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Businessman Or Entrepreneur?

September 02, 2018

Happy 9th Month everyone!


It is September 2018 already, and yes, I am still trying to figure out where the other eight months went to. Honestly speaking, it feels like it was just a few weeks ago when we were wishing each other a Happy New Year. As of two days ago, its eight down and four more to go. Question is, what are you intending to do with the remaining four months of this year? I sincerely hope you haven’t lost your enthusiasm to go after your dreams and goals for this year. Like I have been saying since we reached the second half of this year,  you still have the remaining months of this year to go. Make them count instead of counting the months that have already passed. I believe you can still do something in the remaining time that could send the trajectory of your life onto a totally unexpected direction all together. So don’t give up but stay focused.


Today my article is going to be slightly different from what I’ve been writing. I have decided to take this opportunity to address a question a lot of you my readers have been asking me in the recent past. It seems like there are quite a number of you right now who are aiming at becoming entrepreneurs. However, it seems like most of you are wondering what it takes to become an entrepreneur. Well, I may not have the answers you are looking for, but I will try as much as possible to shed some light into this area without confusing losing you. Well, I don’t promise not to confuse you, but I do promise to give you a lot of things to think about by the time you are done reading this article.  So come with me along this journey and hopefully, by the time you read the last word you will be in a better place than you were before you started reading this article.


So, shall we? Here we go...


Before you venture into anything, it is always good to prepare yourself with all the necessary tools, information, details about it, to avoid falling into traps that could have otherwise be avoided. That is why to start with, I suggest we find out who an entrepreneur is.


According to Business News Daily, one definition says, “an entrepreneur is someone who has the courage to commit and persevere through all of the challenges and failures they are likely to encounter while pursuing an idea”.  Hmmmm... that sounds like a WIFE to me. Sorry, I digress. Forget I even said that. 


Going back to the definition of entrepreneur, according to my usual online dictionary, it says an entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. I have to admit that this specific definition of an entrepreneur has always left me with more questions than answers, and that is why I have opted to use my own definitions for purposes of this article. My definition seeks to answer the question, “is there a difference between an entrepreneur and a businessman?”  


I personally believe there is.


My definition of a businessman/woman is someone who starts an economic activity whose aim is to generate profit. In other words, the businessman’s/woman’s aim is very personal or self-centered. The aim of opening the business is not primarily to provide services to others, but to create an opportunity to make profits for the businessperson through the products and services he/she is selling. For such a person, do not be surprised to see him/her close down the business should he/she hit a few snags along the way. Why? Because the reason for setting up the business was not bigger than him/her, it was all about what he/she was to get out of it.


On the other hand an entrepreneur is someone whose aim of being in business is to create a solution to a challenge being experienced either by him or others around him. For instance, someone may visit a place while on holiday without even having any thought of setting up a business, but then in the process, he sees a need that needs [pun intended] to be met, and so he decides to put a system in place to sort out that specific problem. In the process, the system becomes a business through which he starts making money.


To better understand my definitions, let me give you an example that will clearly distinguish the one from the other.


Let’s say there is no garbage collection service in your neighborhood, and people have been wondering what to do with their residential garbage. Then this young guy who has been looking for a job but couldn’t find any sees an opportunity to make money by becoming a garbage collector. In preparation, he goes and makes a huge wooden cart, gets himself a pair of overalls, gloves, industrial boots and a shovel, and even makes some business cards, then sets out to look for residential customers whose garbage he can be collecting. Gradually he builds up a customer base and realizes he cannot handle the business himself, so he employs a few other young men like him until eventually, he has a big operation that caters for a whole city. What started as an avenue to make money gradually transforms into a proper business that becomes fully registered, pays taxes and fulfills every other legal requirements a business is expected to fulfill.

Now that’s a businessman. He saw an opportunity to make money and he went for it, and in the process, he solved a problem. Note! Making money preceded the need to solve a problem. In other words, what motivated him to solve the garbage problem was his need for money.


I hope you are still with me.


Now, as time goes by, the young man realizes that the location they were given to be dumping their garbage is quickly filling up and from the look of things, more garbage is being churned out today than it was when he first started the garbage collection service five years ago. By now he is not only collecting garbage from the first neighborhood he started with, but he is now getting garbage from different neighborhoods and even though he no longer uses garbage carts but has now upgraded to big garbage trucks, he realizes he has created another problem; he moved garbage from the residences and created a mountain of it somewhere else. As he is standing there looking at the garbage, an alarm goes off in his mind. He knows that unless he finds a way to manage the garbage his company has slowly been accumulating over the years, there is major danger looming in the horizon.


So he starts thinking of what to do with that garbage and decides to do an in depth research on how to creatively, efficiently and effectively manage residential waste.  He embarks on a mission to search for information about domestic waste management and spends lots of time mulling over what he comes across. He spends many sleepless nights thinking about all the possibilities. Finally, after months of thinking and thinking, an idea forms in his head that the best way to manage the garbage creatively, efficiently and effectively is by using it to generate biogas. He decides to produce biogas which he would use to light up the streets in his neighborhood. After trying and failing fifteen times (without giving up), he finally succeeds in installing biogas powered street lights in his neighborhood.


With this model in hand, he then starts pitching for business in different places e.g. schools, playgrounds, hospitals, etc, and gets a considerable number of projects to do. Within a short time, he sets up a new company whose focus is biogas generation. Eventually, he starts generating interest from organizations in other parts of the world and soon enough, he gets funding to venture into other solutions such as liquid fertilizer from biogas, cooking gas from biogas, etc. In the long run, he ends up with a fully fledged pan African company that deals with biogas powered solutions. He becomes recognized in the world as having an organization that is pro 2030 SDGs.


At this point, he has upgraded from a businessman to an entrepreneur. How did he end up being an entrepreneur? He saw the potential hazard he had created in his quest to make money and decided to look for a solution to manage it. In the process, he transformed the hazard into an opportunity which eventually created a huge business that was not only generating income for him, but for thousands of others (directly and indirectly).


This is who I call an entrepreneur. Someone who sees a need and seeks to fulfill the need. He invested his resources heavily in the biogas project, failed 15 times without giving up and after succeeding, he didn’t immediately start making money but opted to have a pilot project for demo purposes. I guess this right here is what Business News Daily meant when they said, an entrepreneur is someone who has the courage to commit and persevere through all of the challenges and failures they are likely to encounter while pursuing an idea”.


There are a lot of people who have businesses. Question is, are they businesspersons or entrepreneurs? If you are in business today, where do you place yourself, are you a businessperson or an entrepreneur? I guess only you can answer that question.


In line with this week’s article, for this week’s #52BooksIn52Weeks2018 Book reading challenge I’d like to recommend a book by Michael E. Gerber titled Awakening the Entrepreneur Within: How Ordinary People Can Create Extraordinary Companies.  This is a book every (potential) entrepreneur should read. By the time you will be reading this article, I personally will have finished reading the book, just 24 hours after starting it. It is a page turner packed with great insights into what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, all based on the author’s real life experience as he discovered and awakened the entrepreneur in him. Get yourself this book and you’ll get great guidance as to what it takes to be an entrepreneur. And a successful one at that. 


In the meantime, I hope I have been able to shed some light into this subject, and if I haven’t I hope I have at least set the ball rolling for you to take it further than I have.


To end this article today, I’d like to share one of Michael E. Gerber’s quotes that says, “A business without a dream is like a life without a purpose”. 


If you are a businessman/woman, does your business have a dream? What about you, do you have know the purpose for your life? #FoodForThought.


Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 2nd September, 2018, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".​​​





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