Quite early on in my career — may be as far back as 2004, during my internship months at Schneider Electric — I knew I would someday run my own show. Almost every career move I made during my 12 years with major corporates was carefully planned towards grooming the entrepreneur in me, so I would be well-prepared when the time came. With the amount of preparation that went in, one would think my transition to a budding entrepreneur would have been all too easy
After a year of chasing leads and deadlines; negotiating with clients and vendors; pushing invoices; and investing in the must- and nice-to-haves, I now realise that nothing can truly prepare you for when the time finally comes to hit the ground (running). While there are no shortcuts to success, I sometimes feel that it would have helped so much if I had known some of the things I know now, before taking the plunge.
1. Research, research, research: I cannot overstate the importance of thorough research before venturing into any new business. The market is evolving everyday, and trends that at first seem worth investing in may not be as sustainable as you think. Or worse, they may not appeal to your target group as much you would like. Facts are your friends, so drill out as much data as possible before you go ahead and make your choices.
2. Expect to go slow initially: It takes time to build a strong-enough foundation for your business. Start slow. Take your time to evaluate pros and cons before making your moves — at least until you are familiar with the terrain. Eventually, this base you’ve set for yourself — be it in terms of knowledge or networks — will lend you a steady foothold as you prepare to go big.
3. Have an exit strategy: Every business is risky business, so having a contingency plan is almost as important as having your business plan in place. At least during the initial phases, try to keep your investments to a minimum and switch to your back-up plan if things fail to pick up pace within the time you’ve set for yourself.
4. Delegate or die! As women who have given up high-flying careers in favour of chasing our dreams, we often overcompensate by trying to do everything. Don’t even think about it. Your start-up needs you to be alert and clear-headed ALL the time, and focusing on grass-root details can really clog your works. Delegating will help you to steer clear of unnecessary trauma, and it will keep your daily workload more strategic.
5. Build a dream team: If you are to focus on business-critical operations, you need to have a robust team managing the show on-ground. Your team should be equally passionate and dedicated towards achieving your company’s goals as you are. It pays off to invest in hiring dynamic and positive people (and some must-have infrastructure) rather than in decking up a fancy office in a posh locality. Additionally, having a diverse group will keep your employees motivated and the ideas flowing!