My Journey as an Entrepreneur- 7 Lessons I Learnt!

This is a Guest Post by Abhishek Goenka, CEO & Founder of IFA Global

11) Managing cash flows during the initial days of your business can be quite challenging.

One needs to have fixed cash flows and should not only be dependent on a few select customers. We were almost 4 years old in the business when 2008 hit us and our cash flows took a major plunge due to a limited pool of clients, delayed payments, bad debts etc. It was one of the biggest testing times . That’s when people around you start giving you ideas to quit since its the most practical thing to do or rather the most easiest thing to do. In such a situation, the rational mind would always compel you to think pragmatically. And that’s exactly what had started occurring. Thoughts like “Should I take the job again? ”, “Spend less and resort to a simple life”or ” Should I change my business” started coming in. A decision had to be made. Taking up the job and getting the money to run business would mean less time and effort for your own work, surrendering oneself to those golden handcuffs and letting your family and loved ones believe that living your dream is not your thing. That’s when we decided to take the charge again, leave the ego behind and once again get onto the floor doing SALES- knocking closed doors and getting fresh customers with a new approach. Of course! it’s important to have that passion. We just took the leap of faith and in the year 2008, started all over again. We travelled 36 cities across the country and got over 100 clients in 2 years . We ensured that we as a team are not only able to survive, but also able to make it big and much stable than before.

2) Retaining Talent That Matters Is Yet Another Challenge

2No matter how much you strive to get great human resource policies on board, no matter how much better you pay than the industry, no matter how many cocktail hours you spend catching up with them, it’s way too challenging to make smart guys stick to a young company for a longer time. They tend to leave you despite being in a role that allows them to experiment and learn, pays them fairly well for their effort and gives them the liberty to have direct access to the decision makers to put their thoughts forward . They always get attracted towards 100 years old brands and their glamorous culture and extravagance, what I call as ‘The Cocktail Culture’. Someone asks you, “where are you working”?. You take out your flashy card and say “CITI” or “Stan C”. Of course, no one asks about what you do. Most of them feel hesitant to buy into your vision until they are themselves invested or you get into their mind share so that they have completely bought into your vision. Well, it’s not to say that one shouldn’t go for the big names in the industry, but it’s important they understand the role completely and make sure that they are not buying into a comfort zone. Mind it! a lot of people re-apply after a year or two, experiencing a hollow world outside. The only way I feel one can be retained is the Jack Welch way – pay your top 20% really well, much higher than the industry standards, pay 60% of your talent pool moderately – they should be aspiring to be amongst the top 20% and the rest 20% should be politely asked to find something they are best suited for. Additionally and most importantly, you should be growing at a phenomenal rate and life should be little easier for most of the people in the firm. Don’t be disheartened if you are losing great guys – have faith, one day most of them would be re- applying for your company. They need to hear your name around and see you really growing. Organize an alumni meet every year!

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3) Always Try and Get Mentors On Board

3Life is too short to learn from your own experience – as they say. We need to learn from senior entrepreneurs , HR professionals , social media experts about how they run the show. It’s important that they mentor you because they simply connect to you and vice versa. Of course, I would reiterate “There’s nothing as such called as a right or a wrong decision. There is only a 50% probability of your decisions going right. But it’s important that we act and we act every single day. There can be many reasons for your decision to go wrong. Maybe the circumstances made it unfavorable , maybe your key employees left , maybe your markets turned bad , may be the idea got copied too quickly etc. Even though you may consult people on a regular basis – your colleagues , your mentors , your board – but the onus is always going to be yours. Hear your heart and take the plunge and if you get it wrong – do everything to make it right again or change your strategy . But there is no point blaming anyone. You and only you are responsible for any outcome of the decision that you take. It’s funny that often when we get it right, we never say that we have been lucky or we did not deserve this success, but when we get it wrong, we often use terms like “Bad luck – Why it happens to me – I always get it wrong. Start appreciating any outcome and learn to steer accordingly. I have 2 mentors – they are simply my friends who know me so well and most of their thoughts have worked quite well for me and my business – its a doctor patient kind of a relationship based on trust. Remember one of the many messages the movie AVATAR conveys – their exists an interconnectedness amongst all living systems.

