If you're tired of working for someone else, then starting your own business could be a great option. It allows you to ditch the frustrations of having a boss, and instead live an idyllic life of near-constant stress, punctuated by the frequent possibility of financial failure and subsequent public humiliation. Still, you get to choose your own coffee machine.
The cult of the entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs, for some reason, are regarded as a cross between Braveheart and Mother Theresa: courageous, selfless individuals, who are looking to single-handedly drive the economy.
Which is, of course, nonsense.
Although the likes of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg etc love to tell us how they were motivated by their desire to make the world a better place, this is generally a post-rationalisation after their billions are safely locked away and they're looking for self-justification.
In fact, research tells us the biggest motivators for entrepreneurs are:
• 59 per cent because they wanted to be their own boss.
• 50 per cent because they had a desire to pursue a business idea.
• 50 per cent because of their financial ambition.
In other words, they don't do it to change the world, they do it to help themselves.
Understandable, but not saintly.
What's the difference between a start-up and a small business?
Start-ups are either bringing something appreciably new to the market, or actually changing that market itself. For example: Uber, Dyson, Apple, Airbnb, Netflix, Amazon.
Small businesses are generally "me too" and could be plumbers, garden centres, cake makers, or in my case an advertising agency; Barnes, Catmur & Friends was a well-intentioned, hard-working, talented group of people but not, I confess, intrinsically different to most other advertising agencies.
There's a big gulf between Jeff Bezos, whose company has changed the way the world goes shopping, and your mate who's launched a craft beer from their garage. I'm all for new beers, but let's be honest, your mate's brews have very little effect other than forcing them to park on the street.
It's not about the idea
Although entrepreneurs convince themselves that their own idea is ground-breaking, this is rarely the case. Facebook was not the first Facebook, Google was not the first Google, Microsoft don't make the best software on the planet, and the first electric car was made over a hundred years before Elon Musk got around to starting Tesla.
It's about the person
I bet that, given five minutes, most of us could come up with more interesting ideas than, say, exercises set to music, or clothes made out of merino wool, or a New Zealand vodka. Which is why in the cases of Les Mills International, Icebreaker and 42 Below, their success comes less from the originality of the ideas, but more from the sheer determination of their founders to push their ideas on an uncaring world.
And what's even more important is luck
Not only have a large proportion of successful entrepreneurs previously failed - but successful founders who move on to another start-up another have only a 30 per cent chance of succeeding.
This suggest that the one factor which everyone must have to succeed is luck.
Nobel Economics prize-winner Daniel Kahneman has his own formula:
Success = Talent + luck.
Great Success = Talent + a lot of luck.
Entrepreneurs may believe their own hype, but don't get sucked in: it's a casino out there.
What are the chances of success?
Not good, to be honest.
According to Bob Weir's Why Businesses Fail, around 45,000 businesses start in New Zealand every year. Around 45,000 also disappear.
In terms of start-ups (defined as genuinely new ideas requiring investment) the accepted failure rate is 90 per cent.
Do you have what it takes?
Anyone who's watched The Apprentice Aotearoa might believe wannabe entrepreneurs as characterised by an unshakeable belief in their own abilities in the face of consistent evidence to the contrary. Despite this, the show's contestants' willingness to accept any humiliation in order to further their own interests puts them in good stead for starting a business.
Over an advertising career, you work closely with a large number of entrepreneurs. From what I've seen they tend to be opinionated, charming (when they want to be), supremely confident, compulsively driven and believe strongly in their marketing abilities. Be warned, the one thing they are not is mediocre.
How much of a psychopath are you?
According to forensic psychologist Nathan Brooks, business leaders are four times more likely to have psychopathic tendencies than the general population. Have a look at the list below and see how suited you are to doing your own thing, be that running a company or waving chainsaws about indiscriminately:
Glib and superficial charm
Grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
Need for stimulation
Cunning and manipulativeness
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
Callousness and lack of empathy
Poor behavioural controls
Early behaviour problems
Lack of realistic long-term goals
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Many short-term marital relationships
Revocation of conditional release
• Paul Catmur was far too mediocre to be a psychopath, though he was co-founder of his own business. He'd previously worked at a quite good level across advertising in New Zealand, the UK and Australia. This is a series of articles about how to make the best out of not being the best