Thursday, 28 April 2011

Great Opportunity, But No Thanks!


It is normal for a business to go through challenging times, brought about by factors such as changes in the external environment, and entrepreneurs can find themselves struggling to keep their heads above water.  When this happens, it is particularly exciting to be presented with a new business venture, often involving working in partnership with someone or some other business.  Not only does this instil confidence in the mind of the entrepreneur but it also appears to present a lifeline to a business wading through muddy waters. Why then should entrepreneurs consider turning down such opportunities?

Too often we feel compelled to entertain business opportunities that do not truly fit our culture, conflict with our values, or evoke niggling feelings that it is not right for us.  Business people who feel that they are in desperate situations often consider desperate measures which can ultimately be detrimental to the achievement of their long term goals.  There are many examples of partnerships that go bad and an equal number that work out really well.  Indeed I am one who advocates partnership working, for “two heads are better than one” and “one hand cannot clap”.  But if the person proposing to partner with you is of dubious character or has values that conflict with yours, are you not setting yourself up for a headache?  Indeed the headache could become the least of your worries should things turn sour.

In our daily lives we chose our friends.  How different is it in business?  If your business is your “baby” conceived and delivered to the world by you, why wouldn’t you care who befriends your child?  There is an African proverb that says “show me your friend and I will show you your character” (others say “show me your friend and I will tell you who you are”).  If you associate with an individual who has a bad reputation, will you not be perceived in a similar light?  The French say:  Bonne renommée vaut mieux que ceinture dorée. (A good name is worth more than a golden belt) which basically means:  your reputation is more important than riches.  The Jamaicans are more dramatic in their rendition - they say:  If you lie with dogs you rise with flea”.

In business you really do need to choose carefully the organisations with which you choose to partner.  Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ when it doesn’t feel right.  There may be synergies to be obtained by partnering for after all “good friends are better than pocket money” (Jamaican proverb) and “To be without a friend is to be poor indeed (Tanzanian proverb).  Indeed these liaisons may be mutually beneficial; just follow your intuition.  You may choose to analyse the partnership considering factors such as:  the potential benefits to both parties, a weakness that the partner could help to alleviate, the skills lacking in your organisation, competencies and contacts the partner has that could prove advantageous to you and importantly, their reputation.  Could this be genuinely a win-win situation?

There is an old Chinese Proverb that says: “If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow”.  If however, the person partnering with you does not stand straight, you do have to fear that crooked shadow.  The French gives us: A l'oeuvre, on connaît l'ouvrier (A carpenter is known by his chips).  What do your chips look like now and what would they look like under the proposed partnership? How important is your image to you?   What are your values and how far are you prepared to go?

I’ll give the last word to the Chinese who say “Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead”.  Well, if the partnership goes bad you may find yourself doing just that; then you’ll stand to lose everything. 

Not every opportunity is a great opportunity!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

This British proverb reminds us that in order for us to achieve our objectives in life, we have to venture out and take risks.  Far too often our skills and talents remain latent for fear of failure, rejection or disappointment.  Too often we allow those who dare not take positive steps to stop us in our tracks and block our path to greatness.  We worry about losing the little we have, not realising that once released the seeds are sown to be harvested in due course.

This is how I see it:  There is no perfection in life; indeed life is packed with uncertainty and the onus is on us to make sense out of the chaos of the universe and carve out a niche for our own comfortable existence. Sitting on the fence and waiting is not an option.  In the words of the 26th President of the USA Theodore Roosevelt:  "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

Fear stifles creativity.  There is an old Spanish proverb Con esperanza no se come” which translates [sitting around] in hope will not put food on the table.  It is far better to step out in faith and do the work, considering that the opposite of success is not necessarily failure but lessons of life that prepare us for the rest of the way.  Since “there is no such thing as a free lunch” we should never be tempted by those who would like us to believe that there are easy ways to access large sums of money. It is surprising to see how many people are conned day after day by those who choose to make a career out of scamming.  The Jamaican proverb puts it well: “If yuh waah good, yuh nose haffi run” (If you want good your nose has to run) which basically means, you have to work for what you want. There is no such thing as something for nothing.  Even if it’s from your parents with their unconditional love for you, they want your respect and they also want to know that you will make good use of their gifts.

If you believe in yourself, you are well on your way.  If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect others to believe in you?  Are you prepared to put the work in?  Remember, there is no free lunch.  Are you willing to continuously improve your knowledge and skills?  We should all continue to pursue personal and professional development opportunities by attending seminars, networking events, self directed learning and other available media, for it makes us more informed and thus more competitive, and we know not when those skills will be called into action.

What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve (Napoleon Hill).  Do you think it? Do you believe it?  So why can’t you do it? If we want to succeed we have to take action.  Doing half the work eg, building a website and then waiting for sales to increase is not the way to go.  Once we decide on a course of action we need to develop the right mindset and persistence to counter those who will no doubt undermine our efforts with their negative vibes.  Do not be afraid to make mistakes but be afraid to make the same mistake twice.  Get some good company to support you when the road gets rough:  like-minded people who can share your vision and help you on your journey.  And when the money comes remember the Latin proverb: Money should be mastered, not served.