Though the Indian middle class has typically been averse to the idea of entrepreneurship, things took a turn in the 90s in the wake of big bang economic reforms. The reforms helped unleash the hitherto hidden entrepreneurial spark among sizeable sections of people. The trend became more common especially after the start-up boom thanks to the IT revolution, which has opened the floodgates of many new businesses, which were unheard of before. Today, we have freshly-minted tech graduates opting out of college placements in favour of doing their own thing. Though many such new generation ventures like Oyo, Zomato, Flipkart, Makemytrip and Lenskart have gone on to become raging successes, a significant number among them have fallen by the wayside. Do you know that in the later 90s in India, there was one baazi.com, a gaming website or one letsbuyelectronics.com? They simply sank or had to be rescued by others.
As per a Harvard Business Review study, 60% of all new businesses fail within the first three years of being set up. The reasons are not difficult to understand. Businesses across the entire world are getting more and more intricate, thanks to a changing business environment, invasion of technology, globalization and changing consumer mindsets. The business environment today is far more complex, the technology far more pervasive and the consumers fickle and more demanding. Accordingly, corporate counselling has to address more and more the question of entrepreneur skill development.
Entrepreneurship is, undoubtedly, a very exciting idea. Of course, having none to report to (though one can never escape that ultimate boss – the consumer, from reporting to), freedom of work, leading a bunch of co-workers and monetary rewards entice many with dreams in their eyes. But it’s easier said than done.
In my corporate counseling, I often get many questions regarding how entrepreneurial dreams can be fulfilled. I often say that being an entrepreneur is quite like getting pregnant – you need a mother-like patience and the ability to brave odds in order to emerge successful.
You need to cultivate several essential skills to improve the chances of your entrepreneurial success. Not only are hard skills i.e. technical and financial skill extremely important, but soft skills like communication and leadership also play a critical role.
They cover a whole range – technical skills, leadership and business management skills and creative thinking. As entrepreneurial skills can be applied to many different roles and industries, developing them can mean cultivating several skill sets.
“Leap and the net will appear”
- John Burroughs
Traditionally, economists used to regard men, money and materials as essential factors of production. But of late, entrepreneurship or risk-taking behaviour is being regarded as the fourth important factor of production. You must be courageous enough to act on your ideas. I remember Jatin Pushkar, a young IT engineer, who had sought advice on entrepreneurship “Mrs. Ritu, after having been in the hot seat for a decade and a half, do you believe I should jump into it without giving too much thought?”
I told him from my experience “See Jatin, researching your ideas extensively before taking a plunge is important but the courage to chart an unknown path and something unfamiliar is also important. So once you are clear about an idea, don’t spend too much time on thinking about it, but clarity is paramount.”
Most successful entrepreneurs are blessed with an ambitious nature. They lust for success and enjoy achieving small milestones as the stepping stones to their destination. A highly ambitious person has an internal drive to work hard and is committed to doing whatever is needed to make his idea a success. Such people never seek shortcuts and are ready to go the extra mile to do the right thing.
“In today’s world, tomorrow happened yesterday “
Corporate counseling places great stock in the importance of continuous learning. A wannabe entrepreneur must stay connected with the latest – in products, technology, delivery and consumer mindset. Network, read, watch, talk – do anything you can to learn constantly. Such people look for successful people in their field and seek to learn from their experiences and advice. Remember, a constantly flowing river never stinks.
For effective communication, you must heed others’ ideas, motivations and interests, besides their body language. Being egotistic or vainglorious does no good here. Rather, you must listen to naysayers especially carefully as they are the people who have the courage to pinpoints your faults. I always respect their views and try to show that I pay them attention. It can promote collaboration and get others excited about your goals.
Love to do experiments. While trying to develop the light bulb, facing failure 10000 times didn’t deter Edison, for, in his own words, he learnt the 10000 ways a light bulb didn’t work successfully. Talk to new people and seek new experiences, which can foster new opportunities hitherto not available to you.
Listening is important but you must know when you need to control the conversation and assert yourself. Learning to say no in certain situations is important. Be consistent so as to earn others’ respect and trust. But you also need to know yourself and stand up for your beliefs, should the need arise.
Despite suffering devastating failures, most successful entrepreneurs look at them as lessons. We, too, have got somewhere because we persisted in what we were doing. I kept up optimism, perseverance and made calculated changes in our efforts. You don’t fail until you stop trying.
David Ogilvy’s famous quote “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife” needs to be tweaked now to reflect the more demanding contemporary realities. In a liberalized, hyper-competitive world, the consumer has almost unlimited choice. Therefore, earning a customer and making him a client for life, is the real challenge. In corporate counselling lingo, trying to ensure customer delight is the key. Knowing your customer and developing effective customer service skills can help you serve market needs better.
Time management and organizational skills are a must-have for entrepreneurs. Develop the skill sets to break down tasks into manageable to-do lists, fix deadlines and achievable goals for yourself and the team. Besides, technology can stand you in good stead while keeping your business files organized.
Implementing successful branding and marketing strategies is a critical to an entrepreneur’s work life. You may think of attending a course on branding and marketing and can also meet other entrepreneurs to get some help.
