Author: Suresh Kabra, Founder, PriceMap
While a lot has been written about the skills required to become an entrepreneur, in this note I want to share some “life’s lessons” which entrepreneurship has taught me. And taught me in a way like no one else could have. I call them “life’s lessons” as their impact goes far beyond the success or the failure of the ventures I undertook. These learnings have stayed with me and pretty much define my way of life.
Entrepreneurship creates news challenges all the time. When the founder introspects, lessons are learnt. When the founder innovates to find a solution, even more learning happens. In the entrepreneurial journey, this process never stops!
One of the first lessons you learn as an entrepreneur is to be frugal, i.e. find the most economical way to achieve the desired results and maximize returns on your efforts, time and money. In a startup, you neither have the resources, nor the time to be generous. Any extravaganza is a possible step towards failure (like the recent Housing.com’s fiasco on the ‘lookup’ campaign). Frugality, in turn, builds the habit of exploring all options and not signing on a blank cheque. Smart entrepreneurs rarely grab the first available option, and keep exploring till they find the optimum solution. In doing so, they become extremely frugal on the time-spend on a particular issue, making a judicious choice on when any further time spent will not commensurate with results achieved.
Entrepreneurship teaches you, out of necessity, to become frugal with both time and money. But this life lesson does you good forever.
Entrepreneurship teaches you to have an eye for detail on whatever you do or whatever crosses your path. A startup has to get its value proposition right in the first attempt. They can’t have the lethargy of large corporations, where the business plan can be revised year after year to safeguard certain jobs!
Now, as a founder of a startup, I know pretty well that there is no second life. Therefore, I have developed the habit of doing extreme due diligence on everything, to ensure that it comes out right the first time. Out of sheer necessity, I have developed a scrutinizing approach, where finer details are reviewed and discussed; early warnings are not ignored and, most importantly, carelessness is simply unacceptable.
This life lesson of getting it right the first time, most of the times, becomes an asset for forever, and defines your way of life.
Entrepreneurship also teaches you to comprehend other people’s perspective. As a founder when you go into the field to sell your product, the first few meetings tell you that customers buy what they want and not what you have or want to sell. Both of you could be looking at the same problem to solve, but the perspective on the ‘right’ solution could be radically different. So, an entrepreneur listens, and tries to comprehend the problem from the customer’s perspective, to then come back and offer the desired solution. The same dynamics play in a startup over all the internal discussions between co-founders and cross-functional teams. Keeping egos out, people listen to understand each other’s perspective and then arrive at the best decision.
This lesson, of making a genuine attempt to understand other people’s perspectives and value them, brings into you a trait which very few people possess.
Another great lesson learnt from being entrepreneur is respect for work, all kinds of work. A founder usually learns the hard way that no work can be trivialized. An entrepreneur’s personal life swings like a pendulum, from good to ugly, depending on how individuals manage their work, however insignificant that work may appear. A nasty response from ‘support’ to a ‘customer’ can cause escalations that will completely drain your energies in doing damage control. You learn, after a few ugly incidents, that there is no work that can be called a ‘no-brainer’ ! Even the simplest of the repetitive tasks has to be done right, each and every time, for people to spend time on productive things and keep the start-up on track.
Entrepreneurship teaches you to respect people for doing their work diligently day after day, immaterial of where they sit in the organizational or social hierarchy or what kind of work they do. This life lesson is the key to gain respect and build long lasting relationships.
I think it is highly unfortunate when an entrepreneur is totally absorbed in the glamour of funding, valuations and exits, and fails to imbibe some of these life lessons. It is like an opportunity wasted.
As Steve Jobs said “ Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me…Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful…that’s what matters to me.”
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