Entrepreneurs need education, not training

What makes someone a successful entrepreneur? What secrets or entrepreneurial skills are needed to build a successful business from nothing?

Have you ever wondered how entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Henry Ford, Warren Buffett or Frans Indongo built their fortune companies from scratch?

What entrepreneurial skills do these great entrepreneurs possess that upcoming Namibians do not have? How did Mark Zuckerberg attain a net worth of $6b (as of 2010) while commanding a network of over 100 million users on Facebook? How did Aliko Dangote emerge as the richest black man in the world?

Well, one thing’s certain; it helps to have strong technological skills in a key area. But those are not defining characteristics of entrepreneurship.

The key qualities are traits such as creativity, the ability to keep going in the face of hardship and the social skills needed to build great teams.

It is noteworthy that Namibian entrepreneurs are embracing the need to develop their skills in order to make it in an industry that has been heaped with competition in recent years.

One James David, a taxi driver turned managing director of a local pizzeria here in the capital and lately a successful shuttle tours and accommodation company owner begs to differ.

“We need to be well equipped with some training for us to do activities that are relevant to the market demands. If you evaluated what entrepreneurs do today, you would discover that most of what they do is not productive simply because they are not armed with the relevant skills,” he says.

David adds: “My father was a businessman, he cultivated the skills for running a business successfully in me and I learnt a lot from him. My siblings are also business people. Although mine is in-born, I believe that the most important aspect in running a business successfully is receiving the right skills.”

Despite a wealth of experience under his belt, David still goes through the transitional phase of learning new things every day.

He currently participates in a training course called the Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation with the Wits University of South Africa.

The programme is an initiatory course between the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) and the university. It is meant to equip the participants with strategic entrepreneurial skills including creativity and opportunity, financial planning, marketing strategies, managing operations, business plan submission and business plan presentation.

“I started off as a taxi driver and then used the proceeds to study in South Africa. When I returned, I started the pizzeria business [in 2007] in Hochland Park. I soon shut it down to start a shuttle services company,” he recounts, adding, “The pizzeria business was doing well but the premise was a rented space, thus, we were not getting enough out of the profits since much of it would go to the rental charges. That is why I shifted my focus to property investment.”

His work is diverse and thus helps him discover different opportunities. He owns a rental residential area in Walvis Bay called James Investment Properties, as well as a shuttle tour services company under the trade name James Investments. His shuttle tour business basically focuses on transporting tourists within Namibia and the neighbouring countries such as Angola.

David urges emerging entrepreneurs to learn to see the bigger picture. It is very important that young entrepreneurs upgrade and equip themselves with the relevant skills that apply to this era of doing business because times have changed, he adds - “When a knife is blunt, then it needs to be sharpened.”

Entrepreneurial-minded people should also display personal accountability, David insists. Personal accountability is defined as demonstrating initiative, self-confidence, resilience and a willingness to take responsibility for personal actions.

According to David, this accountability can only be realised through education.

“We need to understand the value of education and embark on professional courses - not the two, three-day courses that are readily available nowadays. Local entrepreneurs need to understand that we can be at par with international standards if we strive hard at enhancing our knowledge and skills through education,” he states.

Some experts think of entrepreneurs as people who are willing to take risks that others do not. Others define them as people who start and build successful businesses, Davis adds.

Given these definitions, entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily involve starting your own business. Many people who do not work for themselves are often recognised as entrepreneurs within their organisations.

Regardless of how you define an ‘entrepreneur’, one thing is certain: becoming a successful entrepreneur is not easy.

“Entrepreneurs are not being properly promoted and the marketing strategies are redundant. The media is our only means of growth. My dream to have remarkable growth will come to pass one day. I plan to invest more in property as the business expands. The business’ progress should show for itself,” he submits.

Perhaps our modern era entrepreneurs can take a leaf from a quote in the world acclaimed Rich Dad Poor Dad book that states: “Skills make you rich, not theories.” PF