Lessons Learned About Entrepreneurship

The wisdom and advice shared by real successful entrepreneurs out there is just profound. Though I’ve been fortunate enough be involved in launching and co-founding a few start-ups in the past 10 years, I am in no way in a position to give any serious advice on entrepreneurship. But there are some lessons I’ve learned over and over again and I thought I’d pen them down here. The start-ups I’ve been involved have ranged from launching a business magazine, running a cafeteria chain, starting a restaurant, and trying to set-up a digital marketing agency. Some of them were successful, some unsuccessful, while some couldn’t even take-off. Below are the recurring themes that have gotten re-enforced over time, hope they are of any value.

1. Go All-In
If there is one truth about building a successful and sustainable business that I’ve learned, it is to give it your all, your 100%. Building a business requires every ounce of your physical, mental, and emotional energy. The only right way to do that is by quitting your day job, burning all boats, warning your family and friends about the grueling journey that lies ahead, and then just diving into it. It may sound scary and intimidating but then that’s the price you pay to achieve entrepreneurial glory as done by the likes of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerburg to name a few.

2. Entrepreneurship Is Not Same As Investing, and No, Its Not A Hobby
Entrepreneurship is a full time and all consuming activity. It must not be confused with a passive investment in which invested capital yields positive return based on industry and market realities, for example as in the case of investments made in Real Estate and Stock Exchange.
Entrepreneurship definitely is not a hobby. Though you can turn your hobby into an entrepreneurial project such as web designing but you should not turn entrepreneurship into a hobby. It is a serious thing on which livelihood of many depends. I feel that it becomes the responsibility of the entrepreneur to its employees and customers to keep the business running successfully. There is no room for half-hearted recreational attempts.

3. Be Clear and Focused
In my view and experience the success of any start-up directly depends on how well defined/positioned the core offering is. While it is easy to be a lot of things to lot of people, it takes a lot of discipline, maturity, and hard work to bring focus and clarity to uniquely position your company and offering. This also helps in focusing your efforts and resources in the right direction and to differentiate your offering from that of competitors.

4. Hire Professionals
Start-ups are always strapped for cash and resources and because of this, start-up founders tend to do everything on their own. To keep the start-up on a growth trajectory, it is important to hire professionals as the company grows. For example hiring a professional to take care of Finance and Accounts is a requirement from day one. As the business grows, hiring specialists for specific roles such as purchasing, sales, marketing, and legal, among others, becomes important based on the industry and business model.

5. Set Specific Goals and Track Progress
The only way to be successful is by knowing and defining what success is. So take out time to define success in form of milestones to be achieved in short-term and long term. Short-term milestones can be targets such as customers acquired, sales revenue, product margin, or market share. Long-term milestones can be goals related to geographical expansion, product diversification, or going public. Once the milestones are set, tracking them becomes even more important. Daily, weekly, monthly management reports that look at various aspects of the business are a good way to keep track.

6. Trust Your Intuition and Take Decisions
Successful entrepreneurs have the inborn ability to evaluate their surroundings (multiple data points) quickly and reach at correct decisions (mostly). This is also commonly referred to as ‘intuition’ or ‘gut’. So if you are aspiring to launch a successful start-up then you ought to trust your intuition and take decisions quickly. Its good to subject your judgment to various types of analyses but too much of that is just wastage of time in my view, especially during the initial steep growth phase of the start-up. What good is a decision made after exhaustive analysis while the window of opportunity has passed?

7. Innovate or Die
Once your start-up is up and running and teething issues are resolved, it is time to up your game and to stay ahead of the curve. The way to do that is by constantly innovating. It doesn’t matter if you are in the centuries old business of making shoes or in the new business of Big Data Consulting. You need to find ways to innovate your product or offering or business model, because while you are not doing it, someone else is at it to disrupt you.

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