This is Part 1 of UmmahHub’s series on Being Your Own Boss that reveals the 10 keys to help you become a successful entrepreneur and be the best you can be in business and in life, In sha Allah.
To be an entrepreneur and be involved in business consists of exerting significant effort and hard work, which is highly encouraged in Islam; as the Prophet said:
“No doubt, it is better for a person to take a rope and proceed in the morning to the mountains and cut the wood and then sell it, and eat from this income and give alms from it than to ask others for something.” [Bukhari]
Many of the early followers of our faith, including our Prophet Muhammad , were merchants and traders. In fact, much of how Islam spread from West Africa to China was through traders. As the country with the highest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia is said to have embraced Islam by witnessing the the strong ethics and beautiful character of Muslim businessmen and entrepreneurs they came across, which speaks to the immense power of business that is driven by faith-based values.
Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful methods to create long-lasting change in our communities that is currently being neglected. This is due to the lack of proper entrepreneurial education to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs within our community. There simply is not enough awareness about what entrepreneurship is, how we can develop more entrepreneurs, and how we can start and run successful companies that can create a long-lasting impact.
Who is an Entrepreneur?
There are many definitions for the word ‘entrepreneur’, but the most common definition is that an entrepreneur is someone who identifies problems and then turns them into opportunities.
“Entrepreneurship,” says Bob Reiss, the author of ‘Low- Risk, High-Reward: Starting and Growing your Business With Minimal Risk‘, “is the recognition and pursuit of opportunity without regard to the resources you currently control, with confidence that you can succeed, with the flexibility to change course as necessary, and with the will to rebound from setbacks.”
Being an entrepreneur is not necessarily just about launching and running a business, it is about developing the entrepreneurial mindset, which is useful to anyone who is part of an organization. It is the mindset of looking at problems as opportunities and creating more with less. This mindset encourages risk-taking, creativity, innovation, and unconventional thinking.
This is the mindset that we Muslims need to develop in order to properly create healthy communities that can deal with the myriad of socio-economic issues we face.
Revive Your Entrepreneurial Spirit
The industrial revolution forced a mass migration of people from rural areas to urban cities. Prior to that, most people in North America were entrepreneurs who owned small businesses and bartered to get what they needed. Now, as technology and global competition changes the employment landscape, traditional employment that was reminiscent of the industrial revolution is being challenged. Individuals are now being forced to become knowledge workers, who essentially rely on selling their skills to make a living. We were all entrepreneurs long before the industrial revolution changed that. We need to return back to our entrepreneurial roots, not just socially but religiously as well. Interestingly enough, history has come full circle and we will all need to become entrepreneurs to survive in the future.
What makes entrepreneurs unique is their resourcefulness. In other words, they are able to do more with less. Whatever the problem, they will find a way to make it happen even if they do not have all the tools.
The key to developing an entrepreneurial mindset is recognizing the qualities you have, then building and improving upon those you do not yet have. To get started, we have mapped out key ways to develop your mindset as a Muslim entrepreneur.:
1. Have Tawakkul and Be Grateful
Part of being a Muslim is understanding that Allah is the ultimate disposer of our affairs. He is Al-Awwal (the Beginning) wal-Akhir (The End). Everything begins with Him and everything ends with Him. Consequently, He is the source of everything and the Provider of all.
Contemporary business practices today cite scientific studies showing that an attitude of gratitude brings more into your life. It means the more you are grateful, the more you will receive. Believing that there is a limited amount of resources for everyone to access is a flawed mindset for any entrepreneur. You must operate from a place of abundance and believe resources are unlimited.
As Muslims, we do not need modern scientific studies to show us that being grateful and having faith in a higher being who is the Source of all is enough reason to never worry.
In the Qur’an, Allah says:
“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ” [Qur’an: Chapter 14, Verse 7]
Know that Allah has given you all the resources that you need in your life to create a successful business and create some impact in the world. Once you realize that you were given quite a lot, Allah has guaranteed to give you more.
