Entrepreneurship has been promoted and encouraged in Singapore for a number of years now but it has yet to take off fully since most of its residents prefer stability over risk-taking. This is not surprising, considering that the failures of start-ups are common, the reasons of which includes over-the-top capital outlay (depending on the business and the industries they are in), high rents (for businesses which require a store outlet), limitations of funds, unsustainable businesses and unfeasible business ideas from the outset.
That Singapore is currently ranked as the most expensive cities to live in (as highlighted in this survey. According to this survey, Singapore was ranked 18 a decade ago) does not make the plunge into entrepreneurship any easier.
While most would aspire to own a business after experiencing unstable years of climbing the corporate ladder (which is never an easy climb, what with the onslaught of office politics and politicking, the probable bias of annual appraisal systems, the often-unpredictable year-end bonuses, retrenchments etc.), it is very challenging when one reaches middle-age where there are increased family commitments and higher expectations of sustaining or improving one’s quality of life.
It is often fair to say that one aspect of human nature is that as one ages, one’s expectation of the quality of life increases accordingly (unless one decides to live a simple life, which this author strongly encourages) or even exponentially (for the more materialistically-inclined) , while one’s threshold for risk-taking dips immensely.
This is why there are many educators and advocates who propose that entrepreneurship be inculcated in students early in their lives, preferable when they are in their secondary or tertiary school days – a time when they are more carefree to dream and more importantly, where they are free to dream and have the time to manifest their dreams into reality, as highlighted in this article.
This article is interesting as it compares and contrasts drastic differences in mindsets between locals and that of their American counterparts. This comparison is very important and mindsets may well be pivotal in determining the decision one makes in terms of becoming an entrepreneur.
I believe what is even more important is the environment that one is in.
A surrounding where creativity and innovation is nurtured is an ideal catalyst for entrepreneurship, providing an ideal and conducive environment which act as a muse for ideation and an incubator for groundbreaking business ideas. It is very challenging to create such an environment because the mood and ambience is made up of its people. Just think how a concert is hyped up by its audience or how seminars maintain its formality based on the demeanour of its attendees.
Nevertheless, the proposition to start lessons on entrepreneurship in schools is a good one.
To make it work even better, the emphasis on rigid and structured work flow and processes has to be toned down. This suggestion seems contrary to what is being promoted and advocated by certain system processes such as Six Sigma.
Please do not misunderstand.
Work flow and processes are important aspects of business – but only when once everything are in tuned and in order. When it comes to the initial phases of ideation and the post-production phrase of soliciting for feedback, fixed structures and processes become a hindrance because people often have a mentality of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” (when in actuality, that is often the most precise point in time to fix things).
It can be observed in numerous organisations where everybody is so comfortable in doing things the usual way that any mavericks or thought leaders who suggest an idea that disrupts the usual work flow will either get sidelined or ostracised (well, all right, the more fortunate ones usually get a nod from their supervisors but that’s about it. It goes no further than that. No change. No action). If you observe the products and services churned out by such organisations, you would have realised that while their competitors have moved ahead with the times, they are still staggering behind. While they may still maintain the same level of profits, their competitors are increasing their share of the market pie through continued innovation and improvisation.
While profit may not be an all-determining factor in sustaining a business, it is – nevertheless- an important factor. When more portions of the pie gets eaten, the organisations who wish to hold on to the same piece of pie will probably find their portion reduced gradually. Using soccer as an analogy, the team which defends throughout the entire match has reduced chances of winning a match when they pit themselves against a team who possesses the majority of the field. While defending may be a good tactical move, offences are often greater strategic moves in securing a sustained and long-term win.
Thus, it is usually only through continued innovation and improvisation that organisations thrive and be economically-sustainable. Along the same vein, entrepreneurship prosper in the same way.
The concept is also the same when it comes to opting for stability and risk-taking.
The question is not whether to make a move but rather, when to make a move.
It is not a matter of decision. It is a matter of time.
Hence, the environment and the right type of people have to be present first.
The rest will then follow.