Everyone loves to grow in life. So do businesses. Business growth implies an expansion of a business in one or more ways. Many metrics can be used to show that a business is growing like revenues, sales, company value, profits, no. of employees, no. of customers etc. But defining business growth can be tricky as businesses can grow in terms of some metrics but not others e.g. revenues may surge without any increase in the no. of customers if the existing ones buy more. Interestingly, it’s possible for one metric to go up and another one to slide e.g. if the sales growth owes itself to a lower price, the revenue could go down.
Importance of Business Growth
Though all companies need to grow, the type of growth sought depends on the stage the business is in. Typically, start-ups need to grow fast to acquire a size large enough to bring in enough revenue to cover costs and make a profit. Contrarily, mature companies don’t need to grow as fast, notwithstanding that they, too, would love to see their metrics in the right direction. Increased profitability due to lower costs or sales process efficiencies, can help a stable business build liquidity to protect itself against future shocks, despite that the revenue and sales are unchanged.
Major Drivers of Business Growth
Businesses have to be made to grow; they don’t grow on their own. A business looking to grow organically will have to put in place systems to drive growth:
Having people intent on growing the business is crucial. Of course, a growth-focused promoter has to be the major driving force behind a company’s expansion. But other employees also need to have the motivation and the expertise to push it ahead.
The best of people without a strategy cannot drive growth. They need to be backed by a carefully crafted strategy to take the business forward. The strategy could be earning new customers, launching new products, entering new markets or improving market share.
- Processes and Infrastructure
Once a business has the right people and the right strategy, it needs to have processes to facilitate expansion. It may include implementing software to improve process efficiency or upsizing its warehouses to store the stock in view of expansion.
All the above require funding for implementation. If enough money is not available for the hires, the product or the processes, the business will find it hard to grow.
Conflicts are as old the human civilization itself. You’ll find very few offices where all the employees get along with one another and their bosses and vice versa. Therefore, in view of their inevitability in a corporate set-up, resolving them is an imperative the leadership must recognize.
Unresolved conflicts can affect corporate productivity and teamwork. But it requires specific leadership skills, problem-solving abilities and decision-making skills. Recognizing conflicts and a willingness to resolve them compassionately can lead to creative problem solving, team building, and stronger relationships.
Causes of Business Conflicts
Conflicts emanate from differences among people differ in terms of values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. They might look trivial, but a conflict can trigger really strong feelings, at the root of which lies a deep personal need. Such a need may be for safety, security, respect, value, closeness or intimacy. Differing needs may result in failed deals, lower profits, and lost jobs.
Business Conflict Resolution Techniques
Just Do It
Once you’ve recognized that there is a conflict, try to take it on immediately. Else, it could escalate into a crisis and could imply significant negative consequences. But while quick action is certainly in order, make sure not to jump into it recklessly without careful consideration, as it can have even mote adverse results. Get to the root of the issue, analyze it and then go ahead.
Doing It Together
Being in a leadership position, you’ll have to meet all the parties involved, separately first to discuss the issue. Let everyone get a chance to speak. This way, you’ll get to hear all sides and get a more holistic, fuller understanding of the problem. Subsequently, having a group meeting to thrash it out may expedite its resolution.
The first and the most important step in resolving a conflict is to just listen to an employee’s problems. Simply listen to all parties concerned to have a complete grasp of the conflict and then look for troubleshooting.
As a leader, you aren’t expected to take sides or express an opinion favoring one person over the other. If you really believe that you find a particular person guilty, access the situation from all angles to find a fair and reasonable solution.
Saying Something Nice
It may sound clichéd but I can’t help reiterating that encouragement and motivation are really powerful motivational tools. I keep reminding my staff of all the successful projects, which involved teamwork to complete. Well, that’s one of the most effective conflict resolution techniques and can make your employees think about the importance of team work.
Finding Good in Others
As I said earlier, encouragement multiplies itself many times when it is given to recognize your employees. Try to give suitable models in such cases because behavior modeling can be risky if there are undesirable elements.
Like a sports coach, a business coach guides a business by enabling it to develop a clear business vision and implementing it to achieve its goals. Business coaching aims at taking a business where it wants it to. The idea of business coaching appluis to all kinds of businesses- small, local businesses to global companies.
It may surprise you to know that some of the most famous and successful business owners and entrepreneurs have taken recourse to business coaches to help them with their goals. Even Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, took a business coaching course despite being a successful executive
Plentiful online resources are available on building and growing a business, but we need to remember that every business is unique and such plain vanilla advice can hardly match personalized business coaching.
Business coaches are veteran entrepreneurs and business owners who work with business managers and owners to help them define goals, polish their vision and formulate strategies to help the business. We all know that learning from great mentors can be a quick route to success but the logic is often overlooked while running a business. The coach can help navigate the most complex business issues effectively. It’s akin to having a veteran partner with you, who brings immense value to business.
The Job of a Business Coach
Business coaches begin by learning all that they can about your brand, its value propositions, target customers and the challenges it faces. Next, he would like to know about your company vision and goals.
The coach would like to map your expectations – whether you want to have your business turn into a source of income or a billion dollar company. A business coach can also help businesses that have hit a growth plateau and are desirous of taking it to the next level. He will collaborate with you to set attainable business goals that you need to focus on to grow and achieve the vision laid out.
Once the goals are in place, the coach helps you meet them by working with you in devising strategies and action plans to push your business to achieve your goals and help you face the challenges that come up.