2. Work Hard and Think Long-Term
“That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives. And that his effort is going to be seen – Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense.” [Qur’an: Chapter 53, Verses 38-41]
A crucial step to developing an entrepreneurial mindset is having the ability to think long-term. Long-term thinking allows a person to develop discipline to work at a problem while having a future vision in mind. This helps prevent the need to fulfill short-term gratification.
In Surat al-Israa, Allah says:
“Whoever should desire the immediate – We hasten for him from it what We will to whom We intend. Then We have made for him Hell, which he will [enter to] burn, censured and banished. But whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effort due to it while he is a believer – it is those whose effort is ever appreciated [by Allah]. To each [category] We extend – to these and to those – from the gift of your Lord. And never has the gift of your Lord been restricted.” [Qur’an: Chapter 17, Verses 18-20]
Allah also says:
“Whoever desires the reward of this world – then with Allah is the reward of this world and the Hereafter. And ever is Allah Hearing and Seeing.” [Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verses 134]
A key part of having a long-term vision is having the understanding of what guides your decision-making. What vision do you have for yourself, your life and your business? What impact do you ultimately want to make? This will be your reason, the one that will get you through the main obstacles you will inevitably face. As Allah has said, if you work, you will receive the fruits of your striving.
3. Have Grit
University of Pennsylvania Psychology Professor Angela Duckworth’s research has shown that people with “grit”, the trait of exceptional persistence and devotion, consistently perform better than those with higher IQ.
If there is one guarantee in entrepreneurship, it is that it is a roller coaster ride. There is no linear path to becoming a successful entrepreneur. It essentially consists of making numerous tiny decisions everyday on multiple things: teams, administration strategy, marketing, etc. It takes a certain type of mindset to withstand this kind of pressure. The key here is persistence.
Persistence is the ability to look past obstacles and keep moving. When speaking to many successful entrepreneurs, they will cite the ability to not give up as being a crucial reason for success. Sadly, many people do not succeed because they gave up right before they were about to find success. The key to persistence is to keep trying until you get to your end goal.
“Keep focused on the problem you are trying to solve but be flexible on how you solve it”, says Jason Nazar, co-founder and CEO of Docstoc .
4. Focus on Creating Value
Another key to becoming a successful entrepreneur is by creating value. The amount of success you have is proportional to how much value you bring to others. Entrepreneurs focus on creating sustainable solutions by solving problems faced by people.
Before starting your business, it is essential to ask yourself: “Who am I helping and how can I make that solution better than what exists currently in the marketplace?” This is the primary mentality to have when looking to become an entrepreneur and the basis of great business models. Contemporary entrepreneurship encourages one to find a solution for a problem within the marketplace that customers are not happy with, then create a product to help them, while constantly revising and improving that product based on their feedback.
Entrepreneurial Education: The Way Forward
Growing and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs is crucial for our long-term communal prosperity. In order to solve the myriad of social problems that we face, we need to support those who are solving these problems. That is why entrepreneurial education can become a crucial asset for our community.
The first step in doing so is to develop the mindset of an entrepreneur. On a community level, helping more people develop an entrepreneurial mindset means we help unleash the creative potential and innovative thinking of many individuals in our community. These new ideas can help spark new businesses, organizations and projects that will benefit our community for years to come. Developing an entrepreneurial mindset gives individuals the inspiration to dream, to be innovative and to take risks.
With this spirit, we have to encourage the next generation to become the change-makers and entrepreneurs they have the potential to be!
Next time we will show you how to get inspired and develop business ideas. If you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs, or thinking of becoming one yourself, let us know in the comments section below!
About the Author
Obaid Ahmed is a technology entrepreneur, youth mentor, investor, philanthropist and community builder. He founded UmmahHub with a mission to redefine fundraising, change-making and entrepreneurship for Muslim communities.