We’ve all been there: it’s a big day, you’re expected to be a certain place at a certain time, in your glad rags with a speech or presentation memorised; you’ve planned the day from start to finish to ensure that nothing can go wrong, and as you hop in the car, you feel positive, like all your preparation is going to see you sail through your demanding day. Then all of a sudden, the stream of traffic in front of you grinds to a halt. In something of a panic, you reroute, but find yourself stuck in another unexpected roadblock even worse than the first one you were trying to avoid.
This is the feeling experienced by many entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses. I often come across entrepreneurs with revolutionary concepts that they are sure will change the world and be the next, highly desirable, ‘overnight success’. However, in real life, overnight success is more a matter of years. Nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan, and barriers presenting themselves are an inevitability. Barriers may well manifest in the form of market or governmental fluctuations, unmotivated colleagues or even lack of self-esteem. Whichever way they turn up barriers are unwelcome stiflers of success.
Years of struggling against my own business barriers gave me considerable experience in handling and overcoming such issues. It was when I became aware of the merit my problem-solving skills could bring to my fellow entrepreneurs, that my vision of 200 entrepreneurs turning their struggles into successes became a reality in the form of Entrepreneur Academy London. Barriers weren’t getting smaller, or hitting less frequently – the entrepreneurs were just becoming more resilient.
So what’s the secret? People I speak to are always curious to know how I overcome my own barriers, and why I’m so confident in my abilities, in spite of many other companies succumbing to the pressure of such barriers. It is not, as some have suspected, that I am blinded to the barriers, or in denial of their existence. I am quite aware of what lies ahead of me, but even more so of what lies within me. I have always held onto three golden keys which have seen me through the most troublesome of times.
The skills we acquire directly generate the opportunities presented to us, and the more skills you acquire, the more barriers you can destroy. Don’t ever begrudge spending time or money on gaining saleable skills – look at it as an investment in your future, as a contribution to your human capital, with the aim of becoming a higher-valued person.
Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, is the world’s most expensive football player, because so few others can do the job to such a high standard. It is all about skills you can sell, and in this increasingly competitive society, traditional academic qualifications are not enough to get you noticed. In order to stand out, you must further arm yourself with extra skills that are useful in your chosen work environment. So do whatever you can to further yourself and your abilities in a business capacity. Read the books, watch the documentaries, and attend the seminars. You will soon reap the rewards.
Many say that in order to get started up in business, you need three fundamental ingredients: relationships, resources and finance. But I have often found that by securing the first ingredient, the other two fall into place. As they say, it’s not what you know but who you know.
Never underestimate networking – many times I have reached the next level of success by somebody offering me assistance. Likewise, I have always been keen to do the same for others, and even if I can’t, there’ll be someone among my network who can. This is the way that sensible businesses operate, and barriers are much easier to climb when there’s someone to give us a leg up.
Inspiration, in whatever form it presents itself, is often the trigger for greater things. It is the Brahman of the Trinity, the key that makes things happen. For this reason, it is important to keep a constant stream of inspiration coming your way. You must look further than money – if you get to a point in which finances are a worry, directing your thoughts towards money isn’t likely to get you going.
Identify a higher purpose of your work that will deter you from abandoning ship in tough times. Whether it’s being able to send your children to college, or care for an elderly parent, or something as simple as loving your work with real passion, take hold of this inspiration and keep it at the head of all you do. It will act as the plough of your vehicle that will knock down barriers in your way.
Back in our traffic jam, I sat and observed the drivers all around me, shouting and ranting in a futile fashion, when one professional promptly grabbed his briefcase, abandoned his convertible and continued on his way on foot.
As I saw this scene play out, it occurred to me the testing nature of barriers, and how they may not be entirely pointless. Perhaps barriers serve the purpose of dividing those who just sit and complain, and those who drop everything to pursue their goal. Barriers are not there to stop you: they are there to keep others out.
By Junior Ogunyemi, founder of Entrepreneur Academy