better than 2016!
Entrepreneur, Product Strategist, Rocket Scientist
Made any resolutions for the new year? This year I decided to give a break to the usual ones of getting fit, losing weight, getting rich and being kind etc. I started thinking about what could help any Founder including me. Here are my thoughts on what can make you and me more successful this year and arguably a little happier. Fitter, may be not. That one is simple - get off your bu*# and move, more often.
Get out of the building - moreEvery business requires making decisions. If you have more than one person involved there will be a discussion or debate. Many a startups are prone to debating only internally. Debating long hours and having caffeine powered marathon meetings is tempting but often has very limited value. Any time a heated debate occurs internally it usually goes down two paths - person with the bigger pay check wins or the person who is most articulate wins. Neither of this is good if you don't have the facts.
Resolve to get out of the building more often. Talk to more customers, partners, other entrepreneurs, anyone who can offer a perspective on what is happening in the real world out there. If you don't know who Steve Blank is and like to read, consider reading one of my favourites - Four steps to an Epiphany.
Seek expertiseEntrepreneurs usually have a lot of "can do" spirit and at times a big ego as well. They wouldn't be starting up if that were not the case. Assuming that you can do everything yourself without assistance is a mistake. If you put your mind and brain to it, maybe you can learn a lot of new things over time. Losing that time, will cost you. Find people smarter than you, let them help you, guide you, coach you and at times even teach you.
Put your ego aside and let others help you achieve your goal of building a successful business. Even Steve Jobs, one of the savviest businessmen and creator in our times talked about hiring smarter people. Assembling a great team of employees, advisors, mentors and investors is one of your critical responsibilities. Do more of that this year.
Be resilientI grew up speaking Marathi and one of the proverbs that stuck with me over the years is "Prayatne valuche kan ragadita tel hi gale". Literally it means that if you crush sand with dedication and effort eventually you will extract oil. Practically it means keep trying till you get what you set out to do. Startups are a tough thing to do. It can also be lonely. Keep at it. If something doesn't work, whether it is a product or a sales tactic, keep trying new ways. Make modifications, seek advice, think out of the box, be resilient. Don't confuse this with repetition. Don't expect better results by doing the same thing over and over. Change, break, rebuild, reinvent.
Don't ignore the naysayers- look for substance, if anyWhen you are caught up in the adrenaline and maybe even caffeine charged world of building a business, everyone will tell you to ignore the naysayers. Certainly don't lose heart or give up because someone else cannot see what you can. At the same time if there is a concern or a problem being cited by people around you, pay attention. Evaluate if there is something you are missing. If everyone around is saying yes to everything you are saying or doing, let the alarm bells ring. Pay attention, even to the critics and make you product and business robust.
Simplify your messageWhen I look at product pitches of startups it is usually hard to make sense. More often than not, product pitches wax eloquently about technology and features that customer hasn't even understood the benefits of. Things are often caught up in verbiage and use of unnecessary adjectives.
Is your value proposition clear in the first 30 seconds? What problem are you solving? Why is your product better? Are you conveying your message in terms of things your audience cares about? Simplify your message. Don't assume that simple is easy. To have clear message and a crisp pitch will take some work. You can use this mantra across all aspects of your business. Simplifying processes can be even more work. All the same I have always found it to be worth the trouble and the benefits far greater than the time and effort required to making the changes.
Act with a sense of urgency - Speed is importantAnd even if you are not a racing fan, anytime you put your idea, product out there you will realise that there is competition from all sides. Speed at which you create products, speed at which you sell, speed at which you solve problems, make decisions, act on team member challenges, customer complaints. Speed matters. Use speed as a competitive weapon. Don't get tied up in analysing and evaluating, sometimes it's ok to act and then correct course as you go along. Don't confuse speed for acting in bad faith or cutting corners.
Write about what you doAre you excited about what you are doing? If not, consider finding something else to do. If you are excited about what you are building, convey that not just verbally but in writing. Whether it is to your customers and partners or to you team members - convey your thoughts, challenges and excitement in writing. Talking is good, but the written word will allow you to expand your reach and give people time to digest and retain. Write more often to your constituencies. If you are not good at writing, get help from someone who is, to help you convey. And yes, creating videos can also work, if you are so inclined.
Copy - but not blindlyWhen you look around you can find a lot of inspiration. From other people, other businesses - around you, in other parts of the world. Art, books, a conversation - literally anything can be a source. Be smart about how you use it. Avoid the temptation of blindly copying another business whether it's doing things similar to you or not. Evaluate with open eyes, modify it for your needs, adapt it for your customers, create something better using that. There isn't a shortage of me too startups and copy cats - many of them will not last long, some of them will have spectacular failures. Decide what kind of business you want to be. Copy, replicate or emulate?
Have funIt's so easy to get caught up in the excitement and before you know it the excitement is converted to drudgery. You start feeling that you have to do this, that thing must be done by tonight, nobody is working hard enough, you need 25 hours in a day. Break out of that, don't forget to have some fun. With family, friends, team member, by yourself. Do something each day that is fun. Make it fun for those around you as well.
Say "Thank You"Whether it's in business or in life it's easy to get caught up in the daily hassles, take things for granted and forget to thank those around you. Take the time to thank all those around you that are directly or indirectly contributing to your business. Don't wait for a special occasion like a festival or a quarterly meeting or an appraisal. Be sure to include in this list not just your co-workers but your loved ones for enabling and supporting you, your driver, maid service, security. Say thank you more often and feel the magic for rest of this year.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and earlier articles. :-)