Pause: It’s time you become an entrepreneur

__Start right where you are, today!

This is one of my business secrets: I look for entrepreneurs all the time. The managers that I value the most are those who show an entrepreneurial flare. To paraphrase Moses, “O I would that everyone who works in our organization was an entrepreneur!”

The other day I stirred quite a discussion when I remarked that some of the greatest entrepreneurs I’d ever met were not in business… that I’d even met civil servants and teachers who were great entrepreneurs!

Entrepreneurship is not just about making money.

__Think of an entrepreneur as someone who hungers to see transformation, and goes out to do something about it in an innovative and sustainable way.

A friend of mine who was a senior executive for a well-established business once came to me and said he was thinking of starting his own business:

“I’ve been working for 20 years; now I want to be an entrepreneur and start my own business.”

My reply surprised him:

“If you’ve not been an entrepreneur in your job, you will not be an entrepreneur in your own business.”

Then I added, “You should be an entrepreneur, whether or not you own the business. Every day you must go to work with the understanding that, first and foremost, you’re paid for being smart; for being someone who has ideas to innovate and find solutions to help your organization and its customers.”

I remember discussing this with a guy who once worked for Microsoft, and was amazed when he started to tell me about the great products he’d developed himself, or helped to develop.

He’d say things like, “You know that product? Well, some of us went to Bill and said, ‘We’d like to develop this idea’ and he would look at it and say, ‘Go ahead,’ and we did… Great success!”

“Wow, you did that?!”

Then he laughed and said, “You didn’t think that Bill Gates comes up with all the ideas, and we then execute, did you? Like little robots?! Hahaha, that’s funny!”

“We see him only as the ‘Chief Entrepreneur,’ but there are a lot of entrepreneurs at Microsoft; it’s not all Bill.”

A few months ago I visited a start-up company in Silicon Valley that was developing an amazing new product which I think will change the world. I will never forget how a young woman started her presentation:

“I wanted to change the world, so I did a PhD in Biochemistry; now I’m here working on this cool product.” She wasn’t the owner of the business. Just like the guy from Microsoft, it was a mindset!

__Nothing can stop an organization once that kind of mindset is encouraged and nurtured. This powerful mindset should drive our approach.

I know some of you are going to say, “Where I work they don’t allow me to come up with ideas or to express myself as an entrepreneur.”

My answer would surprise you:

# That’s your opportunity! Start thinking about how you can change it.

# If you succeed, you’re an entrepreneur, and you’ll be successful wherever you go, and in whatever you do after that.

# Unleash the entrepreneur in you, right there where you work now, in whatever vocation it is.

Every organization must be designed in such a way that it attracts and keeps entrepreneurs at all levels, even if that organization is not-for-profit, and that includes government departments, and schools.

# Are you an entrepreneur in your job?
# Does your organization hire entrepreneurs?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then there’s a problem. But you can change that mindset today, right where you are, because it always starts with one person recognizing it, and getting to work.


by 26 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

26 thoughts on “Pause: It’s time you become an entrepreneur

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1.
    I once listened to a young man explain his small business to me. Prior to setting up the business, he’d worked for a global company. I really didn’t like his business idea at all, but I liked him very much! “Leave what you are doing and come work for me,” I suggested. “Under my guidance you will realize your potential as an entrepreneur.” Today he runs one of our most successful ventures, and one day he will compete with several other entrepreneurs in our business, to succeed me. My most successful hires have been entrepreneurs!

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    There is a word for a person who is an entrepreneur in the workplace, but in the end it’s not about words and titles, it’s about mindsets. If you cannot measure your contributions in the way of new ideas and innovations that have improved services or products, you’ll struggle in the years to come.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    I’ve never had much time for managers who see themselves as “supervisors” of others. I prefer someone who sees himself or herself as a “leader” of a team in which they’re a player. Imagine if the captain of a sports team cannot play, but just bosses the other players around?!

    • Tau

      Dear Sir,
      I wish the leadership and the staff at Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) had your vision and followed your example. There is a definite discount between ETL and your vision, attitude and work ethic. I would be grateful if you could do something about it.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    The entire Kwese Tv project has been driven from beginning to end by entrepreneurs within our organization.
    I remember listening for the first time to the team which developed the Kwese App.

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    There are so many amazing initiatives being developed by our entrepreneurs. Another example is a project called Kwesefied. I had no idea it was even going on, until one day a young lady who leads the team showed it to me when I was visiting!
    Visit their website, and just watch it over the next few weeks!

