Date archives "September 2009"

Simplify your Business

Life continues to get more complicated, almost, with each passing day. We have new information channels opening up, newer ways to connect to everyone, a large number of communication mediums to respond to, and the list just keeps on getting longer. The last thing we need at this stage is another complicated product/service to get accustomed to, and integrate into our lives. We need to chunk down as much as possible and address all problems as simply as possible.

Easier said than done….true! Feature creep is a very sneaky thing. Add a button here, add an extra layer over there and soon we have far more complicated ways of solving problems than we had originally planned for. From personal experience, keeping things simple is hard when you are launching your own product and service. One begins to add features we feel would be good for our customers, regardless of what they think.

This is where the rapid prototyping concept comes in. We need to get into the habit of releasing our products early, and follow up with iterations based on feedback. In order to do this, we are forced to strip down our product/service to make it as simple as possible. Every feature, every step, is now analyzed closely, and evaluated for whether it is absolutely essential or not. By incorporating this mode of thinking, we give ourselves a far better chance of creating a product or service that has a higher probability of success.

Business as a Science

There is an ever increasing amount of data out there geared towards providing individuals with a blueprint of how to do business. There are various models, best practice strategies, formulas, and a growing amount of literature on how it should be done. This has provided business owners with a tremendous cache of knowledge as to what sort of path to take, and how best to build a strong foundation. On the flip side however, business is really not an exact science at all. It is probably as far from that as you can get!

Business is really much trial and error, and adapting to the feedback that one receives. If we become rigid in our approach and do not adapt to the changes around us, that is when the trouble begins. My mentors have told me this time and time again. There is no substitute for experience. The only way to get experience is to be able to put yourself or your product/service out there, and see what happens. Learn from the feedback received and adjust your path likewise.

If we get caught up in ideal business models to follow, or which pricing strategies to use, we limit our scope and potential. This is not to say we should disregard all the great work that has been done in the business management space. All that I am saying is, one should maintain a healthy balance between theory and application. When in doubt, choose real time implementation rather than contemplating different theories to the problem.

Studying to be an Entrepreneur?

I was recently asked whether there is an ideal path that one should follow in school and university to prepare oneself for the world of entrepreneurship. My straight up answer for that is, no one path is better than another to help you become a successful entrepreneur, an inner drive to be one is a great boos however ! My major at university was Economics and I minored in an interesting elective which was, Technopreneurship (a lot to do with commercializing intellectual property). Both gave me a strong fundamental base in understanding market dynamics and getting your product/service to the market place effectively. The path I chose lacked the development of any technical expertise, and this is something that I look for when assessing potential partners.

Irrespective of the path that is taken, sacrifices will have to be made. One thing that I would advocate is, become extremely adept in one core skill set and continuously develop it. I have always enjoyed marketing and sales, and do my best to keep honing my skills in these domains. Having a core competency is of tremendous value when you enter the world of entrepreneurship. By not developing ourselves in a certain function or area, we limit our ability substantially to add value to the teams that we will either create or join.

In conclusion, if there is one piece of advice to those who are still studying, it is, actively develop yourself in a function or area that you are truly passionate about. This does not have to be your major or minor, it could be something that you could develop in parallel. There is no right or wrong path on the entrepreneurship route. It is however an ability to see and pin point particular niches where problems exist, and provide solutions to them in an effective manner. The key is to be able to identify these problems and areas, and come up with correct and winning solutions.

Losing your Temper

Losing your temper is easy. It is the easiest way to end an argument or relationship, on the worst possible note. By raising your voice and trying to dominate an argument shows an inability to logically rationalize your emotions and point of view in an appropriate manner. When this is done often enough, people start to lose respect for such an individual, and eventually reduce all communication with this individual to the absolute minimum. This is a sure fire way to destroy any relationship that may have existed.

Unfortunately, given how easy it is to lose one’s temper, many of us fall into this trap. When this happens in any sort of team environment, it results in the eventual isolation of the person involved. It tears teams apart, and defections start to take place at a faster pace. I was once on a university sports team where the team leader would regularly go off on tangents when an error or mistake incurred. It was through that experience that I saw and learnt what a grave impact such behavior has on both the morale of the team, as well as the way they regard the team leader.

