Sometime back I wrote about the reasons why you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. Couple of days back a friend came to meet me to understand the legalities of starting a business. Being my normal self, I started to ask him questions which soon became tough and he became uncomfortable. Obviously, my aim was not to demotivate him but to make him think of scenarios and foresee some of the things that entrepreneurs face during their startup phase. The idea was not to get answers from him but to make him think hard and then later on go back home and find answers to those.
Interestingly, during our conversations it came out that he wanted to do business only because he wanted to make money. To me that sounded a little weird. When I asked him this upfront, he replied, “Of course I want to do business to earn money. Why else would a person run a business?” Honestly speaking, that came as a shock to me. Then I asked him, “What if a similar company offers the same expertise and service at a lower cost, how would you convince your potential client in such a case?” He went blank. He looked at me for an answer. I gave him a hint, “So what is it that you are offering? What is the value you are creating?” He still didn’t have any answers.
Then he asked me “if money is not what you are there for, why are you doing it?” I answered, “Apart from a few other things, creating value for my clients and creating jobs is why I am there. Money is a by product. Its a result of good work that I do.” And for doing good work, the motivation is not money, never. It can be ‘one’ of the reasons but not the ONLY reason is what I believe. That’s not how great companies are built! Great ideas are born out of need, necessity amongst other things and then there’s a vision and value statement that shapes those ideas into organizations. Those who stick by it are able to build organizations that sustain themselves, otherwise, for whatever reasons, they go down.
And those are not just words that I said above. I have a very close friend who shut down his business sometime back. You would be surprised to know, he was doing really good. Had good cash flows, a name in the industry, grown from 6 to 16 people in the last 1 year or so but then all of a sudden shut down. Reason: he realized he wasn’t creating any value for anyone. His aim to earn money had been fulfilled and he wasn’t sure why should he continue? He couldn’t find a reason and eventually shut down. And then… got back to job.
I am no expert in this field but I believe everything that we do in life has to tie up with our life goals. Be it starting a business or doing any job. That’s when everything starts to fall in place and we live a happy and content life. If that’s not happening, probably there’s something wrong somewhere and needs attention, maybe urgently. Figure that out.
Would like to end this with a statement written on the very first page of Jim Collins’s world famous book: Built to Last
We’ve met executives from all over the world who aspire to create something bigger and more lasting than themselves – an ongoing institution rooted in a set of timeless core values, that exists for a purpose beyond just making money, and that stands the test of time by virtue of the ability to continually renew itself from within.
If you are from India, have been a part of a regular middle class family and have even thought of starting something of your own, am sure you’d associate with the headline itself! Everything that I’ve mentioned below is based on true incidents. I don’t intend to hurt anyone here, still if you did, sorry about it! Getting to the point, straightaway!
About an year back one of my very close friends told me about a product idea. I liked the idea and told him I could work with him on that if he’s willing to seriously build it. His answer was – “yaar abhi job nahi chhod sakta, 6 mahine mein shaadi hai” [Dude, I can’t quit job right now, getting married in 6 months]. Okay, get married but why do you want give up on an idea you believe in? Your girl will understand, won’t she?
Guess what? Obviously, he never build it and few months back I saw someone (very famous in the startup community) roll exactly that product out and is quite close to getting funded too! Yeah, my friend’s “happily married”, barely at 27!
Update [Oct 19, 2013]: This guy who went ahead and is building this product recently got funded $150,000 and got featured on Techcrunch too!
I know an entrepreneur who literally fights (or used to at some point) with his wife everyday just because she wants another kid and he doesn’t. His company has just come out of startup mode and is heading towards being an SME. “I have a 4 yr old kid and having another one now would take me 4 years back! I have been slowly planning the financials but this would mean I start planning all over again, save even more and take even fewer risks!” is what he said!
One of my ex girlfriend had started talking about marriage barely when we had graduated. I never denied marrying her but I used to tell her lets first achieve something, I want to do a few things in life, be a successful entrepreneur and all this might take a little time, there’s no point in getting married quickly and then allocating funds to expenses that could have been avoided at that age, but no, she wouldn’t listen! Of course, she’s happily married and I, having failed 2 startups in the past, am still building another startup! (I hope this post reaches you, lady!)
