Here’s the irony: it’s never been easier to start a business, which is why it’s never been harder to start a business.
In the “old days”, when a big company had 5 00 staff, it had 5 000 horsepower which is why back then, big companies and governments were the only entities that could get the big jobs done and move the world forward. But thanks to digitisation, the world has changed drastically in the last decade or two. Now, a small company of 10 bright people equipped with the enabling technology become an army that has the equivalent 5 000 horsepower.
This is why starting a business has never been more alluring. Small groups of people can disrupt massive industries just like Uber and Airbnb did to their respective industries. The really big problem for most established industries is that it’s hard to see where new competition is coming from. The entire taxi industry could never have predicted that two entrepreneurs and a few software engineers could change their lives forever.
Things are heating up
For the first time in the world, you can impact the world from your bedroom while chilling in your underpants. That said, big companies aren’t standing still and they are equally using the same technology to ring out efficiencies in their businesses. I believe we are at the point where we will see technology replace people in big companies at an unprecedented rate.
A small example of this is Nu Metro and Ster-Kinekor. Just two years ago, you actually bought your movie tickets from a human being at the ticket kiosk. The other night, I went to the movies and counted a total of three staff working. All tickets and refreshments were bought using a tablet at the front desk. The only people working were the ones pouring my Slush Puppy and dishing my popcorn for me.
With this in mind, being an entrepreneur is a great idea with just one caveat: the easier it gets to become an entrepreneur, the more other people are going to do it. Competition drives innovation which means it will get harder and harder for startups to succeed unless they are absolutely excellent. With this in mind, the following advice is critical to you starting a business:
- You have to be absolutely passionate about the business you want to start, but your business also has to also solve a big problem for society (there must be an appropriate market for what you want to do).
- Conscious capitalism is the way forward. Doing the right thing isn’t a nice to have anymore. It’s the only way to do business.
- You have to have the energy of a 1 000 men when you start because every little detail becomes your responsibility.
- That said, you have to become a master of technology so that you can scale your business. Technology enables small groups of people to act like an army. The days of linear improvement won’t do.
- You have to become forever educated because the world is changing so fast and you need to know what’s going on in order to understand how approaching trends will affect your business. YouTube, daily reading and podcasts: informal education is key.
- Finally, play the long game. Create a 30-year plan and work backward. Chase excellence and not money. Money is the result of doing something well. When you put this all together, you have a sustainable business.
By Mark Sham, founder and CEO of Suits & Sneakers and Impello incubation hub