In Depth

It's appraisal time, and the entrepreneur isn’t exempted

Laxman Papineni
10th Mar 2015
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It’s that time of the year when the water cooler moments are buzzing with talks concerning the annual employee ratings and who has emerged the boss's favourite. This is the month of employee appraisals and boy how I miss it now!

Most organisations have an appraisal cycle since it favours improvements in an employee along with strengthening their communication skills and ability. Appraisal cycle also sets up a clear career path for them.

Being an entrepreneur has changed the complete dynamics of an appraisal cycle for me. This means that the tables have turned as well. Long ago, someone had introduced me to a thought that said, “Never, unlearn anything” and living by the same, I have made sure that I too follow a self-appraisal cycle to evaluate my yearly actions as an entrepreneur.

Here’s a list of 5 points that every entrepreneur should consider while doing their self-appraisal

1)   Customer acquisition

One of the most important metric for me at AppVirality has been customer acquisition, making it my number one goal. For any growing startup, this metric is the bottom line of the business since it defines your bread and butter.


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Over the years, I have realised that though significant, customer acquisition does not have a set process. As an entrepreneur, one has to evaluate and learn from each customer and continually improve one’s acquisition strategies. Having said that, no strategy is worthwhile if it isn't adjusted as the company evolves.

Steve Blank, the forces behind lean startup movement has put it aptly, “no plan survives first contact with customers.” While customer acquisition is challenging, entrepreneurs can always learn a thing or two from the biggies in the startup arena!

Three questions to ask >

  •    How many customers have you acquired in the last six months?
  •    How many of these customers will remain with you beyond a free trial?
  •    Are you providing better perks than your competition?

These are a few questions that you need to evaluate as an entrepreneur, which would put things in perspective as far as your customer acquisition goals are concerned.

Having grabbed five enterprise customers, I think I'll rate myself a three out of five. How much will you score yourself here?

2)   Hiring

The success of any startup is directly proportional to its employees and as an entrepreneur this has been my second goal. While this may look a simple goal, in reality it isn’t. As a co-founder, I have to ensure that I hire the best talent without compromising on the company culture.

Most startups have a compact structure, and thus it is crucial that goals and expectations are clear in the minds of your employees. One also needs to be specific about the tasks that have been assigned to the team to ensure smooth functioning at all levels.

Apart from the criteria mentioned above a dynamic company culture ensures that top talent is drawn to towards it automatically. Just like this one!

While it may take a while for us to be the next Airbnb, we will make sure that it isn’t short of fun! P.S- We’re hiring!

Three questions to ask:

  •    Am I boosting the morale of my team?
  •    Does anyone in my organization require specific training to come up the curve?
  •    Do my employees feel valued?

If you’ve got a cent percent score here, you’ve earned brownie points for yourself!

3)   Funding

Funding may not be the end goal for many startups (the one’s that love to be bootstrapped) but ask any funded startup, and they’ll tell you the opportunities and power that it provides you. Owing to this aspect, funding had been on my agenda for a while and thankfully, we’ve got funded recently.

For entrepreneurs who aren’t sure about the type of funding, this article can provide a few insights that can gear you up for the big league. Of course, there are a lot of other aspects when it comes to funding. However, one must ask themselves the below-mentioned question:

  •    Should I aim at funding for my startup?
  •    Do I have a plan to utilize these funds effectively?
  •    Will I be able to handle investor expectations?

Though getting funded may sound glamorous, it comes with an enormous responsibility for both the founders and the team. Thus, this should be your goal, only and only if you can justify these funds.

Rate yourself a four if you’ve got funded and have made your investors proud as well!

4)   Growth

It all summates to growth, and you should gladly put an extra star against that CEO status if your startup has achieved the same this year. Growth has many faces and as an entrepreneur one needs to have a holistic approach towards it. It begins with setting up the right goals for yourself and the team and ensuring that the growth cycle is complete in all respects.


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The five-step growth process includes the following movements/shifts:

  •    Opportunities to strategic
  •    Projects to products
  •    Ownership to partnership
  •    People to process
  •    Relationships to brands

All the steps, as mentioned above, are explained in depth in this fantastic article based on learnings from Mohan Sawhney, a professor at Kellogg Business School.

Three questions that entrepreneurs need to ask themselves before they proceed with the ratings here:

  •  Have I been able to achieve holistic growth as opposed to the segmented growth for my startup?
  •   Does this growth also reflect customer satisfaction and more word of mouth customers?
  •   Is this growth momentary or permanent in nature?

5)   Feedback

As an entrepreneur, you may have nailed the above metrics, however the real test to success is the feedback that you receive from your customers and peers.

Feedback is a valid metric for improvement and enhancing one’s performance. Apart from this it is also an opportunity to motivate oneself along with developing one’s performance. Analysing feedback is the toughest part of being an entrepreneur; nonetheless one has to do it to for long term growth.

Am I missing something important? Let’s discuss here in comments below.

How well have you reached the above-mentioned goals and what rating will you give yourself as an entrepreneur this year?

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