Like many ambitious entrepreneurs before us, our contemporaries and the
entrepreneurs of tomorrow, we too made mistakes. My baby -Third Rock Techkno was born in 2015. In this reflective piece, I look back on our journey as entrepreneurs and my company Third Rock Techkno in its startup phase.
Mistakes, upsetting as they may be, shouldn’t define and control us. There is always something to learn from even that one mistake. “Experience is the best teacher” is an adage that we didn’t take too seriously when we were younger. Experience, whether good or bad, positive or negative can give us valuable lessons for life. In fact, bad experiences are essential for personal and professional growth. There is no escaping them. As we learn to embrace good experiences, we should ideally have a similar attitude toward the not-so-good experiences as well.
The following are some tips containing our experiences, Dos and Dont’s, I’d love to share with fellow entrepreneurs and startups:
1. A New Beginning
The beginning is always exciting. You and your tribe are brimming with ideas, the future looks bright, everyone is teeming with energy and enthusiasm. You get an adrenaline rush thinking about how successful and famous your startup will be! Although it is great to be positive (because you’ll need a lot of positivity and optimism on the hard road), we often lose sight of what could go wrong. The newness of your startup venture can push you into a comfort zone. But, do not get too comfortable! Talk to fellow entrepreneurs, do your research, read up on experiences of small scale businesses and focus more on
what they did wrong than right.
2. Patience is a Virtue
Always remember “patience is a virtue”. Good things come gradually and happen when they are meant to. However, sometimes we can let our enthusiasm get the better of us. As newbie entrepreneurs that have just landed on the startup stage, you cannot wait to begin to weave your magic. You have a great team with fresh ideas and are optimistic about getting clients right away. Wrong! We had to learn things the hard way and I would love to share my experience with all upcoming entrepreneurs and startups regarding patience.
Initially, startups sniff out business opportunities from anywhere and everywhere. They simply wish to get started. After all, they have fought off detractors, laid doubts to rest, invested a lot of money, time and effort to set up their company. However, it is not advisable to think of getting clients in this manner. You’ve got to strategize and ensure you acquire good clients just as clients would strategize in choosing the right IT services company for their projects.
As a new startup, we made this very mistake. We were in a hurry to simply get started and build our client base. However, in the bargain, haste made waste. We got on board projects that gave us a very low ROI on our skills and efforts. This is a terrible thing to happen when you’re just starting out. A setback of this sort can make you and your team feel dejected and question yourselves. You wouldn’t want that when you’re just starting out. Work will come. Do not rush an associate with clients who will take you for granted.
The following are some great benefits a few good quality clients can bring to your startup and business:
- Good clients will ensure paying on time. This will help you retain employees as well.
- They will not unnecessarily bargain and disrespect your team’s skills.
- They will have reasonable expectations and your team will be able to
successfully deliver the goods in the given time frame and resources. A
successful project will help build a good market reputation and help you get more work.
- A few good clients who have common work ethics and values will maintain a fruitful association with you. This is more important than having a big bunch of unprofessional clients that decrease productivity.
3. Hiring Dedicated Team Members
This is a tough one and it is also one that can make or break your startup. Your team! Finding the right people to join your team and work with you is a gamble. We often came across people who judged our company because we were small. The prospects of growth in a startup are way brighter than in a large corporation. So tell this to your interviewees and job seekers. Market your startup as an enterprise that looks small but, has great potential. Provide realistic incentives — this may not mean quick raises considering your startup is trying to find its feet- but two out of four weekends off, reasonable insurance cover, small cash rewards like Employee of the Month, monthly
team outings etc.
4. Working Twice As Hard to Maintain A Healthy Work Culture
You’ve got the team you wanted. Fine. Then what? Are you just going to sleep over it? Now that you have your resources, you’ve got to work twice as hard to retain them and ensure a great work culture. Any business be it large scale or small scale has a large diversity of people in terms of life history, life experiences, work ethics, education, skills, experience, I can go on and on!
That is why it becomes all the more important to sync them all together for a common purpose — the company’s growth. This was hard work for us but, it paid off ultimately.
Now we have over 50 employees in our offices in India and the United States. I guess we are doing something right! Ensure you encourage teamwork and interpersonal bonding between team members. Give credit where due and don’t have any favourites. Treat everyone equally and point out mistakes in a mature and professional manner. Shouting matches are a big no-no. They simply lead to a lack of respect for your employees and vice versa!
5. Growth stems from Quality and not Quantity
We all want the big numbers don’t we? This also includes a long list of clients. Isn’t it great to tell your competitors you have ten clients more than they do? But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to make your work speak for you and not the numbers. By your work, I mean not the number of projects you’ve taken up but the kind of projects you’ve handled and what YOU and your startup have done for your clients. What you have you achieved as a team, the value you have added to your client’s business, the ROI and faith they have put in you and your team.
A big number of projects looks great on websites and project proposals but, what happens when a prospective client does a reference check? When they ask your older or existing clients about your work and the responses are largely average? Then you’re in real trouble. Therefore, prioritizing high performance in two projects, for example, rather than shoddy work in 10 projects is an intelligent thing to do if you plan to stay in the race.
6. Customer Maybe King but, You are the Expert In Charge
“Customer is King” — are three words that have defined the way the global market functions. All eyes are always on what the customer wants. As business solutions providers, we too must focus on the customer’s needs and customize our solutions in a way that the customer gains maximum benefits. However, remember that the customer is not an expert. You are! There were times when we let the customer take over the project in a bid to please them (and hoping they’ll give us more work) but, this was a bad idea. So take it from me. Be as vocal about your ideas and vision for the project as possible. Convince the client that you want them to succeed. However, for this to happen, the client needs to take a step back sometimes and trust the expertise and abilities of the service provider.
7. Learn from Your Mistakes and Apply the Learnings
So we talked about the mistakes and Do’s and Don’ts for entrepreneur and startups. Apart from avoiding making these mistakes, if you still end up making them, don’t fret. Mistakes can only help us be better but, there is a catch. Mistakes only help you get better when you internalize the learnings for your next project. Don’t simply forget about your mistakes as if they were a bad dream. This is an exercise we wish we had followed in the initial stage of our startup but, better late than never!
Mistakes are a part of learning even success. As entrepreneurs and startups, it is important to share successes but even more important to share our failures. Sharing learnings and knowledge is a great way to enrich our community of startups and entrepreneurs. You never know what you may teach someone and learn in the process.