I’m yet to watch the most talked about movie of 2010, “The Social Network”. This movie is watchable not just because Chetan Bhagat (an investment banker-turned-entrepreneur) watched it more than 10 times or it is about Facebook, a phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. I guess the movie has become popular because it offers a great deal of entrepreneurial insights to many ambitious Internet start-up entrepreneurs across the planet.
According to some conventional business management theories, it takes nearly five years for every start-up business to overcome the early hiccups and flourish thereafter. While it is essentially true for most businesses that are strategically dependent on the local customers, I’ve seen quite a few (including myself) Internet startup entrepreneurs shrug off the teething problems quintessentially associated with early start-ups. Maybe, it has a lot to do with our business model which typically stands on catering to offshore markets.
Whether one has a business pedigree or management degree, it doesn’t help matters when one takes over the mantle from an existing enterprise or embark on an entrepreneurial journey on one’s very own. I’d like to share 5 important things every Internet entrepreneur learns outside confines of a business management school:
Trusting People: This is probably one of the toughest challenges I’ve faced in my life time. Things are fine until you’re in a position where you manage finances and people. But you have to be careful when you bring in people especially the ones that are close to you on a personal level.
Although it helps to a build a business with people who understand you, share your vision and are talented, eventually they may turn a blind eye to your professional goals and become increasingly disillusioned about your ambitions. So beware of people like them especially at the beginning of your entrepreneurial venture. Never consider taking anyone as you partner, it tends to backfire more often than not. An Internet business requires little investment to begin with and you can set out from confines of your bedroom as well, so to speak.
Working for Peanuts: Starting an Internet business is just as much challenging as starting any conventional business. Getting clients that trust your abilities can leave you frustrated at times. Therefore, you need to latch on to whatever projects come your way. It’s a sheer foolishness to wait for the right projects to come along your way that help you make “enough” money. In other words, there’s a lot of wisdom in accepting the fact that there are never enough money in the beginning. So get along with whatever comes your way.
Building a Team: In the face of a couple of projects, you’re acceptably normal to leap in joy and go overboard with your confidence. But, you need to hold your horses if you want to consider developing a good team that help you handle multiple projects. Don’t jump at the idea of hiring just anyone only because a project will get you funds straight away. Buy some time from the client to hire a good resource and your client is more likely to allow that time. When you’re building a new team, each hire contributes to the overall atmosphere of your company and by making a hasty choice, you can blow your chances of developing a great atmosphere in the long run.
Hiring Resources: From the sound of it, this aspect of your business is supposed to be handled by an out-and-out professional, but you can’t afford to hire a hiring agency at this early stage. For your start-up business, being the CEO merely means you’re a Chief Everything Officer. Assuming you’re in the same boat as I am, hiring the right resources can drive you freaking nuts, especially if you’re located in a city where the availability of skilled resources is close to finding dinosaurs.
Make no mistakes, but you should never hire a candidate on your gut feelings or using references. Sometimes, they give you nightmares. The key lies in hunting heads when you need them the least. Make sure the candidate has ample professionalism and a yearning to learning. If they fall short of a required skill, you could help them learn it down the line.
Balancing Work life: For reasons best known only to the person who knows what it takes to put together a company regardless of its size and stature, work life has to take precedence over family life at the early state of entrepreneurship. Sleepless nights are almost synonymous with start-up Internet entrepreneurs when they are up until the wee hours chatting with their “potential clients” most of which never turn out to be actual customers. You tend to invest time building your dream, client by client, avoiding friends like they were HIV-infected. It is totally fine. But never allow this proclivity to dominate your love life or else, you will end up nowhere.
These are the things no business school can teach you. Are you an Internet entrepreneur? What are your early experiences like?