The learning entrepreneur
I HAVE read quite a lot about small business owners who are able to make the shift from running a survival entity that pays a few bills to those that become genuine entrepreneurs who build something of real value.
What I have found quite interesting, though, is that many young entrepreneurs in particular are so sure that their way is right that they don't seek help when they want to grow their business.
Then they sit there burning through their limited capital and quickly start resenting the business they built. Often the only solution they have is to work harder and longer, rather than smarter.
In the last few weeks I have seen two businesses where an outside set of eyes and three phone calls opened up two brilliant opportunities they would not have considered possible.
I've let this idea roll around in my head in the last few days, trying to work out why these small enterprises have not been able to focus their attention on the opportunities. I came to the conclusion that they are so busy running the business that they stop learning.
They stop learning who the key industry people are, they stop learning about new technology and most importantly - they stop learning how to network.
I very often attend the entrepreneurs forum events at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (Gibs), which feature a number of recognisable South African entrepreneurs. I always look around the audience and wonder what it is that motivates them to give up their evening to come and attend.
Some of the presentations definitely border on the line of weird and wonderful, but I am always impressed by the number of people who spend time after the event simply networking with others in the crowd.
Tap into the best and brightest around you
One of the the things I have noticed is that many of those more successful entrepreneurs spend a lot of time networking, learning and exchanging ideas. I guess it ties in with the advice of "surround yourself with people who are smarter than you".
Recently leading tech venture capitalist Justin Stanford published 10 things he has learnt in business on Facebook and one of the issues he touched on was the entrepreneur who is always learning.
I thought this line was fitting: "When it comes to advice, think about where it's coming from and use that as a colour filter to adapt how you incorporate it in to your own personalised and ever-developing approach and body of knowledge.
"For instance, how would you extrapolate and incorporate into your thinking financial advice from somebody who is financially successful vs somebody who is not, or marriage advice from a person in a happy marriage vs somebody with several divorces behind them?"
Here is a lesson for entrepreneurs. If you are serious about moving beyond a survival business, you need to embrace the idea of tapping into the network that is around you. It can become a very powerful thing when you have strong people recommending your skills or services.
So I guess my challenge to small business owners this week is simple. Ask yourself if you are running a business which is just surviving, or are you an entrepreneur who is building something that is going to be of genuine value?
If the answer is survival, then there is nothing wrong with that - but don't kid yourself that a surge of new business is going to come pouring in.
If the answer is building something of value, you need to start embracing the idea of learning and growing the network that is going to take you to another level.