Oh! And that concept of getting your kids married at the right age => guys before 30 and gals by 26-27 max! I’ve always stressed, there’s nothing called such as a “right age” – why not just get married when you are ready – 25 or 32 – how does it matter? I hope you’re not thinking about that old shit about retiring and then marrying your kids before that <- That actually is the root problem!
Sorry to say, but the uncles and the aunts in our (normal middle class) families are the worst. They will keep asking your salary, some of them every single f***ing month. These relatives are probably the ones whose kids would have done “nothing” in their lives, graduated from some (worthless) A league institution in India and landed a fat paying job. And believe me these are absolutely good for nothing folks. If you are a startup guy, you already know that, don’t you 😉 They would join a company through campus placement and would be too scared/complacent/useless that they would spend their entire life within that single organization – without even doing something innovative! These uncles would be happy to show the entire family that the ad in TOI today was done by their kid while all that ad would have is a bollywood diva holding a soap bar in her hand. THATS IT!?! That’s all you learnt in your fancy B School?
What’s the big deal in it? If I pay TOI that much, they will even publish a horse shit pic, they just want money! But no, these are the ones who are valued in your family! Whatever they say are Golden Diamond words. What’s worse is you are always compared to these dumb folks whenever you go to a family gathering. And most, all of them would look at you as if you are the piece of shit lying on the roadside.
To share another case, one such highly respected family member told me to look for a career in animation, back in 2007-08. Recently, I met him at another family gathering a few months back and he said “tum animation me kuch kyu nahi try karte?” [Why don’t you try something in animation?] I was like…dude? You are still the same! Your thoughts are still stuck where they were 4-5 years back! By the way, this member is probably the highest respected person in my family and heads delivery at a multi billion (yes Billion) dollar enterprise and travels abroad every week. Yeah, (sadly) that’s what puts the stamp on his authority! Am quite sure even Steve Jobs or Bill Gates would have spent more time with their families at his age (and still earned much more if that’s what you want to hear).
The other fantasy about middle class family people is owning a flat! I never get this point. I, really don’t! Why do they want your kid to buy a flat and then spend the rest of his life paying back the loan? Coming from middle class, we’ve never had loads of money to spend. So the way out always is to pay probably a 10th or even less initially and then take a loan for 60% for the next 15-20 years.
And is duly supported by our Financial system! Go and try to raise money for your startup and the same money for a home, you’ll know what I mean!
Once you have a loan on your head, that too a home loan, for not less than 40-50 Lacs, am sure you wouldn’t be willing to take a risk, would you? And that tension of repaying that loan! Anyways, there is very little probability that our kids would stay in that house for long. They’d go places, do stuff in life and make it big themselves! Actually this would connect with Rahul Dewan’s post where he talks how retired people should recede back to smaller towns and do great things. A brilliant thought by the way, go read that!
In another relationship, I told my girl that I don’t earn great right now and that I am trying to build a company and shared the vision. At first she appreciated my honesty but then within a few weeks she asked “Abhinav, hum ghar kab lenge?” [Abhinav, when will we buy a home?] That day itself I knew – she wasn’t the one! No wonder that relationship didn’t last long.(I am quite sure you’re reading this!)
I guess I’ve written, read ranted, too much already or else I won’t be allowed to enter my hometown the next time!
Update: I realized most people, even though agreed to this, say its inconclusive. I must add this: The point is that people who can bear all these pressures and can still build a company, are the ones whom we call SUCCESSFUL!
Update2: Somebody got so inspired that he made a short movie out of this. I got to know from the comments section.
I was inspired by your blog to write and direct a short movie on the topic. It’s now released on YouTube. Thanks for watching and hope you like it!
Here it is:
Update 4 [Oct 23, 2013]: This article has led me to an interview in the prestigious The Week magazine. [Looks like they pulled down the online version of the article, was in their Sept issue]
From what I’ve experienced in the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of business owners or the sales guys commit things which they are not able to deliver or fight really hard to get things done by the deadline that’s been mutually agreed upon. What happens is, in the process the stakeholders end up having not so good conversations/relations either with their own team or with the client. To share an example, I know of 2 companies working in the same domain. While 1 of them has declared an off for the entire Diwali week, the other has 2 alternative days as off. This year, Diwali being on a Tuesday, these 2 off days are Tuesday and Thursday. For obvious reasons, most employees in the company have taken 2 leaves, of course the days being Monday and Wednesday. That leaves it with just 1 day to work and we all know how much work is accomplished on a Friday, that too when the rest of the week was off. Not to mention, some of them would fall ill or maybe have already taken a Friday off as well by now. That eventually means, work gets delayed by a week or at least by 3 working days! Now if you’re the client facing person, you know that you’re gonna slip on the deadlines by at least 4-5 days and face the wrath. By the way, you wouldn’t want to imagine a scenario if you’ve set your deadline somewhere in *that* week.
