One year ago, on the 14th of December, I decided to become an entrepreneur. After six years of work and passion (the sexy word) in one of Cameroon’s biggest FMCG, I quit. During six years, I had worked on nurturing epic brands, I had learnt great life lessons, built some strong friendships and felt I was ready to move on. It was a Monday, I woke up with a feeling of intense peace and renewed ambition.
Twelve months after, I feel privileged.I am privileged for the lessons, privileged for the additional experience, privileged for the hurdles
Twelve months after, I feel privileged. I am privileged for the lessons, privileged for the additional experience, privileged for the hurdles. One year as an entrepreneur and one year in the family business. Looking at it now, it was a quite crazy challenge: five months- pregnant, taking on two new jobs, one in a field where I had only limited expertise (custom broker and forwarding agent) and another where though I had the technical skills, I needed to manage everything (marketing consulting). Sexy, challenging on paper. In real life, essentially challenging. Below, five business tips learnt from this epic year:
1. Rigor is necessary
If you have no rigor, and have no budget to recruit, don’t try the entrepreneurship adventure especially in Cameroon. You need to be able to organize your time in the most efficient way to get results. On top of this, you must understand the administrative requirements related to the business you are investing it, even in the case you are outsourcing this bit.
You need rigor to build your canvassing plan, identify the people who you really need to meet, evaluate your network and craft the approach to transform good connections into possible customers.
Honestly, I initially missed the rigor. I was ready and willing but not fully conscious of the stakes. That initial lack of rigor led me into paying a huge fine for taxes, when I declared my company. Caught once, surely not a second time. Just imagine paying fines because you declared late and spending money which exceeds your cumulative gross profit. Rigor is a MUST.
Rigor has been for me the best productivity tool. Indeed with rigor, you build reflex, you organize your assets, you file better, you work on your commercial reporting and progressively, you have better shots, you even create opportunities.
2. You need to adapt
You must be a chameleon, when you become an entrepreneur. Indeed, except you are very lucky with some great deals from Day 1 or in the case where you have some money to invest upfront, you need to be able to do everything yourself at least for a start. Even in the case where you can afford to delegate, you must understand the tasks for yourself first of all. Indeed, if you delegate taxes without understanding the requirements, you will be stolen.
Moreover, you need to adapt to different situations, different tones. When you are looking for customers (especially as custom broker, as importers are everywhere to be found), you need to find the right tone, get into the right environment and most of the times get out of your comfort zone. Working in the structured environment of a big company, you generally have a clear job description and can afford not to get out of it. Therefore, you may have to adapt to colleagues, but the transformation skills from one “job” to another that you need as an entrepreneur, these are not developed in the corporate world.
Lastly, you must be willing to adapt your business model. You can launch your business with a business plan, some clarity on your market opportunity and your understanding of the needs. Meanwhile, in the implementation process, you obtain additional insights, you make discoveries, and you may have to review your plan. DO IT. Don’t get cut in the pride of “I thought I had it right”, adjust, evolve, this is the only way to succeed.
3. Anticipation, Planning and Preparation
This one is VERY important. When I resigned from my corporate job, I thought I was ready, I thought I had got it all, squared the market, the opportunity, the needs, etc... I made the mistake of believing that because I was working in marketing/communication, the proposals I thought worth it for services, were necessarily as worth it for my colleagues too. I took the risk of using assumptions without testing them ENOUGH. I also took the risk of not understanding totally the requirements in the field of work (Licensing, certifications etc….).
This could be my only regret, the one “mistake” I would advice you to avoid. Please do avoid it. Test your thinking, do some questionnaires. Moreover, if you need additional training, if you need to pay for it, take advantage of a regular salary in the corporate world and pay for it with no stress, then of course JUMP.
4. JUMP- Take the risks
Another, VERY important one. Everything needs to be neat and all but you cannot learn if you don’t try. You will never know how far you could go if you don’t try.
You will never know how far you could go if you don’t try.
Indeed, I did not plan. Indeed, some of my objectives were over-ambitious considering I was a mum-to-be. Still, I would not be able to write and share these learning if I had stayed in my corporate office up to now. Achieving your objectives is first and foremost about taking risks. Calculated risks are better and easier to take, however a risk is a risk. I took the risk, I am there, hustling everyday, and that is all what matters to me.
5. So Yeah, Entrepreneurship is not SEXY
Yes, please, let go of this joyful, insane mood of people who look like being under hard drugs. Working for yourself, especially in environments like Cameroon, is everything but easy. Working for yourself does not mean being rich from Day 1. Working for yourself does not always mean having this disruptive idea that will change EVERYTHING. Working for yourself is not being a start-up. It can be but not always. Working for yourself is not necessarily living from your passion. Working for yourself demands, all what I have shared above and even more. Working for yourself is a challenge, a goal, an intention, a driver. Working for yourself is a unique adventure. Working for yourself gives freedom, and the latter comes along with great responsibilities. As said above, quit it, Entrepreneurship is NOT Sexy.
Still, all the sacrifices were worth it. There is passion ( a bit of it) but there is more importantly, the feeling of moving towards my life goals. No career path is easy, no choice is. Happiness needs to be created. After one year, I am immensely happy and I needed this back on the job side. Entrepreneurship is not the magic solution for everyone, entrepreneurship was MY Magic solution and I enjoy every single bit of it.
This is only the beginning of this personal journey. In the mean time, The debate is yours. If you are entrepreneur, do you have some other tips to share? If you are an aspiring entrepreneur or just an observer, do you have any additional question? The “Comment” section is all yours.