Enjoying Your Work
Entrepreneurs often hear discouraging words
After working in a large hospital for three years, John Yamada examined where his life was going.
Now 26 years old, John was a college graduate who majored in biology. In his selection of college electives, he had taken three courses in business and had also recently attended a night course titled "Writing a Business Plan."
John thought a great deal about whether he should quit his current job and strike out on his own in an entrepreneurial venture. He did not particularly like his current work and could not see himself driving on the freeway to the same office for the next 20 years.
In addition, he had little respect for his superior who had few good ideas of his own and took credit for the work of his subordinates. John enjoyed the idea of being his own boss.
John had always been close to members of his ohana. He told people of his plans to quit his current job and to start a medical supplies company that would market to both physicians and their patients. He planned to give special attention to customers interested in alternative medicines.
Many people questioned his decision. His father pointed to the statistics that indicated the percentage of startup small businesses that fail. His aunt reminded him that his current job was very secure and that he currently did not have to worry about a regular paycheck.
"There is no guarantee of a regular income when you start your own business," she continued.
John's uncle praised the retirement plan associated with his current job.
"If you work about 20 more years, you'll have a good pension and then can do what you want because you will have your retirement money."
One of his cousins, a physician, asked him if he had done an analysis of the competition from other medical supply companies both in Hawaii, on the mainland, and in other countries. He continued, "With companies making their products available on the Web, I don't have to go into a bricks-and-mortar building to buy my medical supplies. Some of these e-companies are in other countries where the labor costs are less than what you will face."
People considering entrepreneurial are almost certain to face discouraging comments from others. To be successful, entrepreneurs have to find a niche that is somewhat unfamiliar and does not bring immediate nods of recognition from people. Given unfamiliarity with the entrepreneurs, friends and relatives cannot respond with positive comments about all the other people who have made money pursuing the niche. If large numbers of people had exploited the niche, then there would be less likelihood of new opportunities that could be pursued by an entrepreneur such as John. Entrepreneurs have to become accustomed to blank stares when they describe their ideas.
Entrepreneurs have to assume the role of nonconformists, and there will always be people who criticize individuals who are different. Negative comments will always be directed at individuals who want to pursue an unfamiliar lifestyle and who are willing to give up security for the uncertainty that always accompanies risk taking.
Given this certainty, entrepreneurs might welcome discouraging comments. They can take this as a sign that they are pursuing an idea that others have not already exploited to the point where there are no more business opportunities.
Even though negative comments will be forthcoming, entrepreneurs are wise to think about them carefully. There may be some wisdom hidden in the feedback received from friends and relatives.
Entrepreneurs are sometimes overly optimistic about the probability of their future successes. If they listen carefully to pessimistic feedback, they will be stimulated to engage in more careful thought. They will think more carefully about the importance of job security in their lives, the dread that may be forthcoming when money flow is uncertain, and the presence of various rival companies competing for customer allegiance.
All these and other issues should be carefully considered by people who want to start new businesses.
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The purpose of this column is to increase understanding of human behavior as it has an impact on the workplace. Given the amount of time people spend at work, job satisfaction should ideally be high and it should contribute to general life happiness. Enjoyment can increase as people learn more about workplace psychology, communication, and group influences.
Richard Brislin is a professor in the College of Business Administration, University of Hawaii. He can be reached through the College Relations Office: firstname.lastname@example.org