Tag Archives: failure

The Challenge of first Generation Entrepreneurial Success

We have been fed with success stories of Ugandans especially through the media every other day. Unfortunately, no one bothers to curate this information hence we can’t notice the very worrying trend.

Most ‘Success Stories’ hardly last a decade. Very few like Wavahmunno, Mulwana, Sudhir, Picfare/Radio One, Bro Group among others have withstood the test of time. Break down Uganda’s entrepreneurial space in blocks of 5 years and you will see that each block has new faces and chances are each face that disappears gets wiped out for good. 

Who remembers Front Page Microfinance? Where did the chap go (whatever his name was)? The media was always awash with stories about how much of a business genius he was. There was also this Kasulu guy who literally transformed the Property Business from backyard alley based suspicious dealers to a corporate oriented and trusted one. At his peak, he would throw UGX 50,000 on the table and journalists would break their backs running to get a slice of it (sorry bambi). Am sure you too know many such stories.

The conclusion I have come up with is that for most of us, as first generation entrepreneurs, we are likely to suffer this fate for a while to come in Uganda. We are breaking away from the tradition of holding on to an 8 – 5 job and being guaranteed of a salary as well as access to a bank loan that you can pay off in 10 years.

We are getting into a space for which we were not groomed at all. One of the cornerstones of a successful entrepreneur is Discipline in Financial, Social and other areas. Many of us start off with alot of focus and vision knowing what we want and work so hard that it hurts. We build the brands diligently until the money and accolades start coming through. That is when the distraction begins.

Due to lack of fiscal discipline (which is best learnt right from a youthful age), the spendthriftness comes in. You then find me driving a Hummer with the plates WIRE 1 and within a year, I have upto WIRE 6. At that point the women get to notice who I am and begin saying Hi with nice smiles and before you know it, there is a swimming pool of babes just a call away. That is when I realise that the Gym and Sauna are the best way to keep in shape (as if slashing my compound at home and taking walks with family can’t achieve the same). Government officials became close friends and start channeling money through my business to defraud the state while giving me a slice (Greenland Bank?). And so on and so forth. The common factor in all this is the financial haemorrhage that creeps in due to the newly acquired status.

At such a rate of progression, the business’ life starts diminishing and the public only gets to know the shit I have descended into when the Banks or URA launch their move. Before you know it, a once very loaded character is back to square one. Largely because they were not prepared psychologically for the status they attained. You grew up in hardship and was conditioned to settle for a fixed salary job, now you are commanding a position that gives you the opportunity to determine how much money to pay yourself.

On attaining this status, I have seen many men do the things that we have reserved for 18 year olds. Just read the tabloids and you will know what am talking about, all in the name of celebrity excitement. Despite having been upgraded from poverty financially, the social poverty they faced while growing up seems to weigh alot on them that they feel it is time to pay back and ‘enjoy’ [I have witnessed a top Kenyan radio entrepreneur who has this disease in it’s most severe form]. That is how they end up in the doldrums.

Failure is never final, infact I know that many of the entrepreneurs that get such knocks will in due course make a return to the limelight albeit alot wiser.

I just wanted to share with you the fact that for most of us, being first generation entrepreneurs we are likely to suffer the same knocks if we do not become wise enough earlier. We can avoid it, if only we cultivate the culture of discipline


@wirejames on Twitter

Fear Failure? Here’s how to overcome it

Jjumba (not real name), has tried his hands at a number of entrepreneurial partnerships with disastrous conclusions, now he is considering going it alone but has some inherent fear which is all summarised in this statement; “What if my capital is not enough or I don’t get clients for a long time?

Nancy (not real name) always excitedly builds business ideas, romanticises about them, gets peer approval and then stops dead in her tracks when it comes to implementation. She confessed to me that she usually gets gripped with the fear about what people will say and the potential financial setback she is likely to experience if the business idea doesn’t work out.

Many times we get so occupied worrying about the future based on our past experiences or knowledge and end up not acting in the present. This disease is of a similar trait to the procrastination that afflicts almost all human beings at various points in their lives.

