Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

5 Steps to Patience

“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience.” Anonymous

When we read about the lives of great men and women, we find a common thread in their stories. That thread is patience. In today’s day and age of instant gratification, patience levels are at a steep decline. Too many people are moving too fast, too soon. Their lives are checkered with dissatisfaction and frustration. Lack of patience has a definite impact on the entrepreneurial journey as well. If wanting it all yesterday is a priority, this path does not have what you are looking for. Patience is a virtue which cannot be learned through text books or courses, it is acquired through experience. We are all constantly placed in situations where our patience is tested, the manner in which we choose to react to these situations, determines our patience tolerance level.

Listed below are five steps to understanding situations where patience is tested, and sequential consequences if patience is not exercised:

1. Strategic Indecision: Instant success for entrepreneurial start-ups is a rare anomaly. If you embark on this journey, make sure you realize it is for the long haul. It will require remaining committed to your strategy, and to constantly adapt it to market demands. Inability to adapt and change will give rise to growing impatience which will impact negatively on your business. To read more about patience and strategic indecision please click here.

2. Marketing Results: The secret behind companies who market themselves successfully, is patience. Once they formulate a strategy, they remain committed to carrying it out to the end. Do your best to remain consistent in the messages you send out and ensure you send them out regularly. Once the messages are out there, be patient, results will follow, in time! To learn more about marketing and patience please click here.

3. Handling Customers: Prospects and customers have an uncanny ability for getting under your skin, often driving you close to insanity. It is important to learn to keep one’s composure when dealing with difficult customers. There are several strategies which can be employed to help relieve some of the frustration, these include correct identification of prospects, using CRM software and having disqualification processes. To learn in greater detail about customer handling strategies please click here.

4. Employees: Managing employees effectively requires great levels of patience. They can be a handful, specially when the organization is growing rapidly and micro management is not an option. To help develop  patience levels for this, learning to set realistic expectations and providing continuous feedback is vital. To learn in greater detail strategies for management of employees please click here.

5. PRICE of Impatience: The price of impatience is, pain, regret, irritation, close-mindedness and becoming emotional. Each one of these can have a defining impact on your business, team and relationships. By not developing adequate tolerance levels to handle the complexities of business, reaching one’s goal can be a challenging process. It is important we learn to ask ourselves “Can I afford the price of my impatience?”. To learn more about the price of impatience please click here.

Developing a high threshold of patience, helps make the difficult challenges we face daily, more manageable. It enables us to enjoy life in a more fulfilling and satisfied manner, which in turn helps us to go on to achieve great things. Everyone will have moments, when lack of patience gets the better of them, keeping these incidents to a minimum, and being vigilant and pro-active about such lapses is essential. It is only when we become aware of patience thresholds, can we work to keep increasing them.

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The Price of Impatience

“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster.  One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” Chinese Proverb

This week we discussed several scenarios where patience is tested on the entrepreneurial journey. For the last post of this series I will focus on the ‘price’ we pay for lack of patience. Understanding the price of impatience is as important as developing patience. All of us have experienced instances where our patience gave way, and we did or said things which impacted negatively on our life and caused regret. What is important, is that we learn from these temporary lapses and ensure they do not occur again. If we don’t, we run the risk of always being angry, upset and dissatisfied with the progress of our growth. 

Outlined below is what I define the PRICE of impatience to be:

1. Pain: Whenever we lose patience, we cause pain to both affected parties. Often, this is embedded in our subconscious and a recall of that memory, can be a painful experience. There are times when a degree of pain helps us realize all that we should be grateful for. Too much pain however, can be the cause of major instability in life.

2. Regret: Sometimes during lapses of patience, we find ourselves doing and saying things, we would never do ordinarily. It all happens so quickly, and we only begin to understand its impact after everything is said and done. That is when the regret sets in, and if we fail to move forward at this point, it has a domino effect on the self. Regret about something which happened in the past is definitive only by the lesson we learn from it, we must learn to avoid acting in a similar manner again.

3. Irritation: Patience and irritation are negatively correlated, when patience is on the decrease we experience a heightened level of irritation. Nothing and nobody seems to be right anymore. It is like a virus that drains energy out of a team. We have to keep this emotion in check constantly when we are running low on patience, it is one of the easiest ones to give into. 

