Getting Over The First Hurdle

Entrepreneurship – getting over the first hurdle

HurdlesWhen we start doing something new it can be very intimidating. There is risk involved in entrepreneurship as in all business ventures and it is possible to be paralysed by the fear of failure to the point that we miss valuable business opportunities. This is why it is important to get into the habit of overcoming challenges which inevitably will come.

The first hurdle

The first hurdle will be the first major challenge we encounter in either starting a business or running it. It is the first defining problem that makes us wonder whether we should proceed or count our losses and give up. It could be difficulty raising initial capital, low sales, low profitability or unexpected expenses. The first hurdle could also be non-financial such as reduction in family time, difficulty finding the right employees or competition from other businesses. Usually the way we handle this first hurdle will teach us about making tough decisions and the sacrifices that are necessary to be successful.

Overcoming the first hurdle

There is no guarantee that we will get over the first hurdle. There is also no guarantee that we will get over the first hurdle in our first try. While this may seem like a recipe for failure, it is actually an opportunity to consider the challenge facing us and the potential solutions. If profitability is the issue and trying to increase sales does not work maybe their is a problem with the entire business model. The music industry learned this lesson when it was reluctant to capitalize on the growing popularity of the internet and concentrated instead on physical record sales. Timing may also be a subtle factor which we sometimes neglect to consider. Introducing a product or service to a market that is not ready for it can lead to failure. Educating the market first and showing the need for the product or service can help us overcome the hurdle of the product/service being new.

The confidence boost

Getting over the first hurdle in business gives a boost in confidence and a taste of solving real world solutions. It may not guarantee business success but the lessons learned from this experience can be the foundation for getting over future hurdles. Many times the solution may not be obvious and out-of-the-box thinking may be necessary. We can use the experience of getting over the first hurdle to remind us that success can be achieved even when it is not immediately in sight.

Experiment to Find Your Formula

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Success stories obviously have happy endings but on the path to success these happy endings may seem an unbearable distance away. Creative solutions may have to be devised to overcome obstacles that arise. Both anticipated problems and unexpected situations require quick thinking and decisive action in order to achieve your goals. With that in mind , consider experimenting to improve  your offerings, techniques, skills or general customer service before a problem arises. This allows you to be better equipped to face challenges when they inevitably come knocking.

Experimentation precedes innovation

MicrowaveMost success stories are also packed with stories of failure before the eureka moment occurred. Before the right idea can be identified the horrible and not so practical ideas have to be eliminated. Experimentation is the testing ground of ideas and the birthplace of innovation. Having the courage to try something new rather than follow the status quo has led to the invention of countless appliances. Failure of an original idea does not always mean the failure of an experiment as many products that were invented by accident show.

In the same vein, experimentation in business is vital for not only initial success but longevity. It allows a business to try new things and new approaches in a constantly evolving environment. Out-of-the-box thinking can gain a business a competitive advantage or even change an entire industry. Apple is renown for iTunes and iPod products that helped to transform the music industry from a CD dominated market to a digital one.

Experimenting breaks monotony

Bored WomanWhile doing the same thing over and over again can build up efficiency it can also become monotonous. When the excitement of a task is gone the morale of those performing it can also suffer. Experimenting is one method of averting the monotony of routine tasks. Google and other companies have used a  20% rule to inspire employees and allow them to express their creativity on work related projects of their choosing. This not only boosts morale but also results in new homegrown products. Google AdSense and GMail are examples of products that began as experiments but matured to be integrated into the company’s business model.

Expect Resistance

BearsChange is always met with some form of resistance. People are reluctant to simply accept the unfamiliar but this should not discourage you from experimenting. In fact, the more your experiment can break through this barrier of resistance the more likely it will be to succeed. Great products/services are often those which make us wonder how we lived without it after it is invented. Have faith and fun experimenting and your hard work may just pay off.


10 Accidental Inventions from Stuff of Genius

Steve Jobs revolutionized the music industry from Los Angeles Times

Google Couldn’t Kill 20 Percent Time Even if It Wanted To from Wired

Dominica SWOT ICT

Small Country, Large Opportunities

Dominica LaptopDominica is a small beautiful island in the Caribbean known better for its lush ecosystem than its infrastructure and technology developments. With a population of about 70000 people there are many challenges as well as unique opportunities for this developing island state. The mountainous topography of the island along with efforts to preserve its natural heritage have no doubt contributed to its slower pace of development than its neighbouring islands but this by no means should be used as an excuse for taking advantage of the opportunities a continuously more globalized world has provided. There are in fact many investment opportunities in Dominica. Since I am involved in information technology as a certified computer technician and run an internet based business I see opportunities to leverage the power of the internet to improve the country’s other industries.

The Nature Island

Dominica is a beautiful country renowned for it’s rainforests, rivers, waterfalls and hot springs. All these natural resources can be and are promoted on the internet. Tourism is one of the main industries on which the country is focussed and there are opportunities to create websites and mobile apps targeted directly at tourists and visitors to the island.

Small Population

The small population of Dominica is often cited as a hindrance to development. This small population can be a strategic advantage for  various projects. All communities are with driving distance of at most a few hours making accessibility to a target audience a easier than in larger countries The internet penetration of over 50% and mobile penetration of over 100% the population is internet savvy and accustomed to using mobile phones. This fact has been identified for ambitious projects such as the island-wide Bit Drop.

Potential in Technology Sector

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has long been promoted in schools and there are many qualified IT professionals on island and in the diaspora. Integrating this knowledge with other industries could prove very beneficial. The manufacturing and agriculture industry could benefit from using latest technology for both production and marketing activities.

