Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Range of choices for start-ups is limitless

I started my first business in 1984 selling study books to my fellow students and side-stepping the cartel that Dutch schoolbook publishers had by importing the books from the USA.

Life was simple then. Computer screens were black and green (or yellow). Wordstar was the preferred software for writing business plans. Mobile phones were still the size of bricks and e-commerce wasn't even a word. The choices in starting a business were relatively simple. Our choices were retail, trade, maybe technology (but at high entry cost) and services.

Fast forward to 2012. The choice for start-ups is limitless. Technology is an enabler instead of a barrier. Elevator pitches have replaced business plans and companies with no turnover get bought for $1bn.

The question I have been asking myself for a while is whether starting a business is easier or more difficult compared to 1984? Hyper-competition, very short technology life-cycles and the average life span of a company is now seven years. I have come to the conclusion that it is now easier to start, but a lot harder to keep the business alive. That passion is a key asset to keep it alive. Nothing has changed there, entrepreneurship is still a life choice. I actually started to write a book for my kids, trying to convince them that entrepreneurship is the only valid choice for the future.

It is much more than just being in control of your own destiny. It is about a labour market that is operating as a market where hyper-competition and short cycles apply as well. You will need to be an entrepreneur to survive in that market or any other market. Passion will be the only distinguishing feature - everything else will be a commodity.

So it is simple economics. But it is also about the fun, the excitement, making your own choices, the hunt, making a difference, happiness ... and I can go on. In the future, entrepreneurship will be a necessary life-skill.

If that is your belief as a parent, you really despair at the level of entrepreneurship education. And to loosely quote Ken Robinson (author of The Element and Out of Our Minds): "The economic crisis is chicken feed compared to the looming education crisis".

It is time to prepare yourself and your children; you don't have a choice. You will have to start your own business. It will be now, or it will be in the future. The good news is you are not alone. That is one of the main reasons we created Smallbusinesscan.com. Anything you go through as an entrepreneur, others have gone before.

And it is not only about old geezers helping young dogs.We can learn from those young pups. So if you want some reverse mentoring log on too. You are never too old (or too young) to learn.

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