4. Close-minded: When we lose patience, it is like a switch goes off and blocks everything around us. We become increasingly selfish in our outlook and begin to believe that only we know how to do anything right. This is a dangerous path to tread, the price we pay for this attitude is a serious one. 

5. Emotional: We lose our patience and suddenly, all logic and rationale goes out the window and we find ourselves making emotional decisions. These are usually clouded with the false notion that we know best. This also triggers our saying and doing things that have the ability to cause pain and suffering to those around us. Is a lapse in patience really worth destroying something you may have spent a lifetime nurturing? 

Whenever you find yourself in a position where your patience is wearing thin, ask yourself the following question: “Can I afford the price of my impatience?”. It is important to take into account the larger picture. If we do not, our outlook will remain selfishly restricted to me, myself and I. Is it really worth it?

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Employees and Patience

“The five steps in teaching an employee new skills are preparation, explanation, showing, observation and supervision.” Bruce Barton

Two characteristics often found in entrepreneurs is, the need for perfectionism and control. When teams are small, this works to their advantage, however, when business expands, these characteristics tend to be more disruptive by nature. For example, when the business starts to grow, it is inevitable that more resources will need to be hired to keep up with growth. The selection process itself is a difficult process for start-ups with limited experience. The real fun begins when you have these new resources on board and most of the time, they don’t know what they signed up for. Earlier on, I expected the same work ethic, dedication and sacrifices from them as I did of myself. That didn’t go so well, I soon found myself getting impatient as I had set unrealistic expectations. My perception of the scenario was biased, in the process I lost many good people. I learned a thing a two about patience during this time.

Some of the key things to keep in mind next time you feel your patience wearing thin are:

1. Set Realistic Expectations: To expect the people who work for you, to make the same level of sacrifices that you may be making is not correct. From the word go, we have to temper our expectations and more importantly, outline them before you start the selection process. This way, while recruiting there will be more detail, which will help the prospect to make a more informed decision. Keeping broad guidelines for what you want from an employee, will result in both sides being negatively effected.

2. Holding Hands: The on-boarding process takes time, this is the time to help the employee make necessary adjustments to fit into the organization. Bring them up to speed with the projects they will be working on and acquaint them with all the set processes. It takes an average of 1-2 months to bring an employee up to speed, till they start contributing to their potential. Make sure you help them as much as possible to speed up the process.

3. Feedback: We are all human and we all make mistakes sometimes. Instead of coming down hard on an employee regarding their work ethic, performance or behavior, provide feedback on steps to take to bring about positive change. Doing this effectively takes time and a lot of patience. Even when they mess up the proposal, don’t do a good job at that presentation or keep coming late to work, provide them with timely feedback. 

These are simple steps to take, to help become more patient with your employees. Incorporate them into your organization and see increased performance results, calmer working environment and a motivated workforce. Along the way, you will develop the patience required, to scale the business further and help manage people all over the globe. Remember, it is not possible to do everything ourself. Learn to sacrifice a little bit of that perfectionism and control, it will go a long way, in the larger scheme of things. 

Related Articles:

5 Steps to Hiring Better

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Are customers testing your patience?

“You can’t just ask customers what they want then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” Steve Jobs

Prospects and customers have an uncanny ability of getting under your skin, often driving you close to the verge of insanity. It all begins when you begin to identify potential prospects for your target segment. Those first couple of cold calls, emails and introductions set the wheels of the sales cycle into motion. Then it begins, the non responses, the transferring of your calls all over the company, being on hold for ages and even some rude responses. At this level you need to be somewhat thick skinned, you should then not have a problem getting through this stage with a list of higher probability prospects. It is during the next couple of stages when you have initial meetings, send proposals and quotations that your patience really begins to get tested. This stage differentiates the sales people who succeed, and those who just get by.

Over the last couple of years some tips that helped me during this period are:

1. Prospect Selection: In today’s market place, no one really cares for the generalist anymore. It is slowly becoming a market where niche specialists have a marked competitive advantage. I would therefore suggest you tailor your sales strategy to focus on a particular market segment and cover it extensively. If your prospect list selection covers any and everybody the number of mild leads will drive you insane. Be selective and choose your segment wisely. Next build a prospect list specific to that segment and start to make inroads.

