Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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

Do you think it will work?

“Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk – and to act.” Andre Malraux

Ask any entrepreneur, brainstorming for the next big idea is constantly on their minds. Maybe we can’t help ourselves, many of us have the knack and ability to see opportunity in every direction we look. Not everyone has the ability to look at a picture of total chaos and make economic sense of it. This is a rare gift some of us have, and use to our benefit, to succeed in the business world. Lock yourself in a room with your team on the development of your business, and get ready for the ride of your life. It doesn’t make a difference if the startup is related to technology or agricultural farming, if the brainstorming is too drawn out you will experience a level of frustration to drive a sane person off the edge. 

However there is no getting away from it , discussions held during brainstorming phases are critical. They not only provide the opportunity for everyone in the team to voice their opinions and concerns, they also give you an insight into whether the team is on the same page. Unfortunately there is no plan which is completely fool proof. Even when you have unlimited resources, you still take a risk of not succeeding. Take Iridium as an example, billions of dollars, the most experienced resources on the planet, yet a truly abysmal result.

If you have been part of a startup for any time, chances are high that you are doing something very different from what you initially set out to do. This is a natural progression because we constantly adapt to feedback we receive to develop business models to correctly serve markets needs. We are in a constant state of flux and must be agile enough as a company to understand what aspects of the business are not performing and what needs to be changed. 

In conclusion, the frustration which is generated during initial brainstorming, can easily be averted by taking small shots at what you actually want to do. If you spend too much time calculating every conceivable outcome, you will suffer from an over-planning syndrome. I am not advocating that the next idea that pops into your mind be immediately executed. Take time to understand the dynamics, and keep moving forward, the minute you stand still, is when frustration takes over.

 

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6 Steps to turn ideas into realities

Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.Thomas Edison

Eureka! I haven’t heard someone say that in a long time but I know for a fact, whenever a reasonable idea enters my mind eureka is being echoed through my entire subconscious. Its that spark of hope that you may just have stumbled upon the next big thing. Without the spark we usually run out of gas, like when we reach a critical point whilst developing an idea. The steps which follow have provided me with the hope and inspiration to carry on when things get tough. I hope that they will do the same for you.

1. Passion, Passion, Passion!: If you don’t have this before venturing into the unknown then I would advise on staying put for a while. The journey you are embarking on is a long and difficult one, but highly rewarding. Having the motivation to get up after you fall countless times is essential. In my experience that only comes with this absolute burning passion to succeed, to prove the naysayers wrong, to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to win and most importantly a passion for life. As cliched as that last sentence may sound please make sure you have this quality in you before taking your idea any further. To read more please click here.

2. Find the people who care about your idea: Ask yourself the question “Would anyone care about what we are wanting to do?”. From experience this initial market research for your idea is the key , the reality check for the space you are wanting to venture in. A simple test would be to google your idea. You will be amazed as to how many people may be building or have built complete businesses around your concept. This will provide you with key information on how to move forward and in what way you could fulfill this need in the market place with your concept. To read more please click here.

3. The ABC of business begins with an N: The N represents the customer and/or market need. After your preliminary research, you will now reach a critical stage in which you will have to put down a lot of your ideas and research in writing. The NABC approach provides a framework for doing that in an extremely effective manner. It has become my default evaluation model. Once we identify the need we can move on to A where we talk about how we will approach the market. After which we reach B where we will document all the benefits vs costs for our idea. Lastly C will involve listing down competition and evaluating how best to add greater value as compared to our competitors. You will now have your value proposition. To read more please click here.

4. Focus…have you got it?: This is where a lot of first-timers stumble. For you to be successful you have to pinpoint the one area that you will commit to do better in than anyone else. Say for example at InnovoGS we operate in the human resources industry where services provided can be as diverse as doing simple data entry for payroll processing to restructuring the entire organization structure through consulting. We focus in the recruitment department and use psychometric tests to help organizations make more informed staffing and developmental decisions. We have focused solely on building our competencies in this one aspect for the last 15 months. Once we reach a certain level of competency in this department we have plans to move laterally to outsourcing functions related to recruitment. For us to offer virtually every human resource related consultancy service would dilute our initial focus and we would not have made the progress we have. Making sure you stay focused in the early stages of your venture is essential. To read more please click here.

5. Innovation Champions: Every venture needs at least one individual who has this awesome passion for the idea. He/she is the sort of person who infuses everyone with a contagious sense of euphoria and enthusiasm when they speak about their venture. They help team mates through the bad times and are having the most fun at the celebration party when they win their first contract. An idea without this champion would be lost and fall off the wayside when things become tough. If you are serious about the idea you are working on make sure there is at least one champion. To read more please click here.

6. Venture Alignment: In two words this is basically aligning your “core values” with your venture. When there is a disconnect between what you truly believe in and what you are actually doing there can’t be any sustainable long term success. You need to make sure you partner with people who share your core values, get idea champions to make sure everyone is on the same page and to continuously keep checking your value systems. From a long run perspective this is what it is all about. The best of ideas have amazing short term success but if there are vital building blocks missing from the foundation the structure isn’t going to last. To read more please click here.