So, Yes we fear to;

  • Lose money

  • Get into debt

  • Drop out of our circles of friends

  • Appear non-conformist i.e not doing what society expects of us

  • Rock the boat of stability we have built

  • Be seen as having failed

and many other fears that am sure you can add onto this list.

While fear seems to come naturally to us, it’s crucial that we find ways of overcoming it. Fear is probably a major reason the number of entrepreneurs is limited in the world today. These are some of the ways you can overcome fear of failure as an entrepreneur;

What’s wrong with me? Am I good enough? You occasionally get into bouts of self doubt and disbelief in your abilities. This breeds a level of inadequacy that makes you believe that something is not right. Everything is right about you and you only need to realise that many other success stories would never have been if feelings of inadequacy had been allowed to take over.

Bill Gates, the World’s richest man started a business called Traf-O-Data that failed miserably and he even ended up dropping out of Harvard University in the process. He however held onto his passion and vision for computers to later found Microsoft. The rest is history. It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once,Mark Cuban.

Avoid personalising failure. Failure should not be viewed as your identity. Take the case of this example from the Forbes Website; “There was a man who failed in business at age 21; was defeated in a legislative race at age 22; failed again in business at 24; overcome the death of his fiancée at 26; had a nervous breakdown at 27; lost a congressional race at 34; lost a senatorial race at age 45; failed to become Vice President at age 47; lost a senatorial race at 49; and was elected as the President of the United States at the age of 52. This man was Abraham Lincoln. He refused to let his failures define him and fought against significant odds to achieve greatness.”

Any entrepreneurial journey you embark upon will always have stumbling blocks along the way, this however doesn’t mean that you are the problem, all it means is that you have not found a successful way of doing that something you are passionate about.

Keep Mistakes alive. In rural Uganda, land ownership demarcation is largely done using plants (usually fast growing trees). Back in my village, we use one called ehiroowa which happens to be the Jatropha plant. Mistakes in business need not necessarily be buried and forgotten as soon as they are made, but should instead be used to act as boundary markers on what not to do along your entrepreneurial journey. By letting them play this role, they will always act as your GPS towards avoiding repeated failure in the same area. “Failures, repeated failures are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward towards success,” to quote C.S Lewis.

Watch out for Perfectionism. Psychologists refer to Perfectionism as, “a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations”. While it has its positives, the downsides tend to be manifested as fear of failure and depression which are closely linked to people who personalise failure.

One thing we all have to accept is that life can never follow the script that we design for it, there are always twists and turns along the way towards your goals. The same is true in business and it’s the reason we shouldn’t throw pity parties when hit by failure in business. When something fails to work out, move on to the next modification and quickly find out if that too can or can’t work.

At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” – Michael Law

Desist from Comparisons. The public and sometimes your very family are usually quick to make judgement when you fail. This concern tends to fill your mind with questions like; “What will my parents think about me?; Will my friends still want me around them?; Can I afford to maintain my lifestyle amidst the failure?” Concern for public opinion definitely can keep you in static mode and you need to disengage from it. Considering Abraham Lincoln’s numerous setbacks, he without doubt must have been a trending topic in the gossip corridors on a number of occasions but that didn’t deter his determination.

Worst Case Scenario. If the business doesn’t work out, what will happen to me?” This is a big concern for many going into business and unfortunately it’s further exacerbated by the images painted in our minds of what is likely to happen. Oftentimes our mental thought on this issue tends to veer to the extreme.

The best way to avoid being enslaved by this ‘Worst Case Scenario’ disease is to take time and assess it in detail, you might be surprised to find out that it might not be as bad as it looks.

Reach Out. When faced with failure, it always helps to reach out to people you either feel are already experienced in what you are attempting to do or even those that you could consider mentors. No man is an Island, so avoid bottling up all those questions and challenges. Alexis Carrel once said, “All of us, at certain moments of our lives need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”

I have found sharing a problem or fear with the right audience to be so beneficial and in most cases solution generating.

Rosa Parks, the famous American activist once said, “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

Is your mind made up?

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