Entrepreneurship is a skill set like any other. To begin as an entrepreneur you have to know yourself, your values, beliefs, interests, and desires extremely well to even begin to navigate the rough terrain. (Assuming you want to lower risk and increase your chances of succeeding, that is.) To begin as an entrepreneur requires a mindset that is willing to relentlessly work on problem solving, and will never give up, all for a reward that could be months or even many years away- with no guarantees. It requires the ingenuity to sustain and triumph over adversity while simultaneously recognizing when you need help. You need to be vulnerable, enough, at just the right time, to ask for help and actually receive it. (Timing is everything.) It requires being free of life drama, and being able to creatively sustain yourself while devoting time and resources to building your business/brand. You also must have a positive outlook about yourself and your life. And all of these things must be in place before, ideally, you find your good idea.
When someone decides they want to launch a business- when that moment comes- is hard to predict. Many people are interested in entrepreneurship a long time before actually embarking on the challenge. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and learn a lot of information and actualize very little of it. If you look at the pre-entrepreneurial requirements I listed above, building the macro skills you need to begin, is a first requirement, in my book- for this very reason. Many people- regardless of their age- have taken the time to deeply reflect and evolve within their own thinking about themselves and their lives. Too many people have never made a real commitment to anyone- let alone themselves. And most people today have little faith and trust in others and certainly would not show their vulnerabilities to a stranger. All of these soft skills must be honed to help someone build the proper motivation to take an average good idea and turn it into a sustainable viable business or scalable idea.
My thinking for quite some time has been that too many people see entrepreneurship as nothing more than a punch list of things to know and then to execute. As a result, thinking about entrepreneurship training has been focused primarily on knowledge transfer and controlling external forces instead of developing an individuals intrinsic motivation and abilities first and foremost before loading them up with information and challenges. And not everyone comes to that moment at the same time. And not everyone finds their good idea at the same time.
I have seen an idea become a business model in 2 weeks only to quickly die because it was not a deep enough idea to invest into for the newbie entrepreneur. I have seen a great idea pass right on by a newbie trep because his or her life was not in order to be able to seize the moment and opportunity- regardless of the advice and support they were given. I have seen a deep idea take off in 3-4 months and start earning money all because that individual was well prepared to have that happen (based on my list above). And I have seen deep ideas take years to form into a business with all the right ingredients at the table from the onset simply because the market was not ready for it, yet.
Does the speed at which a newbie entrepreneur is able to realize their deep idea make one better than another? Shark Tank thinks so but I am less sure, honestly. If we want to have more people become entrepreneurs we need to get more comfortable with the timeline being variable based on the internal and external needs of each individual entrepreneur, and their ideas, in the making.
While incubators focus on trying to produce measurable results, all ideas do not fit into a production line and cannot be spit out and systematized into income generating results. And while we all know this intuitively, entrepreneurship training has primarily been focused around building rigid training systems that are not consistently or universally working.
3-4-6 or 9 months are the average length of most incubator programs. Based on the newbie treps I have worked with, I would say you need all of those time lines to be available to them as a continuum. Treps need some personal development, professional development, idea honing, entrepreneurial skill building and then to focus on launching, executing and scaling. And every step of the way they need to learn how to sell to whom and when.
To expect everyone to accomplish all of those things in 3-4-6 or 9 month uniformly defines entrepreneurship training insanity- not everyone can possibly get the same results. While it might be easier to predict what a struggling small to medium enterprise (SME) might be able to achieve in a specified amount of time, if that SME has pre-entrepreneurship issues that were never addressed, the problem is bigger than their ability to market their goods and services or price properly. While that knowledge will certainly help, the problem will not be solved, in my opinion, until that individual has the entrepreneurial mindset and construct inside of them to succeed. And that needs to be built first. It’s foundational.
I was asked recently by a potential investor,” what can you guarantee your students will accomplish in 6 months?” That’s a tough question, but easier if the answer is based on their assessed skill level entering- both external knowledge and internal abilities.
I personally believe it takes 2-3 cycle repetitions of sorts to lift off a viable business or a scalable idea. The first to be the passenger and to observe, the second to drive but not masterfully and the last to hone and drive with agility and precision. They all are important steps.I believe it’s an 18-month investment, or 3 cycles of 6 months each, or no less than a year of training at least for the average entrepreneur. But it might take some less and it might take some more and we need to build a system that acknowledges that possibility.
While it may be true you can build a mobile app in 6 months and bring it to market, not every good idea fits into an app model or a tuna can for that matter. We need a little hand crafted artisanship embedded in the notion of entrepreneurship training. We are building & changing lives- not spitting out pre-packaged treps in a can.
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