In the last decade, more Nigerians have attended entrepreneurial trainings, taken courses in entrepreneurship than ever before. Virtually all young graduates have received some form of tutoring on the topic, thanks to the National Youth Service Corps orientation programme.
With all this in place, however, the success rate of small and medium enterprises has been very low; businesses have barely survived, let alone thrived beyond incubation period. Some have downsized to the barest minimum; others press on in anticipation of a better tomorrow; yet many more have been frustrated to closure.
Government regulations and policies, insecurity, and a seemingly irredeemable power sector have not made it any easier. Nonetheless, some businesses have broken through the ice to become successful amid the supposed difficult investment climate.
It is often said that you cannot win a game that you do not play. In the context of entrepreneurship, this statement suggests that success depends on people’s willingness to become entrepreneurs. The major mistake of the average Nigerian entrepreneur is that he/she is driven, more often than not, by money, prestige, and the quest for more of it.
Being an entrepreneur really means one delights in the service of others. Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group, speaking on what motivates successful entrepreneurs, says: “The light of failure shines brightly on those who aren’t in business for the right reasons.”
From the foregoing, we are of the view that entrepreneurship, which is more than simply “starting a business”, should involve the capacity and attitude of a person or group of persons to undertake ventures with the probability of success or failure. It demands that the individual should be prepared to assume a reasonable degree of risks, be a good leader, in addition to being highly innovative. “It can be done. It needs just hard work and consistency,” says Aliko Dangote, chairman of Dangote Group, in a February 2012 Tell Magazine interview.
The entrepreneur should be spurred by wanting to solve a problem he or she is so passionate about. Even if the solution does not result in wealth, he or she is still thrilled by solving it. When one really does solve a big problem, money will almost always follow, anyway.
However, our peculiar political-economic history, especially the volatile 1980s and 1990s, must be borne in mind. Bismarck Rewane, in an interview with Punch, contends that socio-economic insecurity “makes the quest for money almost insatiable. This has been further exacerbated by the lack of safety nets by the government.”
Would-be entrepreneurs will do well to shift their focus – by being disciplined and investment savvy. They have to see money as a means and not an end, and they must look beyond “a materialistic value system that celebrates wealth”. Nigerian entrepreneurs who do their homework, take calculated risks, and think long term will slowly but surely thrive, despite difficulties like the time it takes to start or close their business, access credit, property rights, input costs, and our tax regime.