Eleven years ago, before starting on my entrepreneurial journey, I read this quote that inspired me – “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
Looking back the last eleven years, I can say that every word of the quote is true. However, is it as easy as it sounds? Not at all. There have been many amazing moments and some very scary one’s too. From starting the business during the height of the global financial crisis, to weathering a downturn in the middle of the last decade to the COVID19 induced recession, I’ve seen it all. And survived.
Here are my observations from the journey that I have faced.
Have the patience to start small! Hit the restart button as and when required!
Entrepreneurship is a game of patience – starting small, building the business customer by customer, day by day, deal by deal. With a small 100 sq.ft. office in 2010 we built our services and offering to house ourselves in a 500 sq. ft. office by 2016. COVID19 required us to carefully examine our business model, resources and facilities. We cut back to a 200 sq. ft office with very little loss in revenue by shifting our business online and virtual. Now we are growing from there, with the benefit of experience in growing from small to big.
Be ready to push the boundaries of possibility
As a boutique consulting firm, large contracts were something we dreamt of, every day. Late in 2014 when we were given the opportunity of providing a cultural transformation solution to a very large company, we enthusiastically bid for it, with the full knowledge that we did not have the resources and capabilities of our competitors. At the client’s board meeting when we presented our solution, a board member asked us, “Why should we choose you when we have other larger and more capable consulting firms?”. I clearly remember my answer that day, “Simple” I said, “3 reasons – with us, the solution doesn’t get delegated, we are driven by passion, and we don’t have small print in our contracts – we will deliver as promised.” Needless to say, we won the contract and went on to deliver a solution that the client appreciated a great deal.
Be flexible, agile and hungry
Entrepreneurial success stories are generally quoted on how they stayed true to their vision. My experience shows that most entrepreneurs are willing to try new things to survive. Whenever we have recognised the need to, we have changed course. This is not to say that we were untrue to our overall strategy. The path to success is not a smooth journey on a straight highway, but one littered with frequent turns through many bylanes, cobbled streets and navigating seeming dead-ends.
Be prepared to rile your competition
Success comes with the obvious animosity of your competition. Don’t expect them to take things lying low. And be prepared to fight for what is right and what is yours. In 2015 we won two back to back contracts bidding against a very large training and consulting firm. Our competitor was very upset and spent considerable amount of time trying to convince the client why they should not be awarding the contract to us. With every allegation, we had to present a viable counter to the competitor’s allegations. The client wanted to ensure they had made the right decision lest they be accused of poor due diligence. Those few months were very draining, emotionally, physically and financially. However, we fought, and fought well. We knew we had bid with integrity and in a spirit of partnership. Finally the competition stopped when the client warned them not to interfere in the process further.
Close hard and fast
As an accountant, I had no experience selling or marketing. However, the business required me to learn how to seal deals. I spent 2 months learning Sales techniques and in particular how to close without providing the usual sops – discounts. I also learnt another vital skill that was not in my tool box – building relationships and learning how to leverage them for powerful impact. These skills, particularly learning to make quick decisions and counter offers – mostly with very little information as regards what the competition is doing – were the most rewarding.
Other key aspects of the amazing entrepreneurial journey have been finding great mentors and coaches, learning to collaborate with the most unlikely – competitors and focusing on customer centricity.
In this journey, I have learnt that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Those people who have the right skills find the entrepreneurial journey very rough, much longer than anticipated and frightfully scary. And I have also learnt that if you start your journey with a clear sense of your strengths and weaknesses, and are willing to be an ardent student and learner, you will be more likely to succeed!
Author : Shridhar Sampath, CEO Coach, Corporate Educator, Motivational Speaker
Shridhar Sampath is the Founder and CEO of Motivaluate Consulting & Training FZ LLC, a company that offers a unique combination of business and financial consultancy services. He is an expert on Leadership, Strategy and Finance and speaks at various conferences and forums on related topics. Shridhar has a CPA from the USA and a CA from India. He is a Certified Master of the Leadership Challenge & Student Leadership Challenge and a Certified facilitator of the Capsim Business Simulation. He is also a facilitator for Duke Corporate Education as a member of their Global Learning Resource Network and adjunct faculty at the SP Jain Global school of Management. Shridhar can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org