By now you would have understood that this 2nd company is going to delay projects by a minimum of 3-5 days. In some cases, the client would be ‘just okay’ while the others might complain a bit. Either ways, whether the client complains or not, why would you want to deliver a wrong message for your company? Who knows, this small bit might result in you losing out to some good referrals. Word of Mouth still remains the best form of marketing, right!
We have a lot of festivals in India. While on most of those off days we might end up working, but, let’s be honest, there are some days when you want to keep work aside, even if you are an entrepreneur. These are the days when you just want to be with your family & friends. Most of us would agree here but some of them might just want to work. What is important to understand here is that whatever way you feel (taking an off or not) your employees would definitely want to take off for a day or two. In most cases, even your clients want to do that, right? So why shouldn’t you just declare that week off? Even the west completely shuts down during Christmas after all, with auto responders always set!
So I would believe this first company has done a great job – has kept employees happy by giving them a week off and at the same time communicated this to the clients that they would be shutting shop for the Diwali week and the deadlines set accordingly. To me this sets expectations clear on both the client’s and the employees’ point of view. And if both the sides are happy, I believe you as a sales guy, a project manager or an entrepreneur would never have to hear harsh things from anywhere!
I was at a startup event last year, my first as an Entrepreneur, where I learnt a tip from a fellow entrepreneur. He said, at each event he plans out what sessions to attend, prepares a small question beforehand and then enters the hall. This is what he said next, “During or after the session, I take the opportunity to ask the question, for the first 45 seconds I introduce my startup and then ask my question in the next 15 seconds. After that I’m not even bothered about the speakers response, my job’s done”. Apart from his point about not bothering about the response, I feel, every individual, entrepreneur or not, should follow what he said. The 45-15 second rule can really work out.
Since then I try to go at any startup event I can possibly attend. Next week also comes another event, a big one though. Its the Nasscom Emergeout and this time a lot of focus is on startups and/or SMEs. There are about 13 sessions and the entire agenda can be found here.
Since there are parallel sessions, the ones I am interested in are the sessions on “Big business decisions”, a discussion on “Scaling up your product” and the one on “Effective sales strategies”. Of course, this is apart from the Keynote sessions where speakers are of the stature of KrishnaKumar Natarajan, CEO – Mindtree, Aditya Ghosh, President – Indigo Airlines, Venky Mysore, CEO – Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajan Anandan, Managing Director Google India.
You can register here. I know, its slightly expensive if you are a startup, but then there’s a deal for startups! Also, there are a few contests running on Twitter, check out the Emergeout hashtag.
Still if you feel the fee is high, here’s a small tip I got from a VC sometime back. “Don’t register for the event, just express interest. Most of these payment forms would be tracking who all fill the details but don’t pay. In most cases, event managers contact these guys and offer them a low fee entry on last days”. That’s what he told me, I don’t know how often does that happen though 🙂
If you are coming, great! See you there, I would be available @AbhinavSahai
When I told my friend/colleague/mentor that I want to be an entrepreneur, along with a few other questions, he asked me ‘Why’ . I took some time but answered it honestly with what I was feeling. I am sure it made sense to him as he later on partnered with me to start my business.
A couple of days back I was sitting among a group of entrepreneur and we were again asked the same question. Most of us had our answers but 1 of the participant gave answers which kind of didn’t settle in my brain. She started answers with “Because I don’t want this…..”. Most of her answers had ‘this shouldn’t happen’, or ‘not because of…’
Well, in my humble opinion, becoming an entrepreneur (or doing any job in life) should not come from the “Not this, hence..”. Your reason to become an entrepreneur can’t be “Not because of…” or ‘Because I don’t want to do a job’ or ‘Because I don’t want this to happen’ etc. It should start from – why you want to do it! Find a reason to accomplish any task in life instead of making it an excuse for doing something else, the momentum won’t survive!