I am back at this since so much water has flown under the bridge that it deserves to be put on record some where.
I have struck out on my own about 9 months back with a business focused on consumer products in personal care industry. As is usally the case, activities have been slower than expected and we expect to hit the stores early May.
As I am working on the various dimensions of the startup, legal, business development, sales, quality, logisitics, marketing, I realize two qualities that are absolutely needed to succeed at this entrepreneurship business:
- “T” shaped workstyle. Let me explain. When you are responsible for decisions across a bunch of decisions and everything is critical or important for the future success of business, it is imposiible to shut out eveyrthing else for long stretches. What is required is some kind of deep diving into each topic, getting a good grasp on the dynamics of the topic and then surfacing for air to get an overall view of how this fits into the bigger picture. This is important becuase legal or marketing decisions cannot be made with a superficial analysis; but on the other hand things happen parallely; while I am busy negotiating with a partner, my producer in looking towards me for a decision on the payment terms, shipping route etc. In order to make a real contribution, I have to do a deepdive, understand the consequences of the decison and make a decison (or decide to wait for more info) and surface back up to do another deep dive into a different topic. On a given day I find myself doing this at least into 5-10 different areas. The complexity only multiplies if you are also working multiple countries and time zones.
- Ability to Prioritize. Effectively. If I have to choose one capability that can set apart a great entrepreneur from a mediocre one, it would be this one. Currently, when we are ready to launch the brand and are putting together the marketing plan, you can see the ideas bubbling up intensely. Most of the ideas are great, cost effective, powerful and absolutely in line with the brand ethos. But given this is a startup, we cannot invest resources into every one of the idea. I have to choose one or two related ideas that I can tie together as a coherent whole and leave the rest out for now. By itself, this is not such a critical capability. But as an entrepreneur and startup, I am constantly faced with the thought of consequences. I am always plagued by “what if”? For me the consequence of a bad decision could be failure and disaster. Unlike an established company, I will not have the luxury to fail and recover more than a single blunder. This in turn makes it very, very important to do the right things first rather than later.
Of course, these quealities are essential for someone working in a large corporation. However, it is the stakes involved that make these capabilities much more critical for a startup founder.