2. CRM Software: If you are not using one for your sales development and pipeline monitoring, I would strongly suggest you look into one for your organization. If you haven’t used CRM software before, start by using simple systems such as the ones available at 37signals.com. These help tremendously in making correspondence with prospects structured, efficient and professional. It also allows you to get a dashboard view of what is moving in your pipeline and what is not.

3. Disqualification: Customers who are not interested or ready for your product/service at the present moment should be disqualified from your list. These are clients who gather information from you, and then become dormant. I suggest you develop certain time quotas, after which, if the prospect does not respond they should be disqualified from your qualification process. If this step is not done it will drain a lot of your time without necessary results. 

4. Contracts: Once you have signed up a customer for your product/service, make sure you sign comprehensive contracts with them, these must cover exactly what you will be delivering to them. Failure to do this will result in some customers asking for more than promised and you will find yourself in a difficult position. There are few things more irritating than a customer who continues to ask for changes, reviews and modifications during the delivery process. 

I don’t completely agree with the statement that “the customer is always right”. There are some situations when you will have to draw the line. Difficult customers end up costing the organization a great deal. They increase the level of frustration within the team and decrease morale. Constantly review your prospect and customer list, I use a rating system in some of the companies I work with. This lets the entire team know which customers get priority over others. Focus your energy on those leads and customers where you have the greatest ability to cross sell and develop deep relationships with.

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5 Essential Facts about Revenue

“A computer can tell you down to the last dime what you’ve sold. But it can never tell you how much you could have sold.” Sam Walton

An organization can have a great product and a great team, without any revenue however, they have very little. Revenue is the life blood of any enterprise; it fuels growth, motivation and success. Every organization strives to develop perfect products/services, most of the time however, they are developed with inadequate attention to revenue streams. What follows are shattered dreams and expectations, because a business without solid recurring revenue streams has nothing to stand on. Over the course of this week I have shared some basic facts with you regarding revenue streams, I have re-capped briefly below:

1. Revenue & Business Models: If you are writing a business plan or, are in a new startup venture, identify your revenue streams as clearly as possible, and understand what resources need to be put into place to realize their true potential. The future of your organizations rests upon these strategic initiatives. The business model must be based on sound revenue streams in order to succeed. To learn more about revenue and business models please click here.

2. Revenue & Market Segmentation: Once identification of a business model has been made, correct mapping of its target market is essential. Having a strategy to aim a product/service at ambiguous market segments results in spreading yourself too thin, especially when resources are tight. Market positioning of products is of paramount importance for successfully generating revenue at a quicker pace. To learn more about revenue and market segmentation please click here.

3. Revenue & Investment: Investing in correct revenue streams can be the difference between an organization that succeeds and one which does not. It is critical that metrics are put into place to ensure that all revenue streams are closely measured. This will lead to informed decisions on whether it makes financial sense to continue investing in a particular revenue or to focus energies on another stream to ensure that financial stability is maintained. To learn more about revenue and investment please click here.

4. Revenue & Change: Our world is in a constant state of flux. We are living through a time where we need to become adept at forecasting as also adapting to changes taking place. This principle applies to all aspects of our lives, in the business sense, it has far reaching implications. We have to avoid becoming rigid at all costs to maintain a competitive direction in the global market place. Failure to do so will result in an inevitable downslide of your organization. To learn more about revenue and change please click here.

5. Revenue & Metrics: Metrics are mandatory components of any successful business. Measuring your revenue streams is essential as you need to be aware of the growth rate of your streams, how quickly your pipeline is being converted, what sort of market share you hold and how the industry you operate in, is changing. Such metrics provide information that will allow you to make informed choices. To learn more about revenue and metrics please click here.

In todays day and age there are a plethora of startups which have no clear business model, some are purely developed attractive acquisitions while others wait to see how they develop. My advice is, go in with a plan on making money from day one if you want to build a strong and well founded organization. When developing your streams ensure that you cater to each level of your market segment and create opportunities for scalability and cross selling. Doing so will put you in a favorable position to succeed. 

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Metrics for Revenue Streams

Every company has metrics that track performance. The key question is whether these metrics really provide visibility to performance as viewed by the customer.” Steve Matthesen

Working at a startup, there are always a host of things which need to get done. It is a constant battle with time to stay on track and achieve goals and targets. In the midst of this daily commotion, we are inundated with information from all sides. To keep abreast of all these developments, it is essential to develop a system which provides dashboard views about current standings. This is where metrics come into play. They need to be incorporated into every major business function to provide real-time statistics and keep the focus in the right direction.

