OF TREES AND FOREST
By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
An entrepreneur takes risks in order to provide a product or service society needs. Because change is a constant, an entrepreneur needs to have a keen sense of what society needs and how best he/she can provide it.
There have been numerous books and seminars on how to become a successful entrepreneur. We have heard famous entrepreneurs share their ingredients for success. It is important to listen to them and learn their lessons. But it is equally important for a budding entrepreneur to make his/her own decisions. The key is to learn from the past but apply them to one’s particular circumstances. Because it worked for Warren Buffett does not mean it’ll work for you.
Many seminars and books will tell you to research and understand your market before taking the plunge. That is most certainly true. But before that, it is equally critical for you to understand yourself. Understand where your passion lies setting up a business is hard. You will fail. All entrepreneurs failed at one point. But all great entrepreneurs bounced back from those flops. That is why you need to be doing something you are passionate about because that fire, that spirit is what will lift you in times of great difficulty.
Passion is important because setting up your own business is hard work. As I wrote in the first part of this article, starting a business requires you to spend most, if not all your waking hours to do everything!
If you are an employee, you will likely be focused on one aspect of the business operation –finance, sales, or human resources. But if you are the boss, you need to understand the entirety of your business. Building something from scratch successfully will require your talent, skills, patience, and, of course, the requisite blood, sweat, and tears.
You also need to take the long view. Entrepreneurs need to see the bigger picture and play the long game. Do not expect to get your return on investment in an instant. It’s like coffee. There’s instant 3-in-1 which you can enjoy quickly but the genuine coffee experience requires you to wait for those beans to brew and percolate. And when you get your cup, you cannot just finish it in one gulp. You need to take your time. Success, just like most of the good life, requires time.
And during the time you spent becoming an entrepreneur, you are going to meet a lot of people—some of them good, some of them bad. My advice is similar to the mantra I followed when I was in politics: never burn bridges. Instead cultivate meaningful relationships. The cliché is true—it’s a small world to be making enemies.Whether they are your clients, employees, competitors, industry partners, make sure you create meaningful networks. They will certainly be helpful as you plod your way to success.
This is especially true of experienced entrepreneurs you admire. I think it is important to have at least one mentor who has been through the challenges and obstacles of business and life.
I was fortunate to have many models of success when I was just starting out. One of those I consider as my mentor was the late Washington Sycip. Before I plunged into entrepreneurship, I worked with the prestigious Sycip Gorres Velayo & Company—a firm Wash built from the ground up. Long after I left SGV, he would send me small notes telling me how he admired and agreed with I said or did. You need people like that in your life.
I admire all the great titans of Philippine industry. They worked hard to achieve success. They are great not because they are the richest Filipinos in the Forbes list but because they have the ability to understand what the people need and have the creativity and passion to proceed and fulfill those needs.