The confidence trick

Feb 23 2011 22:17
Marc Ashton
EARLIER this week, leading small business expert Allon Raiz posted a comment on his Facebook profile asking a question which I thought was quite thought-provoking.
"How much responsibility does the media have in developing the right entrepreneurial role models for our youth to emulate?"
Basically the comment was that the media makes much of "get rich quick" entrepreneurs, which potentially creates an unrealistic idea of what being a small business owner is all about.
It resounded with an Invenfin executive, who remarked that in his opinion too many young technology entrepreneurs make a big deal in the media about the fact that they have raised funding, but less noise about the hard yards that go into running their business.
I don't think it is any secret that South Africa has one of the lowest levels of total entrepreneur activity in the world, and one argument for this is that not enough is done to highlight entrepreneurial ventures.

South African kids don't grow up wanting to be entrepreneurs. "The media should be writing about entrepreneurs!" people will suggest as a remedy for this.
Fair enough. But then the question is what kind of entrepreneurs do South Africans want to read about? Do you want to read about the 20-something tech entrepreneur, whose business does not actually make any money but is flavour of the month in the social media circles?

What about Greg Secker, the dollar billionaire forex trader? Nelson, the trader who sells tomatoes on the side of the side of the road and supports a family of three?
To Allon's comment, I think people love the idea of getting rich quick. It convinces them that they could wake up tomorrow, chuck in their job and just hit that magic moment when money rolls into the account and the flashy cars and lifestyle follow.
One thing Allon has always said is that as he grows older and more experienced, he has also learnt skills that mean he can execute strategy far faster than when he was younger.

Seasoned heads know best
This is perhaps where the media should be focusing more attention. What lessons can entrepreneurs learn from the mistakes made by other small business owners?
Asking the 22-year-old for his take on the IT industry and latest technology trends may be interesting, but bearing in mind that he was in high school when the dot-com bubble burst he doesn't necessarily have the experience to to say "haven't we seen this before?".
Already in the last few weeks experienced people are pointing to things like the valuations attached to Facebook, Tencent and other big name tech stocks, and mumbling that these things have been seen before. Maybe we should be chatting to the entrepreneurs who lived through that heyday and can identify what went pear-shaped.
The business landscape and tools might change, but at the end of the day running a small business comes down to one simple factor - buy for one and sell for two.
At the end of last year, we had a lot of fun reading about the real heartache experienced by entrepreneurs who now feature prominently in magazines and on business websites.

Entrepreneurs living on R5 a day or not having money to put petrol in their car when suppliers hadn't paid them are things many South African entrepreneurs can associate with.
I would love some input in the comment section below as to what kind of entrepreneurial stories you would like to see posted on Fin24, and to give us some ideas of the people who inspire you.
Signing off this week, I thought I would leave you with a quote posted on Twitter earlier this week by Ronnie Apteker, one of our older and perhaps wiser IT entrepreneurs: "Time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time."
 - Fin24
entrepreneurship  |  small business



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