If You're Such A Genius, Why Aren't You Rich

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That is the title of the chapter 1 of a book on Entrepreneurship that I am reading for an MBA assignment/essay. 

image: batman-on-film.com

I have read a lot of very boring academic books but these ones on entrepreneurship that I needed to read to get the essay done are not in any way boring. They opened my eyes to the breakdown of entrepreneurship.

And I particularly like the argument of the one I took this post's title from. Why doesn't genius translates to riches? If you are such a genius, why aren't you rich? 

John has been working on his business idea for months now. He spotted an entrepreneurial opportunity, a need gap no one else is addressing in the market, and he has marshalled resources and strategies to build a thriving business on it. In his business plan, he needs 50,000 active customers to become profitable. Then Buhari came into power and foreign investors started the wait game. Oil price has tumbled and isn't rising. CBN is implementing contractionary economic policies. People are cutting down on expenses and some even are losing their jobs. Now John is finding it very hard to even get 10,000 customers. He tries to reduce his burn rate hoping he can outlive this depressing time. But after 21 months he runs out of cash and had to close down the business. Now he is poorer by taking on his entrepreneurial idea.

Just three years ago, James made a similar move. He spotted an opportunity and seized it. He's not as smart as John and his business plan wasn't as well made as John's. But then, Goodluck was in Power. Oil price was sky high. There was a lot of money going around. CBN was busy looking at NNPC's books. SURE-P was ensuring people were getting ridiculously paid for painting the third mainland bridge and for buying commuter buses at twice their list price. James also needed 50,000 paying customers to become profitable. And he got them almost sweatlessly. The economy was in an expansionary mode and people were optimistic enough to spend on anything.

To be rich and successful as an entrepreneur, you need way more than you and your genius, you need to ride a wave. The circumstances you can't control often have more impact on your success than you imagine. Many entrepreneurs have succeeded not because they were particularly bright but because they rode a wave, while many intelligent entrepreneurs have failed because the tide turned. It is called the market dynamics, and rightly so for a reason -- it keeps changing.

So when it comes to entrepreneurship (and becoming the next Aliko Dangote), you need not just an entrepreneurial spirit and awesome ideas, you need external (uncontrollable) circumstances to be in your favour. In fact, you will benefit more from finding and riding waves than coming up with original ideas and having the smartest people partner with you.

As long as you are not going to print fake money, your genius isn't going to make you rich. It will help you on your journey to become rich but not as much as you would expect. You have to look for waves to ride. And riding waves don't require genius, just a good eye and a never-die attitude.


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