"I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
I regularly get questioned on topics related to Startups & Entrepreneurship in various forums & in meetings by known & unknown people. The main reason is that I left a good corporate job and took a major risk to become the Co-founder of BHIVE Workspace (currently one of the largest Coworking space in Bangalore with a vibrant engaged Community) at 33 years of age (having a fully dependent family with 2 kids ). Hence, wanted to write on this topic, which is close to my heart based on my personal experiences & other known entrepreneurs experiences, so that others get motivated to follow their dreams and passion for entrepreneurship.
Everyone dreams of becoming famous, rich, powerful, successful and a celebrity. Many think being an entrepreneur of a startup is the coolest and shortest way to achieve them. Few are really passionate to make a difference & enter the startup world. Irrespective of which of these two categories each potential entrepreneur belongs to, they need to really question themselves – Am I / Are We truly ready for entrepreneurship. Below are few pointers on which you need to introspect, discuss and find answers before taking the plunge.
Q.1) Is this the right time for you & your family?
Basics first, in the current juncture of your life, can your family afford to take this risk. It’s not just about your career aspirations but it’s also about your loving family who are dependent on you. They are the ones who support you always in all your ups & downs.
Check if you have enough resources and savings to manage your life style for next 1.5 years + 6 months (keeping all iterations in mind like salary cuts, rentals, marriage, kids, school fees, outings, emergencies, loans, EMIs, medical bills, others). Have few backup plans for contingency situations. If needed can you cut down on the expenses & check if your family can alter their lifestyles depending on the scenario. Also, you and your family should be prepared to handle the society (especially in India) due to all the changes. If you can convince your family & friends then you can confidently pitch & convince your partners, prospective employees, investors, advisors & all other stakeholders.
In my case, financial planning was done along with my wife (who is a housewife) to get an assurance that the existing savings is sufficient to manage a decent lifestyle for 2 years. Keeping in mind we had a 2.5 yr old daughter & expecting a kid in next 2 months, I was clear that this is the right time to be part of the startup journey full-time else I can never be an entrepreneur (due to age & growing commitments). As my wife was busy bringing up our kids, I along with my other founders was fully focused on building & nourishing our startup! To avoid all the society issues, answering them & various constraints, we had not disclosed to many about me quitting the corporate job & starting a new journey (including my father & relatives). Taking an informed decision with your family & taking them along your journey solves majority of the potential issues.
We have seen many entrepreneurs having a regular job & running their startups after office hours mainly to have that financial backup & to avoid those regular de-motivating society questions. Advice you all to keep your backups in case your startup fails instead of facing consequences.
‘Pause dreaming, Start doing’. Think & analyze internally to get convinced along with backups and then convince your family that this is the right time to startup.
Q.2) Are you the right person? Are you Startup ready?
After your family support & timing is taken care, you need to critically introspect yourself – are you the right person to be a entrepreneur & are you ready to take the startup plunge. Do not worry if you do not have all the core skills. You need to polish your strengths regularly & work on your weaknesses. Work on different challenges in different environments so that you can acquire more skills. Ensure that the founding team have complementing skills & support each other to grow the company.
From an individual perspective the core skills / qualities required are:
• Perseverance to achieve your goals passionately with high energy. There might be many demotivating factors, people telling on your face that the idea won’t work but you need to be logical to take the right set of feedbacks & strive to reach your goals
• Good Reader of – books, people & situations. You need to regularly read books / good resources to be updated; develop the art of reading people mind & their behaviour; mastery in analyzing situations & developments to take informed decisions.
• Highly flexible, multi-skilled & can make sacrifices in life without repents. In this journey are you willing to lose touch with your close friends & relative, forget about long holidays, cut down on expenditures, getting your hands dirty to handle any responsibility (like cleaning office floors if needed before that important client meeting!)
• Leadership skills – need to have exhibited in different instances & have got good feedbacks and recommendations. Should be able to handle office politics, rumors & negative feedback s spoken behind your back
• Having high levels of patience & gratitude. You have to patiently work towards winning the deals & customers. Always be thankful to your employees, vendors & partners so that they can all be there in your growth story (even during adversities)
• Being confident, thinking positively & exhibiting right body language publicly – irrespective of any up & downs in your personal / work life
• Can you enjoy Working hard with Smartness – long working hours are inevitable but can be reduced by working smartly with the help of the right team & technology. Jugaad ways might work in few scenarios.
• Are you a risk taker who can take bold decisions by getting the buy in from all stakeholders
• Being a People's person –who can build teams being a job creator, identify the right talent & extract the best from them, grow a fun-filled engaging team, delegating work to build leaders, guts to fire a person when needed & build the right company culture.
For better decision-making, introspect & take feedback from others whether you have these skills / qualities.
From your startup idea perspective you need to evaluate few things like:
• Do you firmly believe in your idea, your founding team & your vision will make the company successful
• Are you addressing a major gap in the market & solving critical problems that would help the society in large
• Have you validated your idea & pivoted it to check if it is sustainable
If both these questions are answered positively factoring all perspectives then you can be more confident of making your startup successful (definition of success needs to be defined by founders for your specific business).
Q.3) Are you ready to start executing, scaling & showing results
After you have evaluated yourself & the startup then the focus for you & your team should be to fully execute the idea from ground level along with keeping in mind the below factors for better outcome:
• Always stay focused to the Vision & Committed to all your stakeholders (Investors, Team, Family & Society); Regularly update & report to all stakeholders about company progress.
• Lead with Humbleness & Gratitude. Do not shy away from smiling & saying that simple ‘Thank u’ (with everyone you interact & have taken help – past, present & future) as it can work wonders!
• Take feedback regularly, get right mentors & get coached. Learn & improvise regularly.
• Scale your business with baby steps by targeting 10% month-on-month growth (in revenue, tasks completion etc..)
• Boldly face failures, overcome them, learn from your mistakes but don’t repeat them
• Handle pressure, loneliness & depression - which are inevitable in this journey but needs to be handled smartly without losing focus.
• Follow good time management techniques for a better work life balance as you will always feel time is short. Follow some hobbies & sports regularly with your near & dear ones. Take regular short breaks every quarter to rejuvenate you & your thoughts
• Build a strong HR process & culture which is often neglected but very crucial for building a globally admired company
I suggest you all to read this article from Business Insider - https://goo.gl/qNykFv about lessons learnt from best-selling business books so that we can relate to what all we are discussing in this blog.
Note - Each suggested bulleted point will be discussed in detail with examples & solutions in the upcoming blogs
If you have answered these questions with a YES (majorly) then give your best shot at Entrepreneurship by following your passion with better preparation so that the chances of failure drastically reduces. It will be a career changing decision with lots of fun & exponential learning curve.
Also, think about the worst that could happen if you do not succeed & if you have multiple solutions for those worst scenarios then why the hell are you worrying! As backups you can go back to your previous profession / company or you can start a new startup with all your lessons learnt or you can join another organization which values your experience.
Authour: Ravindra M.K (Co-Founder of BHIVE Workspace)