Career Mantras

When is the right time to become an Entrepreneur?

Posted by:   Prakash Kewalramani Date:Jul 27, 2016

 

Don’t be an entrepreneur if you can’t handle rejection. Every no gets you closer to a yes”:  Mark Cuban, a self-made billionaire

The following write-up is not a treatise on entrepreneurship. Every day, this author gets a CV from some entrepreneur or the other who tried his luck at entrepreneurship but could not succeed. The main reason for their failure is they not being adequately aware & prepared for the challenges ahead before taking the entrepreneurial plunge.

The article is not to discourage people from becoming entrepreneurs! On the contrary, the idea is to sensitize you thoroughly so that you can make a success of your entrepreneurial dream!!! The World & India is definitely looking at entrepreneurs coming out with brilliantly disruptive business ideas to change how we live & work! Can we today imagine our lives without Google, Uber, WhatsApp, Amazon, Skype, airbnb, Facebook, Twitter, Flipkart, Paytm, Bookmyshow, etc.etc.etc.

 

Everyone aspires to start off as an entrepreneur and become an overnight millionaire if not a billionaire! There are n-number of examples of those who have made it big in a short period of time and that too at a very young age. One would naturally like to emulate the promoters of Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola etc.etc.

Today, the internet, e-commerce and VC-Funding has spawned a large number of successful entrepreneurs many of whom are way below the age of 30!

But, aspiration & inspiration alone is not enough for you to survive the rough terrains of the entrepreneurship world; you and your family need to be prepared physically, mentally & financially before you even think of leaving your cushy job and starting off as an entrepreneur. Also you need to have the ability to "accept failure and persevere".

Starting and running a business is not easy – neither in India nor anywhere else in the world. We come across a larger number of professionals who have quit lucrative jobs with great organizations with the dream of striking it rich as entrepreneurs. For every 1 successful Flipkart, there are at least 15-20 failed entrepreneurs. Success ratios in entrepreneurial ventures can be as low as 5% if not even lower! You must first look at what challenges the successful entrepreneurs have gone through before lady luck came knocking on their doors!

“being an entrepreneur is like eating glass and staring into the abyss of death” –  Elon Musk (promoter of Tesla Electric Vehicles)

To start off as an Entrepreneur one should have the ability to ideate, take immense personal/financial risks, be passionate, possesses a demonic power and focus – these are very rare qualities in human beings!!!

Nevertheless, entrepreneurship has shown a spectacular increase in the last few years. This has also given rise to popular TV shows like “Shark Tank” where aspiring entrepreneurs make business presentations to a panel of "shark" investors, who then critically quiz the entrepreneurs before deciding on investing.

Taking a step towards entrepreneurship an individual needs to design a right strategy and have the necessary resources to prosper.

If you still wish to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, please ensure the following before you make that entrepreneurial leap (and don't forget to enjoy the journey, irrespective of the final outcome!)::

  • You are clear why you are going for the entrepreneurial bug – is it just to make humongous amount of money or is there a dream you have or anything you are passionate about or you have identified a solution to some genuine “felt” problem;
  • A brilliant business idea and a thoroughly vetted business plan in all its facets including technology, customer-definition, marketing, distribution, finance, people etc.;
  • A clearly defined road path with roadmaps and exit options;
  • Great health. Entrepreneurship will be very taxing / stressful, you will have to put in long endless working hours, 24x7x365. No holidays, no family cruises. You must be willing to give your business undiluted focus & attention to your venture;
  • Supportive family. Entrepreneurship will generate a lot of stresses and you need to have your family in sync with your plans;
  • Financial strength and adequate unencumbered bank balance to sustain your current family life-style for at least 2 years. This is after meeting all anticipated financial needs of your proposed business;
  • Have a “stop-loss” beyond which you will not pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. Unless you have a sugar-daddy, you cannot go on endlessly burning your hard-earned money;
  • Be ready for erratic funds flow and times of severe financial crunch;
  • Be adequately qualified & prepared to go back to the corporate world if your business does not shape up as planned;
  • Going solo or with a business partner is a tricky aspect. Both options have merits & demerits which need to be carefully & dispassionately evaluated;
  • Be mentally ready to forego your ego to deal directly with those who were much your juniors earlier;
  • Be mentally ready to do all jobs in your business from peon to COO to CEO;
  • Be ready to bootstrap your business operations for at least 2 years. VC funding is not easy to come by;
  • Identify a genuine & unique “consumer need” or “pain point” which is unmet, greatly scalable and for which consumers are willing to pay money. There have to be positive cash flows in the business (unless you want to do charity!).  Business is all about money – Kevin O’Leary a highly successful self-made billionaire who scaled up a $1000 loan from his mother to a $4 billion business!!!
  • Be original. Do not be a “me-too” in business;
  • Ideally, your business idea should be close to your area of specialization or passion. We have seen successful IIM graduates with great Corporate careers start off successfully businesses which they were passionate about like running, cooking, travel, teaching etc.;
  • Check-out and validate your business plan with a large number of experts in the field. Listen closely to their feedback. Be ready to drop your entrepreneurial plans if the feedback is not positive;
  • Be “pessimistic” in terms of your business plan projections. Look at what could be the worst case scenario and be prepared for the same;
  • Test-market your “big-idea” with a small but representative sample pool of consumers;
  • Check out if similar business-models exist anywhere else in the world and what their experience has been;
  • Have a team of experts as advisors, seek their advice on an ongoing basis;
  • Network with other entrepreneurs. There are now a number of such networking clubs. Do not underestimate the power of networking to understanding yourself and getting things done;
  • Start small and grow big. You do not have the luxury of starting off with a big bang!
  • Having started, move fast. Ideas are not proprietary and can be easily copied!
  • Continuously learn from your business experiences and go on innovating & improving your operations. The focus of all your business activities has to be solutioning for all your customer’s problems (felt or expressed);
  • Be passionate and mentally ready for the long grind;
  • Business will be a roller-coaster ride. Be ready for the rapid & violent ups and downs. You need to have a stout heart to face this;
  • If things are not working out as planned, stick it out for a realistic period of time before you call it quits;
  • Call it quits when things don’t pan out as planned. At least you tried! Your experience at entrepreneurship would stand you in good stead in your next corporate job!
  • If things are going great, enjoy your day in the sun! At the same time, keep prospecting for lucrative exit options. Always start a business with a pre-defined exit plan. It does not take long for market conditions to change from favorable to extremely downbeat (Yahoo, Nokia are two examples of pioneers & market leaders who saw their fortunes change dramatically, they hit tough times and had a humble journey in the end). You would have heard of serial entrepreneurs! So cash out whilst the going is good. There will always be several buyers of a successful entrepreneurial venture.

The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer

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