If you are an entrepreneur

You will not be reaching out to people and programs to find out if you are one. You will simply begin acting on opportunities. Once you realise you need to grind your axe, you will then find the right people and programs to support you.

The one who searches for programs to attempt becoming one will probably never become one. The one who becomes will naturally gravitate towards the right people he or she needs to become even more successful.

Entrepreneurship education must look at contributing at all levels:

  • Providing inspiration
  • Providing tools and techniques to start
  • Providing methods to sustain
  • Providing approaches to scale

Entrepreneurship research is growing leaps and bounds. Sadly, much of this research remains hidden from entrepreneurs. This I believe is due to the entrepreneurship educators who do not soak themselves in the literature before delivering their classes.

If you are an entrepreneur and wish to hone your entrepreneurial skills, then search for the right program and constantly evaluate the value of your skills – are you improving and in effect, is your enterprise growing? If yes, continue, else quit and find the next person or program.

Good Luck with your entrepreneuring!

How are you finding opportunities?

Having been involved in ‘entrepreneurship education’ for close to a decade, I can tell you one thing — the weakest part of any entrepreneurship program is the ‘opportunity’ piece. Let me illustrate with a recent experience.

I met up with a few students who had undergone a complete year of entrepreneurship education. They had to do a two month market research on a product / service and write up a report. Based on the discussions with their faculty, they narrowed upon two ideas: (i) food distribution and (ii) nutrition bars. After worrying about how to go about doing a market research, they walked up to me (not sure why!), and asked ‘Sir, can you help us choose one of the two ideas?’ I did what I normally do – asked how they arrived at these two ideas / opportunities? They said many things but ultimately accepted that it was through ‘imagination’. So what they basically now wanted to do was ‘validate’ (which meant) ‘prove’ that their idea / opportunity was worth creating a business on. I spent the next 30 minutes explaining to them why this was wholly wrong. The surprising part – the two kids quickly latched on the idea of searching for opportunities, rather than spending two months validating one. My belief that students are really smart was proven once again.

How do you (aspiring entrepreneurs) find opportunities?

Opportunities can be either created or discovered. Discovery means going out to the world and identifying gaps. Creation means coming up with a need/want that is not yet felt. As an entrepreneur you got to choose which route you wish to take to finding opportunities. My rule of thumb is – if you are trying to figure out which route, take ‘discovery’.

Discovering opportunities means finding out gaps. The easiest ways to begin is to start out by identifying gaps in the industry side or the market side. On the industry side one can quickly draw out the value chain and start looking at ways to fill / improve / disrupt / etc what exists. On the market side, one can identify which needs are not fulfilled, which are underserved, and what can be better delivered. While none of these are exhaustive ways to locating opportunities, it is a good beginning.

My advice to these students was – identify a sector of your choice (interest); look at it deeply from either the industry side and/or market side; use all available secondary information first; identify and speak to at least 30 people involved in the sector; analyse all the information; and create a list of 25 hot opportunities in the sector. Create the report.

Do you think they will have spent their summer usefully?

Do you think they will have located more opportunities than they knew off before?

Do you think this is a better way to deliver entrepreneurship education than quickly fixing the idea and evaluating / validating it?

Share you thoughts! It matters!

Vedantic Wednesday: Attachment, the formidable foe

While Vedanta proclaims that attachments stop us from evolution andgirl-hugs-bear attaining state of god hood, attachments impact us significantly even in our worldly pursuits. Like a toy car that has to be pulled back and released to move forward, we need to move back, let go to scale greater heights.

A lot of companies spend time and money in generating products and ideas. Apart from the resources spent, a lot of executive time and emotional energy is also invested. Even when the product displays little chances of success the company is not willing to let go. It holds on under the pretext of salvaging sunk cost. But what is it that is making them hold on to a non-revenue generating asset? What is making them stick to decisions that are so obviously wrong? Isn’t it an underlying emotional attachment – to the product, to their earlier decision, to their own image?

Attachment also comes in the way of individual achievements. Very often under the guise of commitment and attachment we do not take steps required for us to move towards our set goals.  But the constant thought of the missed achievement creates an underlying feeling of compromised living. For the choice we have made is not based on our intellectual assessment of our situation, priorities and goals. It is a choice taken in an emotional state – born out of a misplaced sense of attachment.  And because it is not a well thought decision, it haunts us and makes us feel incomplete, frustrated, suffocated and chained.