There is no magic solution to developing Dominica or other economies like it. The internet and technology however help even the playing field since the main requirement is knowledge and internet access. Hopefully more investment in this sector will see more jobs and opportunities opening up for such small economies.

Related Links

Discover Dominica Authority

Invest Dominica Authority

Internet World Stats

Start-up Hidden Costs

5 hidden costs of entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur's MoneyThe lure of running your own business and not having to work for someone else is very tempting for most ambitious individuals. This is especially true if you feel exploited at your job or feel that it is preventing you from reaching your full potential. Having  control of your business activities gives you the freedom to reap the rewards of your hard work. You can take responsibility for the decisions that are made and their outcomes. There are many costs that are associated with starting a business that can be anticipated beforhand but there are also a few hidden costs that usually tend to become obvious after you have started operating. These costs are not limited to money but also affect resources and time.

1. Administrative costs

Besides your core business functions there are several administrative tasks that you will have to perform as an entrepreneur. Be prepared to either take up these responsibilities, which will be time consuming, or to hire someone to handle it for you. Simple tasks such as billing customers, listening to their feedback and making calls to acquire leads can add up to hours a day or require you to pay a salary. This can be especially frustrating for an entrepreneur trying to focus on improving core business functions.

2. Opportunity costs

Entrepreneurs are known for their ambition and enthusiasm but you will soon realize that you cannot do it all, or at least cannot do it all alone. Sacrifices have to be made and tough decisions will have to be taken. This is where you have to consider opportunity costs or the cost of choosing an alternative course of action. You may want to raise prices but the number of customers you will attract will decrease. If this decrease will reduce profitability then  the cost of changing the price is higher than the cost of keeping it the same. Analysing opportunity can help you make wiser business decisions.

3. Contingency Costs

While we hope that unfortunate events do not occur we have little control over them. The most we can do is prepare for them. Contingency costs include the cost of this preparation but also the emergency costs that creep in when something unexpectedly goes wrong. If an important piece of equipment  breaks down it may need to be replaced as soon as possible. Documents may need to be backed up requiring you to purchase additional storage solely for that purpose. In the Caribbean where there is an annual hurricane season an upcoming storm can incur costs even if a major hurricane does not hit.

4. Family life costs

Starting up your own business requires a lot of work and dedication and this can definitely affect your family life. Before the time comes that you can take vacation whenever you want you will most likely have to work long hours and on days you normally would not have to in a regular job. Days off can quickly transform into days of work. It is important for an entrepreneur to consider relationships with family and make responsible decisions. Communication is critical in these circumstances as family responsibilities and work duties can often conflict.

5. Financial costs

This may seem like an obvious cost since everyone knows that investment is necessary to start up a business. The financial costs you need to be aware of are not  just the initial investments though. The financial burdens that occur when the business does not do as well as you anticipated or when you do not separate business and personal funds are pitfalls that every entrepreneur should be aware of. A passionate entrepreneur will undoubtedly be tempted to invest personal funds in the start-up but garnishing your savings to fund a failing business is a risky undertaking. At some point, if the business does not start generating a profit you need to find a sustainable form of investment or it may be time to call it quits.

These hidden costs are in no way intended to discourage entrepreneurship. In fact, being aware of them before they affect you can help you develop a stronger business and be prepared for some of the challenges that may be in store. I encourage anyone who wants to start a business to work on a business plan and pursue those dreams if they are plausible.

Balance Education & Business

Balancing business and education

Education vs Business

One of the challenges of operating a business is figuring out how to perform the daily operations of the business as well as stay updated with the news trends and developments in the  industry. This is especially true in the information technology industry where changes happen very rapidly, but it applies for almost any type of industry over time. How do you stay updated with the latest ideas and techniques without sacrificing delivering your core products/services? This question weighs heavier on a sole proprietor than any other type of business due to limited resources. Here are some tips that I have used to balance the delicate scale of learning and working.

Prioritize formal education for a fixed time period

You may be naturally adept at your job but at some point you may desire a formal recognition of your talent. To get the degree or certification that you want you may have to go back to school. Your business does not have to stop because you are taking classes though. You can do courses online from accredited sources while still running your business. If you do decide to obtain a degree or certification though, ensure that you make it a priority and invest in your education. After you receive your degree or certification you will be even more qualified to run the business efficiently. If you want your business to succeed, however, you should not reduce your influence on it indefinitely. Give yourself enough time to get the formal education that is necessary then refocus your knowledge  and new-found expertise on growing your business.

Continue with informal education throughout your career

Despite our best efforts, we will never know it all and we will never be recognized for all that we know. To remain competitive we must learn, adapt and innovate. This can only be done by continuing education through experiences, opportunities and even failures. The internet gives us access to many resources that we can use to educate ourselves at our own pace. Although this type of education may not be formerly recognized, you have access to various types of multimedia to suit your individual learning needs.

Learn from the experience of others

Influencers are people who have gained a reputation in their field and are regarded as good sources of advice. These influencers can teach us from their own experience and success/failure stories. By learning from these individuals’ work ethic and approach to problems we can gain insights from the professionals that have already been through the challenges we are facing. These insights can help us to avoid making the same mistakes and prepare us for some of the challenges in store.

Keep a futuristic view of business

Your business is operating now but your goals are based on future success and profits. With that in mind you have to be focussed on your goals and the environment in which you are operating. The rise of social media has changed the behaviour of many in your target audience and future developments are likely to have a similar impact. Being able to foresee these trends allows you to be better prepared for them. Change can be challenging especially if it requires leaving your comfort zone but it is often necessary. Do not let the challenges of today make you lose sight of the opportunities of tomorrow.