When my maternal grandfather expanded his business in the 1960s, he had to travel across the GCC to ensure his factories and operations were running smoothly. Simple tasks required him to travel back and forth, when in modern times they could have easily been carried out via technology. Comparing how he worked to how I conduct my business today, it’s as if we originated from different planets. It may even appear that I don’t work as hard as he did as I can conduct my business from anywhere – even a resort in the Maldives if I want to – as technology makes it feasible for start-ups to run a business without the need of an office or full-time staff.
In 2016, there was a record 5.5 million private sector business in the UK, an increase of 97,000 from 2005, and 2 million since 2000. Small businesses also account for 99.3 per cent of all private sector businesses and employed 60 per cent of all private sector employees. The UAE Government also aims to boost the SME share of the national economy to 70 per cent from 60 per cent by 2021. SME employees also comprise 86 per cent of the UAE's workforce. However, while SMEs have easier access to the business world and wider tools to choose from, that does not guarantee success. After all, numerous studies reveal that almost 50 per cent of businesses do not make it past the three-year mark. This takes me to an important question: of those 50 per cent that did not make it, how many of the founders were ready to be entrepreneurs?
One of my brothers always has a business idea or two floating around his head, but when I ask him when he is going to do something about them he tells me he is not ready yet; and I respect that about him. On the other hand, a friend of mine does not give herself space to think business ideas through and just dives in. Then when things get heated, she quits. She has launched three businesses that have not yet made it to their two-year anniversaries.
So how do you know if you are not ready to be an entrepreneur yet? Here are a few indicators:
• You are not ready to juggle several roles
While the ultimate goal is to master your empire, to achieve that you will have to wear several hats. At the beginning you may find yourself working 14 hours a day and acting as salesperson, social media manager and chief executive at the same time. In addition, consumer trends evolve and so does technology, which means your role will also continually evolve.
• You cannot handle failure
Entrepreneurship is an exciting journey but it’s definitely not an easy ride. One day you could be flying high and then you face six months of hardship as the economy takes a hit. You could find different areas of the business struggle at the same time, and if you fear failure then you are probably not ready yet.
• You are only in it for the money
Success and money are important – who doesn’t want to be rich? But if you are looking to make a quick buck, then you may find yourself waiting a while. You should start a business because you think you can solve a problem. Do that, work hard and the cash will eventually follow.
• You are not prepared for the stress
I can barely recall not feeling stressed when I started my business. You worry and you can’t sleep, but that is all part of the process. Ignoring stress is not healthy, but taking time off to head to a nice resort may not always be an option either. Instead you need to find a way to cope. For me it is ensuring I have enough sleep and exercising four times a week. For Steve Jobs, the late chief executive of Apple, it was meditation, while Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, takes immediate action when faced with a stressful incident; he either sends an email or conducts a call to those involved – something he says reduces his stress immensely.
Entrepreneurship is a ride full of surprises, not all of them welcome; nonetheless it is one I highly recommend but only when you are 100 per cent confident you are ready to handle both the good and the bad times.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages a branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.
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Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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