A well-wisher once said ~the first 1000 days for every startup are the most crucial ones. Most stumble and crack within the first 3 years. The trick is to stay buckled, strong for the first 3 years. I am not sure how true this is, and what would be the logical explanation behind this, but the idea pretty much stayed with me.
It has been exactly a year since I started my Entrepreneurship Journey! A few budding women entrepreneurs have been asking me about my journey; that is why this article. Here are my top 6 learning.
1. Develop your Immunity towards Rejection:
The door being shut on your face is by far the most difficult experience of being an entrepreneur. Rejection is almost inevitable for most entrepreneurs and can be awfully soul-crushing (happened to me multiple times). Not reaching out to people/investor due to fear of rejection means you will always miss 100% of the shots you didn’t take. The trick here is to shake it off and rise up as soon as you can. To fail fast and fail often has been working for me, as I took each rejection as learning. Besides, rejections are not to be taken personally. See rejection as a Gift, as each individual rejected for a reason; the quicker you find the reasons the better it gets. Reason can be multiple, for eg. The pitch is off, products don’t seem compelling, the investor not interested in the business sector, product-market fit, time is not right or simply it is not a good day.
Irrespective of the reason, the law of averages definitely works. The more doors you knock the better your chances. And hey woman, you are going be rejected many more times than a man, that’s the way it is. But trust me, this is definitely the best time for women entrepreneur to dream big and take the leap of faith.
2. Stick to your core: Most entrepreneurs (including me) are highly ambitious, which is good in a way, however trying to do too much in too little time can be hazardous for the business. With information outpour and exposure available to us, everyone wants to do everything possible. The key to success is to stick to the core of the business. It can be highly tempting to implement the next idea but hold your horses. The core of the business is your guiding star; it’s your true North. Every time we had an idea, questioning and challenging the idea has been working for us. If the idea was straying us away from the core, we were quick enough to drop it; therefore swearing by the core concept of the business also helps you in decision-making.
3. Listen to your users: As entrepreneurs we are very excited about our products/services, being a woman, this excitement is multifold (pun intended). However, not everyone feels the same about your business. Usually, our excitement blurs our perspective and widens the gap between what customer/users want versus what the product/services offer. Being customer-centric and listening to customers is very rewarding, it can feed into your innovation pipeline, the next feature you want to build, pricing your product, the UX you want to enhance etc. Besides the proof of the pie is what users have to say about you. In my opinion, no amount of research can substitute real-time user feedback. So listen to your users with intent and mindfulness. “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” ―Sam Walton
4. Don’t stalk your competition:
There’s a constant pressure to stay ahead of the pack for us entrepreneurs. It’s kinda freaky every time you find there’s a new kid (business) on the block or if the competition has launched some new features. Most entrepreneurs, in my opinion, suffer from paranoia and are relentlessly stalking their competition so much that in order to be ahead of them they change their own course. And this can lead to wandering away from the business core and USP. While it’s essential to stay updated and informed about the competitors but not to get influenced and change course too soon. “The biggest challenge in business is not the competition, it’s what goes on inside your own head.” – Barbara Corcoran.
P.S. Being anxious is good, it keeps you on your toes as well as think and responds to changes with agility
5. Network. Network. Network. I know this sounds like straight from the movie Dirty picture, but that is how much critical Networking is to business. Spending over 17years in the corporate, interacting with people wasn’t difficult, but I definitely disliked (almost nauseatingly repulsive) networking, but sooner I realized it’s something that stands between a good opportunity, a potential investor or a significant connect.
Woman entrepreneurs mostly tend to shy away from networking in comparison to their male counterparts.
Entrepreneurship is not only about creating a compelling product/service, taking it to the market and booking profit, but it’s definitely more of a personal journey. It requires one to be open to learning and almost reinventing self whenever needed. And it’s not that difficult, all it needs is some smart work. Identify relevant groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and keep yourself updated on the various networking events. Chose the networking events wisely to maximize the outcomes. With the risk of sounding grandmotherish, let me share my 2 cents: Networking is not about how many business cards you collect but how much value do you add in every interaction you make. It is bout GIVE first and then receive. Remember it is not TAKE!
6. Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong — it will:
I think Murphy’s Law finds a perfect hunting ground in entrepreneurship. No matter how much you have tested your product before the launch or going live in case of a web platform, its destined to fail the first fewer times. Numerous nights of market research will still fall short. All your math and cost estimates will heedlessly go down the drain. It can be ruthless and punishing at times watching your hard work bearing not fruits. But as I said earlier entrepreneurship is also your own journey running parallel to your business. Detaching self from every day operational failures and challenges can be helpful. Fail fast and Fail often, but how you respond to each failure will determine the magnitude of success. We women come with a pre-built mental toughness to face adversities. Resilience and persistence are great cousins to hang out with. So keep calm and mind your business!
Contributed By: Lakshmi Sreenivasan