Small business owners come from diverse backgrounds (educationally, financially, and in terms of work experience), none of which are necessarily predictors of the business’ long term success.
Potential and existing small business owners should therefore not focus on superficial or extraneous details (e.g. past achievements and opportunities) in evaluating their prospects and planning their futures.
Far more relevant is what the small business owner is doing in the here and now to achieve success.
Aspiring small business owners only have to look around to see and learn from examples of South African business people who started off from humble beginnings and went on to build empires or businesses with longevity. They serve as reminders that no matter what a small business owner’s background, vision, and hard work can make all the difference.
For instance, Donald Gordon, the founder of Liberty Life, began his entrepreneurial journey working as an articled clerk in accounting who earned R11 a month. He supplemented his income by selling insurance policies in the evenings and is now a dollar billionaire after founding Liberty Life and concluding several other deals during the course of his business career. Like other entrepreneurs, Donald Gordon’s ascension cannot be explained by a single ‘magic bullet’.
His success was facilitated by a combination of factors such as his personality and drive, good support structures (e.g. capable co-founders who helped to drive Liberty Life’s growth) and a willingness to diversify and expand into new markets and sectors (e.g. property in the United Kingdom). Arguably, Donald Gordon founded his businesses in a different operating environment – the regulatory landscape governing who can own what kind of business has changed dramatically since 1958, as have criteria applied by institutional investors and other potential backers of a fledgling business.
Even the degree of crowding and competitiveness for some sectors has changed, forcing small business owners to create or seek out new opportunities as they evolve with the times.
But the challenge for small business owners in the 21st century is to stop making excuses for why they will not or cannot succeed and just go for it.
If home grown business people such as Richard Maponya and Raymond Ackerman could fight to make it big, what is preventing others from reaching the same giddy heights?