Seven tips before you take that leap of faith
What you need to think about if you intend to transition into the world of entrepreneurs
The other night I was at a friend's birthday party. As the weather grew more pleasant later in the evening, I stepped out of the house into the garden for some fresh air and ended up in a very interesting conversation. The lady I was talking to is a well-known entrepreneur with businesses spanning the GCC, Europe, South East Asia and beyond.
Having heard of her walking away from deals which I, as a transactional lawyer, thought would have been lucrative investments, I asked her what she looked for when she wanted to buy a business and the reasons she would walk away from a seemingly good deal. I also asked her what it takes to survive in the big bad world of business.
We were joined by another female friend who owns a successful printing and publishing business which is transitioning into the digital world. The conversation started to get really interesting.
It's always insightful to peer into the mind of an entrepreneur, particularly those who are established in their arena. It's fun to hear how they think and what makes them tick. Taking the actual risk is, in my view, easy; living with its consequences is not. Turning a business that is failing or nowadays, one that is traditional and can't keep up, is even harder. So many businesses die due to lack of funding, poor business acumen, partnership disputes, and, of course, as a fallout of an economic crisis that shows no signs of ending.
In today's technologically savvy world where the traditional corporate hierarchy is set to crash and liquid workforce will become the norm, more and more women are seeking to be entrepreneurs and "disrupters". To be clear, my definition of entrepreneur is someone who sets up an enterprise from scratch and who manages and assumes the risk of that business or enterprise.
I regularly sit on success and leadership-related panels at various global and regional conferences and forums, and I marvel at the stories I am hearing and the kind of women I am meeting. Closer to our region, we have recently seen women successfully setting up hugely sought-after e-commerce platforms and recruitment organisations for an agile workforce, taking their family businesses into digitisation and modernisation, and implementing many more great business ideas.
Which brings me back to my conversation with my lovely lady friends the other evening and our discussion on what you need to think about if you intend to kick it all up and transition into the world of entrepreneurs. My seasoned entrepreneur friends say (and of course I add my comments, as I can never resist making a point):
Rule 1: Build on your skills and strengths, deeply research your subject matter and know your target audience/market.
Rule 2: Speak to your target audience (at least a sample) to see what they think about your idea and if they would buy your services/product.
Rule 3: Consider how long you can survive without any compensation (and save up accordingly); a business plan that factors in a whole year of startup expenses is a must so that you can keep it realistic and understand how much investment you need to make in "black and white".
Rule 4: Consider if you need to raise financing, including how much you can raise and the terms of and time for repayment (If finance is not your strong point, get help sooner rather than later).
Rule 5: Are you a "soloist" or are you geared up to be in a partnership? If the former, you need strength, resilience and skills; if the latter, you need to be sure that you and your partner complement each other's strengths (Hire a good lawyer to draft a joint venture agreement; disputes often arise both when you are making too little money - and when you are making too much).
Rule 6: Ask yourself some hard truths about how you handle failure. Have you tried at something and failed before? Did it energise you to try again or did you end up having a nervous breakdown? Chances are you will feel that you are failing before your venture starts to succeed and you need to be fully prepared for this (Failure is overrated. And why do you need to fail when you can simply learn from what others did wrong around you? At the moment, there are plenty of examples to choose from).
Rule 7: Take time to think, meditate. (I have never managed to take more than a week off between ventures, so good luck with this one; as for the meditation, it truly works).
My rule: When all else fails, go to law school.
The writer is partner in the law firm of Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla in the UAE. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
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