Entrepreneurship is challenging and is definitely not for everyone. Even if one has all the ingredients to become a good entrepreneur, it is not an easy journey, more so as a newbie in the field. Having spent the last three years building Flexiple as a first-time entrepreneur myself, I thought of documenting my learnings. Below are certain pointers I hope each aspiring entrepreneur keeps in mind.
Pursue entrepreneurship for the right reasons
Entrepreneurship is a marathon and not a sprint. It requires patience, resilience, and hard work for a sustained period of time. If one is not in it for the right set of reasons, it can soon become very painful and unproductive for everyone involved.
What are these right reasons? Well, it would probably be easier to quote the wrong ones:
- Sounds flashy
- Become a billionaire
- Easy vacation planning
- Why not just try!
Some of the above reasons seem incredulous, but I have encountered many disillusioned souls who trick themselves into this decision, quoting these motivations.
Choose the right partners for your journey
Many startups have more than one founder. The reasons to have partners in this journey are plenty – complementary skill sets, facing adversity together, having each other’s back, etc.
However, it is also critical to partner with the right people. A couple of points you need to remember are:
- Building a startup requires spending significant time with one another. If personalities don’t match, things can go downhill pretty soon. Of course, founders can’t be homogenous. However, there needs to be a good level of understanding between them to ensure a great working relationship.
- The long-term vision of the startup and the broad roadmap to achieve it needs to be alignment between the founders. While in the short-term this might not cause problems, serious differences may arise if this isn’t kept in mind.
Build a customer-focused and not an investor-focused company
VC funding has become one of the widely used parameters to judge a startup’s success. This has resulted in a very problematic symptom amongst new-age founders – working towards metrics that please VCs rather than building a company that keeps the customers in mind. This leads to a lack of product-market fit which at a later stage becomes very difficult to solve for.
Further, the early years define the way a company is built. Therefore, if investor money is freely available from the very initial stages of growth, a startup is quite likely to become dependent on such external capital.
Don’t have an obsessive focus on financial numbers for a year
In the initial phase of a startup, significant uncertainty exists not only in aspects such as customer acquisition, tech, etc. but also in the core business model itself. So, the goal during this period should be to nail down these fundamentals of the business.
I am not suggesting a pure disregard of financial numbers – money is needed to drive the business. However, during such an early period, an obsessive focus on financial metrics results in actions that might bring in monetary gain while setting an incorrect precedent in the very basics of running the company.
This could include pursuing “wrong” customers, continuously tweaking the startup’s offering, making unachievable promises to customers, aggressively pushing uncomfortable customers, etc.. All these moves are very myopic in nature and are sure to cause more troubles than good.
Reach out for the right kind of advice
Learning from fellow entrepreneurs is extremely key and necessary to acquire new skill sets. However, since there are a lot of unknowns while building a startup, it is tempting to consistently reach out to “mentors” for advice. Too often, I have noticed, the advice sought out is too generic in nature.
This is alright on occasion, but the goal should be to seek hard actionable advice. Every successful entrepreneur understands the importance of execution over strategy. Hence, generic advice can be good to hear but is a time drain. The onus is on the entrepreneur to ask specific questions and to get highly actionable points to work on.
Prepare yourself for not only external but also internal uncertainty
It is well-known that startups face uncertainty from customers, regulators, channel partners, etc. In this tumultuous experience, one must not forget that surprises can come from within the company too.
A gap in understanding between founders is one such major problem. Regular discussions on not only work-focused topics but also on long-term goals and personal ambitions, would help increase awareness. Other surprises could include sudden resignations of key team members – while these can’t be avoided, one can prepare for it by having frequent feedback sessions and also building redundancy in the team.