So you want to build a business?
The journey into entrepreneurship often begins with the conception of an idea. It comes like a lightning bolt with a promise of taking your life on an exciting journey beyond your wildest dreams. The feeling is very much the same for almost every entrepreneur.
First it begins with a feeling of excitement that often comes with the assumption that your idea is the first of its kind and has the potential to change the world. Following closely is the feeling of success that comes as a result of your daydreaming about the seemingly endless possibilities the idea is supposedly expected to usher into your life.
This feeling is much like being high on something, because it has a way of making the present condition totally irrelevant and focuses more on the future. Lastly, comes the feeling of urgency when nothing else seems to matter except the realization of the idea. It is no longer sufficient to day dream about the idea, now is when you want it all to happen at once. But do all these feelings actually make an idea work? Of course not.
To make an idea work, requires much more than just bathing in your imaginations. It requires having to face your greatest nightmare as an entrepreneur – selling your idea to others!
Having an idea is ALWAYS the easy part!
As much as we all love these feelings that often follows the conception of an idea, the hard part of being an entrepreneur is coming to terms with the fact that having an idea is always the easy part. Being an entrepreneur is more than just having a great business idea. Being an entrepreneur is about being an individual with a capacity to make things happen. Being an entrepreneur is a matter of credibility much more than creativity.
It isn’t about your new big idea; it’s about your whole life experience. What about your life, what about your past points to the fact that you can bring an idea into reality? What stuff are you made up of? Entrepreneurship is about bringing the totality of your life experience to bear in the quest of making something you strongly believe in happen. Entrepreneurship is a test of your life seeking expression in an idea.
You are the one being tested and not your idea. An idea is nothing all by itself. An idea becomes something only in the hand of a true entrepreneur and a true entrepreneur is the individual with a credible track record.
Your idea is great, but your track record sucks!
Your greatest nightmare as an entrepreneur is having to sell your big idea to the world. Every idea must face criticism and this is the ultimate test of being an entrepreneur. Your ability to fight for your idea will be determined by the strength of your character first as an individual. Whether or not your idea will be accepted is a function of your past. What about your past gives us a clue that you can pull this idea through? People buy into you the entrepreneur first before they buy into the idea. So if your life doesn’t suggest to those you are trying to solicit their involvement in making your idea a reality that you are capable, then your great idea is as good as nothing.
How well have you led your life? As I have always emphasized, business is not separate from your life as an entrepreneur, rather, business is an extension of your life. Your business as an entrepreneur is a reflection of your person. Show me an individual and I can almost predict how and what his business will look like. True entrepreneurs first lead a great life, little wonder they build great businesses. The composition of your life as an entrepreneur is what will determine the success or failure of your entrepreneurial journey.
Entrepreneurship is about surmounting varying degrees of difficulties in order to make something worthwhile happen. It requires more than just having a great idea; it requires a strong character developed as a result of accumulated life experiences. These life experiences serves as a foundation on which to build the much needed credibility through which your idea is brought to life.
People always want to know if you have what it takes to pull an idea through from conception to execution. The task of having to convince them that you have what it takes is the greatest nightmare of being an entrepreneur. Some of the people whose involvement you need to get your idea off the ground include; investors, partners, workers, customers, suppliers etc. without these people being on board, your idea at its very best is still your idea. Meaning it hasn’t become a shared idea. Why? Because it takes more than one person (entrepreneur) to build a business, you ultimately need the involvement of others.
Why on earth should anyone buy into your idea?
Providing answer to this question is where your greatest nightmare as an entrepreneur begins. Your idea is great; it has the potential to change the world, but how come no one except you is willing to stick their neck out for it? How come all people ever do when you pitch your idea is listen, nod their heads and do nothing else? Because you are not convincing. Let me be very quick to draw a line here; there is big difference between sounding convincing and actually being convincing.
Sounding convincing is a matter of presentation, being convincing is a matter of credibility. In other words, trust. Your credibility is what determines your ability to convince others and without that credibility, selling your idea to others might remain impossible.
So how do you develop credibility?
Credibility in its most basic meaning is the ability to inspire trust or belief. In other words, credibility refers to the ability of the entrepreneur to inspire or earn the trust and willingness of others to accept what he or she proposes as true. Credibility basically comes from four sources;
1. Who you are (character, life experience):
There’s hardly anything we ever do on earth that doesn’t always require that we go back to the basics – life. Life truly is the basis on which every other thing on earth is built. The first source of credibility is your life. As I’ve always been known to ask; “what is commendable about your existence?”
Believe it or not, the first place people look to tell if you are capable of a thing or not is your life. They want to know the kind of person you are, the substance of your character, and the composition of your life experience. In other words, they want to know what makes you thick as a person. What drives you? What are your values or what do you value? You might want to ask “why are all these necessary for determining ones credibility?”
The truth of the matter is this; at its very core, business is all about relationships. We don’t do business with things or animals, we do business with human beings and the crux of any human interaction is trust. Hence the need for you to have a credible life that is worthy of earning and inspiring other people’s trust. Selling your idea is about soliciting the trust and commitment of others, how else are you going to achieve this if there’s nothing commendable about your life!
2. What you’ve done (track record, past experiences, results or accomplishments):
The second source of credibility is your track record. Your track record generally refers to what you’ve done in the past or your past accomplishments. In other words, what victories have you won? What territories have you conquered? Sad as it may sound; rarely do people want to give a loafer a chance at anything.
People would rather risk their lives with someone with a track record of commendable results or accomplishments than with someone with no track record whatsoever. The qualities of your past accomplishments to an extent are credible indicators of your capacity to make things happen. This is why people often clamour for experience as a proof of one’s capacity to perform.
Therefore, in selling your idea, you should bring all your past victories to bear and leverage upon the fact that if you were able to achieve wins in certain projects in the past, you inevitably possess what it takes to replicate the process again.
3. What you know (Knowledge, skills):
As I have always believed and professed; OUR ABILITY TO DO IS LIMITED BY WHAT WE KNOW. Therefore, what you know is another source of credibility. Owing to the dynamic nature of life, it’s almost impossible to see someone who has virtually experienced in the past all he/she wants to do in the future. Somehow, we still may not have all the track record we need to leverage upon by our own selves; this is where leveraging on the experiences of others comes into play.
As a result of knowledge and skills acquired from others, we are half as capable as they are in doing that which we’ve learnt from them. You can compensate for what you’ve not done with what you can do as a result of what you know. In selling your idea therefore, people want to know how much you’ve learnt about your idea.
In other words, how much do you know about where you are headed? Since you haven’t personally been down this road before, how do you intend to make it through? Your goal is to show how much you know and have learnt about what it takes to make your idea work. The quality of your knowledge about a particular thing or idea is proof that you don’t just have an idea, you also have a blueprint and the necessary skills to make it work.
4. Who you know (Network, Team, Association):
The last source of credibility is who you know. It’s very closely related to what you know, but in its case, rather than knowledge or skills gained from others, it’s more like outsourcing tasks to those more capable than you. Surrounding yourself with people who possess all other forms of credibility listed above is another way of attracting credibility to your own self too. As the popular saying goes; “show me your friend and I will tell you who you really are.”
People can tell how capable you are or not as a result of those people you are always in association with. A man in the company of fools will definitely be capable of doing foolish things and the one in the company of the wise; will ultimately end up doing wise things. Therefore, in selling your idea as an entrepreneur, endeavour to surround yourself with men and women who are more credible than yourself in certain areas that relates to making your idea a reality.
Now over to you my dear reader, in what other ways besides these four sources listed above have you adopted in developing your credibility as you went about selling your idea to others?