The metrics for revenue streams used at some of the organizations that I work with, range from being very simple to relatively complex depending on the nature of the business. I have experienced that there are a few metrics which need more focus than others where revenue is concerned. They are:

1. Revenue Stream Growth: This metric provides data regarding development of each stream of revenue by quarter. It involves data which includes percentage growth numbers, pipeline activity and deal closures. These figures provide detail analysis on streams that are growing at a faster pace than others, the stages of revenue facing plateaus and how projected business is forecast in the coming quarters for each stream. 

2. ROI on Revenue Streams: It is one thing to have an extremely high turnover and a completely different story when that is not being converted into bottom line results. This metric provides data regarding the profitability of each segment and a break-down of investment into the stream, as well as marketing costs and cost of goods/services. Constant vigilance helps regarding which streams need to be promoted and which need to be ceased. 

3. Market Share & Industry Analytics: This metric keeps track of current growth trends in the industry the organization operates in. It constantly updates data regarding major changes on competition, government policies, economics climate and company position. This requires constant study to stay current with the rapid changes taking place. 

While keeping all the metrics in mind make sure that you take time out to compare them with related metrics to customers, vendors, suppliers and distributors. This will ensure a complete picture of the current situation. At an early stage startup, complicated metrics are not necessary, what is required however, is the ability to put these metrics into practice at basic levels. This will ensure that the position and development of the company is dealt with more effectively.

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Change and Revenue Streams

“The key to success is often the ability to adapt” Anonymous

Our world is in a constant state of flux. We are living through a time where we need to become adept at forecasting as also adapting to changes taking place. This principle applies to all aspects of our lives, in the business sense, it has far reaching implications. This story has been heard time and time again, companies become complacent and rigid about rapid changes taking place and soon find themselves compromised. A story, very much in the news these days is, Yahoo!. This company once dominated web search. Today, it finds itself in a messy situation involving corporate raiders and hostile takeovers. What went wrong?

Yahoo! pioneers and leaders of web search throughout the 90’s became complacent about changes taking place in their domain space. A new entry startup called google started to develop traction. Before you knew it, they became a formidable player in the search market. Yahoo! failed to adapt to this change and continued diversifying their business model into new markets. They failed to defend their primary revenue stream, including a missed opportunity to buy-out google for $3b. This is an example of how the pace of change can turn positions in a matter of years, even for such a large firm. However, this is not the first story of its kind, nor the last, these mistakes take place on a daily basis.

If your organization has developed revenue streams which have potential of exponentially increasing over the years, it is your foremost responsibility to protect fiercely. This is done by continuous improvement of the processes, as well as developing complementary assets as barriers around that stream. If done diligently, you will be able to protect yourself from inevitable complacency, which could lead to an unfortunate outcome. On the flip side if you are struggling with your current revenue streams and not being able to develop them further, pay close attention to changes occurring around you. If you are promoting a product/service which has no place in the current market, you need to rethink strategy, and, as soon as possible.

Incorporating systems to account for changes in domain, industry, economics climate and external factors is critical to success. Make sure you have them in place to avoid trouble !

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Investment and Revenue Streams

“Sometimes the best investments are the ones you don’t make.” Donald Trump

Multiple revenue streams are extremely valuable assets for any business. Each revenue stream has to be positioned to address certain components of the overall strategy. Every revenue stream is not created equally, some are based on low margin and fast moving products/services while others facilitate growth of higher end products/services. The key factor to be addressed here is not only the creation of renewable revenue sources positioned for the right markets, but also correct investment into these streams. 

For example, if your business currently provides you three streams of revenue, you need to have certain measures in place to gauge the level of growth of each stream. These metrics will provide you critical data to measure which streams have the potential of exploding, as compared to others whose growth is relatively stunted. Without these metrics, we could make a fatal error of investing in wrong revenue streams which could have negative impact on the overall bottom line. Concentrating your investments on the right revenue streams is a strategy used by all successful companies. 