Losing your temper is often a blind spot many of us fail to recognize. We are often oblivious of, as also take for granted, how our actions affect the people around us, and what consequences ensue from this. The only way to tackle this, is to get regular feedback from the people you work with, and identify areas and situations where you need better control of your emotions. The sooner we begin to realize this and take note of our behavior, the faster we will be able to bring real change into our lives and those around us.

The Simple Joys of Life

Reading Om Malik’s post on the Importance of Living Life really made me sit up and reflect on my life so far. I have been told countless times by my parents to stop for a while and enjoy life a little more. My mother’s favorite phrase is “Take time out to smell the roses”. When she used to tell me that 2 – 3 years ago, I could not comprehend what it meant. With time I am beginning to see the wisdom in the phrase. Earlier this week I heard an interview by Andrew Warner on Mixergy with Maria Sipka where the same subject was brought up. It is like life is trying to tell me something these days.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do on a daily basis! Working with start-ups from all around the globe in different capacities excites me, and makes me really look forward to each new day. However, there is a severe imbalance in the time that is spent working as compared to time spent doing other stuff. The deal is that, at my age I think there will always be an imbalance as far as work and other activities are concerned. It is all about creating and finding that perfect level of equilibrium where one side is not completely neglected at the cost of the other.

Finding that balance is, I believe, what life is all about. I do believe emphasis is needed on finding that balance earlier rather than later. As we enter an age of hyper competition and aggressiveness, we need to clarify and prioritize our values, beliefs and ambitions. These need to be aligned with what we truly want to achieve in life. As the famous saying goes, you don’t want to put your ladder against the wrong wall, only to find that out when you reach the top…….

500 Posts Later

I have been running a little behind on my posts for the last month or so. I apologize to all my regular readers for this. Thankfully, I finally got time to really sit down and catch up on my blog posts this last week. A number which caught my eye on the word-press dashboard was the number of posts I had written! I was quite surprised to see that the 500th post was just around the corner. I can vividly remember the day I decided to start blogging. It has been nearly 21 months since that time, and the joy and satisfaction of writing this blog post has turned out to be one of the best things I have committed myself to do on a regular basis.

This blog has been of great value to myself in my entrepreneurial journey. I have been able to crystalize and document my thoughts through it, learn from an entire community of entrepreneurs whom I have got to know through this blog, and most importantly, I have developed the habit of writing on a regular basis, on a topic which I am truly passionate about. As I was reviewing the past 499 blog posts, the bonus I see in my progression in both my thought processes as well as my writing capabilities is most humbling and exhilarating.

Comments from regular readers of this blog have been pivotal in motivating me to keep on writing. I hope that I have been of some help to other entrepreneurs in a small way through my thoughts and experiences. I look forward to continue writing this post, as well as growing through it as an entrepreneur. If you are a regular reader I would really like to hear from you about any changes or additions you would like to see in this blog over the next 500 posts. Thank you for your continued support and readership, I greatly appreciate it!

Building Momentum

Momentum is a critical aspect, one that needs to be maintained in a business regardless of  size and maturity. Momentum does however have a greater level of importance in the early stage of the business cycle. What many start-ups fail to comprehend is that running a business is more like a marathon rather than a 100m dash. Many a time I have seen teams give it their all for around 4-6 months, but eventually fail to keep the level of momentum going. This creates a host of problems as start-up teams do not have enough vested at this stage, and if they do not see enough progress, team members begin to bail out. In order to stop this from happening a business needs to:

1. Have a clear vision where the business is headed.

2. Milestones need to be broken down into manageable and regularly monitor-able goals.

3. Remain focused on immediate short term goals. Avoid distractions at all costs.

4. The entire team needs to be result oriented and rewarded on execution.

5. Follow up wins with bigger milestones and projects. Avoid complacency at all costs.

Building momentum is one of the toughest challenges one will face as an early stage entrepreneur. There will be many ups and downs that need to be weathered in order to create the traction that is needed to get your business moving forward. Be relentless and persevere. If you feel your team is losing momentum, make it your responsibility to not drop the torch regardless of your position on the team. Once momentum is gathered, it becomes an awesome force that will help your business  achieve great levels of success.

