stop asking questions,
and knock on doors to seek as many different opinions as exist.
Then you have to make up your own mind and plough your own furrow.
I have never read a book on economic theory or business theory and
I don’t intend to. It’s not theories that interest and
excite me – it’s the doing that keeps me going.
every entrepreneur is a great storyteller. It is story telling that
defines your differences.
checklist certainly indicates that the common belief that Sri Lankan
business persons are often not entrepreneurs but mere traders is
correct. If, being an entrepreneur is not something that business
schools can teach, as stated by the author then the way forward
is to follow role models and for business leaders themselves and
the chambers to lead others by example and hand holding.
writer could be reached at - firstname.lastname@example.org)