This column is a collection of some random thoughts related to entrepreneurship.
One of the things uppermost in the mind of an entrepreneur is how to raise capital. Luckily, in India today, there is no shortage of capital. The best way to raise capital for your business is by being profitable. Having less money can make you think harder – not just about using the available resources better, but also coming up with out-of-the-box ideas and focusing hard on the things that matter. Also, control your costs from day one. Even if you have raised capital from outside, treat it as if your own hard-earned cash.
As an entrepreneur, what can be your biggest strength (especially in selling) is your “infectious enthusiasm.” People need to see your passion for the business: that is what can help you stand apart, and bring it in that extra element of luck which a business needs. For entrepreneurs, there is no separation of personal and business lives. Life is business, and vice-versa. That is the kind of commitment which will needed from you and your team to make the venture successful.
When you are building a business, do not think of exits. You should only be building a business if you believe enough in it to run it for the rest of your life. If an opportunity for an exit comes, “think from the head, and not from the heart.” Making money has to be an important objective, but if you run after money, it will not come. Build the business as a labour of love. Make it the best thing you’ve ever done. No half-measures, no short-cuts. Your passion must reflect in every aspect of the business. And then, leave the rest to God.
What the Nasdaq and BSE Sensex do is irrelevant to your business. Technology makes it so much easy for us to be aware of what is happening worldwide. Awareness is good, and in fact important. But do not become obsessed with the markets. Focus on your business. Even if you want to list on the public markets, it is an event which is likely to three or more years away, and what the market will be then you do not know (or care about) at this point of time.
Make sure you have good legal advice from the start. You will need to sign agreements, do partnerships, and so on. Some of the things you do in the early stages of your business may come back to haunt you at a later point of time. So, be careful and seek good advice at every stage. The investment will be well worth it. In the same vein, stay away from “marriages of convenience” – have confidence in your own abilities: if you cannot make it happen, no one else can.
Take some time off periodically – not necessarily vacation, but some time when you can think on what you are doing. A typical day in the life of an entrepreneur is very reactive: there are so many unplanned things which happen, so many fires to be fought daily. It does not give much time to think about what you are doing. That is why it is important to, firstly, have a deep understanding of the market space in which you are operating so you can make decisions quickly, and, secondly, to take time once in a while to reflect on the changes which are taking place. You can also use this time to expose yourself to different situations, so there is new learning which takes place. Remember: you are the eyes and ears of your company, so everyone looks at you for the vision and direction.
You also need to accept that you cannot do everything. This means being open to ideas and suggestions from others. Listen to people and then make up your mind. Also, make sure you manage the relationships with your employees, customers, partners and vendors well. Being a small company gives you the advantage of adding in that personal touch – which can make all the difference.
In taking risks (and entrepreneurship is about making bets), you should be prepared to fail. Failure is the best teacher, as long as you can learn. Imagine and be aware of the worst case scenario. Know when to call it quits. No one creates a business to fail, but in the event that your business does fail, get ready to start all over again: make a clean break from the past, and focus on the future. There is always some good which comes out of everything.
In today’s India, ideas and capital are not in short supply. If there is a shortage of anything, it is innovative, disruptive technologies from people who understand the marketplace and are willing to think deeply about the future. Best of Luck!