Right Place Right Time

The phrase “He/She was at the right place at the right time” has always fascinated me. I always regarded those individuals as very lucky, and hoped one day to be in a similar spot! Over time I realized that there was a lot more to being in the right place at the right time than just being lucky. Luck does certainly have a role to play, but only to a certain degree. I know a lot of people who have been in the right place at the right time, but failed to take advantage of the situation. The difference between individuals who take advantage of such an opportunity as compared to those who do not, is :

1. Planning: If you want to launch a successful technology based start-up, the first step is to surround yourself with individuals who are successful in this space. One needs to network extensively, take part in relevant conferences and take a pro-active approach to planning on how to get to where you want to be eventually. If we do not know where we want to go or be, then, there is really no right place or right time to take advantage of.

2. Taking Action: Once you have positioned yourself to be close to the right place at the right time, the next step is to take action and more importantly, know what do when you get there. For example, suppose you want to launch a technology start-up and during your planning stage you come across an exciting niche in the mobile space, at this point you need to know how to take advantage of the situation. This could include putting together a team, building a business plan and perhaps even raise funding. There is very little time to stand still and evaluate the situation at this stage. This should have been done in step 1. Step 2 is all about executing and making full use of your core strengths and experience.

3. Being Flexible: Very often we will have to change and adapt to prevailing circumstances. Sometimes, the approach we had first planned does not work the way that we imagined, this is the time to re-work your strategy. This is a trial and error process, when and if you keep finding yourself in the right place, and take action whilst remaining flexible, you will find yourself to be one of those lucky people who are at the right place at the right time.

There are no set signs to determine if you are at the right place at the right time. What it does require is to keep ourselves continuously searching for the right opportunities with an emphasis on putting ourselves in situations where we could possibly discover these opportunities. We need to continuously take action, and adapting to changing circumstances.

Setting Revenue Targets

Earlier on I used to think that setting monetary revenue targets would help provide a tangible goal for everyone on the team to want to achieve. We all know we need sales and revenue to survive, but I thought putting a number to it would make it easier to imagine. The problem that occurred in this most of the time was, it constrained everyone on the team to a certain degree. If the target was $100k then we would be looking to close medium to larger sized accounts which would help us get to our target in time. If the targets were not challenging enough, the team would not really push itself to do the best they could. Finding the right number turned out to be a lot more challenging than we thought it would be.

When I began experimenting with not setting any revenue targets, and focusing instead on closing as much business as we could at regular intervals, things started to do a lot better. We began focusing on a couple of key accounts to gather momentum, and used that traction to push ourselves even harder the next time. On an average results started to get better, and the pressure of hitting specific numbers or achieving a quota was lifted. However, this strategy did not work with all types of teams. In order to keep pushing oneself, a certain amount of perseverance and self discipline is required. Some teams misuse the lack of accountability to not bring in required sales to keep the business alive. In this scenario, the story ends badly for everyone involved, as sales is the life blood of any business, without sales you cannot exist.

Even if one does not use specific revenue targets, I have found it useful to have team discussions on how many customers we need to close, in order to generate enough momentum to start closing at a faster pace. Does your business require one big reference customer which will make it easier for you to sell to the others? Do you need to show a certain track record with a number of implementations before your solutions can be trusted? The number of sales needed for your business to generate enough momentum to make the sales process easier and faster, is dependent on your particular product/service. What is your businesses magic number?

It is all about Sales

Time and time again I have written about the importance of sales on this blog. If you are an entrepreneur, starting out with a new business, sales should be the only thing on your mind. There will be plenty of time to get just the right name card, office fixtures and those Aereon chairs which look so good. Your product/service needs to be at a level where it fills the client’s basic needs. There is no need to tweak it further or refine your model until the customers start’s to tell you. Every moment that is spent not qualifying a prospect is time wasted.

Sales is the responsibility of every team member. No one individual alone is allocated the task of bringing in sales. Without sales there will be no company, and without a company, there will be no team to talk about. Therefore everyone must do whatever it takes to make those sales and build revenue streams.

Listed below is a collection of some of the most popular sales related posts on this blog:

1. 5 Steps to Better Sales Pitches

2. 5 Steps to Close your First Sale

3. 5 Steps to Better Negotiations

4. Streamlining Sales Processes

5. The Key to Sales & Success

Have you read a great post on sales recently?I would really appreciate it if you could provide the links in the comment section which will help grow this repository further. Thank you.