Thursday, July 15, 2010

Starting A Business: Your Talents, Hobbies And Skills

The first step to starting a business is discovering who you are and what you have.

What Are Your Natural Talents?
What you must understand is that you are a unique human being. Out of the 6 billion or so people who inhabit planet earth today, there is no one exactly like you anywhere in the world. You are so intricately designed that the very marks on your palms and fingers are completely different from everyone else’s! That is why criminal investigators take peoples’ finger prints. Even identical twins have different sets of finger prints.

You are the only one of your kind. What follows from this is that because you are unique, there is something that you can do, the way only you can do it. Other people may try to do what you do, but they can never do it exactly like you can. Other people may try to be like you but they can never be you. Neither can you be like others so there is really no point in trying to be like other people.

Secondly, you need to understand that regardless of whether you believe in Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution or the “survival of the fittest” doctrine, or the Bible’s creation account, there is something you have been born with which is designed to enable you to survive. In other words, you have an in-built talent or ability which you can use to make a living for yourself as well as to bless the rest of society in your own unique way.

I raise the above points because when it comes to business, there are a lot of copycats around. People see what others who are in business do, and the kind of money they make, and they try to do exactly the same. This is especially true in Papua New Guinea. That is why there are so many failed businesses and only a few successes. That is also why there is a lot of competition in the business world. Everybody tries to cut corners and undercut or outdo the others in the marketplace because they are all in the same business.

If you want to succeed in business, you need to discover and build a business based on your unique natural talents. You may be doing what other people are doing, but the application of your talents will set you apart. What you do will be different from the rest. The product you supply or the service you provide will be differentiated by your nature, and you will be able to carve out a niche for yourself. Only then can you be in business for life.

Let me give you a personal example. I am in the business of writing books and conducting motivational seminars in the areas of academic excellence, financial management, business, and investing. Writing is a talent I was born with and have developed over the years. Speaking was a talent which was dormant for many years until only recently. In fact I didn’t know that I had the talent to speak in public in a way that would inspire other people. I have been a very shy person from birth. Many people who knew me in the past are surprised when they hear me speak with boldness and confidence in large gatherings or on radio.

I express my uniqueness when I write or speak. I do so in a way only I can do it. This differentiates me from other writers and speakers. That is why I am not afraid to tell other people how to write books. I openly share with them the process involved in getting a book from the stage of an idea to getting it published and placed on the shelf of a bookshop, because to me, nobody can ever write the way I do. I don’t see other writers as competitors, but as colleagues in a market so wide as to accommodate every one of us.

I hope you get my point that to succeed as your own boss, you need to discover and build a business on your natural talents. If you look at who makes the most money today, you will see that it is movie, rock and sports stars. Most of these people are not highly educated or skilled, but they are very talented. The more they express their uniqueness to entertain or satisfy the emotional needs of other people, the more they get paid.

Recently, on a plane trip from Port Moresby to Mount Hagen, I found out that the gentleman sitting next to me was a recording artist who was returning after recording his latest album with Chin H Meen studios. I discovered from the conversation that he had left school after Grade 6 and had become an ordinary villager. But he was making a name for himself as well as good money from his natural talent as a musician and singer.

What Are Your Hobbies?
The second thing you need to find out about yourself as a first step towards becoming your own boss is to discover what your hobbies are. Hobbies are things you love doing without being told to do so. A job is what you do because somebody stands at your back with a command or a stick; a hobby is what you do because you just love doing it. It is something you do without struggling – something that is so natural that it moves you in its direction every spare time you have. You can build a neat business out of what you ordinarily do.

If you go into any office today, you will see pot plants. These plants are placed there by people who grow them as a hobby. They grow the plants and either sell or hire them out. Some of these people do it as a part-time activity to supplement their income, while others do it for a living. These people are invariably hobbyists. The same goes for most of the people who grow and supply flowers.

