Entrepreneur Mindset: The Chicken or The Egg

One of the biggest reasons for failure as an entrepreneur is the inability to raise funds or to sustain the a business beyond the first 18 months due to negative cash-flow.

So why are some entrepreneurs more successful than others?

We've all had the question about which comes first, the chicken or the egg? The journey of an entrepreneur begins with the same question - I want to start a business but I don't have funding, I can't get funding because I don't have experience in running a business.

But if I have one chicken and I have the patience to feed it, nurture it and keep it in good health, my chicken will lay eggs that can develop into more chickens AND bring in additional revenue from the eggs themselves, which will sustain me, my business and members of my community.

Having one egg and asking for funding to buy the things needed for it to hatch, requires a lot of creative thinking, effort and risk on the potential entrepreneur and investor. If you were either, which option would you chose?

Usually an entrepreneur will start their business with what they have in their pockets and what they have borrowed from family and friends, because the passion for the idea or product is what drove them to open the business in the first place. As their idea or product takes off, they will need funding to expand and grow their business, that is when it is the appropriate time to go to investors or potential partners. Too often though, we want to put the chicken before the egg, and simply end up with a basket of crushed shells and egg on our face.

Does that mean we cannot start with eggs first? No! 

With the BRICS countries pursuing their collaboration for the sustainable development of their membership countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the opportunities for socio economic development and growth is massive. Entrepreneurship is high on the agenda of who to accelerate that growth. Combine that with the opportunities arising from the 4th Industrial Revolution and there should theoretically be no reason for the BRICS countries to be struggling as much as they are today.

And yet we are! So what needs to change?

Transformation in South Africa is still measured using demographics rather than by the changed behaviours, mindsets or the way we do things in the corporate and government environments. So even if there is more diversity siting in managerial positions and in the boardroom, the behaviours that would truly empower the people in those positions to make a positive difference have not changed. The traditional way of approaching business and those who wish to do business, remains entrenched in red tape and compliance requirements, which do little to support entrepreneurs and small businesses. Resistance is high in changing the way we communicate and in the way we run corporate business. 

In this world the egg cannot hatch, because it does not have the experience, recognition or diplomas required to be selected by the big corporate businesses, it doesn't have the fancy business plans with the required wording to reassure investors that the services can be provided and it does not speak the corporate/consulting speak needed to be understood by the decision makers in the boardrooms. 

But it does have something different that might be needed in the workplace to create the shifts necessary to produce alternative opportunities for black people. 

So as an entrepreneur, how do we take advantage of these many opportunities that BRICS and the 4th Industrial Revolution have to offer? Start answering some of the questions below.

  • Where are the gaps in the markets?
  • Who spends the most money (not as an individual - but as a mass of people?
  • What would make them give some of that money to you - for your goods or services?
  • How does doing what you do empower and grow other people also?
  • Would you contemplate internships accelerate personal growth, gain experience, develop unique skills and competencies, would you offer it to others?
  • How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram - how much of that time is spent learning, marketing, informing? - Are you consuming or being consumed?

How do we become the chicken that lays the eggs to build sustainable businesses that will empower ourselves and others? 

7 Keys to Developing the Entrepreneur Mindset

1 - Get informed - First of all, educate yourself - google has so much information available at your finger tips. If you are an NGO in South Africa looking for funding right now, you might want to Google South Africa 25 Million Impact Challenge

The UN2030 Sustainable Development Goals provides many opportunities for each of us to keep doing what we do best, whilst also developing our communities and fellow entrepreneurs, in partnership with the corporates - we need to find the means to build the bridges between the world of entrepreneurship, SME's, SMME's and corporates by partnering together.

2 - Think differently -  A small consulting firm would find it extremely difficult to get into a big corporate business but what if that small firm had solutions that will reach markets operating of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the future ways of work? That small firm may no longer need the corporate businesses to succeed in the Future Ways of Working.

Still within corporates, the Wellness industry requires an entirely different approach if they are to stop their executives and manager burning out - what opens up as possibilities for coaches and alternative wellness practitioners in the space? 

And then there is the dress code! There are fantastic opportunities for those in the clothing industry as African people embrace their origins and reject formal corporate attire for traditional African fabrics. You see, you don't even have to be in the boardroom to service the board members.

Network - Networks can be formal, informal and online. Create your own MeetUps to get people together around the same topics. And remember your informal networks contain connections - the one that most people have in common is your own church.

3 - Just do it - The facebook group Black Entrepreneurship of South Africa is now sitting at a membership of 167 000 at the time of this article. Where is the hard evidence of these entrepreneurs, which we should be seeing through the creation of more businesses. We should be happy to contribute a membership fee for service and a recognised brand. It is time for us to move towards the things that we have in common and transform the way we create our own sustainable businesses, endorsed and supported by a recognised brand.

If you have a product or service that will become your business - get out there and get it in front of people. Even if it is not perfect yet.People will gladly tell you what is wrong for free. This gives you the opportunity for continuous improvement. Don't worry too much about reputational damage, your markets will have considerably changed by the time your product or service is being talked about positively by everyone.

4 - Collaborate - Combine your business with others who offer similar or complimentary services to build cooperatives that can offer solid business proposals. Look up "Shared Spaces" and see how they are supporting entrepreneurial businesses. 

5 - Observe  - What are others doing that is working. There is nothing wrong with copying them. Change the mindset that it is stealing. When you go to malls, you will notice that most of the shoe shops are all together, the food court has all of the leading fast food outlets in the same place and jewellers all tend to be in the same area of the mall. So UBER and the local taxi services can compete healthy to provide services to those who need transport - that market still has so many gaps and opportunities.

6 - Contribute - Change the way we do things by changing the way we think. Sharing what we are doing shows that innovation is happening in South Africa too. The World Economical Forum contains a rich source of extremely useful global information. The African database is lacking in examples and statistics that would enrich this platform, how can we become contributors that will get the continent on more of their Transformation Maps?

7 - Invest in yourself - Attend courses that will support you in your business growth. Get a personal, business and or career coach. Get a mentor and volunteer to mentor others.

Make use of us coaches and mentors that will provide the soft skills and emotional development for to support you on your transformational journey so that you may become the chicken who lays the eggs. 

Having said all that, the successful entrepreneur will always be a chicken. They would already have nurtured their egg to make more chickens and they would also have broken a number of them along the way.  For those of you who believe you must be given the chicken, the coop and the eggs before you can run your business, you may not be quite ready for the risks relating to entrepreneurship yet.

For those who already have the eggs and want to take your business further, you not explore your transformational leadership journey with me.


Joan Laine
The only constant is change. Embrace it!
Transformational Leadership Development

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