“In order to succeed, people need a sense of self-efficacy, to struggle together with resilience to meet the inevitable obstacles and inequities of life”

– Albert Bandura

Embarking on a new venture can be both exhilarating and daunting at the same time. You have finally decided to take the step and start your own business, whether driven by a change in your personal circumstances, or the need to realise your passion and make it official. Either way, it can be overwhelming to onboard a new identity, that of the entrepreneur.

There are many new skills and competencies to develop in this new role, such as: the manufacturer or service provider, marketer, sales agent, production manager, financial manager, buyer, logistics control, administrator, customer service liaison, and so forth. For many start-up owners, assuming multifunctional roles is a reality, in the initial phase of their business. This is not uncommon when faced with limited financial resources, a developing business model and an emerging client base.

So, how do we bridge the gap between the desire to take that step into entrepreneurship and, having the confidence to do so? It has something to do with a concept known as entrepreneurial self-efficacy or ESE. According to research in this field, ESE is defined as the “strength of a person’s belief, that he or she is capable of successfully performing the various roles and tasks of entrepreneurship”2.

As an entrepreneur, who co-founded a business in South Africa, almost 2 decades ago (it’s all a blur), I can attest to the reality that it was not an easy journey. Each country has a unique set of challenges which they are faced with, and being in a developing economy, resource constraints and a poverty mindset are not uncommon obstacles. This way of thinking is rooted in the fear that you will experience insufficiency in some way and can affect your financial decision-making. Unfortunately, this kind of negative thinking is not only related to finance, but also affects how we view our time and other resources. This could lead to ineffective decision-making around how you allocate your time, as you fear that you may not have enough of it to achieve your goals. Over time, I’ve learnt how to move past these fears and to develop the confidence and self-belief in my competencies as an entrepreneur.

Your self-efficacy beliefs, or rather, your beliefs in your capacity to be an entrepreneur, can either boost your business growth, or hinder it.

I was not always equipped with the knowledge and confidence to make informed business decisions, which led to costly financial set-backs, and many personal learning curves. When I co-founded the business, I had no formal business education, and may even have believed that industry knowledge was sufficient. How hard could it be, right?

However, as the business grew, it required a different skill set, other than the technical competencies of my business partner and my administrative skills set. I realised that, in order to improve the quality of my decision-making and to move to a more strategic role within the company, I needed to focus on my own growth as well. This led to my enrolment in a business programme that focused on the functional aspects of business management. This type of learning, changed my worldview on being an entrepreneur and gave me a new set of lenses to examine the challenges that I faced at work. I also realised that, being an entrepreneur is not only about hustling (although that never ends), but also about learning how to take a step back and managing the hustle.

“You cannot prevent the birds of worry and care from flying over your head. But you can stop them from building a nest in your head.”

I love this proverb, referred to in a text by Albert Bandura, an influential social cognitive psychologist and Professor at Stanford University, where he wrote about exercising control over one’s own consciousness.

My Advice to you…

Continue Learning

Continue learning everyday about yourself, your industry and the economic environment in which your business operates. Understanding the landscape of your industry and keeping up-to-date on current trends will enable you to see new opportunities, expand your knowledge and broaden your views.

Expand on your business acumen though education

Yes, entrepreneurship can be taught! In my doctoral research, I found that in order for an entrepreneurship course/programme to be effective, elements such as the content (what), the pedagogy(how) and the educator (who) are critical to its’ success. A great programme can leave you inspired, motivated and empowered, thus boosting your self-efficacy beliefs.

Strengthen your self-efficacy beliefs

When you believe that you have the capacity to manage your business you will be,
…less likely to adopt a negative view of obstacles that you may face
…more motivated and persistent in pursuit of your goals
…less judgmental of your actions when they don’t result in your desired outcomes, and
…more inclined to visualize positive outcomes for challenging scenarios.

You CAN do this!

References
1 Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory. American Psychologist, 44(9),1175-1184.
2 Piperopoulos, P., & Dimov, D. (2015). Burst bubbles or build steam? Entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurial self-efficacy, and entrepreneurial intentions. Journal of Small Business Management, 53, 970–985.