50 Months an Entrepreneur

I have said this before and I am saying this again. Entrepreneurship is like reproduction in reverse. The labour pains happen first and last a long time; the climax happens last and is at best feeling.

I started my entrepreneurial journey in January of 2015. My hair was mostly black; the grey beard was non-existent and credit card was platinum. This is 2019. Hair turned grey; beard turned sexy (and grey) and credit card cancelled about a year back.

Would I recommend Entrepreneurship? Yes! Would I continue at it? No doubt. Is there a chance that I may get back to my old safe life where on this day, a 6-figure salary would have hit my account? No bloody chance!

I just hit a 50. Are you kidding me!

Almost 50 magical clients have engaged with us in this period. Some of them allowed us to punch above our weight. Some trusted us with projects that we ourselves were not yet sure of. In this period, we have directly and indirectly affected 50,000 people. Why would I even dream of giving up on something like that!

But, I do believe that you learn a few valuable lessons in any journey you undertake. Since there will be others walking in your footsteps, you are bound to pass on your learning to them. If they make mistakes, they should make new ones, not the ones you already made.

Lesson 1: Cash is King

If you can rent, don’t buy. If you can borrow, don’t build. Lack of customers can slow you down. Lack of cash however, can kill your business.

  • Invest in productive assets – like People. Unproductive assets – like offices, computers, and workstations should take the least share of your cash.
  • Invest in productive pursuits- like Travel and Trainee Programmes. Unproductive pursuits – like size of your Workstation should take the least of your cash.

Lesson 2: Your Co-Founders Matter

How much money they bring to the table is secondary. How much intelligence they bring to the table is important. How much heart they bring to the table is critical.

  • Spend considerable time reaching out to a great set of Co-Founders. You can do it at the start of the journey. Or like I did, you can do it 3 years into the journey. But you must do this.
  • Don’t hesitate to part ways with someone who is not committing to the journey. It is ok. Done well, friendships will survive such professional necessities.
  • The right Co-Founders increase the size of the pie, even if your share becomes smaller. You get more.

Lesson 3: Patience is a big Plus

Calculations do go wrong.Stay the distance. I was confident that I will pay myself my first salary in 18 months. It took 3 years! The good thing was that I had closed the door behind me and there was no turning back. I gave myself 5 years to make it happen. With 10 months to go before I complete 5 years, I am sure it’s happening.

  • Commit to the long haul. If you have enough belief in your Vision, you will see action.
  • Most people who meet you won’t give you any business. Why should they?

Lesson 4: It will take a long time building a Winning Team

People look at a lot of things before they decide to join you. Employer Brand. Monetary Safety. Quality of Role. Quality of Management. All these are untested when you start out. For a long time, you will have to make do with what you get, not what you want. Sometimes you get lucky and a diamond joins your team. On most other occasions, you are just a waiting room before the right train arrives.

  • Your own Brand becomes critical. Hopefully, you would have spent considerable time building it. The Company Brand will piggyback on your brand initially.
  • Hold on to good people, when you do get them.

Lesson 5: Case Studies are important

Your business will flip many times before you find your best-selling proposition. This is perfectly fine. What is not fine however, is picking up assignments because they keep the stove burning. The right case studies of what you did when you were small, will help you become big. Someday, you will need to compete with the big boys for the big business.

  • Carefully select assignments. Too many search assignments at the beginning of its lifecycle would have made Flipcarbon a Search Firm. Instead we chose to continue to pitch for and lose consulting assignments until the big win happened. Today, we also do search, among other things. The heart of HR is Talent Acquisition. Why will we not do search. But Talent Acquisition also involves Consulting on the Structure, Identifying the right set of competencies, creating the right Talent Management Framework. We do all of that, and more.
  • Have a great pricing strategy. Earlier in our lifecycle, we lost pitches on pricing. No one was willing to pay a neophyte organization premium price. It took us a while to figure out that even if half of the earlier pitches were done even for free, we would have built a body of work which would have pushed us forward faster. Competency Mapping at Ruosh/Barbeque Nation. Performance Management at St. Augustine group of Schools, Cost Consciousness at L&T. There is a whole cabinet of excellent assignments that we never did.

Lesson 6: You can change your personality

Contrary to what psychologists say, “it is possible for you to change your personality on occasions. You just can’t keep at it on an ongoing basis.”

  • It is fine to be an introvert while you are researching a project. It is great to read many books during the month. However, the business will come from talking to the person sitting across you in the airport lounge. Ditch the book. Talk to her. Not all of these conversations will win you deals. However, all of them will help you find the right voice, develop the right elevator pitch and identify the right set of problems to solve.
  • Confidence is great but diffidence helps sell. Knowing all the answers never helps. You are not in the clients’ shoes, you do not know what they are going through, and it will serve you well to listen. Your ability to convince someone that you know how to find answers will make you a better salesman than the hint that you know all the answers.

Lesson 7: It’s good to have a few Beers

EMIs will bounce, Credit Cards will get cancelled and you will feel sorry for yourself. Learn to have fun (alone and with friends) while things are not going your way.

  • You want to become an entrepreneur, marry well. Your partner is going to be the single biggest reason for your success. If they work, its half the battle won. If they don’t, even then they can become custodians of sanity in an insane journey. Sometimes a cuddle is all that you need to bounce back.
  • You want to become an entrepreneur, have a few great friends. Some will reach out to give assignments. Some others will help you pay salaries to your team. It can be quite healing when you find money landing in your account because someone heard the catch in your voice.
  • Generally, learn to chill. If you have it in you, you will make it happen. If not, you will learn a valuable lesson.

Go out their folks.
Entrepreneurs solve problems.
Entrepreneurs create jobs. Entrepreneurs have fun.
Being an Entrepreneur gives you a high like no other. Get going!

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