4) Entrepreneurs Are Producers Not Consumers

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4As an entrepreneur, there’s this time when you realize that you’ve made everything better for yourself – money, properties, community, name for yourself etc. But an entrepreneur is always readily out of the comfort zone. In fact, this invites trouble many a times. He always wants to be the next Branson or the next Zuckerberg if not at least the next Jobs. Often, it requires a lot of perseverance , capital , good luck and being at the right place at the right time. Please understand, you need to set a goal and keep taking 5 small steps every day. The universe will make sure its achieved , just don’t self doubt and have faith in oneself. Also, stop comparing your progress with your peers , it simply makes you weak and leads to self criticism if you are not doing so well at that point of time. That is one thing an entrepreneur should never do. Believing in yourself is of the utmost importance. You got to have faith in yourself irrespective of anything. Investing huge sums of money in your business and seeing it not working would make any rational person quit. But if you are passionate about it, you’ll never quit because you have a higher purpose. You’ll rather modify it and move ahead. An entrepreneur always needs to think from a long term perspective. Money or “Lakshmi” as we call it, never stays in your chests forever. Just buying depreciating assets like a BMW or a Rolex won’t help for long term. It’s important you throughly relish your incomes but at the same time invest where your passion lies and distribute it in your employees and stake holders and then see the growth. Also, just don’t be a consumer who simply believes in consuming for himself. In fact be a producer – your entire focus should be on creating something new every minute, every hour of the day.

5) My 6 Most Important Mantras

5My Success Mantras – One needs to do this religiously and then see the difference. Gratitude – Meditate – Yoga/Workout – Read – Work – Family. One needs to be strong physically and should be extremely concentrated towards his/her goal. As Swami Vivekanda says ” The difference between one human being and the other is simply their power of CONCENTRATION. Hence, mediation and any type of workout is a must. If you have a connection with your heart, your creativity is optimum. Your decisions will become much stronger and easier. You will soon realize that putting lesser effort is getting you more returns. Its not about IQ , its about EQ as Einstein says. It’s about the energy you create with your thoughts that matter with the ecosystem around you. A wood cutter takes some hours to cut ‘x’ number of trees. Another wood cutter takes lesser hours than the first one to cut the same ‘x’ number of trees. Where does the second woodcutter invest the remaining time? He invests that surplus time in sharpening his axe. Sparing some time for keeping oneself physically and mentally fit allows one to achieve much more. Of course, updating yourself every single day is a no brainer and your family will give you the much needed comfort. As it is said, first comes the family, then the country and then your occupation.

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6) Networking Is The Key – My Favourite

6Remember! People will never come to you. You got to knock their doors . Do you have the fear of approaching people? Do you have that EGO? Well, then you are still not ready. As Steve Jobs says, “Connect The Dots” – Networking brings that into reality. In the world of social media this has become quite easy, but you still need to get in touch with people who will help you reach that goal. Mind it – It’s always about them – not about you . Try to get them a customer , solve their problem , help them in any manner and then see the magic of networking. As the number of years go by, these people become your best friends and advocates. Can you simply pick up the phone and call 100 business people for your child’s birthday? If it gets you thinking, better start working today.

7) Be Focused

7Are you in the race to make money? Well, that doesn’t work. We often get into multiple businesses, mainly when we feel that we have generated lots of cash and want to venture into some hot business where others are making money. After all, we all think, if Sir Richard Branson can run 400 companies- Why not us ? Whenever you feel that you are losing money in other businesses , always ask yourself the very basic question . Why did we start ? Which business gave us the most cash flows? Where can I stick my neck out and say – I can be the best in the world no matter who is in the competition? Remember the very purpose you started with. Close your eyes and ask yourself. Stop there itself and focus. Because it’s time to go back and stick to the purpose you were known for. We experimented with lots of businesses like ratings , general consulting, softwares , HR consulting etc. After burning loads of cash for 3 consecutive years realized that FX is what we are best in and it is something where we have the potential to be the best in the world. Of course, you need to be innovative and get the best team around connected to your vision and set a higher goal for yourself but stick to what you have been doing the best. As they say in 3 idiots – Excellence is the key son!

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