Was faced with a challenge earlier this weekend. Had to collect my thoughts for a 10-minute speaking slot at a startup series. (eChai, Jatin and Nikhil, you folks are doing some amazing work!)
What would be the best way to compile these thoughts? There’s always so much to talk about! So, Saturday afternoon, went thinking over, what would be the top 10 lessons I learnt (read – mistakes I made 😉) over the last 10 years as an entrepreneur.
So, here goes the list –
Lesson 1 – No job is too small! Really, Mahatma Gandhi spoke about cleaning our own toilets. Apply the metaphor to work! Are you ready as an entrepreneur to do the heavy lifting? Are you ready to be involved in the smallest job (caveat: you might not be the most skilled) and yet, give it your best!?
Lesson 2 – Margins are important! It’s not just the top line that matters. How controlled your costs are is a great indicator of the longevity of your business – new or old. Corollary: If you sell on cost, someone will always beat you. If you sell on product and services, you will invariably beat the biggest.
Lesson 3 – Focus on Key Product! We all work on filling a need in the market! The market has many needs! And filling each need is tempting for an entrepreneur. But then wouldn’t you need 10 arms and 10 heads for that? So focus on your key product!
Lesson 4 – Innovate and Protect your IP! Intellectual Property Rights is something many entrepreneurs (at least in South Asia tech) tend to give a low priority too. Well, if you have developed something, go for protecting that idea to implementation story.
Lesson 5 – There is no such thing as Bad Publicity! is an old adage. Often marketing and publicity take a back seat. As a salesman, you’ve got to literally be in the hair of your customer (because if you aren’t, probably someone else is ). Make the right noises and ensure you are available and well positioned and unabashed.
Lesson 6 – Cash is King! A business is measured on the basis of it’s turnover (invoice). A successful business is measured on the basis of it’s invoice to collection cycle. How well you collect is how well you run your business!
Lesson 7 – Work is Life; Life is Work! (Don’t get me wrong, and wait till Lesson 10) but till then, you’ve got to eat, breath and sleep your business. Remember the Alchemist. If not read it, there’s a very interesting thought there!
Lesson 8 – Never Compromise! God is in the Detail! Detail it out, give it your best and expect the best from others. You might fail while doing that. But you will also come out with, no regrets!
Lesson 9 – People! People, delegation & motivation. These are important. You’ve go to have things done through the right people. There will always be a temptation of let me do this, but you’ve got to be able to manage and get things done because there is a right person for each skill.
Lesson 10 – Get a Life! Not contrary to Lesson 7. Don’t forget yourself and your family in the process. Take time out for your own self (that’s very often when clairvoyance in thoughts is achieved) and your family & friends (man is a social animal, said Aristotle).