The Under-30 Philosophy: #5 Learning as an Entrepreneur
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Starting a company in your 20s is very different from doing so in your 30s or 40s. It comes with some advantages, like having a lot of energy and hunger, and some challenges too.
The core challenge, in my opinion, is learning how to build a company when you are still discovering yourself. Your 20s are all about figuring out what drives you, your core strengths, your leadership style, your weaknesses.
Hence, trying to create an entirely new company and a sound culture is difficult, because you still are going through significant development as a person. 90% of the time you find yourself in situations where there is no precedence or previous experience you can draw lessons from, either to solve the problem or to manage your reaction to it.
However, this dual challenge does encourage a lot of self-reflection, and these are five core takeaways from my journey so far that I believe are important to consider before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship:
1. Make Sure you Truly Understand What you are Getting Into
In this day and age, it’s easy to get swayed by the glamour of being an entrepreneur. In fact, people even romanticize grinding away in a small office for a couple of years before magically seeing that hockey stick growth and becoming successful beyond their wildest dreams This does happen, but only to 0.1% of the 5% of companies that actually make it past the first three years. For the other 4.9%, the grind NEVER ends, and there is always a higher mountain to climb when you reach a summit. Unless you are the kind of person that thrives on unrelenting challenges, uncertainties, and tremendous pressure, think twice before diving!
2. Do Consumer Research, Don’t Just Say you Did
Every entrepreneur undergoes ‘rigorous research’ before launching his or her idea/product. Unfortunately, this ‘rigorous research’ involves asking friends, families, or dinner companions for their opinions. But more often than not, they are not representative sample of your target market, and they will not give you honest feedback in fear of hurting your feelings. In our company, we have launched initiatives supported by heavy research and initiatives supported by gut, and more often than not, research wins. Research gives you an indication about the right design, price, marketing strategy and more,and significantly increases your chances of success.
3. Dedicate Time Every Day to Focus on the Long-term Vision
It is too easy to get caught up in dousing daily fires instead of really thinking through a new product or strategy that you are supposed to launch in a few months time. In the face of these daily fires, putting aside time to dedicate to long-term projects will always seem less important. However, this can then become a pattern and months later, you’ll find yourself scrambling to launch / finish something you initially wanted to put a lot more thought into.
4. Cultural Fit Matters More Than you Think
I enjoy working with people from a diverse set of social, economic, and religious backgrounds, and this diversity has made The Wedding Brigade stronger. However, there is one area where I treasure homogeneity and that is when thinking about how an employee will fit in with our company culture. Making sure the underlying values, working style, and integrity of employees align with your business is incredibly crucial. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to judge this from a resume or even an interview, but you still need to try and ascertain it. One way is to ask about tough situations faced on the professional front in the past and see how they dealt with them. Another way is references – I can’t stress this enough!
5. Talk to People Who are on the Same Journey as You
Though everyone loves picking up the phone and complaining to their friends, it is a very different type of catharsis to speak to someone in your exact shoes. Not only do you spend less time explaining the context, but there is a good chance that they will give you real, actionable, tried and tested advice. Moreover, there is nothing more assuring to know that someone else has been in your place facing a similar problem, and has emerged stronger as a result.
Though these five lessons cannot guarantee success, I think they may help nudge you in the right direction.