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ENTREPRENEURSHIP FOR ENGINEERS
The Engineer and their role in society.
An engineer is one who had studied engineering from a recognized higher institution of learning, duly registered, and certified or licensed to practice in his/her area of competence by an engineering regulatory body of his/her country or region of residence
Engineers are trained in various fields of engineering; civil, mechanical, electrical, agricultural, information technology, etc. Engineering is the practical application of the knowledge of mathematics and the sciences to the proffering of solutions to humanity’s physical problems or challenges, thus resulting in the well-being of society. Engineering is the greatest tool for human and national development.
Herbert Hoover the 31st President of the United States of America 1929-1933, in his memoirs, noted that Engineering is a great profession. He stated and I quote “There is the satisfaction of watching a figment of imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comfort of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege” unquote.
Engineers are therefore solution seekers to society’s varied and unending demand for infrastructures aimed at meeting the need for food, clothing, shelter, medicine, industrial development, environmental challenges, etc.
The entrepreneur & entrepreneurship.
An entrepreneur, simply, is an individual who creates a new firm and continues to manage it until it is successful. This individual, more often than not, is endowed with the ability to identify, in the world around him, what is lacking and/or in acute demand and then swings into action, by way of providing products and services, to meet such needs. This individual should be one who is willing to work for himself and by himself and well prepared to organize and operate a business or businesses in a sustainable manner. Entrepreneurship, therefore, is the concept of developing and managing a business venture in order to gain profit by taking and managing several risks.
There are different types of entrepreneurs or entrepreneurship existing out there in different climes depending on business type, technology, ownership, gender, and size. They may take the forms of solo self-employed, partnership with friends and family, teaming up of builders workforce, engineering service firms, resource exploiters, innovators, business aggregators, etc.
The engineer and entrepreneur relationship.
The fact that Engineers are trained to be solutions seekers to society’s varied and unending demand for infrastructures aimed at meeting the need of society and Entrepreneurs are individuals endowed with the ability to identify, in the world around them, what is lacking and/or in acute demands and then swings into action, by way of providing products and services, to meet such needs, this establishes a strong linkage between engineers and entrepreneurs as problem solvers and solutions providers. So being trained as engineers, we are by design already trained or being trained as entrepreneurs.
Tools and techniques for entrepreneurship survival.
Starting a business can be described as one of the most perilous, exciting, and unpredictable journeys you could begin. It would stand to reason that because every entrepreneur and business is unique, every journey to starting a business would be unique. The journey of entrepreneurship will require some tools and techniques to arrive at a successful destination. Primarily every business need, Capital – money to run the business and Human Resources – the business owner(s) and the team of workforce to manage and run the business. The business owners and their team of workforce need tools and techniques required for entrepreneurship survival; a few of which I have listed here and I believe some of you may even have more than those listed.
1. Acquire relevant knowledge, skills, and competencies.
An entrepreneur need to have or acquire knowledge in the area of business engagements and at the same time develop several other hard and soft skills necessary for entrepreneurship success.
⁃ Hard skills are technical skills and competencies acquired from regular circular engineering education and competency development training by ways of continuing professional development (CPD)
⁃ Soft skills are in the area of human resources skills, communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork skills, ethical skills, interpersonal skills, time management skills, and critical thinking skills that are equally acquired from the tertiary institutions by ways of outcome-based (OBE) and from continuing professional development (CPD) in the workplace and other training programs.
⁃ Napoleon Hill stated, and I quote “The person who stops studying merely because he has graduated from the university or high school is forever hopelessly doomed to mediocrity no matter what may be his calling. The way to success is the way of continuous pursuit of knowledge” unquote.
2. You must be a disciplined person.
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. If you cannot disciple your mind in financial management, time management, deferring gratification, and working hard through odd hours of the day, you are not ready for entrepreneurship. To be successful in entrepreneurship, you must be a highly disciplined person. You must be disciplined enough to save and put together your business capital and manage money, time, materials, and Human Resources prudently. Do not because of early gratification or self-pampering consume or deplete your working capital. However, you must not look unkept or untidy because you are saving money. Your physical appearance must speak well about you. Present yourself neat and sharp before your prospective clients, partners, investors, financial services providers, etc.
3. Learn to be patient.
Entrepreneurship is not for the impatient. You need to wait patiently for your business to grow, mature, and turn out profitably. Like they say “The patient dog eats the fattest bone”. So you have to be very patient in everything you do to grow your enterprise. Do not take shortcuts to success, and do not rush or be in a hurry.
4. Learn to sell yourself and your business.
We need to learn how to sell ourselves, our products, and our services to our prospective clients and stakeholders. Daniel H. Pink in his book “To Sell is Human” wrote extensively and stated that we are in business selling in our daily engagements with the people we meet in the cause of entrepreneurship.
5. Learn to snip and scurry when you notice changes.
As an entrepreneur, you must be ready to identify changes in your entrepreneurship environment and make a move to snip and scurry for the cheese that keeps moving. Dr. Spencer Johnson in his classical book entitled “Who moved my cheese” used cheese as a metaphor for what you want to have in life that keeps changing and for which we must snip and scurry for their current location; a good entrepreneurship outlook, a good job, a loving relationship, money or possessions, health or spiritual peace of mind, etc. It is about learning how to anticipate, adapt to, and enjoy change and be ready to change quickly whenever you need to. Remember that “There is nothing permanent except change.”
6. Learn to be optimistic and confident.
Confidence is critical to entrepreneurship when starting a business. You need the confidence to gain your first customers, convince an investor or attract key team members or co-founders to your venture. Optimism is also an essential quality in entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur must avoid a quick-to-give-up attitude. An entrepreneur who wants to succeed must learn to persevere, be hopeful, and be resilient in the face of challenges or demotivating situations. Dr. Martins E. P. Seligman in his book on “Learned Optimism” explained how to break an “I—give-up” habit, develop a more constructive explanatory style for interpreting our behavior, and experience the benefits of a more positive interior dialogue. These skills can help break up depression, boost your immune system, better develop your potential, make you happier, and fully anticipate success even in challenging situations,
7. Do not be arrogant.
Avoid hubris or arrogance; too much confidence without a basis. Clients, customers, investors, and partners will run away from you and your business if show them your shoulders. Be very humble with your successes and achievements.
There are many more things to say on this topic, but I will stop here today. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need knowledge, vision, work ethic, focus, consistency, and commitment. I wish you well on your journey in life as both an entrepreneur or an employee of an entrepreneur. Best of luck.
About the Author
Engineer George Chukwulewa Okoroma, FNSE, FNICE, FNIHTE, FNIStructE, M.ASCE, MIDiagE, JP
A civil engineer, the pioneer Past Chairman of NSE Omoku Branch, and the Immediate Past President of the Association for Consulting Engineering in Nigeria (ACEN). He also served as a distinguished COREN Council member from 2020 to 2021.