The Indian government is giving the entrepreneurial ecosystem the much-needed push through its ‘Start-up India, Stand-Up India’ initiative. This ecosystem comprising mentors, investors and accelerators is getting better day by day, and we can see an increasing number of professionals taking the road less travelled.
Things look very promising at a macro level, but is the picture as rosy at the micro level too? I doubt. Our education system rarely does anything to prepare its beneficiaries for their entrepreneurial journey.
I realised this truth very late, but not before losing my first partnership business. I learned it the hard way, when my first venture in the area of celebrity theatre did not do as per the expectations my co-founders and I had from the business. However, I was quick to absorb the learnings and bring them to my next business in the area of training, consulting and book writing.
I want to share with my readers strategies that helped me in building up my business and things they should keep in mind before they themselves ‘start-up’.
1. Identify the idea and study the opportunity: We all study for around 20 years before we become employable and worthy of applying for a decent job. However, it is shocking that sometimes we do not even prepare for 20 months before we start a business. I, personally feel that it takes at least six months of full-time research or around 18 months of part-time research to explore a business opportunity.
Before you leave your secure job, make sure you know everything about the business opportunity you are about to explore. Build your network, read books, industry reports, attend conferences and figure out business friends and rivals. If you fail to plan, you are surely planning to fail. You should be aware of the people who are both making or losing money in the industry you plan to enter.
2. You cannot plan everything: This might seem counter-intuitive to what I mentioned in the preceding paragraph related to importance of planning, but there is a difference. I know a lot of professionals and students who suffer from ‘paralysis of over-analysis’. The plan with which you enter business and the plan that ultimately works in the market are two different plans. Yet, it is very important to have the first plan because the subsequent plans emanate or evolve from it. If you wait for everything to be perfect before you launch – from business environment and finances to family support — then you will always be waiting. Entrepreneurship is a ‘trial, miss and then finally hit’ kind of game.
3. Do a job in the same industry: Do not take risks your money entirely, but this does not mean you are careless with resources provided by other people. If possible, do a job for couple of years in the area you want to start your business. It will be a ‘learn as well as earn’ experience for you. If you are willing to learn on the job, then you will bleed less when you get into it yourself. When I started my training business, I started assisting a lot of authors and trainers in their work-assignments for free. I was not getting any money from them, but I was learning a lot through my association with them.
4. Be psychologically strong: Always remember the fact that entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, especially during the first few years. You will lose some friends and business partners on the way. Make sure that the business does not suffer because of your inability to handle loneliness. There will be business cycles when you will not be sure about next week, forget about next month or next year. It is your calmness and persistence that will come to your rescue. If you have faith in your business idea then be willing to go all out for it. It may not always work, but you will become an evolved person in the process. Be equally excited for failure as you are for success.
5. Learn how to bootstrap: You can never be sure about cash flow during the first few years of the business. Therefore, bootstrapping your business is a great survival skill. Minimise the inessential expenses both personal and professional. During the initial years, it is your responsibility to feed capital into your business, so that it can generate steady income for you in the later years. Even when you are looking for funding, the investors always prefer a smart and frugal entrepreneur over a splurging founder. There are millions of wealthy investors in this world who are willing to invest in good business ideas but nobody wants to see their money being handled irresponsibly.
6. Build your network: An entrepreneur’s psychology is very different from the psychology of an employee. Nobody is superior to the other, but both need a different kind of skill set to succeed in their pursuits. Business is more about long term execution while a job is more about short- and medium-term wins. You need to surround yourself with people who have vision. Spend more time with creators rather than consumers. Make sure you know top five players in your industry before you start your business. If you cannot know them personally then read and learn about them through books or magazines.
7. Build a system: One misconception that many employees have is that entrepreneurs are happy because they do not have a boss. Trust me, entrepreneurs too have bosses – if not as investors then as customers. The purpose of business is to create a system that can create value even in your absence. Business is like a money machine that gives you money even when you stop working. In a job, you trade your time for money but in a business you build systems that do not need your time once they become independent. This is the reason self-employed people experience maximum burnouts.
I know so many unhappy businessmen who left their secure jobs but never worked to build a system that could run in their absence. They became self-employed professionals rather than real entrepreneurs.
I always encourage people to try entrepreneurship at least for a few years. One year of entrepreneurship can teach you more than what five years of college education will. You will become more disciplined, will inculcate right work ethics and will rise above petty office politics. And who knows your business idea may just click, and you end up with profits for which no salary could be a worthy match. You can never know what you can do, till the time you take action. You may fail or you may win and both are better than not trying at all.