Damien Grant: Don't be scared of capitalism's greatest adventure

Decide which way to turn.
Decide which way to turn.

I like January. The year is fresh, like cut grass. We are in a form of limbo where our thoughts are liberated from the usual daily travails. It can be a time to reflect on the gap between our aspirations and achievements and what needs to be done to make up the difference.

The allure of self-employment is an obvious answer for thwarted ambitions and for many an end in itself. As our youthful energy fades, starting a business seems too hard, too risky and too uncertain.

It is falsely claimed that 80 per cent of businesses fail in the first five years. There are 500,000 companies in New Zealand and fewer than 4000 liquidations. Not all companies trade and not all failures are liquidations, but the 80 per cent figure is an urban myth.

Many who start a business are refugees from corporate life who lack the talent or tolerance for company politics. Many talented people happily choose to toil for someone else. And why not? The pay is good, work interesting and their kids know what they look like.

The irony is the more talented you are the richer the rewards of corporate life and the harder it is to break free. Most small and medium businesses in New Zealand, many providing their owners with a very comfortable lifestyle, are owned and run by people who understood very quickly that they were not chief executive material.

You do not need to be Steve Jobs to create a successful company. You might if you want to create a global empire but if your ambition is local, self-discipline and competence will do.

Starting a business is like pushing a train. The effort required to move the train that first centimetre would make Hercules weep, but the second centimetre is exponentially easier.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the burdens of entrepreneurship but a greater one to miss out on capitalism's greatest adventure.

- Herald on Sunday

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