The journey of growth that an entrepreneur goes through is like the journey Khaleesi undertook with her dragon eggs – from incubating the dragon eggs, to believing in the idea of dragons flying again over Westeros to helping them grow and finally seeing them to their maturity. Just as she faced unique challenges in her journey, similarly an entrepreneur has his/her set of struggles basis which wave of business cycle they are riding. And each phase should be handled with care, because the parenting technique one adopts for a toddler would be no way like a teenager.
Phase 1 – Jumping in the fireIs your idea good enough for you to quit your job? Is the idea good enough for you to get someone else to quit their job and join you?An entrepreneur must be a passionate believer in what they are doing and must often be THE primary proponent for the idea. Startups are brutally difficult and founders must be tough from get go to weather the storm. If a founder can’t even convince themselves to quit, it’s probably never going to get off the ground.
Phase 2 – Is the idea good enough? Building the Market IntelThe idea phase is an emotional rollercoaster for any entrepreneur. One minute you may be convinced that you have the next million-dollar idea, and the next minute those self-doubts creep in, and you will start to feel like a failure before you’ve even put anything into action. To douse the fire of self-doubt one should spend a significant amount of time into the market research, collecting data about primary & secondary audiences. This helps in answering key market variables – is the idea based on a compelling value proposition, is the market timing correct and is the market size big enough for the idea. And most importantly, at the end of this stage one should know, who would pay for the product & service & why?
Phase 3 – Business PlanningWhile assembling the building blocks of the business, battling feelings of loneliness and vulnerability are likely going to be the order of the day. The key to surviving this phase is to appreciate the concept of delayed gratification. For now, you must focus on putting in the groundwork that will facilitate that success. What is essential in this phase of the journey is to create the actual business plan with key company milestones for the next 2-3 years and identifying the core team. The business plan should be able to answer the following questions:
- Can you find a scalable way to acquire customers?
- Can you then monetize those customers at a significantly higher level than your cost of acquisition?
Phase 4 – Building the productA phase full of mixed emotions. Have you simply proven that you can get a few customers, or have you proven that there is a real business to be built here?
Essentially, here the startups are starting to prove the business concept, but it may not feel all that good because the end goal is still a long way off. This is the stage of building the MVP or Minimum Viable Product to test the business idea. This is an opportunity for learning about deficiencies in the product, critical features, and, most importantly, to get real-world feedback from someone not on the core team. In many cases, the entrepreneur may learn that the potential customer uses the product in ways that they did not expect.
Phase 5 – ValidationThis phase is perhaps the most challenging mentally and physically, because the entrepreneur will be working around the clock with very little letup. This is the validation or proof of concept stage, where the entrepreneur must show maximum value to all stakeholders starting from its current customers, its employees to current angel (if any) & potential investors. On one side, there is the struggle to find the right product strategy & brand positioning that would allow to attract potential Series A/B venture investment, and on the other side, there is a continuous pressure to show some running profits and ensure customer delight. Incidentally, most of the startups lose their plot during this stage of business.
Phase 6 – Scaling up and growth pathSo, is it smooth sailing from here on out? Business unfortunately doesn’t work like that, and always there will be challenges on the horizon. Finding successful financing, maintaining the cash flow till the company achieves its key milestones, hiring key resources, marketing the product in the target markets to key audience, and accelerating the quarter on quarter revenues are just some challenges a startup has to deal with. Once the startup has achieved a critical mass of customers, they enter the growth stage in which they can diversify the business through possible acquisitions of smaller companies or can enter newer markets by raising more venture fund. Fundamentally, there is no fixed time duration to this stage as most of the startups want to remain in the startup mode for a long timeBut although some of those challenges would make anyone think was it all worth it, the entrepreneur has earned his/her battle scars by then and is obviously far tougher because of it.
“The most valuable thing you can make is a mistake. You can’t learn anything from being perfect.”
As a business leader, having a perfectionist’s eye can surely drive you to that extra mile. But aspiring to outshine in something you do and aspiring to be perfect are two different attitudes which are often perplexed.
Though having high values, principles and targets are a great strategy to achieve the business vision and make it profitable but perfectionism can, in fact, be detrimental to your achievement, accomplishments as well as employee motivation.
In business marketing, initially marketers used to chase for that ‘first-mover-advantage’ in the market where the first in market used to get an edge over the competitors. But as we evolved to a more technology and digital driven era, it’s not the BIG that eat the SMALL but it’s the FAST that eat the SLOW. Business leaders should understand that the ‘fast followers’ take the market by storm and emerge as the real winners and not the first-movers.
Why? Because they improved on these newly launched products/services and overcame any inefficiencies with reduced cost margins. What really matters in today’s world is ‘ being the best and not being the perfect’.
Beware of these Perfectionists’ Evils:
Perfectionists can often get fanatic over every little detail, thus directly affecting productivity of the business –
1) Robs the Dynamism of the Project: Innovation and creativity are essential for any business success but they do involve an element of risk. To stay competitive, it’s important to take risks and adapt to ever-changing market scenarios. Shift your mentality from perfectionism to optimism. Try to shift your rigid approach towards your business goals and become more adaptive. This will make your business more productive and keep you protected from unnecessary struggle you endure to get perfectionism under control.
2) Makes you the ‘dictator’ of the team: Try to keep your perfectionist tendencies in check and stop behaving like a Bully Boss. Emphasize on collaborative leadership and gain advantage of group synergy. For the solitary leader, it is really important to involve everyone from your respective teams and welcome their ideas. Team synergy plays a major role in accomplishing those great feats that would be impossible for an entrepreneur to attain as an individual. Work with your team, listen to their ideas, have trust and give them freedom to do their jobs. Because even if your thought process is flawless, it can be improved by an insight of other team members. Only then, you’ll be able to achieve success in your business.
3) Destroys Creativity: Innovation, Creative Thinking, and Curiosity are shaped from uproar, something perfectionists hate to the core. Perfection paralyzes creativity as the perfectionists are more likely afraid of taking risks associated with criticism and rejection. Instead of chasing to an impossible ‘perfect’ business strategy, all those prototypical Type As should settle for something ‘good’ and let go of the idea of idolizing the pinnacle of perfection.
4) Prevents from meeting Deadlines: From its initial requirement phase to its delivery phase, a business plan constantly evolves. It’s important to set milestones to have that sense of accomplishment and to feel inspired to work for the next stage but not at the cost of stiffness. A business has to be flexible enough to update their plans and reach out to new customers. So set realistic milestones keeping in mind areas of improvement at every step. If you are always thinking about that perfect outcome, you are sure to skip your deadlines.
If the hare would not have waited for that perfect time to reach the finish line, he would have won the race far before the tortoise. So strive for steadiness and not perfection in your business and it will prosper, irrespective of the competition and environment.
Wrapping it with a very apt saying –
Perfectionism says,”Don’t start (it won’t be good enough),
Don’t finish (you’ll be criticized),
Don’t take risks (you’re going to fail) and
Don’t collaborate (they’ll never live up to your expectations)!
Perfection is ‘not’ an entrepreneur’s friend. It will kill your dreams, dampen your spirit and disrupt your entrepreneurial flow. Take back your power from this confidence destroyer and you’ll be unstoppable for your success.
Startups are that special breed of companies that get a lot of attention especially in the tech world. No doubt, they bring new ideas to market and can give people an exciting opportunity to change the world on their own terms.
But, the importance they get from the tech world doesn’t make them as special as they are believed to be. Obviously they are not born out of big bang moments where the laws that govern other businesses don’t apply.
Feeling that a startup is a place where you can spend other people’s money until you figure out a way to make your own is akin to spoiling a child and shielding them from the outside world – They’re far less prepared when they eventually have to leave the house for the first time.
But the reality is, from the moment they go live, startups are as real as any other business. They are governed by the same set of market forces and economic precepts that wrap around any other company, new or old.
Anyone who walks around with an attitude that “we’ll figure out how to profit in the future” is just being ridiculous. It’s like building a rocket ship but starting off by saying “Let’s pretend there is no gravity”
A business without a path to profit isn’t a business, it’s a hobby.
At the atomic level, all businesses need to generate revenue to pay their bills, to grow and to survive. The sooner they find themselves in the black, the better chance they’ll have to survive. Call it a business survival instinct but businesses have to feed themselves or they’ll die.
A wonderfully run startup is a wonderfully run business and a poorly run startup is a poorly run business. At the end of it, it may be a great IDEA, but may not be a great BUSINESS.
So if you want to start something, ‘Start a Business, and not a Startup.’
-By Deepak Kaistha