9 out of 10 Muslim Businesses Fail: Here is How to be the One that Succeeds

Every Muslim knows starting a business is a Sunnah and it is also the second biggest dream after owning a house. Starting a startup is a roller coaster ride, which at highs can take you on top of the world and on lows can be very difficult. Loads of people came to me over the years who all wanted advice on starting a business but some of their main issues were:

“Mr. Mirza, I would like to start a startup or a business but i’m not technical or I have little money, should i pour it into my idea or no one in my family has done a business ever” the list goes on.

I’m drawn to these conversations because it is hard for me to believe someone can do anything else but business – basically for the difference in perspective. I’m an idea guy at heart, have the technical resources to see the ideas through and I admittedly tend to have a build-first mindset – I build out neat ideas as fast as I can, do it first, ask questions later as they come. But underneath all the conversations I have had so far with non-tech muslims, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern:

Non-technical Muslims don’t lag behind when it comes to building it first mindset. They want to be able to start neat ideas and they want to jump in head first.

They start of with an idea, even map out some sketches or wire-frames, but are held up because they don’t have the tech skill to build it and they don’t know how much it would cost to get it up and running. They just need a programmer who can build their vision. In some situations they are afraid the programmer may steal their idea and in some cases the programmer can sadly think why do I need this person?

Their fears stem from stories like how Mark Zuckeberg stole Facebook.

The primary dispute around Facebook’s origins centered around the fact that Mark agreed with the Harvard seniors, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and a classmate named Divya Narendra, to develop a similar web site for them – and then, instead, developed the idea into his own site while installing them with excuses. Soon after he launched the site in 2004, a full-fledged lawsuit was filed by Cameron and co.

Yes, these kind of things do happen but on the flip side trust is the basis of every relationship and when it comes to muslim business, the Sunnah is to make sure everything is well documented before things start. Follow the Sunnah and you should be fine.

On Thursday of last week, a young Muslim entrepreneur came to me for an advice and she had the same dilemma. She had an idea, which she wanted to turn it into a business but did not have the technical skills to do so.

Extreme appreciation and respect for the people who go after their dreams

I am an investor in many businesses and we have our own incubators in a number of different countries.  The whole idea of putting a bunch of entrepreneurs in one location to build their dreams is that they see first hand the value of hard/smart work. They see how everyone is striving to gain traction and they see in real-time all the little struggles and successes.

The companies in these incubators have teams which come from all walks of life. Some companies have all tech founders, some have all non-tech founders – the interesting part is that how each team attacks their problem spaces to gain traction is different.

As a businessman who has been part of many different companies, watching the people who were starting their first startup was particularly eye opening. I developed an extreme appreciation and a lot of respect for the people who go after their dreams against all odds.

But what’s up with most people failing research

Ten years ago if you asked someone “how many businesses fail in the first year”, they would have said, most. This “most businesses failing” statement has stayed consistent throughout the years. Forbes writer Eric Wagner on September 12, 2013 wrote,

“According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn.”

More than two years later on Jan 16, 2015 another piece in Forbes, part of the headline written by another said,

“90% Of Startups Fail”, he went on to say “nine out of ten startups will fail”. This is a hard and bleak truth, but one that you’d do well to meditate on.

Why is it that the rate of failure has not decreased? Why is that there is so much more information, so many more tools, it’s a lot easier to send your message to people, it’s much cheaper to start a business than ever before, yet the rate of failure has not decreased?

On his many failed experiments, Thomas Edison once said,

“I have learned fifty thousand ways it cannot be done and therefore I am fifty thousand times nearer the final successful experiment”.

The startups fail not just because they didn’t have money, but even most of those which raise venture funding see the same end and usually die 20 months after raising financing. Some go down even after having raised over a million dollars.

The wrong way

You have an idea, you ask a friend what he thinks and he says “I don’t think it will work”, you get discouraged and put it on hold.

On the flip side, I have heard of people who start a business based on talking to their cousin or a friend or someone who knows nothing about business.

“Hey, what you think of my idea”, and a cousin who never started a business says, “wow, this is great”.

You jump into it with everything you got and when it doesn’t work out, you lose your hard earned savings. It is extremely important and a Sunnah for Muslims to get a business advice from someone who actually understands the type of business you want to start.

For example, you want to start importing computer parts. It is much better to talk to someone who has been doing it for a while, instead of talking to someone else who has nothing to do with the computer part business.

Here is a beautiful business lesson from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

Prophet of Allah Muhammad (pbuh) was a businessman and the most honest in the world. He hardly gave advice and guidance on something he didn’t have experience in. Because of who he was and the way he conducted himself,  he was credible on the issues he talked about.

See; the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), is a lesson to all of us. Every part of his life was a lesson for mankind. Although he never gave advice on something he didn’t know, The one time the Prophet (pbuh) recommended something out of his knowledge to the Sahaba was about farming.

It’s a beautiful lesson. He once asked the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet (pbuh), “why do you cross-pollinate the date trees? Don’t do that. That’s sounds weird”.

When you think the Prophet (pbuh) told you to stop, you stop. The Sahaba decided not to cross-pollinate that year and that year they had a terrible harvest. At the end of the year, they go back to the Prophet (pbuh), telling him of their poor harvest.

The Prophet (pbuh) said, “I don’t know anything about farming. I just asked why you cross-pollinate. I thought it was weird. Go do what you’re supposed to do. You know what you’re doing”.

This story clearly tells us to get advice from someone who understands the type of business you are thinking of doing or even when you are already doing a business, to scale it, get advice from someone who is from the same business.

One of the greatest pieces of advice given by the Prophet (pbuh) was, “the most beloved actions to Allah are those performed consistently, even if they are few”. [Sahih Bukhari]

Compare this to the famous quote of Henry Van Dyke — “Some succeed because they are destined to, but most succeed because they are determined to”.

To all the Muslim Entrepreneurs; if you are really serious about starting a startup/business and if you really want to have much higher chances of succeeding, and if you really want to become the 1 out of ten, which actually succeeds; you will do yourself a huge favor by going through the choices below and picking the one that applies to you. Click on one of the boxes below: Find the answers and use the information to increase your chances and make sure you are consistent.

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