I cant believe 3 weeks have already gone by. I want to thank all my loyal readers for yet another fantastic week. Thank you for all your emails and comments. I am accepting topics which you would like covered in the next following weeks for the blog. Please leave a comment on this blog and I will get back to you on whether I will be writing on the topic and by when. Best of luck!

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Innovation Champions

I hated every minute of training, but I said, ”Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. Muhammad Ali

This week we have talked about some pretty serious matters. I feel I have not really done justice to the idea conceptualizing exercise. As you can tell from prior posts, it is a complicated and difficult process. From the outside, the entrepreneurial world looks like a boat load of fun and to tell you the truth sometimes it isn’t all that it is hyped up to be. In the end it all depends on how badly you want to succeed and why? Having what it takes to be a champion for your idea is what it is all about. If you have ever been part of a project, group or business venture where everyone in the group didn’t want to change the world in one way or the other then you weren’t surrounded by champions. From my own experience, when I float an idea and truly become passionate about it…..there is no stopping me. Innovation champions are those individuals who spread their concept and idea to the rest of the world with such passion and enthusiasm that it becomes contagious.

For every idea to succeed I feel there has to be one or more idea champions. They are the individuals who hold their ground when things get shaky, are there for team members who may be losing hope and are committed to the project a 110%. Champions surround themselves with similar partners. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak and Bill Hewlett had Dave Packard to name some very famous ones. So this leads us back to the post where I talked about how critical it is to partner correctly. The process of just throwing a bunch of people together and wishing for the best isn’t a very effective strategy. There needs to be a disciplined process, put into place by the team champion to ensure that everyone works effectively. This is something which I have recently started to do myself and it has got some great results. Make sure that when you get together with your team there is a purpose. Document it and reach some clear action steps and results when concluded.

To sum it all up, innovation champions are not out there only to make money. That is not the primary motivator for them to come to work everyday. They come because they believe in what they are doing, they believe it has the capability to bring about change for the better. Passion and enthusiasm is their driving force. Successful startups have a bigger vision as to where they see themselves. They are not afraid to fail, at the same time, they never give up. They relentlessly pursue their goals and objectives through successful partnerships and constant feedback. So if you are thinking about taking an idea from concept to realization make sure you have what it takes. If you think you do, and believe me everyone does, make a decision to become a champion today!

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Does anyone care?

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. “
Mahatma Gandhi

You think you have got it. That one idea which is going to create a whole new space in the market or cater to an unmet one. Careful now, this is the first step in the process. Passion, enthusiasm and belief in your idea are prerequisites to move forward. The next step is when you take your idea a revolutionary concept of renting books. This idea stemmed from a need to continuously refer a lot of books as I am a research scientist. Due to the unavailability of enough libraries in the city I live in, I am forced to buy a lot of books. Thats when the Eureka point takes place, when I wonder if it is possible to setup a business model where we can essentially rent books for stipulated periods of time.

This may seem like an idea with potential at first. However, the most value it has right now is because it addresses a current need of my own. So now is the time that to do a lot of research into the particular segment that we are talking about.

I would first talk about the idea with just about anyone who would want to listen. I would structure surveys, if resources are available focus groups can be conducted and research into buying patterns of customers currently buying a lot of books, a few books , or no books. If at this stage I get a positive response I would then focus my research efforts on the current suppliers of the product. I would begin the process by identification of libraries in my city or region. Would be looking to see numbers on, how many members does the library have, how many books are borrowed each year, what were the popular subjects, what is the process of borrowing, are there any cost involved, how many books are never returned?

Once we are done with this segment , then begin the explore the book stores. How many of those are there in the city, what is the average size of the bookstore, what sort of varieties do they hold, how many books were sold in the past year, what were the popular subjects, what are the average margins on book sales, how do they promote new books. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope I have got the point across that current industry numbers and facts are important to gauge just how big your market is currently and what sort of percentage we will be looking at to achieve our end.

We should then have a rough idea of what the figures currently look like, whether there is an upward trend in the market for book sales or a decline. Whether the idea can feasibly be implemented on a national scale if the correct resources are available. This would be the number crunching aspect of the entire exercise, which is when simple feasibility studies are conducted and we get a good gauge on the major questions that we want to be asking at this stage:

1. Is there an important customer and market need?

2. Do we have a unique and feasible approach on fulfilling that need?

We are now at the stage where if we are happy with our initial feedback and response about the idea we can begin on developing it further. Only move to stage 2 once you have clearly identified a substantial need in the market. I have come across countless individuals who when I ask this question, “Would anyone really care if they use or don’t use your product?”. Usually its silence or they reiterate their products list of features again. Don’t make that mistake make sure your idea is backed with a customer and market need which has the inherent capability of making a difference and scaling to a global platform.

 

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