How startups can survive a crisis and plan for the future, reveals Prime Venture Partners’ Sanjay Swamy

In this episode of Prime Knowledge Series, Sanjay Swamy, Managing Director and Co-founder at Prime Venture Partners, gives tips and tricks on how startups can balance the present and plan for the future.

Entrepreneurs always have to juggle between surviving the present and planning for the future.

Everyone around them will always be keen to back them up, but, “Only if you instil in them the confidence of knowing where you are today, and feeling reassured that despite all the uncertainty, you appear to be in control of yourself, your emotions and the moment,” says Sanjay Swamy, Managing Director and Co-founder at Prime Venture Partners. 

Sanjay Swamy, Managing Director and Co-founder at Prime Venture Partners

In this week’s Prime Knowledge Series, Sanjay says that ensuring this at all times may not be easy but it is essential to make a conscious effort, and instil the right level of professional behaviour in the company.

He says saying things like, “Life in a startup”, is often merely an excuse to be disorganised. So, what are the things that an entrepreneur can control? Sanjay explains. 

Be on time, all the time

“There is simply no excuse for showing up late to a meeting — internal or external,” Sanjay says. 
  • Being on time will ensure that one can be demanding of others as well. Sanjay says that he uses Google Calendar to check the box for ‘Speedy Meetings.’ this means, one has to plan ahead to be able to end a 30-minute meeting in 25 minutes, and a one-hour meeting in 50 minutes. “This gives ample time for switching between meetings,” he says. 
  • If there is any reason for one ending up late for a meeting, it is always advised to send an email or text, apologising and setting a new ETA.
  • Practice makes perfect, and it is essential to practice this for internal meetings as well.

Say ‘No’ to reminding others or being reminded 

  • It’s imperative that people understand the responsibility of a commitment. Sanjay says that a lot of people he has worked with, be it lawyers, partners, team members, get irritated by a habit of his — cutting them zero slack. “When they say they will send me a new draft by noon, I expect it at 11:59 am, and not at 12:01 pm,” he says. 

Follow up, always

  • Post a meeting, be it for a job interview or a funding pitch, writing a follow-up email always scores big time. It is a sign of being professional and will lead and expect others in the team to behave in the same way — increasing the chances of success of one’s company. 

Keep the introducer informed 

  • Whenever someone introduces an entrepreneur to a third-party, reply by thanking them and moving them to BCC in the email. Similarly, after the initial connect with the person they introduced, one should drop the introducer a note informing them about the connect. 
  • If something material comes out of the connection, one should send a thank you note to the introducer. 

Revisit old business decisions 

“People often tend to make business decisions based on a current state — over time, as things change, they rarely remember to go back to old decisions or revisit them,” Swamy says. 
  • When one gets a ‘No’, it is important to ask for specific reasons as to why. Subsequently, one should provide the news and updates on things related to the reason for it. 

Having a prepared mind 

  • Most successful people are always systematic when it comes to preparing for important events. Sanjay says that before every important meeting, it is good to role-play, plan the seating and flow of the meeting, and go with a clear goal of what one intends to get out of it.

“This doesn’t always play out to a script but being unprepared and trying to wing it rarely works, especially if the person on the other side is well prepared,” he adds.

Make your own luck 

  • We often like to rationalise our lack of success with luck but rarely do we attribute success to luck. “In principle, luck has a role to play. At the same time, giving yourself more chances to be lucky is often key to getting lucky,” Sanjay says.
He firmly believes in the mantra, ‘Make Your Own Luck.’

 Use spell check and grammar check 

  • One of the silliest things one can do is not use free tools for spell check and grammar check. Not everyone is perfect in their communication but not using basic tools shows that one does not care about the other person, let alone about themselves. 

You cannot break the trust twice 

 “My basic rule in business is, ‘you can only screw me once.’,” Sanjay says. 
  • He elaborates that trust is usually earned by default until there is a reason to distrust. Once that happens, it is nearly impossible to reverse. The general rule is to not lie or exaggerate the truth. One should come across as transparent or explicitly just say that they cannot share the truth.  

Listen and ask questions

  • It is always important to listen carefully and ask as many questions before one start talking. 

Read the room

  • Founders must be passionate and eternal optimists. Sanjay says that entrepreneurs should be conservative and watch the body language of the other party and be direct.

“It is not a sign of weakness to ask someone what they think. Rather, it is a way of verifying that they did understand,” he says. 

Finally, he says that these rules of operation have personally worked for Sanjay.

“As they say, it is often the little things that matter and most of these are common sense,” he says. 
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta