Big businesses in South Africa often come with rules, regulations and codes of conduct that don't fully align with employees' personal ambitions. Sure, if you're management, maybe you fit in with what the company aspires to, but if you're a worker bee there is a very high chance that you're just a number. The problem is those bills - those pesky bills - if you don't sacrifice your daily joys for at least 8 or 9 hours, where are you going to find financial security?
Being a young South African means being faced with the incredibly tough choice of choosing employment or toughing it out in entrepreneurship. Yes, the promises are great, but the red tape behind building a business seems to do more to inhibit progress than encourage it. There's CIPC, SARS, POPI, PAIA and all these other menacing acronyms (let's not forget the terror of what they represent).
So let's dig into it: what are the pros and cons of employment? Well, on the upside, there's a set salary (which banks and credit facilities love) and something to look forward to every month; there's a start and end time (there should be) and overtime or double pay on public holidays. But what are the drawbacks? A limited amount of leave? Becoming potentially consumed by going back to the same place every day to do the same thing every day, with the same people who feel the same way. That's a lot of similarity to handle day after day, even for those who enjoy a routine.
On the other hand, entrepreneurship is also often underestimated. There are so much more responsibilities for an entrepreneur, like covering utilities, salaries and other overhead costs, in addition to overseeing and often filling the shoes of marketing, HR, finance, legal, operations, research and development and every other department. There is no such thing as start time or end time because entrepreneurship often demands around-the-clock input, especially for start-ups. Securing funding for all of this is one of the biggest barriers any aspiring business owner faces: money certainly doesn't grow on trees and to feed oneself simultaneously while feeding one's business is the hardest juggling act for thousands.
But, what are the rewards? A sense of ownership, achievement, constant challenge that some of us thrive on. If done right, if stood by through thick and thin (yes, it's a life long commitment), there is a financial reward too. Above all else, is freedom. Freedom of time. If and only if your business is treated with love, passion and strategic vision, will it reward you with the freedom to engage as and when you please, instead of enslaving you.
There are a lot of obstacles and rewards along both paths, but the winner among us is he/she who merges the two together. If you're an employee you need to establish a partnership and mutually beneficial agreement between you and your employer - find the best fit for your vision and ambitions, and make every moment count. If you're an entrepreneur, you've got to set yourself some kind of discipline to work through the ugly stuff you hate doing, too. Without the ability to flex and hop between the two different mindsets, you might find yourself up a very horrible creek, with no paddle or even a boat to help you escape.