Feb 24, 2013

3 Things I've Learned Being an Entrepreneur

About a week ago, I was interviewed by Melissa from Social Enterprise Buzz. To be frank, I didn't know what it was, until I googled and found many interesting articles on their website. If you want regular updates about social entrepreneurship and related stuff from around the world, do have a look! And if you want to read the article from our interview, here it is >> "How I met Sheryl Sandberg".

If you read this, Melissa - you should know that I was smiling ear to ear after reading your posting (loving the title by the way!). It was fun talking with you.. My team and I truly thank you for having the story of Wangsa Jelita on Social Enterprise Buzz! :)

Anyway, we talked on Skype for about 40 minutes or so, and it was more like a fun chat to me. She asked me several questions, however, I was so intrigued by one which then lingered in my head for few days.

"What have you learned being an entrepreneur, your age, running a business.. 
What are the lessons learned?"

Among questions which people have asked me, I consider this as one of the best.


Running a business is like taking a spiritual path. 

Many things in this whole world are uncertain. And this uncertainty has ALWAYS been a big part of running any business. Having said that, I realize that all I have to do is to strive the best I can.

Everyone who runs a business knows very well that there's no guarantee that they'll be successful in what they're doing. I've learned that too. But knowing and believing that being an entrepreneur is the best thing for me in my life while doing it with so much love and passion, it does motivate me every now and then.

Many times I mentioned how I really like one quote from Paulo Coelho from his book The Alchemist - that "when we want something, the universe conspires in helping us to achieve it". I'm a firm believer in that statement as I've proved it many times. It doesn't mean that I always excel at everything I do. Sometimes I failed. In fact, one of my ventures went bankrupt within a year. I was depressed at the time yet I've moved on and things turn out really well in the end as I finally could focus on the other venture which then has grown bigger than I expected (read: Wangsa Jelita) - something that I really want from the very beginning.

I see this entrepreneurial journey as my way to be more spiritual. It teaches me to be detached from whatever the outcome is no matter how big the effort I put. It teaches me to doubt my fears and focus on my goals. And as Margaret Drabble said, "When nothing is sure, everything is possible" - this journey teaches me about having hope - and it truly does make me feel more human.

Entrepreneurial path is not (the best thing) for everyone.

During my first year of running Wangsa Jelita, I attended many seminars to find like-minded people and gain motivation. Many times the speakers mentioned how important the role of entrepreneurs are. They innovate, create jobs, reduce unemployment, and so forth. Nothing's wrong with that, I think. But it started to mislead the time they mentioned that everyone can be an entrepreneur and being an entrepreneur is the best path for all. I totally agree to disagree.

I don't think everyone should be an entrepreneur. I think everyone should live the life they want. Each of us need to know what we are passionate about and do it responsibly. I believe when people get to that state of true fulfillment (being able to run the life they want), at the end of the day they will find a way to contribute to society - to make the world a better place. They might not create jobs, but they will sure have their own way.

I don't think entrepreneurial path is the best path for everyone, the way I don't think being a researcher or scientist or engineer or any other kind of professions are. No profession is better than the other. Sure there is the best for each of us which fits us very well, but one solution for all is definitely not the correct way to answer that.

Money should never be the motivation. 

Another misleading statement that I heard during my first year of being an entrepreneur was that an entrepreneur should see profit as their main (and only) focus. The most striking thing that I heard was when some people even chose to be entrepreneurs as they believe it's one of the fastest ways to be successful, to become rich. I truly wonder how they could come up with that idea.

I think it starts with those who use money as the measure of success. Some who just believe that the more money one makes the more successful he/she is. Ludicrous it is, as some people simply see one's worth as a function of his/her apparel. Superficial.

I'm not saying that money is not important. It's business anyway, making profit is necessary. But I think the true entrepreneur should be driven by the idea of solving problems which provide value to its customers (that they then can gain the profit). And I believe when they stick to that principal, money will eventually follow and accrue to them. Money is good to keep score. It always is. But it's just the wrong reason to start to be an entrepreneur.

As Kevin Johnson (my favorite blogger/entrepreneur) says, "starting a business to be successful is like getting married to have sex". I think he's got the point. Entrepreneurs should not focus on the side benefit of being ones. It's the true purpose of offering solutions to people's problems that should matter first for them.

One nifty analogy by the way.

P.S. Thanks to Melissa who gave me an idea for this writing and encouraged me to publish it.