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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A Marketing Secret

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” John Quincy Adams

The secret to getting the most out of your marketing plan is to remain patient. It is not as easy as it sounds however, and I have broken this rule many a time in the past. This lack of patience is due largely to the fact that most startup organizations have fairly loosely defined marketing plans. If you allocate $X per year on “marketing” activities, the chances of earning substantial returns on your investment is wishful thinking. Therefore, before beginning any marketing activity please map out your marketing plan in detail and allocate appropriate funds and metrics to the plan. Having a marketing plan is one thing, sticking to what you have charted out is a completely different ball game. 

I would like to clarify a couple of false notions that people have about marketing,

1. Instant Results: One should not expect a TV ad campaign which was screened over the weekend to help achieve quarterly target sales. Marketing is not a magic pill, which will the generate the results you want instantly. It takes time, effort and most importantly consistency to get the results that one is looking for.

2. Marketing is a Cost: I like to treat marketing as an investment, made into your organization. If one treats marketing as a cost, unfortunately it becomes one of the first things to get cut during tough times. Like any investment made in technology, infrastructure or talent, marketing must be treated similarly, to get maximum return on investment.

3. Marketing is not Advertising: I get this one a lot during discussions. A core fact is, advertising is just one tactic which can be used in a total marketing mix. Restricting your perception of marketing solely and totally to advertising will not get the required results .

The secret behind companies who are able to 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 that you send out, ensure you send them out regularly. Once the messages are out there, be patient, results will follow!

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Strategy + Patience = Success

“There is no royal road to anything, one thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.” Josiah Gilbert Holland  

Instant sales, results and profitability seem to be the mantra of today’s marketplace. It seems to be so deeply ingrained into our subconscious, that to think otherwise is blasphemy. However, in this mind blistering tizzy we seem to be losing an important component of the success formula, patience. The sad reality of business is, that instant results are often short lived without adequate planning and strategy. Sure, everyone would like to accelerate the speed of achieving targets. However, we have to keep in check what is on the line for this short term acceleration. Very often we forget to look at the bigger picture, lose patience and ultimately throw in the towel if we do not see the result we want. Is this an optimal strategy? I think not. 

From the onset you have to realize, that the startup route requires long term outlook. Looking for great short terms gains usually results in disappointment and disillusionment. For a long term perspective, we need to develop a strategy accordingly. Many a time during your journey, things will not go as planned. If you fail to adjust your strategy accordingly, growing impatient with the lack of momentum is inevitable. This is a situation that needs to be avoided at all costs, as it can bring your startup to a very abrupt end. 

There are a couple of pointers that help me through tough times when my patience is being severely tested:

1. Take a break: If your startup has been through a couple of challenging quarters, I suggest you take a short break from the routine. A break could be a short holiday, catching up with friends, taking a course or doing some community work. This helps to clear the mind, and see things from a different perspective. It is like hitting the reset button when the base memory is full and slowing everything down.

2. Adjust strategy: This is something I have done repeatedly in some of my past ventures. It requires looking at your current strategy statement, and comparing it with feedback that you have received. Is the market asking for something else? Are we selling to the wrong market segment? Is our market positioning correct? What are our successful competitors doing differently? Take a comprehensive snapshot of where you are and where you want to be. Is there a disconnect somewhere? If you find a gap, adjust your strategy to make sure you fill it.

3. Accepting change: Lets face it, if you have spent the last year building an organization which has not gathered the momentum you expected, changing your strategy is going to be a challenge. Talk things over with your team, investors and mentors. Make sure everyone on the team buys into a new direction. You may lose key people at this juncture, this is unfortunate, but something you must take in your stride and remain focused on the end goal.

4. Analyze yourself: It is during tough times that the true character of individuals is revealed. Take this opportunity to see and gauge how you manage your actions and emotions at this time. Are you more vocal? Do you participate less in discussions? How does your mood affect the rest of the team? In the end you can only take responsibility for your attitude. Make sure that it is not negatively affecting everyone around you.

5. Asking for feedback: Get feedback from your clients, distributors, suppliers, mentors, investors, friends and family. Receiving feedback from a diverse group of individuals will help you see the forest for the trees. I find this process rejuvenating as I get affirmation for what I am doing, it also helps me look at situations from different angles. 

Instant success for entrepreneurial startups are rare anomalies. If you plan to embark on this journey make sure you realize that it is for the long haul. It will require you to remain committed to your strategy, and constantly keep adapting it to what the market wants. As an entrepreneur you can never find yourself standing still, if you do, losing your patience will be inevitable.

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How patient are you?

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” Robert H. Schuller

If you ever want to test your threshold for patience, I suggest starting or joining a startup venture. During the last couple of years my threshold for this has been tested time and time again. I have made some rash decisions in the past, looking back, one of the major factors behind them was largely, a lack of patience. We live in a society where instant gratification is expected in most situations. As the human race continues it’s progress, tolerance for patience is being withered away consistently. Although on one hand, our lives have definitely become easier, on the other, the utility gained from all our comforts is diminishing at an exponential rate. Bringing balance into this equation is critical at this juncture of time. As an entrepreneur, your success, may very well depend on it.

Patience, unfortunately, is not something which can be learned over the weekend. The only way to increase your threshold for this, is with time and experience. As an entrepreneur, your patience will often be sorely tested in one form or the other. For example, your marketing plan is not returning the numbers you expected in the first quarter; a customer has not responded to your proposal for over 2 months; an employee is not being able to keep up with the rest. How we react to these situations will determine our patience threshold. I believe your threshold of patience, is directly correlated with your probability of success. 

One fundamental difference I would like to point out here is, patience requires you to proactively adapt to your circumstances. For example, if you need to open a door and the key you have is not the correct one, no matter how many attempts you make with that key, the door will not open. Remaining patient and expecting the result to change miraculously over time is not a wise strategy. One needs to constantly adapt to the situation at hand and find alternative solutions. Over the course of this week, I will discuss some areas where my patience has been tested as an entrepreneur, and the lessons I have learnt along the way. 

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