The business world has always been a challenging avenue to approach, a competitive journey to get the first foot through the door and it requires a lot of tactic to remain successful in the game. It has become even more challenging in a globalised world where sustainability is not guaranteed, even if the supposed ‘right’ steps are taken by the entrepreneur. Yet, the business world offers the entrepreneur an opportunity to express themselves with limited restrictions, work with minimal supervision as they aim towards their goals and, simply put, it allows them to be the boss. But being the boss, as we would soon realize, is not always an easy road.
While walking into Stabroek Market one afternoon, I made a conscious effort to examine the businesses around. I also conversed with those selling, and realized that most of them were the shop, store or stall owners. Out of curiosity, I questioned those that would allow it and engaged in conversational discourses on how they see themselves in the business world in Guyana. Not surprisingly, though all of them were relatively small scale businesses, none of them had any intentions on staying that way. One gentleman who runs a grocery shop in the market wishes to own a chain of grocery stores in the country. When asked how he sees himself attaining that goal, his response was encouraging: “Well, I already have a building on regent street leased to me, so I am in the process of expanding my business. One one dutty build dam”.
That Guyanese proverb is a very important one for business owners, especially those breathing the business ‘air’ for the first time. It is nearly impossible, except with the few who have financial support from family and friends, to gain major profits from a new business. As stated by leading business moguls, the first five years of any company are the ‘make and break’ moments. And let’s face it, any business, large or small, cannot exist without proper financial stability. So what do we do? How do we get the money needed to take the first baby step? Well, first and foremost, work on a financial plan. Ensure that it is practical and that there are possible avenues to obtain this collateral from. Most business ideas, quite frankly, do not make it past this point. Understandably so as well, because it is difficult to gather money to start a fresh business in a world where most are cutting costs, or firing persons, or trying to save as much as possible. Further, the risk attached to starting a business is sometimes too much for many to bear. The thoughts such as where to go, who would want your services, how do you operate at the least cost to yourself, how do you compete with the other existing companies in the field, toppled with the reality that the business world is filled with hard knocks before pickups make many turn around, before putting their hand on the door knob to open the door. However, it is at this very moment: when these thoughts consume, when the heart races, when the world seems to be off tangent, that a business is born. This pre-panic is a necessary process in the development of an entrepreneur and every fall is a blessing in disguise. As the famous Bill Gates said: “If I’d had some set idea of the finish line, don’t you think I would have crossed it years ago?”
So, how does a young entrepreneur address this major challenge? As I was looking through the Forbes website, I came across a link that gave advice to young entrepreneurs from the fourteen self-made members of Forbes list. The fourth point in the article is worth mentioning: “Identify where you have or can create an edge over the rest of the world and doing something you enjoy. Then push that advantage to extremes.” This bit of advice should be taken seriously for business owners. Though everybody seems to have done everything already, you must be able to establish why your form is better, or different from the rest. It must be appealing and comfortable to the consumer. We can know our consumer by doing random surveys, or listening to the woes of persons in the field we wish to enter, make any and every attempt to improve the concerns or issues they seem to be having. This might take a while, but remember, you have to “Know what you know, what you don’t know and who knows what you don’t.”
I decided to have a chat with two young male entrepreneurs involved in two totally different forms of businesses, to get their perspective on the business world in Guyana.
Simeon Forrester, a twenty-four year old University of Guyana Graduate runs a small scale technology related business. Cyber Technology Centre, located on Hadfield Street, offers services such as document printing, internet surfing, computer repair, software instalment, designing and printing of fliers, business cards, tickets and many other technology related services. His passion for electronics started at an early age when he had his first computer. From that moment on, his passion grew, as he began dismantling systems to use the fans to build circuits, or attentively paying attention to workmen who fixed systems or asking an enormous amount of questions to those qualified in the field.
During his years at Bishops’ High School, his business sense began to function, as he sold music and computer games to his classmates. After Bishops’, Simeon along with two friends launched “Cyber Tech Systems”, which mainly offered computer repair services. Each person’s family contributed financially so that the business could have been launched. When the first friend branched off, the two remaining friends launched the “internet café” aspect of the business. Soon, however, Simeon was left alone at twenty-two to manage a business.
“The first move was to find a new location that would allow me to reach the clientele.” Forrester stated, as he explained some of the challenges he faced.
Those challenges were however, just a small taste, compared to the day to day challenges Simeon faces. Issues such as maintaining a clientele, building trust in your customers, and trying to offer better services than competitors were just a few he mentioned.When asked if he think he did the right thing by entering into the business world, his response was reassuring. “This is what I always wanted to do from the time I could remember. Yes, everything in life has its risks, but at the end of the day, if we are doing something that we love and it is enjoyable then it’s worth everything.” To those thinking about entering the business world he said: “Do something you have a drive for, or it will seem monotonous.”
The second young man, Youni Abdul, owner of Nerd on Demand (an electronics Company) and Deluxe Motors, started his business ventures in February of 2012. After realising that there is a market among his friends and associates for vehicle imports, he decided to register his business, and started importing vehicles and selling electronics.
“The business got around via word of mouth and Facebook, basically.” He explained. “It started with just bringing in products for friends, and it expanded into buying vehicles for customers and even advertising vehicles for sale for others.”
Youni is currently a medical student at the University of Guyana so balancing work and studies is a very important. “I study hard and I work hard. If you want to be successful at all you do you have to dedicate time and energy to your work. I have committed and I balance my time and get the tasks done.”
He noted that if one wants to be successful in a particular venture you must fully analyse the market and ensure that there is scope for your business to make profit. In that regard, he said, “I will be focusing my energies on Opening a Pharmacy soon because that is my line of work and there is a need for that type of business. I will stick with Nerd on demand, as for the Auto Sales business, that will now be operating around small scale purchases and sales.”
“For others who want to be in the business world,” Youni advised, “Ensure you manage your time, target something that you are good at, take your time, do research, and, most importantly, take care of customers and the customers will take care of your business.”
After these interviews, I was convinced that the business world can be compared to a game of chess. It is not those who play quickly that succeed, but those who calculate their moves, read their playing field properly and work towards shouting ‘checkmate’ that come out of the battle victorious.
The comments from the interviewees above also returned me to the advice from the fourteen self-made members of Forbes list. The twelfth and thirteenth points on the list were: (a.)”Have great focus, set high but achievable goals and work EXTREMELY hard at achieving them. Be flexible and ready to adapt to change,” And (b) “Listen to yourself. Be guided by your real passions and convictions, not just by what you think might get you ahead in life”
To those in business, or thinking of becoming involved in business, do not let the chains of “what if” hamper your next move. With your hand resting on the door knob, I bid you to turn it, with your hand holding the queen, I bid you to move it. You might have a few bruises, you might smell defeat, but these hurdles help us to be better entrepreneurs, and ultimately, better human beings. Have fun in all your business ventures!