Entrepreneurship is never easy, especially as in most cases it is a lonely journey peppered with setbacks.
By Vivek George
The tragic death of the celebrated CCD founder V.G.Siddhartha has sent shock waves across the country, particularly among entrepreneurs. Of course, many before him have been victims of stress and depression, but Siddhartha – the brain behind India’s largest chain of coffee shops and a prominent early investor in a successful IT services company – there is a danger that his untimely demise might take a toll on entrepreneurial morale in India.
Entrepreneurship is never easy, especially as in most cases it is a lonely journey peppered with setbacks, discouragement and repeated failures. Compromising life’s priorities to chase dreams is the biggest risk every entrepreneur takes.
One of the guiding principles for entrepreneurs must be the acceptance of stress as an everyday reality. It is crucial to foresee the entrepreneurial journey to be an emotional roller coaster. Every day you will be confronted with situations which will tempt to pull you apart. In such a context, the ability to stay motivated is a valuable antidote. It is important to internalise confidence to tide through adversities.
The reality is that businesses, irrespective of size, are facing a lot of challenges these days. But the scary part is they are never encouraged to share their worries, neither with the Government nor with their peers. In such a scenario, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to have the cushion of having trustworthy peers to talk to. It is also crucial to talk to failed start-ups and try learning from their mistakes.
Some key pointers that can definitely help you get going on the right track:
- Network, network and network. Call them mentors, spiritual gurus or even friends, this network is critical to keeping the momentum going.
- The more contacts you build, the more connections you make, the more probability is for your business to succeed.
- Often it is seen that continuous setbacks (both in business and personal) usually turn any person into an introvert. This eventually kills entrepreneurship zeal and networking skills.
- Introspect often to understand where you stand. As entrepreneurs, it is quite natural to look outwards.
- Remind yourself to NOT end up with unrealistic goals, causing unnecessary pressure.
- Believe that self-approval is the best technique to get going and you won’t be disappointed.
- Things get more complex when you have co-founders. Emphasis should be on nurturing that relationship and reviewing both entrepreneurial and personal progress together.
- Celebrate small accomplishments be it a client appreciation, newspaper mention or even a word of mouth reference. Celebrate it as a team so that everyone feels the taste of success.
- Be aware of competition but never worry about competitors.
- Learn to consciously stay away from obsessing about the competition.
- Continue making decisions in the interest of your customers rather than those influenced solely by your competitors.
- Never ignore your instinct as it is an indication of what your inner-self wants.
- Emotional and physical well-being are also important. That is where the concept of mindfulness is picking up. Practising it can help destress as well as allow and entrepreneur to stay focussed.
- Finally think, eat, sleep and stay healthy.
- To the best possible extent, involve family at least to let them know what’s happening inside you. It is comforting to take them along in your journey.
With a staggering unemployment rate of 6.1%, entrepreneurship will be crucial to job creation. Except for a few policy tweaks, the government generally has a limited role in an entrepreneur’s life. But yes, having to deal with multiple stakeholders puts a lot of pressure on the businesses. Although the Government is encouraging start-ups to stand up, the actual hand-holding is yet to happen. This needs to change.
India has generally scored poorly when it comes to traditional markers of entrepreneurial activity. A 2018 report released by Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) indicates that while 11% of adults in India are engaged in “early-stage entrepreneurial activities” and only 5% go on to establish their own business.
But interestingly, unlike other economies, India generates entrepreneurs from across the spectrum, be it first generation entrepreneurs from non-business communities or next-generation members from traditional family businesses. Clearly, entrepreneurship is spreading in India, and it is important to make sure its challenges don’t conquer the individual.
(Vivek George is a well-known management professional working with an International Trade Organisation. All views expressed are personal.)