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Could a job be the first step on your entrepreneurial journey?

Could a job be the first step on your entrepreneurial journey?
10-05-23 / Sisanda Ndlovu

Could a job be the first step on your entrepreneurial journey?

You’ve always dreamed of being an entrepreneur, unleashing the next big idea on the world. But it’s tougher than you thought. After trying and failing to start your own business you’ve been forced down a road you never thought was for you: full-time employment. Is this the end of your journey to become the next Steve Jobs? Not necessarily.

“If you keep your eyes open and treat a job as a learning experience, there’s a huge amount of value to be gained for a budding entrepreneur in the formal work environment.” says Andiswa Bata, Head: SME at FNB Commercial.

The employee experience

When you build your own business your success or otherwise is going to be determined by the people you have around you. You’re going to need employees and having been one yourself will give you valuable insight into creating an environment which gets the most out of your people. You’ll also learn what good management – and even more importantly – bad people management pitfalls to avoid.

The boring (but important) stuff

You might be fixated on the next disruptive innovation, but growing a business involves a lot of less-exciting work. For example, putting in place processes and frameworks. These are important, but they can also be complicated. Knowing what formal structures need to be in place can help your future business survive.

Working in a successful business can teach you the importance of (for example) keeping separate bank accounts, of having governance and admin functions, of keeping records and updating documents, or of using payroll, accounting, and other software systems. Making a note of systems that could be applicable to your own business will be a huge shortcut when the time comes to grow and scale.

You’ll also learn how to approach risk – not in the entrepreneurial sense of being bold, going out on a limb and not being afraid to fail, but in the sense of protecting what you’ve worked hard to build by taking out effective insurance to mitigate risk, understanding the importance of registering IP, etc.

The value of a team

As tempting as it is to think that you can do everything yourself, being in a job can teach you about the importance of having a team of specialists focused on a common goal. At some stage in your entrepreneurial journey, you’re going to need to surround yourself with a team of experts, and the sooner you realise exactly where your strengths are, and where you need support, the better. Pay attention to the work everyone is doing and what makes them good or bad at their job. Notice how bigger organisations are structured, and how it might apply to your future business.

A financial leg up

A job is also a useful source of something that’s in very short supply when you’re starting a business: money. Not only does it allow you to save directly to invest in your dream business but leaning on your personal income could give you an ability to exhibit repayment ability for business funding ... not to mention the ability to build personal assets that may one day come in handy for the business.

“Aspiring entrepreneurs should not frown upon the valuable skills one builds when they themselves are in formal employment. So, even if your own business is taking time to take off, don’t begrudge that first job. Embrace it.” concludes Bata.

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