As I put my son through kindergarden, I realized that there is some logic to the natural evolution of learning that a human goes through.
A kid spends 2 years in what is called ‘pre school’ before starting regular school and these 2 years are enough to prepare him/her for the tougher academic rigors ahead. Typically learning alphabets, some basic counting, recognising basic shapes and most importantly getting used to dealing with other kids of their age. I call this the A, B, C and D of life (the first 4 steps).
Similarly when you start a company it is the first 24 months (also called the graveyard years as more than 90% of startups collapse during this period) where the basic learning happens (and believe me this is very expensive education). My attempt today would be to try and give a you perspective on what the A, B, C and D of a “startup’s” life are
The A….. Focus on only one thing
Make sure that you are concentrated on achieving ONE objective in this period.
This looks very easy and obvious but you would be amazed to know that it is very difficult to achieve as most people fall victim in trying to do “too many” things in the first few years and with limited resources this is the “best” way to drive a startup to bankruptcy!
Break this objective further into measuring 1–3 metrics. If it is more than 3 then do the homework again and make sure that it doesn’t cross 3.
Put them on the board and look at them everyday and end of the day ask yourself the same question “Did what I do today move me towards my objective or away from it”?
The B……Cultivate the art of “deafness”
Don’t spend too much time with people who tell you that you can’t do it!
Self doubt is the biggest cancer which can ruin an entrepreneurial journey and it is very important that one can effectively block out the “negatives” and concentrate only on the job at hand.
Every single enterprise which today has come to rule the market started as you have started and when they started they were also told the same thing that you are being told now i.e — “ you can’t do it!”
The C… Don’t front load “marketing” costs:
The length of your “stay” at the start up crease is directly proportional to the amount of “mistakes” that you can make during the first 24 months. This in turn is based on the length of your cash flow.
In business you need to be able to “try” new ways to sell/promote/hire to get your product/service across to the market in a quick manner. Unfortunately, every action that you take (specially new and seemingly untested ones) will involve costs/spends and the more of these actions you can take (as some of them would bomb) the faster you will succeed.
This flexibility is completely based on cash flows so take very small steps on spends but make sure that you take them nevertheless and try out new things as NOT trying them is also not an option.
The D... Never think capital can substitute effort or imagination
I have yet to come across a company which failed because lack of capital even though most people end up attributing their lack of success to that.
The ability to think and imagining (a unique gift to every human) is what makes a person succeed in business. Never be afraid of a “well-funded” or “supposedly large” competitor.
In fact, relax, as money always tends to make a business person “complacent” (there are some exceptions to this rule and those are the ones which create institutions which outlive them) and mentally lazy.
The funny part of money is that when one has more than what one needs , especially in the early years of a business, it leads to “over-expansion” or “arrogance in dealing with customers”.
Just keep your focus and keep doing the things that you have kept as your objective/metric. You need to set the agenda and not let someone else set it for you.
Finally (and this is NOT a rule), don’t forget to have fun!!