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Chisom Winifred: Being a Broke CEO

Slow and steady still wins the race. If you’re a broke CEO and your parents are giving you hell, ask yourself: do I need to make money now or do I keep at this for as long as it takes?



We’re gradually moving away from the norm and edging toward change. We question a lot of things, feel powerful because we’re armed. We’re armed with the power of social media. One tweet can change your entire life and this is interesting because exploiting the full potential of this power guarantees us a future our parents never had.

We’re also overly inquisitive and more receptive to new ideologies. We’re embracing newer forms of fashion designing, interior designing, cartoonists, animators, and we’ve even redefined comedy. It is also very intriguing that success can just happen in a minute. You can create something right now that a lot of people will love and before you can say jack the whole world is vibing to your tune (mans nuh hot).

But the universe has an interesting management technique in which everything must balance out. Anything with an advantage must have a disadvantage. Because we’re overly creative, someone is always faster and doing better somewhere. When you think you have this fabulous idea, with adequate research, you find that someone is already doing it. But then, the major disadvantage here is that because we’ve seen that success (which we’ve equated to money and fame) can happen in an instant, it has made us impatient and blind to the process and journey to success. No one wants a business idea that will take a while to flourish. We want the money and we want it now.

However, leaving all these aside for a moment, what I’ve found to be common among millennials is the friction being a broke startup CEO introduces to our relationship with our parents. If you’re someone like Maraji who is at the top of her industry, I don’t think your parents would mind much that all you do is sit at home and make funny videos for Instagram. But if you’re still unpopular and no one pays you six figure amounts to make a video, and you somehow still lean on your parents for financial support, and then refuse to pursue a nine to five, I think we can all agree that the relationship with your parents won’t be so smooth. Arguably, this is the case for nine out of every ten millennial. Having an idea or passion that you believe in, but money is scared of your account.

It probably isn’t helping that we now toss around big titles like CEO, executive director and the likes. “Start-up” sounds so posh and befitting, but half of us don’t even know that we need to be small businesses and not start-ups. Let’s digress and study a bit.

According to Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank, the biggest difference between the two company types is in their top objectives. Small businesses are driven by profitability and stable long-term value, while start-ups are focused on top-end revenue and growth potential. In simpler terms, starting a small business means you’re in for making money ASAP, but a start-up is an innovation, a distinct idea that has the potentiality to grow big enough to change the market over time (Apple inc).

Here’s how to know: what do you want out of your life in five years? Financial freedom or a really great idea with the potential to blow up? This helps you choose between the two business types according to your goal in life.

We all want to make money now and live that easy life of being financially free and providing for the parents. But here’s a fun fact: Financial experts say that about eighty percent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria fail within the first five years of their existence, due to lack of experience and other wrong business practices. Let’s face it, Nigeria isn’t exactly an easy place to do business.

We often learn this too late, the effort required to turn an idea, product or service into a groundbreaking and lasting success is nothing short of herculean. There is a huge difference between the idea and the business of the idea. The steps involved are, of course, numerous and complex: refining the concept, defining the market, creating the business plan, conducting the market research, selling the plan to investors, lining up vendors, partners, and suppliers. We get really pumped reading and listening to motivational speeches and tapes but this in no way eliminates the work that needs to be done. Excitement does not sustain a business.

What then is the cure for a broke CEO?

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with starting your entrepreneurial or start-up career with a small business. Building a solid financial base will help create a longer personal financial runway for future start-up ventures, while also eliminating being a broke CEO in your father’s house. Also, establishing a successful small business can build credibility and networks through the business community, which will be hugely valuable when launching a startup that requires outside and huge investments.

Our youthfulness and creativity has cut us open to a lot of pressure. Pressure to make money as soon as possible, pressure from parents, pressure from social media, seeing this one and that one celebrating yet another milestone with a photoshoot and long caption. Pressure gradually builds up to anxiety, self doubt, inferiority complex and even depression.

We all just need to be patient. We need to exit this self imposed pressure and anxiety of trying to be a multi-millionaires in three years. This happens for some people, but not everyone, and the one person we’re truly in competition with is ourselves. Slow and steady still wins the race. If you’re a broke CEO and your parents are giving you hell, ask yourself: do I need to make money now or do I keep at this for as long as it takes?