Most of the large corporations in the world today were started as hobby activities by the founders. Popular corporations such as Dell Computers, Ford, Honda, Microsoft, Virgin Airlines, Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc started out as hobbies. Most of the founders started out on a part-time basis. Michael Dell, for instance, is said to have started Dell Computers in his college dormitory using his student allowances. He would buy used computer parts and build computers to customers’ specifications using his dormitory as his workshop. He became so engrossed in it that he flunked his studies. But that didn’t worry him. He simply moved down the road, rented a small warehouse and started his business, and became a multi-billionaire within 15 years.

I have a friend who started his business based upon his hobby of buying wrecked vehicles, getting them fixed and selling them. He was trained as an agriculture officer, and worked in the primary industry sector for many years. But his hobby was vehicles. I have watched him starting with just one used vehicle in 1998. Today he runs a very successful hire car and trucking business. He talks and breathes trucks and cars. That is what moves him such that he can’t stop talking about them. Money is secondary to him. I know this because he has not changed his hire rates for the past 12 years, and his trucking rates are currently the lowest in the market. He is in the business not to make money; rather, he is pursuing his hobby, and money just flows in.

My hobby is reading. I have been reading since primary school days, and still read every day. I carry books everywhere I go, and literally sleep with books. This helps me in writing books. In the past 4 years I have written 6 books. Three have been published and three will be printed later this year. And I have many more coming. Many people have asked me how long it takes me to write a full-length book of between 180 and 200 pages. My response is between 4 and 6 weeks when I concentrate. For smaller books, a week is probably sufficient. This is how long it takes me to write books on subjects I am passionate about.

I have not made much money or become rich and famous as an author yet (I hope I will one day), but money is not what motivates me to do what I do. What moves me to write and speak is the passion and desire to see other people getting inspired on the inside so much that they take action on the outside to improve their lot in life. I just enjoy getting people to believe in themselves and do things they wouldn’t do otherwise. That is why I write on subjects which most people consider to be secrets to success.

That is what will happen when you focus on your hobbies. You enjoy what you do, and money flows in as a bonus. Your real reward is the satisfaction and enjoyment from what you pursue.

What Are Your Skills?
Most people tend to look towards their knowledge and skills when it comes to deciding to get into business. But for me, knowledge and skills come last, because not everybody possesses them whereas everyone has a talent.

Many people dream about starting businesses but because they don’t have educational qualifications or special skills, they convince themselves that they cannot do anything. The result is that a lot of potentially successful business people live in unnecessary poverty and struggle. They are destroyed by the ignorance of their natural talents and hobbies which if they knew possessed, they could turn them into thriving businesses.

That is in fact the problem faced by the majority of school dropouts and unemployed young people today. They focus so much on the knowledge and skills they don’t have, that they become blind to the natural talents they have been born with. What actually hinders them from succeeding in life is not what they don’t have, but what they don’t know they have. They focus on what they don’t have, and overlook what they do have. They also believe so much in knowledge and skills as necessary pre-conditions for starting businesses, that they don’t realize the fact that some of the most successful business people in the world today were dropouts or have never been to school at all.

Having said that, let me say that I do not discount at all the skills which you have acquired in an institution or at the work place. You can start a business using the knowledge and skills you possess.

Today, many experts are leaving full-time jobs to work as freelance consultants. While they were working, they gained experience, received further training, and established contacts which they can now make use of to further their own businesses. The increasing trend in the corporate world towards outsourcing has opened up opportunities for such people to start consultancy businesses, which is the reason consultancy is a multi-billion dollar industry today.

As you ponder becoming your own boss, I encourage you to look inward first before you look around you. If you build a business based on your natural talents and hobbies, you will enjoy what you do. If you copy businesses you see other people running, you may make money as well, but you may not enjoy what you do. Remember that you are unique, so find out your special talent or hobby first. Also assess your special skills and knowledge which you can build a business upon.

As I have highlighted in a previous article, the Government plans to encourage as many people as possible to become self-employed and run their own businesses under Vision 2050. Training in business start-up is essential. Such training should start by getting trainees to discover their talents, hobbies and skills.

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