This Guest Post is by Mahesha Hiremath, a first time entrepreneur and founder of Boson Research.
It was year 1998, NASA launched a spacecraft to study Mars climate. It took more than 9 months to reach Mars. But when entering mars, it lost radio contact. Upon investigation, it was revealed that reason might be as silly as this – one team has used SI [meters-kg-second] and while another team had used pound based measurement units. A $ 125 Million project was gone into, well, thin air of mars.
This only illustrates one important lesson – Never forget basics.
I’m not an experienced entrepreneur to give advice to you, but I’m just sharing some of my thoughts and observations. As entrepreneurs, we are involved in building innovative products or services. Some products built by startups use incredibly good technology, and many invent new technologies. We also try to invent new business model, new business processes, and new type of work culture. We try to understand different aspects of entrepreneurship, argue about different concepts of entrepreneurship. But we can also forget some important basics. So here is my attempt at highlighting the significance of the basics to building a business.
These are based on my personal experience and observation.
- Critical Thinking
- Cash Flow
- Measure your progress
Let us try to look at each of these.
Entrepreneurs are usually told that they’ve to take risks; be passionate about their idea; be innovative. And some entrepreneurs really take pride in saying that they’re passionate, they don’t do much analysis, just take decisions based on gut feeling.
All of that is really fine and good – but if your business has to be sustainable, if you don’t want to be surprised by sudden competition, or a fatal flaw in your idea that is revealed only at a later stage of execution, you’ve to learn critical thinking. Critical thinking gives you clarity, reduces risks, and puts you in a strong position against your competition.
And what is critical thinking by the way? Critical thinking is NOT finding faults with all of your ideas. It’s an honest attempt to look at your situation, asking right questions, understanding your strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats. But critical thinking is not just classical SWOT. It’s more than that; it’s about understanding the assumptions made; verifying the information you have and about understanding different points of views involved.
Another important aspect of critical thinking is thinking about your thinking. Observing your thought patterns, and your decision making process.
Sales is the primary job of an entrepreneur. Period. It’s not building products. It’s not building teams. It’s not operations. The primary job is to sell. You’ve to sell your idea. You’ve to sell your product. You’ve to sell a dream. If you’re good at this, you’ll attract good team, who will take care of rest of the things.
Of course, you’ll always have to have other skills and you’ll have to do almost everything related to your business on your own, but you cannot escape from your primary job, which is sales.
Entrepreneurs are usually in a hurry. They want to build things. They want to create “wow” experience for the customers. They’ve so many things to do and think about. In middle of all these things, legal issues may seem unimportant. Even if they want to consult a lawyer and CA, the cost of hiring legal services may be high compared to their budget. Some businesses are straightforward; you need not worry about legality.
But it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to legal issues. Make sure that whatever you’re doing is legal, and you’re following the laws and adhering to compliances of various regulatory authorities. We all know how lengthy court proceedings can be in India. If a startup is trapped in some court situations, it’s almost as good as dead, if it’s not well funded.
I would not stress upon this one as it’s self explanatory. But just want to stress that reduce your cost as much as you can. At the same time, don’t hesitate to spend on something that can really give benefit, say for example – ads, or some powerful analytics tool, if you need. But you’ve to make sure that it’s worth the investment.
In entrepreneurship, no man is wiser than his experience. There are so many variables, so many unknowns, that you cannot plan for everything. There will always be surprises. There will always be a bad assumption that will be discovered later.
That’s why iteration is important. As you discover flaws in your idea, as you understand your customers better, you’ll have to make improvements. You’ll have to change your assumptions. You’ll have to add many features, and remove some other. You may have to iterate on your business model, processes, and almost every aspect of your business. Iteration is the powerful weapon to fight uncertainty and risks involved in the business.
Measure your progress
Remember the days when we used to show our progress card to our parents? Many of us hated that moment. Back then, there were many people to question us. Measure our progress. Tell us what to do and what not to do. And when you’re employed, your managers monitor your work.
When we’re starting our own business, we’re happy that we’re on our own. No one to question us.[Except for a)investors- they’re more concerned about their investment or b) Customers if you give them bad product/service].
That’s where importance of measuring the progress comes. It’s not just about profit or loss. It’s about different aspects of your business. For example, number of visitors to your website, number of conversions or number of new potential customers you talk to or time needed to deliver a service. When you start measuring things like this, and you become more and more conscious of your performance, you’ll want to improve those numbers, and work for achieving that. In true sense, you’ll become your own boss.
Hope this was helpful to you. Each business is different. The above points are based on my experience and observation. You will have your own important things and basics to consider. Identify them. Be good at them. When you’re good at basics, you can take on big challenges.
Would like to conclude with what Jerry Cleaver said – What does you in is not failure to apply some high-level, intricate, complicated technique. It’s overlooking the basics. Not keeping your eye on the ball.
Pic Courtesy: www.digitalstrategist.ca
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