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Can Anybody be an Entrepreneur?

The simple answer is yes. There is no law that says one person or a class of people can’t be entrepreneurs. Essentially, if you want to go into business you should be able to. But is entrepreneurship for everyone? Sure there are no legal barriers if you decide to plunge into the world of entrepreneurship, but should you? Is everyone equipped to become an entrepreneur? These questions are more complicated and therefore deserve a more nuanced answer rather than a simple yes or no reply.

My own experience as an entrepreneur as well as reflections on the life of other successful entrepreneurs has led me to think that there are essential qualities one must possess to succeed in business. And while studying in schools are important, most of these things cannot be acquired inside the classroom. In other words, if you do not have these qualities, entrepreneurship may not be for.

First, if you are lazy and enjoy sitting around rather than doing something productive then maybe putting up a business is not in your future. Entrepreneurs are hard workers. They feel uncomfortable if they are not doing anything even for just a minute. There are some people who worked hard all their lives and were suddenly forced into retirement and they suddenly feel sick or weak. It’s because working has been an integral part of their identity. 

In my case, I feel that I have been working all my life. And I love every moment of it. When I was young I would wake up early in the morning to help my mother sell shrimp and fish in Divisoria. Then I would go to school to study and go home to do my assignments for the next day. When I started my business I practically worked 24/7. Even today, when people have been saying that I should retire, I still go about my day focused on work. 


Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy my downtimes and the occasional vacation but even then I would find a way to think about work. My family and I would be on vacation abroad and while they shop I will sit in a cafe and relax. But I also study my surroundings and learn what I can use in my business when we go back to the Philippines. Sometimes I find gaps in my daily schedule so I’ll take a walk inside my malls to see what is going on or maybe stop by Dear Joe coffee shop and observe people. 

Second, if you are not willing to take risks and would rather enjoy things as they are then you may encounter some problems when you become an entrepreneur. The essence of entrepreneurship is taking risks. You take risks because you want to change some things in your life or in your world. When I was young I wanted to change my family’s situation, I wanted to have a prosperous and comfortable life for myself, my siblings and my parents. When I got married and had children I wanted to be able to provide for my own family. 

The important lesson I learned early on is that you cannot create these changes without taking risks. Things will not be given to you on a silver platter. Hindi ka pwedeng nakahilata maghapon at magdasal na mabigyan ng biyaya. If you want things to change you need to do something. You need to seize the opportunity every time it presents itself. And in some instances you may need to create the opportunity yourself. When I left my work in order to start my own business there was no doubt it my mind that that was what I wanted to do in my life. It was risky but strangely I never thought of that decision as a risk but an opportunity for me to realize my dreams.

That risk-taking attitude did not stop when I became a successful businessman. In 1992, I decided to enter politics and risked everything. I was putting everything on the line — my reputation, my business, and my peaceful life. I was reluctant at first but when I decided to go for it I never doubted my decision. It was risky but I knew it was the right thing to do. I was in politics from 1992 to 2013. And in those 21 years I applied what I learned in business. I worked hard as a legislator. I persevered even when the odds were against me. And I took many political risks to be able to effect meaningful change in the country. (To be continued next week) 



Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar