7 Lessons from My Entrepreneurship Journey

November 30, 2020 

In these days of the Covid-19 lockdown, many of us have come to appreciate what we often take for granted – ‘the Freedom to do what we want’. Well, becoming an entrepreneur ensures you have the freedom to do what you want, contribute your talents to the world and create value for yourself as well as your target customers.

I have experienced the joys and pains of entrepreneurship and have started up some ventures independently, in partnership as well through collaborative effort. Being a management consultant for over 3 decades, I have also helped my clients set-up their new businesses.

While reflecting on my journey as an entrepreneur, I thought of penning down some lessons I have learnt.

  1. Find a gap: While you may want to be independent and start off as an entrepreneur, it is important to find a product or a service that meets a need. You need to check out on competitive offerings and figure out how you will be different. In case you intend to launch something that does not exist, you need to study available substitutes to decide how best to launch your product or service. Creating something that fulfils a need is key. We see so many new businesses crop up all fulfilling a need- Airbnb, Ola, Uber, WhatsApp to name a few.
  2. Prepare yourself: Quitting a well-paying job and starting out into unknown territory is very daunting. You will need the financial resources to survive a minimum of 6 months to a year without a monthly pay cheque. You will need to estimate the expenses for running your home, paying fees, paying the mortgage besides making a budget for your new venture. Very often, entrepreneurship dreams fade away because one is tied down to the pay check.
  3. Prepare your family: A new venture will not mean more time for family or extra money for luxuries. Sometimes it may mean mortgaging your properties or using up retirement funds as seed money. It will mean long hours at work because now there won’t be work -life boundaries. You also need to protect your family with medical insurance coverage, loan free owned home (as far as is possible) and life insurance covers as appropriate.
  4. Role clarity: In case you are working in a partnership you will need to clarify the investment, roles, time spent and compensation that each partner will bring to the business. In my experience if this is not clarified at the beginning, it is a cause for the venture to fall apart. When you recruit a team, it is vital to keep them productive as well as happy. Share the vision, discuss goals and plans, make them a part of a great product or service. Retaining people is key to the success of the venture. Else you will spend time in recruitment, training and retraining which consumes precious resources of both time and money.
  5. Discipline is the key: Plenty of people have ideas, but the differentiator between success and failure is the discipline to execute them. When you work in a large organization, you may take many jobs for granted. Now your time is eaten up by the smallest things, often administrative. It is important to be disciplined about how you spend your time. The customer experience will be key to the success of the entrepreneurship venture so focus your energy in making sure the customer is beyond delighted.
  6. Network: The most important aspect of business today is networking. Make a list of all your contacts, go out and meet them, tell them about your concept and what you expect from them. Ask for referrals or business. Believe me, people want to help and will help
  7. Don’t expect a straight line: The entrepreneurship journey is not a straight line. It does not always mean you will go from point A to B in an upward graph. It is often lateral. You may have to go to point C before you reach point B. Or maybe even point D. There will be ups and downs. There will be setbacks. Things won’t always go as planned. There will be obstacles and delays. But there will also be thrills and celebrations. What is most important is to learn from the setbacks. To listen to your customers and suppliers. To monitor execution rigorously. To measure customer satisfaction. To build a robust product or service. And to keep going on from point A to point B even if there are some diversions along the way.

There is no substitute for the joy of responsibility as well as the freedom that goes with entrepreneurship. Nothing teaches you like running your own business and you will find yourself with new skills as you go along. One thing I can assure you, it will be a roller coaster ride- each day bringing something new. But keep at it with passion and you will be gratified to see your idea or concept become a reality and maybe even a huge business someday.

Dr Ruth D’Souza is a veteran management consultant with an impressive career who has made it her mission to help pharmaceutical companies realize their potential. She is the Managing Director of InteGreat People, a consultancy that focuses on helping organizations ‘Develop the execution edge to Perform.” She is also an advocate for ethical leadership and is the head of the transformational leadership development institute: Power to Lead.