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    One day I was having a meeting with a friend in the US, who runs one of the largest mobile networks in the world.
    I asked him if they had any technology they would be willing to license. He took me to their labs, and showed me a cool new service:
    “Send us some of your guys, and we can discuss a license”.
    I knew such a project could only take off if I found an entrepreneur in the company to run with it.
    I explained it to a guy called Norman Moyo, and he flew to the US. Today Norman runs a business called CUMI, based on that technology, which is in 5x countries.

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    One of our youngest CEOs is a woman called Natalie Javangwe. One morning, I read an article on Mobile Money, which was extremely well researched, and full of amazing ideas.
    I called one of our CEOs, and said to him, “find her and try to recruit her.”
    A few days later he came back and said “she is based in London where she works.”
    “Do everything to bring her home. Let’s give her a chance to work in the industry she has been writing about.”
    The rest is history, as they say. In a few short years she has risen through the ranks and is one of our key entrepreneurs as the CEO of Ecocash!

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Christopher, writes:

    This is a great post, most people work in organizations as if they have no stake in the organization, when you say they will tell you the organization is not for his father. We need to change our mindsets and know we have stakes in the organization we work for, for growth and development. Thanks sir, may God continue to strengthen you.

    My reply,
    Long before I knew how to build proper processes and systems, One of my businesses that employed more than 500 people collapsed because of fraud by senior management at the company.
    After the company was forced to close because of heavy loses, I remember one of the retrenched workers crying, and saying to his colleagues, “we all knew what was happening, and yet none of us did anything to alert Mr Masiyiwa. We have destroyed OUR own company. You see Mr Masiyiwa has other businesses, but we have lost our jobs.”
    Your job makes you a stakeholder in the organization where you work, even if it is a government job.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Mary Nana, asks:

    Very interesting! Loyalty – how have you handled that. When given such opportunities to help most chief Entrepreneurs expand, what they get back is, the trainees depart and set up similar business and compete with the one that gave them the opportunity! disregarding any legal contracts earlier agreed and signed.

    My reply,
    It would never bother me, if an employee assigned to work as an entrepreneur breaks their trust, and either goes away with the idea or takes it to a competitor. These are my reasons:
    # The successful execution of any venture requires more than the ideas of one person in our organization. It requires the contributions of many, many other people, including myself.
    A person might be a clever engineer, but they do not know how to raise money for example, something I’m good at.

    #The flow of good ideas will never end. So I don’t have to cry because someone went off with one good idea to set themselves up as an independent entrepreneur.

    Most importantly:
    # Jesus Christ once said “And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?”
    [it would appear that walking away with something you were being paid to develop is not a godly way to get yourself started in business or new career.]

    • Ugonne Ann

      I am a kindergarten teacher and I’ve always wondered how to tally my fascination with entrepreneurship and my love for education…and the concept of “teacherpreneurs” has been of utmost interest to me recently. I’m glad i know now that i don’t have to run off and start my own school/business to become a “teacherpreneur” …Thank you Sir.

  10. Wilbert Mutoko

    Dr Masiyiwa

    I am so proud of you. I am so excited with the simplicity of what you teach. I lecture entrepreneurship in University and I am an intrapreneur or corporate entrepreneur; which is exactly what you have been sharing in this teaching.

    It is so true that if one is lazy while working somewhere, when they finally start their own business; the laziness continuous. I always encourage people to be hardworking, innovative, creative and treat employer’s property and time as their own. It is all about the habits we develop.

    May God keep blessing you.

    Wilbert R. Mutoko

  11. Wilbert Mutoko

    After thought

    You are right Dr Masiyiwa that it is an issue of mindset. One day as a lecturer I walked into a lecture room and found the carpet being soiled by dropping water from an air con. Instead of lecturing, first of all I looked for a bucket to stop the drops of water from soiling the carpet. Then I switched off the air con. As I did so, students just looked at me.

    I asked the students why none of them had thought of stopping the water droplets. They laughed me to scorn, saying, “This is not your university. Do not worry about the carpet.” I then explained to them that they had a wrong mindset. We all form the university. I went on to say, “I do not work for XYZ University, rather I work with XYZ University. I see myself as a partner.”

    How I wish everyone could see themselves as partners in companies or government departments where they work.

    I wonder when I see some officers abusing company vehicles and equipment. You find someone who leaves air cons on throughout the weekend and they just don’t care about the waste of electricity, aging of the air cons unnecessarily etc. You find people leaving office lights on for the night or for days!

    How I wish everyone would learn from your teachings Dr Masiyiwa.
    Anyone who is not serious in taking care of property and equipment or time where they work; I do not see them succeed in future unless they change their habits quickly.

