7 Reasons Why You Should Not Be An Entrepreneur

by Khurram Zafar, February 5, 2013

Teacher shouting at student

Entrepreneurship is suddenly the coolest thing around.

Even children who once wanted to grow up to be engineers, doctors, pilots and policemen, now want to become entrepreneurs who can "revolutionize" the world with their "innovative" products and services. Students are "pivoting" on their homework assignments and "A/B testing" the sports they want to excel at.

My nine year old daughter is part of this rabble as well. Last night, we had some family friends over with their kids. About twenty minutes into their visit, I caught her pitching to the young visitors with intent to "crowdsource" her ice-cream sundae.

Her kisses are based on a "freemium" model and are immediately followed by an offer for a hug in exchange for me "sponsoring" the next trip to McDonald’s. I suppose that makes me her "angel investor."

And here’s the real kicker; she’s a great online marketer too and knows how to make the slightest parental intervention in her affairs the most "viral" topic of discussion in our family circle on Google Plus!

Oh, and last but not the least, her grandmother can speak "Entrepreneurese’"as well. Just this morning, I got a stern lecture on how a "paradigm shift" in parenting is "disrupting" the whole parent-child relationship (read "customer relationship management") landscape.

Literally everyone around me, and their grandmother, appear to be walking and talking like entrepreneurs. And I don’t like that!

One of the reasons is a selfish desire to ensure the continued survival of the human race. I don’t want a future where there are more hospitals and fewer doctors. I don’t want an entrepreneurial engineer A/B testing a new bridge design in production. And I certainly don’t want to fly cross-Pacific in a crowdsourced airplane.

Secondly, and more importantly, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Some people just add more value to the world as engineers or scientist or doctors than they would if they keep having a repeated bout with entrepreneurship. At the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

As much as I generally love to inspire people who have the potential to take on entrepreneurship, I have compiled below a list of the wrong reasons to be an entrepreneur. I hope it will compel some work-in-progress engineers and doctors to remain steadfast in their paths and continue to save lives and build dams and bridges. 

Please note that I don't mean entrepreneurship in the philosophical sense here, which is usually referenced when implying that every human being is an entrepreneur, because life itself is such an uncertain entrepreneurial challenge. I am talking hardcore, capitalistic, big business entrepreneurship.

So without further ado, here are seven reasons why you will most likely not be a successful entrepreneur if the singular reason you are treading the path is because:

  1. You are ‘inspired’ by Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram (substitute your favorite insane, outlier, M&A precedent here). Forget it. That and similar deals are not the norm. More importantly, entrepreneurship is not about getting rich, it’s about delivering substantially more value to the world than you take out of it.
     
  2. You are a rock star programmer, engineer, marketer or whatever. In order to be successful, you will need a rock star team. Entrepreneurial monologues usually fall on deaf ears.
     
  3. You are inspired by your favorite entrepreneur role model in the community. There is absolutely no correlation between your role model’s success as an entrepreneur and your ability to be one. True, community mentors can be a big help and can be used as course correctors, but you will need a lot of passion, drive, perseverance, skill and energy of your own to fuel your entrepreneurial journey.
     
  4. You scored an 'A' in a course on entrepreneurship at your college or university. The theory or practice taught at universities is either very general knowledge or very specific practice as relates to a case study of a particular venture or business problem. True, you will be better equipped to handle common pitfalls after studying the topic, but what makes or breaks a new venture are issues or opportunities that are very unique and personalized to that particular business. Your own ability to learn from the mistakes you make (and you WILL make them) will determine your fate as an entrepreneur.
     
  5. You have had a tough childhood and you persevered to become a valuable member of your society. Great, you are a tough cookie and a fighter, that’s all good. It’s a key ingredient of the entrepreneurial cocktail. But know that persevering and fighting to survive against all odds is different from staying the course at a business venture. In the former case, you can’t afford to quit or you will perish. In business, alongside your fighting spirit, you will need a sharp sense of judgment that can guide you when it may be more prudent to pivot or quit instead of pressing on.
     
  6. You have access to a lot of capital. Well, that’s just great! You have overcome just one of the hurdles in launching a big business. All you need now is a great idea, an untapped market, a stellar team, masterful execution, an ace product, right pricing, outstanding marketing, high quality partners, loyal customers, unmatched customer service and a successful exit to succeed against all odds from competitors and changing market dynamics. Piece of cake, isn’t it?

Last of all, the number one reason why you should not be an entrepreneur is if you are deterred, or even shaken, by an article like this! 


Photo from The Storms of Errport Blog


The author is CIO at Lahore Stock Exchange, Member Board of Advisers at Plan9 Technology Incubator, Senior Policy Adviser at Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Punjab and visiting faculty member of Information Technology University, Pakistan where he teaches a graduate course on technology entrepreneurship. He tweets at @kayzafar.

 
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