Wednesday, June 19, 2013

@Kolo Project #My Truth

A couple of weeks ago, I received a tweet from the Kolo Project inviting me to a meeting at the Cathedral Village Freehouse.

I was to meet several other people from my community who have a passion for being an entrepreneur and creating an environment in which we can be successful. We decided to do something about this, together.

The Kolo Project is about creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem.  It is created, led and driven by entrepreneurs.  Our goal is to break down the barriers that inhibit entrepeneurial growth in our province, and in our cities.  We met again in my office to develop a game plan.

We decided that the first step was to tell the truth about entrepreneurialism, and to invite entrepreneurs from our community to come and share their perspective, their truth, on what works, what doesn't, and what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Let me start with my truth.

June 15 was the 2nd anniversary of my emancipation.  That was the day I signed off on my last corporate job. (It just so happens it was my worst ever corporate job, which in many ways fueled my new beginning into the private sector.)

I am going to just come out and say it. Private enterprise is not romantic.  It is about working harder than you've ever worked in your life for the least amount of money you have ever made. At least for a while.   This misconception is actually harmful because it hides the truth and therefore the solutions.

Private enterprise is about money - trying to make money and not lose too much at once. If it's not, it's called philanthropy.  In private business, you get to decide how. Easier said than done. Some people start with what they love and turn it into a business; others start from what they are good at and try and turn it into a business; others do something completely foreign and find experts. Who is to say? I think it depends on a lot of factors.

Beyond the product or service, you must become the marketer, the operations manager, the book keeper, the accountant, the service person, the sales person and even the janitor. If and when we hire employees to generate growth (why else?), there is a cost. People like pay cheques, benefits, vacations and the occasional day off.  All of that costs money.

In business, we have the freedom to make mistakes and make decisions. Yes, there is freedom to stay in bed. Yes there is freedom to take a bath in the middle of the day, or go to a yoga class, or maybe even take a trip. And that freedom lasts as long as the revenues are rolling in, or your investments are exhausted.

Private enterprise is about taking risk and managing risk.  Risks are dangers. They are not fears, but they are real.  Like Will Smith 's character said in "After Earth", roughly paraphrased', 'fear is not real, but danger is very real.'  The same can be said in business.  How you react to fear is a choice. But danger is very real. To be in business, it's all about balancing time and money and finding a way to optimize both.