Wed | Dec 1, 2021

The business of 'getting rich quick'

Published:Sunday | June 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Yaneek Page, Contributor

QUESTION: I am a third-year marketing major at the University of Technology. I need some advice and you are the ideal professional candidate. I have always wanted to be a successful business person, but my major problem is that I lack a sense of direction. How do I develop a sense of direction? How did you develop yours? How much work, dedication and drive did you take to start your own business? How do I know what product is right for my business? I have two goals in terms of business (as listed on the document which describes what a day in my life should be like five years from now). What would I need to do to stay focused and achieve those goals?

- L

BUSINESSWISE: I wanted to share in detail your five-year vision, but at almost a thousand words, there wasn't enough space. Let me highlight for readers how you envision a day in your life at age 27:

  • Waking up after 9 a.m. and having breakfast in bed;
  • Calling to check in on business, a rustic café, which is managed by your mother;
  • Having a spouse who earns over $8 million a year after tax as a marketing consultant;
  • Enjoying leisurely lunch dates at upscale restaurants;
  • Receiving an award from the Young Entrepreneurs Association which gives you an advantage with investors;
  • Having the bank organise a meeting for you with wealthy investors who agree to invest $400 million at 2.5 per cent annual return - and reward your brilliance with a new luxury car.

I respect high ambitions, but what you describe is an ostentatious fantasy that may only come true if you won the lottery, and even then, it wouldn't be sustainable because the thirst for opulence without supporting earnings is a fast track to poverty.

What's frightening is that your aspirations aren't uncommon. I've heard similar expectations from college students to whom I've presented on the realities of entrepreneurship.

Months ago, I delivered the keynote address to some university graduates receiving awards for academic excellence and urged them not to overestimate the utility and value of their degrees, that the journey of learning had just begun, and that they should be prepared to work for small salaries to gain experience, exposure and real-world knowledge.

Realistic goals

My recommendation for greater humility and delayed gratification annoyed a senior lecturer who shook his head at me in disdain. I hope he and his like-minded colleagues will soon open their eyes to the untenable deficiencies of some universities in acclimatising students to the realities of enterprise and the corporate world.

You've posed too many questions for me to address in a single column so I'll concentrate on the fundamental principles of goal setting and managing expectations. You wanted to know how to stay focused to achieve your goals, but focus won't work miracles. You must first set practical goals which meet the 'SMART' test, in that they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant and time-bound.

Align your expectations with the reality of entrepreneurship - it's not an idyllic vocation where people can put in minimal effort and get rich quick. Businesses don't develop and succeed with absentee owners who supervise from afar.

You've got to be present, often as the head cook and bottle washer, sometimes 12 hours a day or more. If you dare to relax, the competition or change will run you over.

Start-ups can't fund elaborate lifestyles - but they can reduce you to living like a pauper, especially when you fall into the trap of 'lifestyling out' the profits instead of reinvesting them to grow the business.

Banks don't arrange venture capital or investor meetings for entrepreneurs; they make money lending depositors' funds at substantial interest rates.

Don't be fooled by their lip service about driving the entrepreneurial spirit either. We still aren't a priority. They still classify small businesses as high risk, lack the capacity to assess them effectively, and would sooner lend $6 million for a luxury car than for equipment or property for productive activity.

The relevance of awards

Awards don't open doors immediately, if at all, especially to funding. Trust me, I have three prestigious business awards and none would impress an investor to fund millions or a bank to lend on favourable terms.

Also, investors are rarely attracted to new business ventures and would demand big returns if they are - not squander their cash on a car for you to profile in.

Developing a sense of purpose isn't the same for everyone, but at the core is identifying your passion and choosing your medium.

I developed a passion for justice in graduate school, enthralled by the study of restorative justice. I chose legal funding as the medium to effect change and impact Jamaicans positively.

Focus on who you want to serve rather than how much you want to earn.

Creating and delivering value comes before reaping rewards, so prepare for hard work and serious sacrifice rather than sudden riches.

One love!

Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer in entrepreneurship and workforce innovation. Email: Follow on Twitter @yaneekpage.Website: