Thursday, February 16, 2012

When not to take advice seriously

Live it to know it
If you are a start-up entrepreneur, you have faced it frequently. Advisors of all hues and shades - well-meaning and otherwise - telling you what to do and how to do. Even when no advice is sought, there will be many who'll not miss out on the opportunity to advise you; there seems to be some kind of a pleasure in trying to show the path to a start-up entrepreneur.

But beware ye Entrepreneur!

If the advisor is not of the same fraternity, discount his words heavily. Do not take them too seriously. And for sure, do not act on such pieces of wisdom immediately. Think hard before you accept any such wisdom as gospel truth.

There are good reasons for my saying so.

Only those who are in the active role of an entrepreneur - especially the start-up ones - face the following realities:

  1. Fear of death : If the business model does not work out, and the revenues do not flow in, it could be sudden death with no second chance in the immediate future. All the dreams, the presentations, the excel-charts vaporise instantly
  2. Fear of growing unprofitable : The business may be pulling in revenues, but the profits may just not be happening, thereby making the mid-term prospects of the venture suspect. No one may be interested in funding you anymore
  3. Fear of losing everything one has : If the business collapses, then a lot of emotional investment that happens in it goes with it too.. sure you become wiser, but the pain is harrowing. A daily dose of "we told you so..." is likely to follow
Only an entrepreneur who has lived through the daily pain (and pleasure) of facing these brutal realities knows how things get done under such pressures.



Only an entrepreneur who has faced the agony of repeatedly trying to convince others of the soundness of his vision (howsoever other-worldly) knows how difficult it can be.

Only an entrepreneur is likely to wake up in dead of night wondering how he is going to pull through the next day - the salaries, bonuses, investments needed - etc.

It is practically impossible for anyone who hasn't lived through this to even remotely begin to contemplate what life can be like in such circumstances. Everything changes - your personal comfort zones vanish, your family life gets redefined, your Sundays and vacations are toast, your kids curse you :), and so on!

I have also found it rather interesting that there are full-fledged courses in entrepreneurship being taught by professors who have never raised any company or organisation. How can they ever grasp the soul of what they're preaching?

As an educated salaried professional, there is always a safety cushion that one can enjoy. Things do not usually go bad beyond a stage. And even if one loses the job, there's a next one to be found. The world never seems to come to an end.

For an entrepreneur, often the world seems to come to an end. And the beauty is that he/she rebuilds it all over again. Steve Jobs is perhaps the best (and extreme) example of this. There are many lesser version of him one can find in regular life.

So when someone advises an entrepreneur on serious issues, always ask : Have you ever faced the daily pangs of life as an entrepreneur yourself? Did you come out of it alive and successful? Did your venture die but you survived to tell the story?

If yes, then the advise probably carries tonnes of value.
If not, take it respectfully and keep it aside. It may be of little survival value.

The only exception to what's said above is perhaps specific technical advice one seeks regarding matters related to regulatory compliances and the like. But that's anyway not entrepreneurial stuff :) And not everyone is an Enron, or Worldcom or Satyam!

Painful truth of life this surely is! But unless you walk the fire, you don't know how it is.


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4 comments:

Abhishek Soni said...

"One who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the one who do" - Steve Jobs

Hello Sir,

That's what the ultimate message for any entrepreneur. And I believe any advice which brings down the motivation level or direct them from their desired goal is misleading.

Thank you for drawing my attention on this topic. Looking forward to hear from you on interesting topics.

Regards,Abhishek Soni (fall'08)

Sarabjeet Singh said...

Dear Sir,

Thank you for sharing some wonderful insights for the budding entrepreneurs.
The pain of a lost venture is really horrible and only a mighty person can survive and succeed in such situation, but unfortunately "the world salutes only the rising sun", so how can a entrepreneur continue his battle? Please share your views about this.
Regards,
Sarabjeet Singh

Aatmik Ahuja said...

Hello sir

As you said that entrepreneurs specially at initial phase experience these confusing , diverting and ambiguous advice's , an entrepreneur should not be stubborn but should always welcome the advice of people and society.An entrepreneur should be mature enough to keep idea that are helpful.Situation like this make an entrepreneur determined and goal oriented.The key to success in entrepreneurship is hard work and patience.And the one who enjoys both will have greater probability of achieving success.
"When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it."-Henry Ford
Regards
Aatmik Ahuja

Hitesh said...

Sir,
You are absolutely right. People are there to give their advice and suggestions to almost everyone they meet. They don't realise that they lack proper knowledge and experience related to the topic at hand. So undeliberately they mislead others. So we should be vigilant when taking suggestions from someone.

I have been the victim several times. So I have learned my lessons. I am really glad that these things happened with me at an early age. I won't be making similar mistakes in future.