My father is a first-generation entrepreneur, drop-dead passionate about his work. He built an entire company from scratch. And he didn’t go to B-school. But I learnt some of the most invaluable lessons of entrepreneurship and business from him.
Growing up, I always wondered what it took to build a successful business, and how so many successful entrepreneurs built corporations from ideas without what may be considered as ‘business-specific knowledge’, and how the summa cum laudes at the Harvards and Whartons ended up working for them. To a slightly immature me, it seemed almost unfair, how graduates from stellar academic institutions had bosses less qualified or educated than them. Until I realized that successful business-building took more than knowledge.
Over the years, analyzing the journeys and testimonials of successful entrepreneurs, I’ve realized that irrespective of geography, era, industry and product, there exist certain underlying qualities of every entrepreneur, including my father, that share common ground. Passion, a vision, fierce resilience and tenacity, and added to that a zeal and enthusiasm for their work, have indeed always been common ingredients of the entrepreneurial diet. The entrepreneurs are ‘dreamers’ and the ones they employ are the ‘dream-realizers’. In the end, they’re both equally important, but as the starter of the cycle, I wouldn’t shy away from giving the entrepreneur a little extra credit.
What I learnt from my dad, are practices, principles and tenets I know I’ll take with me to the grave.
- Vision. Vision. Vision. – Vision isn’t just a one-line sentence that goes down on paper, as a formal company statement. It’s that one single thing that turns ideas into corporations. A brave, daring, sometimes even seemingly unachievable vision. Dream big, work hard, do big. Like the say, well begun is half done.
- Have an eye for detail – An obsession with perfection. Always have high standards, and do everything within your might to achieve them. Never settle for sub-standardness.
- Solving a customer’s pain point – Treat this as your business motto, and everything in your business gets engineered towards making your customer a happier person. Exactly how it should be. Your business must always be to serve your customers first, your second, and external stakeholders, such as media and investors last.
- Focus on betterment – Product, process, people. Also focus on creating a better version of what you have. While there always will be eternal competition you’ll have to fight, in the end, the biggest competition will always be with yourself.
- There’s no such think as too much homework – Always be prepared. You may have people running your enterprise for you, but in the end, you are who they’ll always look up to. Put in a little time regularly going beyond the fringe – whether its studying industry trends, networking with key people from the industry, or even digging deeper into your own business and identifying ways to increase internal efficiency. A little goes a long way.
- Leadership – Your business is the ship, and you’re the captain. There is absolutely no substitute for good leadership. Your people, if well led, can be your most powerful resource.
- Agility – We live in disruptive times. And it isn’t difficult for redundancy to creep in. You need to stay on your toes, instead of getting too comfortable on the boss chair. Reverse engineering, and reinventing the wheel, aren’t just options, they’re necessary for your business to keep up with changing times. And if you’re still not convinced, there are enough companies as examples that went out of business because they did’t adapt their product, service or overall business model.
- Relationships and people management – The core of building a successful business, according to my father. A successful business is one where every transaction creates a win-win situation for everyone in the picture – employees, customers and owners. Strong relationship management is what leads to longevity in business.
- Have a sense of gratitude – Success isn’t an island, and it doesn’t happen in isolation. You might be the one to have reached the top of the ladder, but there’ll always be innumerable people who’ll have played a role in taking you there.
- Stay grounded – Never, ever let failure go to your heart, and success, to your head. Success, particularly in this arena, should always be accompanied with humility, not arrogance.
Business, particularly entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but isn’t exactly rocket science either. And if my non-B school Daddy could you do, I’m sure you can, too!