If I set out to tell you the story of my life, there isn’t much – and yet, a whole lot! I’ve only been up and around for about 4 years, a happy ignorant high school teenager before that. I have yet experienced more in these four years than most people do in all of their lives.
About 36 months ago, I decided to drop out of college, and pursue a career in business. Looking back at the spontaneity of the entire thing, I am surprised I managed to make it so far, quite literally. The entire thing happened in less than 3 days, after I realised I couldn’t care less about education system we have in India. I did not have a business plan, a company name, domain, partner, funding, idea or a network. I was just a college student, excited about getting on with exploring the world, and making my mark there.
Because I was already freelancing as a web developer, an IT services business was naturally the easiest direction to head in. I remember this time as around September of the year. By March next year, we were about 15 people, serving about 20 different clients. During that time, and after, when people asked how I managed to make it all work, the only answer I had was quoting Steve Jobs –
And I truly believed in it. I could see no other way of making it happen. No number of courses or money, or any other such factor would have made it the right time to start. And ever since, I have held on to this as the core emotion that drives me. I find goals that excite me, and I dedicate every molecule in my body towards achieving this goal.
Cut a long story short, and skip a year and some, and I leave my company ( after an acquisition ), and move on to building my second. It has been a year and half since I’ve started on this venture, and the new quote that I think aptly describes this phase of my life is from Elon Musk –
When you’re building a company, you shall always have the usual list of problems the internet accurately lists out for you – but here are some things I did not anticipate, and took significant strength.
You will need significant emotional strength.
As you move through months building your company, you shall come across big and small successes, and a lot of failures. You will come across demotivating meetings, and often instances that make you reconsider your choices and decisions. It is easy to want to give up during this time, or lose faith – in yourself and your business. While most people would tell you to fight it, and remember to stay focused, and hustle, hustle, hustle, I think it is important to let experience these phases as well. For some time now, if I have a demotivating day, or week – I let these emotions wash over myself, and allow myself a slow relaxed week. I’ve learnt that it is okay to not be at the top of your game 100% of the time, and to be demotivated / sad some of the time.
Like these instances and people you come across who give you the low phases, you’re very likely to come across events that make you feel better too – and I use them as my motivation tickets, driving energy from them to keep going, keep building. You have to remember you’re going to be here for a long time, and you best allow yourself some down time when your mind needs some.
You will need friends.
Entrepreneurship calls for your time with the business every waking hour you spend out of bed, all of your weekends, and vacations. For the first few years, you can expect to give up on all leisures of life – it might have been different for a lot of people, but the experience has been similar with most colleagues I have. ( Don’t worry – it isn’t very difficult when you love your work. ) With this schedule, it is easy to fall out of touch with your social life, and forget to spend time with your friends and family.
You are going to want to make serious commitments to paying just as much as attention to your personal life as you do to your work life, because the later shall quickly start to feel like a weight without enough energy from the first. There are going to be some pretty dark times, and you’ll want to have a strong FnF network that you can rely on during these times for help and love.
You will also want to make friends within the business, and it is always a lot easier to be building a business if you have a partner. Make good, strong relationships with everyone you come across, and not just for the sake of business – but with genuine intentions to start friendship. Your clients, employees, business leads, clients and fellow entrepreneurs can all be friends – life is easier when you have a team.
You will need mentors.
Most start ups will die because of mistakes made from the one bucket of common errors – about 90% of them. These include bad financial management, hiring errors, product errors, marketing errors, etc. I believe they can be easily avoided, but can also be easily forgotten about when you’re busy hustling. You will want to find and work with a mentor that you can connect with, someone you can rely on for advice and support for the next few years. Most accelerators will give you a mentor, but it is almost always better to have someone you have a personal relationship with, and someone you look up to and respect. You might come across such a person as you fly through meetings and introductions, keep an eye open and don’t be afraid to ask!
Your network of mentors will come in really handy when you’re going through a difficult phase, and you will!
You will make mistakes.
My post comes at a time where I am in a dark spot myself, and miss these things – these are lessons that I have learnt from my mistakes, and am going to work to fix in the coming weeks. It is important to remember that you will err, and while it is important to forgive yourself, it is equally import to learn, stay focussed, and work towards eliminating the same errors from haltering your stride to success again. Every mistake you make is a lesson, one you couldn’t have learnt otherwise – not in school, and a strength added to your personality. Every time you err and correct yourself, you’re better poised to take your venture to success, and a little more capable.
Make mistakes – keep them inexpensive, learn from them, and move on.