The path of innovation: Starting out


Some time ago, a friend of mine achieved a substantial breakthrough in his business and we celebrated it. I remembered what he told me some months before the break, especially about his first few months in business. Then, he was still dating the very lady he eventually married; but stepping out into the uncertain terrain of enterprise development almost cost him that relationship. Still, the fire within him was so much that he went ahead to take the dive. He survived and I am glad to be retelling his success story.

I remember my friend’s summary of the whole scenario. One, hunger is one of the biggest motivators in the quest for success and breakthrough (i.e. secondary to desire, hunger comes next). Two, a tough path does not necessarily imply a wrong one.

I agree with him. The process of enterprise development is one that has many challenges and one that must be driven by self-awareness, strong desire and a relentless pursuit.

No doubt, you have the desire or you would not be reading this piece. So, let me request you to sit down and count the cost of the journey. Entrepreneurship is not so easy, and it is not so hard, either. All it requires are:

*    An “I can” attitude.

*    A decisive personality.

*    A forgiving heart–forgive yourself quickly after you have made a mistake and learnt your lesson.

*    Persistence–like glue, you are there, till proven otherwise.

*    Flexibility (does not imply lack of commitment to a particular course).

*    Sociability – you can work with people.

*    Durability – you can weather the storm.

*    Toughness –that things are not immediately working does not mean you are stupid.

*    Faith – you are a firm believer in vision, purpose.


Note, however, that nobody is born with a complete set of these attributes. We pick them up as we progress in the journey. So, be willing to adapt as you are stretched.


Managing emotions

In addition to the above traits, your patience and emotional intelligence are vital to your success. Your emotional intelligence refers to your ability to understand and manage your feelings, appreciate the emotions of others and be able to achieve an effective balance.

Emotional intelligence is critical because of the uncertainties of the business landscape and the certain ups and downs that characterise it. The entrepreneur must have the capacity to plan and stay within a course of action, without being influenced by the conflict of emotions such uncertainties attract. This however comes with practice. It is this character trait that Apostle Paul refers to when he says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4. NLT (emphasis are mine)

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A very important point here is the factor that “we know”. The entrepreneur should know that these things happen and are good for long term success.


Talking the talk

If faith is inside of you, it must come out on your lips– except it is a mere dream (the one you dream at night); but if it is your (note the personalisation) dream (the day type) then start talking the talk.

Many have quit talking because they are scared of people stealing their ideas .What they do not know is that ideas are readily available; what is lacking is finding people who believe in them and have the ability to bring them to pass.

Can your idea be stolen? Not really – but it can be shared. That said, in some cases, the artefacts of an idea, say a logo or design, can be completely stolen. Hence, in some cases, it is very important that you establish ownership before sharing with people that have executive or potential for executive capacity. I suggest you have a circle of trusted people within which you can share your thoughts. It is best when they are people who are occupied with their own commitments.

To maintain ownership, you will have to understand intellectual property protection. However, if you keep talking, at a time you will keep quiet without being told to; that is when the results start appearing or when you discover the work it will take. At such a time, you will come to learn that the real reason we speak is to release creative forces in the atmosphere. Forces that forge convictions in us –yes in you, the speaker. You are the ultimate beneficiary. At such a time, your speaking literally increases but the company diminishes.

You must never keep quiet for fear of what people would say– that is a recipe for a mediocre life. If you are uttering what God is revealing to your spirit, it is much better to change company than to keep still because of the disposition of your present colleagues.

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What Gates did that you probably have not

The marketplace is an interesting arena; few people understand it because few people study it. People go there to obtain goods, services, wages and returns on investment but it took certain individuals to conceptualise and create the marketplace. The point is that the marketplace is man-made.

Things do not just happen; people happen to things and one has to understand why. When next you see a new product on the shelf, look closer and meditate on the concept behind it, the rationale of the developer, the response of the industry and the merit of the venture. You must do these in your area of interest, to study the market and to understand its development and then project into its future. You will be surprised to learn that you could predict trends from mere observation and deductive reasoning, even in industries you know little about.

So, what exactly did Gates do? Bill Gates, unlike most people, was able to understand the nature of the computer industry, to project into its future and (the hardest part) to convince himself that his idea was the next big thing on the planet.

Today, we thank God that he was not only convinced but acted on his convictions.

The challenge with Africa is that many of us lack self-belief – even those who believe in God limit Him to a “spiritual experience”. Yet, every day, God’s seed on the inside of man is crying out for expression in everyday issues. However, most times we look at ourselves and our surroundings and we despise the seed. The worst lie we tell ourselves is that if it is a good idea someone else should have done it. That someone else is you!

To forge conviction of our significance in the scheme of things is critical. It is, in my own opinion, the singular most important factor in enterprise and value creation. Faithful and true is the statement that “those that show up for development endeavours must believe in themselves.”

The deceitfulness of riches did not hinder Gates (i.e., the idea that if you do not have money you are probably stupid and vice versa). He practically gave away Microsoft Windows but retained ownership. Study his story. If you do not have money like Joseph, Jacob or Isaac, give the idea away to one with the means (it would have been lost anyway) and bargain to retain ownership/ executor rights.

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When people with marvellous ideas and no money complain, it is because they are either too selfish or lack the capacity to package themselves for a bargaining process. If you are really blessed, you must have noticed the ability of God to always give you better ideas. So, to someone reading this article, that idea in your heart is, probably, the only thing that can bring you before kings. Do not despise it; do not be too selfish to share it, and do not be too unknowledgeable to lose ownership completely.

The kings are those with the resources and positions that are critical to your expression. Most times, what will retain ownership for you is competence – the fact that no one else can be trusted to do the work as good as you, or your knowledge on how ownership can be shared to achieve mutual benefits. For young people, therefore, reputation capital is everything.


When you are passionate but penniless, remember:

*    Give thanks for the situation (at least you have something!).

*    Believe in the majority of one – you.

*    Dig – there source/information is always around/beneath you.

*    Offer what you have got to commoners and then to the king (in that order).


When the frost bites

In enterprise development, the frost has a way of coming early and uninvited, but surviving the frost is the source of a polar bear’s strength. Don’t let anyone deceive you, in the world of business, you will have tribulations!


Rules of the thumb:

  1. Hunger will motivate you, only if you have a burning desire and are not ready to quit. Your hunger should be great, long before physical hunger comes!
  2. When you sack your boss, do not take her/him back. Learning inexpensively (when you can) is plenty of wisdom but there are times where the only place to learn is out there, with no back-up plan.
  3. Once you are out there, judge God faithful. Judging God faithful means believing that there is always a way in the maze.


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