One of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is the fact that in most cases you've got to fight your battles alone. Some of us have mentors, some of us come from a family with a business background, and maybe some of us have an excellent core team. But for a lot of us, the problems that we face in running a small-medium business are more or less entirely ours to face and resolve. Whatever be the case, one has to accept that problems will occur. There is no business, or for that matter no serious activity, which is not beset by its own unique set of problems.
The trick is to accept this fact, and to face most of your problems with as much equanimity, humility, and introspective ability as you can. In most cases, I find I can manage all these virtuous qualities in some measure or the other. Cash-flow issues - we've faced them earlier, and have managed to come through. Plus the receivables list does tend to give one comfort that sooner or later the money is going to come through. Client issues - some clients are generally painful, most others have genuine grievances. Nothing that cannot be resolved by openly asking them what they would like us to do, negotiating the extent to which we'll go, and then delivering on it. As long as they see we are sincere in our commitment, they'll usually stop being adversarial, and start looking at how they can work with us to solve the problems at hand. Lack of a strong pipeline. We've faced that situation earlier as well, and usually the lull lasts for no more than a month or so. A weak pipeline also means people sitting twiddling their thumbs. But constant communication, research projects, and trainings can help keep them productively occupied. Employee performance issues - again set targets, agree on them, measure them, and if they consistently under-perform, ask them to leave.
The one problem where I can simply muster up no equanimity is attrition. And we usually have waves that come in about once a year, when the level of attrition can quite simply be called an exodus. Each time, I try and introspect what we could have done better, and we try and do it. And each time it seems as if we're building a castle right near the shore, and a huge wave comes in and washes it right away. Last time around we introduced incentives and a team structure to help curb attrition. I also reduced my own involvement in project execution. This time it seems we need to dig down deeper to find out what we need to do, to get ahead of the attrition ratios that plague us. What hurts about attrition is the feeling of loss. You spend time building a relationship, investing in people's learning/training, you see them grow in confidence and technical skills, and then one day it's pretty much all over. I can tell you the worst day in office is when an email with the subject-line "Resignation" or "Sign-off" or whatever term is vogue lands up in my inbox.
So if I had to choose my problems - I'd say give me anything except attrition.
- Kanwal K Mookhey
- Mumbai, India
- I run an IT Security consulting firm based out of India. We started off from scratch in 2001 when I was 21, and have offices in Mumbai, Bahrain, and UAE. The idea behind the blog is to share the stories of how we run the business, the deals we make, the deals that break, the heartburn, and the sheer joy.
The Ultimate Startup Guide
|The Ultimate Startup Guide is an e-book that provides answers to all your questions related to starting and growing a business in India. Everything you wanted to know about entrepreneurship in India from ideation to registration to marketing to hiring. The book contains a large number of practical examples, anecdotes, interviews, and motivational material to help you get started, and to grow rapidly in a booming Indian economy. If you've got the idea, this book will help you through with the execution and realize your dreams.
Here are some of the key questions you will find answered in this book:
Details of the book are:
Title: The Ultimate Startup Guide
Author: Kanwal Mookhey
Additional: Companion CD contains numerous templates for building your business plan, calculating cashflow, preparing profit and loss, and balance sheets, preparing invoices, your resume and profile, marketing material, websites, contracts, and many other useful and motivational material.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Posted by Kanwal K Mookhey at 5:28 AM
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Came across an interesting paper on what investor should look for when investing in small and mid-sized Indian companies. It is an important read, because for a small business entrepreneur it gives you a lot of ideas on what your company should have to be able to impress a potential investor. The full paper can be downloaded here.
Here is a summary of the key points from the paper:
Operational legitimacy - is the company running a legitimate business, or are the bulk of its revenues coming from front-ending operations. There have long been rumors that a number of small and mid-sized IT companies serve as fronts for small to large amounts of money laundering.
Quantitative Criteria Matching - most investors have specific criteria which the target company needs to match. These are typically in terms of turnover, profitability, number of years in operation, etc. If your company does not meet these criteria - say $2 million in turnover - it would naturally not be in contention.
Leadership & Management - the investors will want to see who is in your core team, or even if there is no core team, they would want to evaluate your skills in terms of management ability, leadership, vision for the future, principles and values you espouse, your track record, and experience either working for other firms or successful ventures in the past.
Growth potential: How quickly can your product/service lines grow, and if they cater to specific market segments, are those segments by themselves also poised for exponential growth in the overall picture of the country's economy? What is your business plan, and what strategies have you envisaged to achieve your targets, and your degree of innovation.
Possible exit strategies: At the end of the day, all investors want to see returns on their investments. And investors in small- to medium- firms are usually taking a much higher risk, and consequently would expect much higher returns. Especially, since only 10-20% of their investments actually pan out.
Market reputation: What do your customers, your partners, and your employees say about your firm? As a small business it is unlikely you will have achieved a lot of press publicity, so your reputation almost completely depends on the people who know you or your company on a one-to-one basis.
Posted by Kanwal K Mookhey at 12:50 AM
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
I was recently contacted by the NEN - the National Entrepreneurship Network - to take a look at their website and what they do. I quite like the resources available on their website, and would recommend that you may read up on some of the more interesting articles and interviews. They also have an Ask The Expert section, where they have experts address various aspects of entrepreneurship.
They claim to be non-profit, so I guess they will continue to provide as many resources for free as they can. Some of the links I would like you to check out would be:
Posted by Kanwal K Mookhey at 1:14 AM