Interview with an entrepreneur who has started a profitable business within Essay
Following graduation from Mr. Rasheed began his professional career as a Technical Officer with a large corporate business. After four months he received promotion to become a District Extension Officer. Following a period of six months working in this job function, the interviewee became a Marketing Research Manager. As head of this department his duties were divided between project work and on-going provision of sales analysis, market forecasts, business trends and other budgetary information.
He also supervised a small team of staff who assisted him with these duties. After three years his work was changing to become largely product development and planning under the direction of the Corporate Planning Manager and it was this work that he found Particularly stimulating. Mr. Rasheed was also exposed to his first sales training and activities, largely developing sales of new products or new applications for old ones. At this time, Mr. Rasheed had the opportunity to move into his own property development business.
Before the age of twenty one, the interviewee knew nobody in business except for local shopkeepers in his area, he does not believe they influenced him in any way. After the age of twenty one, he still knew nobody in business apart
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Initially the interviewee thought he would not like sales, but really his lack of marketing and sales was irrelevant, he learnt some marketing during his early employment and this provided a very good grounding when he began his own business. Mr. Rasheed feels that his early interest in horse racing, investing, stock markets and avoiding tax were his reasons for becoming interested in entrepreneurship. No individual nurtured this and he felt that his critical lessons did not begin until he had started his business, learning by experience and “jumping in at the deep end”. Mr.
Rasheed stated that prior to beginning his own business he had achieved a successful corporate career start, a nice house he bought at a good price, supportive parents, no fears, great self-confidence and a love of the business world he was in and no real personal requirements. He felt that because everything was so comfortable he needed to stretch himself. The opportunity Mr. Rasheed found the ideal starting point for him was an existing property development business advertised for sale in the classifieds of a news paper. He stated that he carried out no evaluation in terms of required elements for success, the competition or the market.
His driving forces were to get rich and to take control of his own destiny. He had no partners in the business, says he made some plans in his head and that his parents helped him by guaranteeing a loan that he took with the bank. Mr. Rasheed had no start up business loan and decided that he was just going to build on the existing business of the prior owner. From the initial idea that he wanted to work for himself, he says when he when he realized that some bosses were morons, he decided to take control of his own destiny, it was about two to three years from conception. He spent no time other than thinking about it in his daily routines.
Mr. Rasheed paid the equivalent of US$90,000 for the business and felt that this was too much, but did not know that at the time. He says that positive cash flow probably started after a few months but after a continuation of set backs, it was after he won some local government contracts that the business started to get ahead, perhaps two and a half years. The business suffered no real crises other than the usual cash flow that every new or growing business has to face. Fortunately the interviewee had an understanding bank. Apart from his parents, who came to help in his business to answer phones and help keep figures he got no outside help.
He always did his own tax, and tried to learn new technology to give him an edge. Mr. Rasheed said that no outside advisors really made any significant difference to his company. His family grew from one child born just as he began work for himself to three children after four and a half years. The major strength of his business was initially that it was relatively small and therefore able to react quickly in terms of taking and completing projects. His focus on details and the professionalism of the staff he employed helped to differentiate himself from the other businesses in the same area.
The major weakness in the early days was lack of money or the fact that all profit was sunk back into the business. In the initial growth phase of the business, their must triumphant moment was the winning of their first local government contract. The worst moment was after two months when a local contract was cancelled due to the change in ownership of the business and therefore halved the value of the business good will. Mr. Rasheed wanted to operate the business solo because he could then develop the business as he wanted without discussion with other partners. Growth phase Once the business was beginning to develop Mr.
Rasheed struggled with staffing, stating that good people are very hard to find. With regard to traits that he actively avoided in both employees and advisors, he would not employ complainers, people with a lack of common sense or people with poor health. The interviewee feels that the business has now become a lot less predictable than it was in the early days and that he probably spends as much time in the business now as he did in the early days. He still feels entrepreneurial due to the nature of the business, but he added that he is probably more cautious with risk now than he was at the outset, partly due to family commitments.
