For those, who like to read the headlines first, I have listed the top 5 lessons down below to save your time. In case you feel like, do read the explanation too. Who knows, there might be an important lesson in there for you.
- It takes guts to succeed.
- Every problem has a solution.
- Select your team wisely.
- Sticking to a strong code of ethics is always rewarded.
- Never stop learning.
1. It takes guts to succeed
Okay, so you have these starry, lofty dreams in your eyes, about making it big in the business world. Your product is an answer to millions of people’s problem. You have meticulously chalked out the next 10 years of your business plan which will see you a multi-millionaire at the end of the period.
With high hopes and a spring in your step, you begin.
But within 6 months of your starting the business, everything seems to be going wrong! Things that you had not even accounted for, in your brilliant plan, start to happen. The office assistant quits the job for a higher salary elsewhere. And the office peon the next day. And now instead of making sales calls, all your time goes in hiring the new staff. People from the department of fire safety come knocking at your office door, hand you a notice of non-compliance and now you are required to make rounds of their office. In the meantime, the first few customers that you had made with much hard work, threaten to go to your competitor because as yet, you haven’t been able to deliver the goods to them. And that’s not all! Your family is screaming at you for ignoring them. All your friends seem to be having a great time while here you are – reeling under pressure, mentally and physically tired, miserable and frustrated.
This is not an empty lecture. This, exactly, is what happened with my own nascent business.
That’s when I said to myself – “Mukta, welcome to the real world. No guts. No glory. “
Immense inner resilience is required to see your business through the first few years. Innumerable businesses fail in their infancy itself. Don’t let yours be one of them.
2. Every problem has a solution
There’s a key for every lock, answer to every riddle and a solution for every problem. Don’t let the problem defeat you.
Give it proper thought. And don’t be afraid to implement the solution. Some problems require out-of-box thinking.
One of the best-selling products of my company is a speciality release coating. When we first began selling it to the Indian market, it was as a franchisee of a foreign company. Then suddenly, one day, out of the blue, we were informed that the foreign company had been taken over by another giant one, which was discontinuing the manufacture of that release coating. They will no longer be supplying the product to us.
It was a big blow for us. Six years of our blood and sweat, all the hard work that we had put in, in sales and marketing, building a godown and transportation etc, threatened to go down the drain. Not to mention, leaving all our customers, who banked on us for the supply, in lurch!
It was a problem, the solution of which, we were determined to find.
And we did.
We decided to manufacture the speciality release coating, in house.
It was a BIG decision for us – one that required us to dip into a large chunk of our savings. It was a risk; one that we decided to take.
Within a record three months’ time, the product was getting manufactured in our own factory. It wasn’t easy. But hey, who says business is easy? It’s tough. But therein lies the fun. The rewards are equally great.
3. Select your team wisely
First off, be clear about one thing – your ‘one-man-army’ attitude is great. But it can only take you so far.
Michael Jordan, the great basketball player of the US, has said –
“Talent can win games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”
Like everything else in business, building a winning team is hard but necessary. You need people around you who share your vision, your dreams and are willing to walk miles with you come what may.
4. Sticking to a strong code of ethics is always rewarded.
One thing should be absolutely written in stone for your business – Your Code of Ethics.
And this code includes each and every aspect of your business – your staff, clients, vendors, supporting staff, even your janitor.
And no one, NO ONE, including you, yourself, should be allowed to break this code. EVER.
This code of ethics should be clear to every person working in and for your business. It should be printed in hard copy and every person working for you should have it. Several times in my business I’ve been confronted with taking tough decisions because someone, in some department, ‘made a mistake’ and wants a ‘second chance’. At such times, I have often found myself torn between my empathetic nature and my decision to stick to the code of ethics. The latter always wins.
Initially, it may be hard for you. But in the long run, you will find that your policy has reaped rich dividends for you. Life will be more or less hassle-free for you.
5. Never stop learning
Even though I list this at the bottom, it is as important for me as all the other points. Only a foolish person can dare to think that their learning is complete and that they no longer need to learn anything new.
Business is an ever-evolving game.
I consider my business as a living, breathing entity that has a life of its own. In order for it to thrive, newer thinking, newer ideas need to be infused into it. Only then will it continue to grow in a healthy way.
Every day technology is changing. You have to be in-step with it. Take the example of Nokia. What a fantastic company it was; run by fantastic people. Unfortunately, they refused to see the incoming tide; refused to learn anything new. Result? Nokia got wiped out.
As with the business, so also with those running it. You as well as your team, needs to continually be in the learning mode. Keep upgrading your skills and talents. Learn the latest technology and implement it.
This will keep the business forever young, adapting, modernising and flourishing in the process.