In my personal experience, one of the most telling signs of focusing on wrong revenue streams, is near the end of the quarter when the entire team has to push itself ridiculously hard to reach set targets. If this happens in a consistent fashion, quarter after quarter, you could be backing the wrong stream and costing the organization dearly. Develop flags for each of your streams and when things seem to be going off course consistently, look into revenue streams rather than blaming the economy or your team.

Are you investing in the correct revenue streams?

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Revenue and Market Segmentation

“The perfect business model must have a way to build in its own high-margin products that can be sold while processing reliable renewable revenue streams at any margin.” Mitch Thrower

 Once identification of a business model has been made, correct mapping of its target market is essential. Having a strategy to aim a product/service at ambiguous market segments results in spreading yourself too thin, especially when resources are tight. Market positioning of products is of paramount importance for successfully generating revenue at a quicker pace. For example, I was consulting with a startup organization who is launching a business in the mobile social networking area . They have specifically developed a service for the 15-21 age range, exclusively for the Chinese market. Even though the market is exploding for mobile usage in China, by selecting a niche segment they can become a much stronger adversary to competition.

It is only after a market segment has been selected , a niche market to operate in identified, that you have to develop revenue strategies. These strategies can be aimed at capturing multiple subsets within your market segment. For example many online service providers give you multiple options to sign up for their service. At one my companies we use Highrise(CRM tool) which allows you to sign up either as a single user, small medium enterprise (SME) or a full fledged enterprise implementation. This strategy gives them the capability to develop revenue streams faster, at multiple levels. Ultimately this provides the company with growth, stability and flexibility to adapt itself to changes in economic situations.

The example mentioned above shows a company which has not selected any clear market segment to promote its products in. Many SMEs find them a more cost effective alternative to other such CRM tools. Positioning a product for mass market appeal is a strategy which I have not used extensively in any of my ventures. It is a harder process and one, I think, you could grow into rather than jumping into the deep end for it. For every facebook, google or amazon there are thousands of similar services which never got similar traction. Correct market segmentation provides you with structured direction and enables you to develop specific competencies. These can result in major competitive advantages in the long run. 

When developing your Go To Market strategy, paying attention to niche markets and building multiple level revenue streams around it, could become your winning strategy. 

 

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5 Steps to Manage Startup Risk

“I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts.” Albert Einstein

In the first post of this series, I added a video which stated life = risk. If we shield ourselves from all sorts of risks by staying in our small comfort zone we will not be living life fully. It is our perrogative to find a balance to ensure that we live life to its fullest. The points below relate how to find that balance when starting a business.

1. Market Risk: Our world is in a constant state of flux and with mind boggling technological advancements taking place, we have to be constantly aware of the changes taking place around us. This requires us to monitor our competitors, be in touch with our customers and suppliers, and watch for trends which could potentially make your business extinct. To read more about how to manage market risk please click here.

2. Operational Failure: All companies operate on a set of processes. These processes drive all avenues of business, ranging from Internal operations, business development, sales, marketing and execution to name a few critical functions. When these processes are not optimized or closely scrutinized a business will not be able to scale effectively and reach its target goals. To read more about how you can avoid operational failure please click here.

3. Financial Risk: Without financial controls a business loses its foundation and is on shaky grounds even when the company is making steady profits. Ensuring that you have sound and reliable financial controls in place will allow you to minimize your exposure to financial risks and allow your business to grow more effectively. To read about how you can add financial controls to your startup please click here.

4. The People Risk Factor: You hear it all the time, “Our people are our most important asset”. Its like a mantra that has been wedged into our sub conscious and is constantly repeated from board meetings to your daily staff meetings. However, I am always surprised that though this is such an important asset, very few steps and measures are taken to mitigate the risk associated with this asset. To read more about how you can add effective control measures to mitigate these risks please click here.

5. Lessons in Risk: Having been in this line of work for some time now there have been several risk factors which I have witnessed or experienced first hand. These cover the time you should start, what the risks of starting without a plan are and the kind of risks you have to deal with on a daily basis. To read more about these lessons please click here.

In life and business, if you stop taking calculated risks, or if you let doubt  paralyze you, moving forward becomes close to impossible. It is only when you make mistakes that you learn from them and eventually move forward. Along the way we have to manage the types of risk faced and ensure that we take precautionary measures to avoid risking it all if we do not know where we are headed. Once you know what you want and how you want to get it, take action , because thinking ‘what if’ is just about the worst thing you could do to yourself!

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