However, it is his intention to continue to build and expand the business. In an ideal world he would prefer to work less and spend more time with his family, however he accepts that this is unlikely to happen in the near future, partly because of his drive to grow the business. He does not plan to retire and claimed to not understand what the word meant. Mr. Rasheed re-evaluates and adapts his goals regularly, they have undoubtedly changed over the years, but this allows him to keep focused on what is important. When asked what the most demanding trade-offs he faced were, Mr.
Rasheed answered that this was undoubtedly choosing what he should spend his time doing, ensuring that it was the thing that adds most value to the business. He does not see the loss of time for personal hobbies as an issue, his business is both hobby and work. Mr. Rasheed described a time in the initial phase of the business when he ran out of money. A large customer defaulted on a final payment, leaving his next project vulnerable. It took a court order and a lengthy period to get the money, in the meantime he had to sell personal possessions (car etc. ) in order to make a director’s loan to the business and keep on trading.
The lesson that it taught him was not to be too trusting of customers and to try and build a cash reserve for the business at the earliest opportunity. Mr. Rasheed says he has learnt that the world is very corrupt and you might need to pay big bribes to win jobs in certain parts of the world. People taking bribes don’t care about your skills, technology, motives or the impact of their corruption on their own country or the environment. Summary Mr. Rasheed feels that his most valuable assets and the things that allowed him to ‘make it’ are the support of his parents and the knowledge he has gained in this journey.
If he had to do it all over again he would and in a similar way, but he feels that he would probably be less trusting of the people that he was doing business with. Over the next five years, Mr. Rasheed feels that the most critical element needed to grow entrepreneurial businesses will be cash. He feels that cash for working capital for new businesses will be difficult, if not impossible for new entrepreneurs to obtain. This will lead to a stagnation in the growth of entrepreneurial business throughout the world.
He does not feel that there is anything that can be learned to offset these issues. With regard to stress, Mr. Rasheed said that he experiences stress when he cannot control things, for example, government corruption, interference in methodology by new laws and when it appears he cannot do what he promises. He thinks this is the same for all jobs, all activities and responsibilities. Personally he finds working for what he believes in and the ability to have free time when he wants it the most personally rewarding and satisfying thing as an entrepreneur.
That and being able to personally build a business that he is proud of. Mr. Rasheed feels that the main rewards for him are knowledge and the ability to look his children in the eye and say he is proud to do what he does and give them the reasons for this. The risks are that he is wasting his life and has no other life to try again. The trade offs are that he spends too much time and money on his beliefs and not enough on enjoyment and he doesn’t have enough time with friends and family and for “me” things. When asked who should be an entrepreneur and who should not, Mr.
Rasheed answered that someone who is able to adapt to change should be one, someone afraid of change should not. The advice he would give to any aspiring entrepreneur would be to take it easy and work for a big company, the world will become uninhabitable in a hundred years so enjoy it while you can and remain in ignorance. He added that he had learned three important lessons, which would stand a budding entrepreneur in good stead. 1. Know yourself and what is important to you 2. Don’t trust people to do the sensible or correct thing 3.
Never stop trying to learn For many of these lessons you cannot minimise the tuition, you must make your own way in life and make your own mistakes and discoveries. Do not be afraid of mistakes, there is nothing bad about mistakes unless you fail to learn from them. A good life must be lived and there are no shortcuts, we all die so live each day to the fullest and be prepared and willing to have a go. Conclusion Mr. Rasheed did not do very much planning when he began his business and looking back he felt this was wrong, he is more cautious with risk now.
His business has grown strongly over the past few years but he advises that everyone must be planning for future bad times when the good times are here, and the reverse is also true. It is important to have a good support network, whether this is family, friends, business associates or a combination of all of these. Working as an entrepreneur is very demanding and can be very stressful, but the rewards seem to be the knowledge that you can create something yourself that you are proud of. There are downsides, but the feedback from the interviewee is that the plusses outweigh the negatives.