11 lessons for budding entrepreneurs


As told earlier, here is the alpha (#1) post for the 101 series. With next 100 days I am planning to touch the omega (# 101). The first in series is the ”11 lessons for budding entrepreneurs”. First 8 points were taken from another entrepreneur Sanjeev Kumar. He is the Chief Operating Officer of Portal Player Inc, known around the world as the company that supplies chips to Apple for its hugely popular iPod. It develops “semiconductor, firmware and software platforms for portable multimedia products such as personal media players, secondary display enabled notebook computers and personal wireless entertainment devices”. At the Tie-ISB Connect 2006, Sanjeev Kumar spoke about the eight lessons he has learnt as an entrepreneur . These are mantras that all budding entrepreneurs should keep in mind. I will putting my thoughts in it.

  1. Sanjeev: It always takes a long time to establish a company.
    Me: Our own calculation always delay. We thought we will touch our expectation within the calculated time but the IT architecture took more than our expectation (but it has become one of the best for online business). Also there are unexpected problems like HR drain at very wrong time pulling you back.
  2. Sanjeev: It always costs more (than you thought it would) to start a company.
    Me: We thought we will shift shift our own office but the government delayed the whole plan forcing us to buy another temporary building. Any such examples are there.
  3. Sanjeev: We need leaders, not managers, for an enterprise to succeed.
    Me: This is the biggest challenges a start up company faces. An actor who can direct, produce, write and act is the required for startup companies. Very tough to get as many good people are not convinced that your company has a greater vision. For this go for colloquia, talks, parties before going a placement. Introducing your company to good people is the most important factor. It cant be done at a PPT (Pre placement talks). Many of our company people are from my own B-school as they have heard about the company from me.
  4. Sanjeev: Perseverance pays. You have to believe in what you are creating, and keep the faith. In 2001, many people told us we were over, but we are still here.
    Me: Even do not go down for a minute in front of your team as they are looking upto you. Most of the time you are the only source of inspiration and motivation. Many a times we were discouraged but we kept the faith in what we were doing.
  5. Sanjeev: History does not always repeat itself.
    Me: Every single case needs to be handled carefully, do not just sit back and apply the last successful method for current problem. Many method that failed in past is paying good dividend at present.
  6. Sanjeev: Communication is key. Listening is extremely important. You should have the ability to listen to your employees.
    Me: Every positive word adds ample amount of energy and every negative talk takes away the existing energy. N.S.Raghvan Sir says that an entrepreneur needs to be like a sponge, listening to the team members and absorbing every bad thing. Keep talking to your team else you will lose them soon. Be realistic and offer challenges. Do not over promise as after few times people stop believing in your words. Always “talk the walk” and “walk the talk”. Entrepreneur’s Communication should be of high character not high personality.
  7. Sanjeev: Be prepared for the culture factor in the US and in India, though a lot of cross-pollination has taken place by now.
    Me: We faced the problem with fixed salary and incentives. Indian minds could not accept a constant salary and performance based high incentives. We tried many times to implement the incentive system as per US system but Indian culture could not digest it as per expectation. We then had to implement a mix. Take your employees to US to give them a feel. This money is a worth investment.
  8. Sanjeev: In good times, be prepared for the bad times. Good times will not last forever. Business is cyclical.
    Me: Remember that your employees also understands this and be humble during both the phases.
  9. Me: Do not treat leaders as employees as they will not stay long, they will learn things and help you grow but will not disclose every idea they get as they feel as an employee. Give enough shares to the good leaders and they will make the difference. They are not motivated with upcoming offices or more employees, they are more motivated with their future. Good team members are key for success and companies that understood this have become a good success. Be realistic with them and offer clear picture, motivate them with high incentives. They always watch your attitude and every negative move is discouraging them. Explain your moves and discuss it them. Treat them as partners else they will never stay for long.
  10. Me: Good people will never demand, its your job to offer them upto their expectations. According to me the equation is,
    (Person thinking about company) in secs is proportional to (company thinking about the person) in secs. If you want a person to think more about your company you start thinking about the person. If you say, “how can I help Mr X to achieve his dreams”, Mr X will also say,”How can I help company to achieve its vision”. Many employees do not think about company as you are not thinking about them. Keep this equation strong. 
  11. Me: Be ready to document things. We have everything documented from access details to knowledge. This helps when someone is leaving the company. Be a captain and document as much as possible. My Boss documents the maximum in our company as he understands the value.

I know there are plenty more from our experiences but I promised myself to stop after 11 points as per the series.

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