  12. Nwaba Chukwudi Jesse

    I have been blessed beyond measure by your inspiring articles and I say may God who has been your ANCHOR, continue to hold you.
    I do have a pressing challenge that weighs me down and I need your advice. I’ve never been able to fully make use of my potentials. I say this because I know from where I am now, that this isn’t where I should be. Most people I’ve met say things like ‘Jesse! You r smart and intelligent but you are always waiting for things to happen’. Pls Sir, how do I change this attitude of ‘waiting for things to happen’ TO ‘seizing every opportunity to utilise my potentials?’

  13. Lawrence Okello

    Thanks Dr. Strive, Ever since I discovered your mentorship programme, I always look forward to the next article, I haven’t missed one since then and more importantly things have never been the same again.

  14. Archie MZ

    As exactly as Robin S Sharma also taught in one of his books, The Leader Who Had No Title. You are a great entrepreneur sir, Thank you for being one of the practical examples of what is true and powerful

  15. Kenny

    I never knew this blog existed but thank you! This is eye opening and it’s profound. I’d love to read more of this!

  16. Olushola Olusegun

    Mr. Strive you are such an inspiration to me. May God continues to increase you in wisdom and understanding.

  17. Isaiah Olusola

    You’re such a blessing to many of us on this platform for your wise counsels,ideas and knowledge sharing on how to have a entrepreneurial mindset to change our world positively!

  18. calvin

    Warm regards to you sir and its been a pleasure talking to you or getting in touch with you. I usually read your blogs each day and get inspired and start challenging myself to work on my career but according to what i saw in my personal experience is we lack that mentor-ship drive or those platforms like this one of interaction and share ideas as we have no one to trust cause most people with big names turn to take advantage. This is one of the major obstacle we are facing as young people with zeal to add value to the nation as we would rather be more comfortable in the zone with hope of one days all will be well.
    I have been looking for rightful platforms to air up my views but i couldn’t and i guess this one will act as one maybe and i had to gather the guts too to ask you of you can be my mentor.

    Am currently a student on attachment studying honors degree in business management and information technology at Catholic University Of Zimbabwe. My dream is one day to add value to the nation of Zimbabwe and Africa at large through innovation in technology applications (software’s) and systems. In the mean time am undergoing application development and website development as well as i will be trying to familiarize myself to different programming languages to broaden my knowledge of web applications, system and software development.
    So i want to take this opportunity to ask you to be my mentor in my projects as you can be my mentor as you will guide through my en-devours of my aims and projects as also your en-devours during your company development and the strategies you implemented. and also taking advantage of this platform if there are those who wish to partner with me with the theme: ADDING VALUE TO AFRICA THROUGH INNOVATION you are free to connect and we can discus as i have vast ideas to explode.
    Lastly i would want to congratulate you on your KWESE TV establishment.
    Hope i find you well today and hope you are fine. Looking forward to hear from you.

  19. Rotimi Aroge

    Hi Dr. Strive, I got to know about you from my sister who lives in Abuja-Nigeria,she said you are the perfect partner for me at this stage of my venture into media/entertainment in Nigeria(She has followed you for 2 years now with very significant business transformation as evidence of value for time). Using the BLUE OCEAN STRATEGY,I have successfully developed over 5 captivating reality TV contents which have attracted over 2 Government agencies (National Youth Service Corps-NYSC and Small & Medium Enterprise Agency of Nigeria-SMEDAN) as strategic partners. In addition ,a corporate communications company with 5 years track record of managing one of Nigeria’s biggest Family TV reality show(Multina Dance All ) has entered into a partnership with us aswell. There is no doubt that my TV content is supper captivating as I have a proposal with former president Olusegun Obasanjo since November 2016 waiting for his endorsement. I created a show where 1000 farmers are empowered in one season of my show across Nigeria.President Obasanjo,being one of Nigerias biggest farmer,I approached Obasanjo Holding for collaboration. Since Kwese TV is coming into Nigeria at this time,I think I can provide content enough to engage a full channel on your TV to provide a competitive edge for Kwese TV against DSTV which is the dominant cable TV in Nigeria. I have passion and high potential to succeed,my present track record in logistics can speak for me as you view works in www., a business I started 4 years ago on donation/goodwill of friend and well wishers. I am currently entering media because I see immerse opportunity there coupled with the need to change the dynamics in the industry. I submitted my idea to Adansonia(By Bocconi university,Italy) business plan competition ,a platform for venture capitalist looking at financing African Ideas. I will be glade if you contact me sir.


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