This is also the reason why you find entrepreneurs starting off by taking large risks but very quickly settling down with reduced entrepreneurial spirit to safeguard their worldly success. Only those who are willing to risk all that they have created in the past, scale greater heights.

In simpler terms attachment is the sense of safety of the past. We feel attached to what we have seen, what we have, what we have gained and what we have achieved. When we get too attached, we fail to see the possibilities that exist in front of us for the fear of losing the objects of our attachment.

Even if we don’t  go all the way in understanding attachment from the view point of Vedanta, lets us take a small step to understand the way it affects us at the worldly level!

Interesting Links This Week: 25-Aug-2013

Are you sleeping less than needed? Are you having drowsy days? Are you taking too much caffeine to keep you sleep-picture-2awake? Here are 7 habits for entrepreneurs to pick that can help get a good night’s sleep. It is so much a part of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Link: http://bit.ly/13SLf5j

Getting emails read is only getting tougher! With the increasing number of senders people find it easy to disconnect with emails rather than connect. Think about it! But emails still represent a strong way to reach people and connect with them – how is the question? Here are a few (not really) that can help you get better open rates for your mails. Link: http://bit.ly/11YUhMT

Who said money cannot buy everything? Here is a reasearch that says how you can use money to buy happiness. The video is really interesting http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7321.html

Opportunities Or Distractions

For most entrepreneurs sensing opportunities is a very natural trait. They are usually chronic ideators too. The levels of Distractionenthusiasm and intrinsic motivation that drives them pushes them to see how they can capitalize on every idea or opportunity so as to grow their business. While this may seem as very entrepreneurial in the beginning, this in my humble opinion is the biggest self destructive habit prevalent among entrepreneurs. The reason why such a powerful trait turns negative is due to the lack of focus.

Focus is what helps entrepreneurs separate opportunities from distractions for their enterprises. But practicing focus requires extreme discipline. If entrepreneurs work on strategy formulation, ‘what to focus’ is a definitive outcome. Armed with this clarity on what to focus the entrepreneurs will be able to say NO to highly luring  distractions that presents themselves as opportunities.

This makes the act of strategy making an important aspect of building enterprises. But today in an SME environment strategy formulation  is conspicuous by its absence!

Start-ups and Experiments

During one of my recent workshops I moderated a small panel discussion in which we had a very senior and experienced entrepreneur in the panel.  His parting advise to the group of young entrepreneurs was “Expect everything to go wrong”Nitrotselluloosi_plahvatus_ehk_peaminister_ennustab_majanduskasvu

Post the panel, I was wondering over what that statement could mean to us and why a senior entrepreneur would share that as his parting words. In a very round about way  what he said just meant “Experiment!”

When a group of people come together with some common expectations and assumptions, and venture into the unknown together, they are called entrepreneurs. There is risk inherent in the expectations and by nature assumptions are anyways risks. Hence Startups are basically experiments.

When you start an experiment you don’t have specific expectations in mind. You normally tend to have broad directions and hope to be surprised. As you keep experimenting anything that arises other than what you know becomes a finding. A moment of surprise. Pursuing these findings unearths the hidden. Finding them gives you wow!

If we look at a startup from this angle, the journey of entrepreneurship could become fun and enjoyable. The moment we try and bring in detailing to our expectations, the surprise does not lead to AHA moments. Anything that deviates from the expectation is seen as a risk. Achieving the expected results is seen as the only yardstick of success.

When you perform an experiment you are curious as to what could be the actual result. When you perform an experiment you are agile to the results of your experiments, adapting, changing and modifying your next attempt. When you perform an experiment you are resilient to the instant of failure, only to experiment again. When you perform an experiment, you are energized by the instant of success only to plod further on.

It is this attitude of experimentation that start-ups must have.  And only this attitude will allow the start-ups to bloom into the next stage.

Interesting Links This Week: 12-May-2013

I dedicate this week’s links to the ‘Healthy Entrepreneur’ or rather  to the  ‘The Health Of An Entrepreneur’: 800px-Sleeping_lion

If you want to do your job – you need to sleep! http://bit.ly/11ZTcl3

To how many of these habits are you a victim? Awareness is the first step. here is the killer seven: http://bit.ly/tGP9O

You have heard it from everyone… now hear it from entrepreneurs on three things that an entrepreneur should practice to stay fit http://bit.ly/RcIkf3