When we plunge into entrepreneurship, rarely do we realise beforehand the enormous number of decisions we will be called on to make. With decisions, come mistakes. Michael Jordan, the legendary basketball player, once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
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With regard to mistakes in the entrepreneurial field, there are some patterns that you, as a first-time entrepreneur, are bound to follow, some standard mistakes that all entrepreneurs learn from through experience.
- Focusing on many things at one time: It will take time before you learn how to prioritise. You will want to build 10 things at a time in your product, or want to explore many channels of marketing at the same time.
- Unbalanced: You will overwork yourself without a break. There will be many times when you will be in denial about the stress getting to you. This will lead to weeks of low productivity and exhaustion. Take a break every once in a while. Disconnect from your business environment at least for one week in a year. Many of my entrepreneur friends go for 10 day silent meditation retreats in Mcleodganj, Dharamshala, where they keep your phone and laptop locked away.
- Making everyone a mentor: You will take to heart advice from every person who is regarded as a veteran in the industry. You may even ask them to be your mentor on a small mentor equity. With time, you might realise there are only two or three people whom you can get back to. The issue is that you are going to have a limited bandwidth. And with mentors, you should be communicating with them fortnightly, or at least monthly, and improvising on their feedback. So in your limited human capacity, you can truly work with only so many people.
- Making you stronger: You will face many rejections before you realise that anything that doesn’t kill a founder, simply makes him stronger. We were rejected by more than 500 doctors in our first venture AddoDoc (EMR for pediatricians). At the time, every rejection seemed to take away a part of our life.
- Getting funded is Nirvana: Your daily Facebook newsfeed will probably show you 10 startups getting funded, which will prompt you to compare the supposed heaven of external funding to the difficulty of bootstrapping. You will look upon funding as Nirvana rather than a process. You may spend all your energy in meeting investors and feel super productive at the end of day. Your team will also get excited at each mention of investor interest. All this may result in the forgetting of the basics of business-
Acquisition → Engagement → Retention → Organic Growth (Word of mouth) → Monetisation
- To quit or not to quit: Many times, you may get the thought of quitting. It will dawn upon you with time that entrepreneurship is a lifestyle which is a combination of many lives packed together.
The growth of the Chinese Bamboo Tree may be of particular relevance to the journey of entrepreneurs. Like any plant, growth of the Chinese Bamboo Tree requires nurturing — water, fertile soil, and sunshine. In its first year, we see no visible signs of activity. In the second year, again, no growth above the soil. The third and fourth years pass with a similar lack of visible development. Our patience is tested and we begin to wonder if our efforts, the care we put into the nurturing of the plant, will ever be rewarded. And finally in the fifth year — behold, a miracle! We see growth. And what growth it is! The Chinese Bamboo Tree grows 80 feet in just six weeks!
Next time, when the thought of quitting comes to your mind, try to remember the growth of the bamboo tree.
- The New Physical You: You will develop several bad habits like sleeping and getting up late. Also, you will find yourself skipping meals but still growing fat due to stress, which you always find yourself burdened with.
- The Missing Link: You will always find a missing skill in the team, and find it to be the reason for your lack of growth, whether it’s the fault of the tech guy or the marketing head. With time, you may realise that no team is perfect.
- Unrealistic Expectations: At times, you will have unrealistic expectations of yourself and your team. Whether it’s a new version release every week of the product or a target of 100,000 downloads in the span of 1 month.
You will expect magic of every new team member who joins you.
- Finding your true north: Each one of your investors is likely to make different demands with respect to the direction your company should take. One may demand a rapid increase in your number of users, while others may say you are not earning enough revenue or that your market is not ripe enough. It’s you who has to decide which direction to point the company, to determine where your true north lies.
- Consistency: You may underestimate the power of consistency, and try to go for one long shot. Consistency has a compounding effect. A two percent improvement in your product each week will result in 300 percent improvement over the course of a year. If you have 100 users in the first week of your operations, growing at five percent each week will get you 15,000 users at end of one year.
- Survival Vs Growth: You will be too involved in day to day survival. There will be new fires coming up every day and you will be knee deep in your role as the fire extinguisher. You might lose the big picture at times and forget why you started up. You will not be able to think about growth. With the progress of your venture, you will need to distance yourself from the day to day activities once or twice every week to think and work on your larger vision.
- I will do everything myself: For an entrepreneur, control is something that is hard to give up. You will find it very hard to delegate. Also, you will try and be involved in every little aspect of the enterprise, be it the minute colour of an icon or the features in the product.
- Lack of communication: As your team grows, you will find it extremely hard to keep everyone on the same page. Within the company, one team might not know what’s happening in the other team. There are tools like slack that have made team communication easy. To keep the team updated, we have team meetings once a week. In one week, the team asks the founders whatever question they may have. In the alternate week, every team updates the rest of the organisation on what they have done in the past two weeks, and the plan is for the next two weeks.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)