9 Feb 2016, 10:18 — 7 min read
There are a number of articles available with tons of information on how to succeed as an entrepreneur. What I have to share here is nothing out of the blue but being an accidental entrepreneur, I believe my experience can be useful to entrepreneurs – especially startups with big ideas and a passion to succeed.
It was about six years ago when I was the CEO of a software company that shut down due to various reasons. Feeling responsible for the several clients with whom we had held good business relationships and for the 25 or so staff that worked there, I decided to take over the company myself. Thus, becoming an accidental entrepreneur!
Whether I have succeeded or not, I believe that I have not failed as we have continued to retain the customers and win new ones too. After facing all the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, I attempt to collate and share several success tips from my own experience, which I believe can benefit aspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs.
1. Think in Compartments
First thing I started practicing was to ‘think in compartments’. As an entrepreneur, the pressures are many and from all sides. You must list all the issues and address them individually. This way, your thoughts will not overlap and you can find a solution to each problem quite satisfactorily.
2. Stay Focused
This is very important whether you are an entrepreneur or not. Whatever you are doing, stay focused on it. Do not keep changing your goal posts.
3. Understand the Risks
Make sure you understand what you are doing and you know the risks. Make plans to mitigate the risks as much as possible. One of the main risks is the cash flow for the company, as the employees have to be paid their salary at the end of the month no matter what.
4. Listen to your Employees
As an entrepreneur, listen to your employees. Guide them to support your vision and avoid preaching.
5. Meet & Talk
It’s a no brainer that meeting people who have more experience will bring fresh ideas and solutions to problems you may be facing. Do not lose opportunities to network and meet as many people in the business as possible. Your next solution may come from an unexpected source.
6. Be Customer Centric
Work towards things that the customer wants - not the other way around. Understand the business issues they present and attempt to solve them realistically. Remember - one good word from a customer brings more business than anything else.
7. Do Not Micro-Manage
As a startup, there is also a risk that the customer sees your company as a one-man show. Learn to delegate and be aware of the pitfalls such delegation may bring about. It is easy to get into the depth of each problem, trying to solve them yourself but difficult to get out.
8. Do Not Drag your Decisions
Sometimes one may feel that delaying a decision will solve a problem. This rarely works. If you have to take a decision, do so - but quickly. Before taking a decision, apply your mind, understand the risks and how to manage them. After a decision is taken, do not back track.
9. Get the Right People for the Right Job
Yes, you will receive scores of CVs from friends and relatives, asking to help someone they know. Giving a job to everyone, no doubt, is a noble act. But this will not help your company. In our company, we do accept referrals and recommendations and that is only for the initial aptitude test. Give more importance to attitude and aptitude than technical skills. Remember, one bad egg can spoil the entire lot.
10. Have Documented Processes
Look at it from the employees’ angle. The first priority for employees that join your company is a good job environment. Do not have the office rules as word-of-mouth. Make sure these are well documented and available for everyone to read and understand. When I started my company, the first thing I did was to write down a full-fledged HR Procedures book.
11. Rules for Software Development
As an entrepreneur, the one thing I learnt was that it is impossible to have standardised processes for software development - especially in a small, mid-sized software company. Enormous amounts of time will be spent in correcting screen fonts, the colours, adjusting the logo etc. To avoid such hassles, we developed a booklet containing the rules for system development that has helped us a lot.
12. Be Self-Motivated
This is easier said than done. As an entrepreneur there are several worries that you cannot share with your employees - where is the next business going to come from? How am I going to handle the cash flow crunch? What if my key staff quits? Why is there a delay in the project? Such worries tend to bring in a sort of de-motivation. The solution to this is to have a circle of close friends made up of similar entrepreneurs to exchange your thoughts and ideas. Talk to people who are cheerful and full of positivity. Though one cannot avoid pessimists, listen to them but take the essence of what they have to say and use your own judgement.
13. Do Not Say ‘Yes’ When you Really Want to Say ‘No’
As a startup, it is always tempting to accept difficult conditions put forward by a customer. If you think a condition is something, which you do not wish to accept, politely say NO. Even more important, provide an alternative solution!
14. Staff Management
Always be neutral to staff. It is always possible, that some of your staff may try to get closer to you probably because of personal connections. As a startup or entrepreneur, it is dangerous to take sides. Do not have any one that others may see as the ‘management man’.
15. Read a Lot
Amidst your busy schedules and running the company, take time to read. A true entrepreneur works 24/7, but try to grab some time in between to enjoy a good book – fiction, nonfiction, self-help etc. I have always found reading a book of fiction energises me.
16. Have Fun
Last but not the least, enjoy what you are doing and have fun. Don’t lose your sense of humour.
Posted bySridhar Narayanaswamy
Managing partner of Innovatus Systems, founded by him on January 1, 2013. Sridhar is a result oriented professional with over four decades in the Information Technology &...