Startup Advice

Startup lessons inspired by Gandhi’s three monkeys

Manal Sudhir Dadge
6th Jun 2016
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Every entrepreneur walks his or her own path. For some, success seems like a walk in the park. For others, it can be a painful, cash-draining, long-run process. Passion is what fuels the entrepreneurial journey and keeps one going. No matter how difficult the road, the destination will always be worthwhile and beautiful. If you wish to start a new venture, you must embrace the fervour. Here are some lessons about entrepreneurship, inspired by Gandhiji's three monkeys.

ThreeMonkeys_YS
(image credit - Shutterstock)

BURA MAT SUNO! (hear no evil)

There are at least five things that we tend to hear that might discourage entrepreneurs from starting up. Here below is an attempt to dispel some popular misconceptions.

Evil #1 – Age matters

It has been rightly said, “Age is just a number.” It is not a definite parameter that decides your ability to become an entrepreneur. History has given us some good examples of age being no barrier – like Warren Buffet, who started investing in stocks when he was just 14 years old and thought he had a late start! At age 52, Ray Kroc started McDonalds, which is now one of the most famous fast-food franchises in the world. Ang Lee was a jobless house-husband for 31 years before gaining recognition for directing blockbusters like Life Of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, Sense and Sensibility, and other acclaimed films. Many such successful people have showed us that it is not necessary to attend a specialised business school to learn some craft and the maturity to start on your own. What you need is a strong will and the passion to create. It doesn't matter at what age you start pursuing your dream. As long as you have passion, you are good to go.

Evil #2 – Business requires lots of money to invest

Many of us aspire to start a business with little or no money in our pockets with the dream of turning it into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut. Indian tycoons like Dhirubhai Ambani (Reliance Group of Companies), Karsanbhai Patel (Nirma), and Jyothi Reddy are just a few examples of the ‘rags to riches’ stories of those who overcame enormous obstacles to achieve their dreams. All they did was to follow their passion and use their time and expertise, over money. It’s the idea that counts. So don't worry if you do not have a great amount of money. Be courageous enough to go all out and make it.

Evil #3 – Business requires heavy advertising

There are companies who don't spend any money on advertising but are still successful. The reason for their success is that they build their brand's foundation on effective customer service and incredible word-of-mouth publicity. These companies do not spend on advertising, but invest much time and effort in promoting the value of their brand. However, it is always advisable to advertise your business as it amplifies everything else that you do. Your current customers may have forgotten about your services and advertising helps to remind them.

It is necessary to invest in your company’s future to ensure a future for it. If you wait until you are struggling, you won’t have the ability to advertise properly. It should be your goal to be in the forefront of the customer's mind because if you are not, someone else will be.

Evil #4 – Your need your own premises to run a business

In the world of ‘social’, you don't need to have your own space unless you’re running a restaurant or shop where you expect walk-in customers to generate business. Today, there are many options available like office sharing, co-work space, renting desks, or working out of a corner of your home. You can also reach out to the prospective client at their residence or office doorstep to meet personally.

Evil #5 – Listening to too many opinions

During difficult times, we may find ourselves taking too much advice from family members, friends, business-minded people, which eventually land us in a confused state with colliding opinions. Business decisions must be taken by instinct or knowledge – and knowledge can't be attained simply by listening to opinions. It's advisable to take decisions based on your own experiences. Alternatively, one can turn to an experienced business partner. That partner will work with a vested interest in the business and the right intentions to drive its growth. His or her experience could also help to prevent common mistakes that could cause your business to fail.

BURA MAT BOLO! (speak no evil)

Evil #6 – Saying NO to your client or customer

Sir Richard Branson wisely said,

If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say ‘yes’ and then learn how to do it.

When your customer is in some problem, never say no. If your staff member is in some stressed situation and needs your support, never say no. And, most importantly, if your partner needs your attention, never say no.

Dealing with prospects or customers in this way will give your customer service an edge, turning the disappointed or dissatisfied consumers into the satisfied and happy. They might even become your invaluable word-of-mouth marketing machines. You must therefore, as a rule of thumb, always prefer saying, “I will work on your problem and try to find a solution.” You can also choose to say, “I am unable to provide that service at the moment,” but denying the request with an immediate ‘no’ might hurt your customer’s emotional sentiments and put them off, and thus negatively impact your business and reputation in the future.

The same applies to your staff or team. In most situations, out of every 10 people, at least 2-3 will have the zeal and vision to do something outstanding, beyond their regular job. They may have some better approach to your regular processes that may help the business to flourish. Very few get the chance to utilise their overall potential or credibility due to lack of support from their seniors, CEO or directors. Very often, lack of encouragement and lack of appreciation leave a negative impact on team members and negatively affects the business. The feeling of not being appreciated or encouraged starts creating negative connections between the leader and the team and makes it harder to get work done.

Learn not to say 'no' to your team, even if they are doing something inappropriate or incorrect in your eyes. Try to deal with their expectations or views constructively, even if you think they are wrong. The leader can ask factual questions about their approach and thinking, which will bring clarity and help to balance the relationship between you and the team. This will strengthen your business in the long run.

Try practicing the above approach and feel the difference.

BURA MAT DEKHO! (see no evil)

Evil #7 – Focussing too much on competitors

Henry Ford once said,

The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.

This statement is relevant mostly to early stage startups whose main focus should be their product or service, with the sole aim of developing and perfecting their business model rather than being obsessed with competitors. You should be obsessed with your customers because they are going to build your business, not your competitors. Startups always win by transcending, not by attacking. The way to win is to race ahead, not to stop by and fight.

The above doesn’t mean that you ignore competitors. Indeed an important rule of business is to,

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

Competition is inevitable for any business. It leads to innovation, while always being first in the market makes it difficult to improve. Healthy competition encourages the development of your company in terms of technology, business methodology and product enhancements, thereby improving customer experience. Also, competition shakes off complacency and helps you to focus on your core market. Last but not least, it gives you an opportunity to learn continuously from your competitors.

Evil # 8 – Focussing too much on profits

The current generation of startups focuses more on profits from inception rather than getting their business basics right. They focus on short-term goals to monetise their business model and thus overlook the primary aspect of running the business successfully. It is absolutely vital to focus first on building the foundations of the business, which includes good infrastructure. Focusing on a profit-driven model will hamper the startup’s growth, even before it crosses the break-even point.

Entrepreneurship is about designing and handling the flow of your business in a desirable manner, with flexibility to adapt as circumstances require. By focusing more on results and metrics, entrepreneurs can elevate the performance of the firm in a better way than just focussing on profits, leading to long-run monetary gains and sustainability.

The above tips, inspired by Gandhiji's three monkeys, may help you set the foundation for a stable, successful and independent venture by taking the right business decisions at the right time.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Do comment and share your own experience. Your suggestions will help to motivate other dreaming entrepreneurs.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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