Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Entrepreneurs and the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Two nights ago, I watched Singapore Talking on television. The focus of the discussion between the host and two entrepreneurs was on entrepreneurs and the entrepreneur spirit. I found the debate interesting as the host and audience asked questions that, evidently, professed their relative lack of experience running their own business. However, it was then purity of questions that elicited honest responses from the two guests.

There are distinct differences in being self-employed, running a small business, starting a new business, and being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneur simply means ‘first to enter’, or the person who takes a plunge into a business venture, which can be in retail, services, or manufacturing. In other words, an entrepreneur is a leader, not a follower or imitator. Can entrepreneurial spirit be taught? Can we educate a population of entrepreneurs that reflect the likes of a Sim Wong Hoo (Creative Technologies) or a Sir Richard Branson?

In my experience as owner for a small business I started a decade ago, I believe that entrepreneurial qualities can be taught, heightened and developed. However, it is more than starting a new business, or acquiring a franchise, or being self-employed as a freelance professional. Attending an institution that professes to teach entrepreneurs may be a relevant start, but it takes more than that. It requires a compelling vision, a comprehensive business plan, market analysis, sheer hard work, skills enhancement, and a stubbornness to see a plan through to fruition, and more. It demands drastic changes in lifestyle, buckets of self-belief, a strong support group, and the intelligence to adapt, adopt and be adept.

When I left my last career, I had only $3,000 in my bank account, a plan that took seven years to thoroughly prepare for, and my intuition that nudged me at the right timing. Based on tacit wisdom I gleaned from my mentors and my own tacit experience, I took my leap of faith. Starting a business is simple, but sustaining it is not easy. Staying busy and profitable is an on-going challenge, however you learn heaps when you surround yourself with experts. You then pass your goodwill forward by helping other neophytes in the business. You hope that your business vision and culture is realized in some form that evolves into something larger (like a cause). But, more on that later!

If you are curious about your developing your business acumen, begin now by meeting entrepreneurs, business-people and freelance professional. Find out how they moved from survive to strive to thrive. Step forward!
This evening I met up with Kua Harn Wei at Ya Kun, Funan Centre. John Cooke could not attend our arranged meeting as JJ was unwell, and Harn Wei and I shot the breeze about triathlon matters. As coincidence would have it, Harn Wei’s friend Andreas Karall dropped by; his Austrian friend was a former-2nd in the Double-Ironman World Championships (23:09:51), 20th overall in Ironman Malaysia in 2008 (seconds behind Tobias Frenz), Kona finisher (11:11:13), and 1st in the Double-Ironman World Cup 2008. Andy has also done a 2:41 marathon, and run splits in the 10K and 21K that will make us blush. Harn Wei and Andy are amazing ultra-triathletes, mainly for their mental patience and tenacity. They are body-strong as they are headstrong, in a good sense of course. Harn Wei and I chatted about how to train for an ultra-Ironman, including strategies like sleep deprivation. A double-Ironman attempt and completion is on my cards.

Photo-credits: http://www.multisport.com

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