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How Can You Build an Enterprise from Scratch Entrepreneurship is all about the daily struggle with its ups and downs

By Roopak Saluja

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Excuse the generalization, but on the whole, Gen X was on a quest for job security and job satisfaction. In contrast, millennials are more focused on meaning, purpose and wanting to make a difference. There's no question entrepreneurship is an alluring option for this generation. Above all, what makes it so is the ability to chart your own course. This independence and freedom to create, combined with the ability to positively impact society and the world at large, through value-creation and employment, is tremendously satisfying. The opportunity for wealth creation is just the cherry on the cake.

Advice for young entrepreneurs who are just starting out

There's a common myth among many today, especially among "wantrepreneurs' and ambitious fledgling entrepreneurs, that entrepreneurship is a rather glamorous world, of raising lots of money, living an independent lifestyle and making big exits. Having spent a good eleven years on this journey, I feel somewhat qualified to shatter that myth. Entrepreneurship is in fact all about the daily struggle with its ups and downs. Remember, you're in this because you enjoy building something with all the pain and pleasure that comes with it. To paraphrase the author, Ursula Le Guin, while it's certainly good to have an end to journey towards, it's really the journey that matters in the end.

Here are some of my top tips I would share with younger entrepreneurs just starting out:

  • Focus on finance from the very beginning: Have a clear vision of the financial structure and workings of your business from the very inception – particularly cash and working capital.
  • Work on your business model: Focus on this right from the start. It might keep evolving; in fact, it needs to keep evolving, based on internal and external factors. Start somewhere and keep refining it consciously.
  • Documentation of roles and duties: If you have co-founders, ensure the roles of all founders are clear, in writing, on the terms of working, and very importantly, on the process of separation, should things go awry. Make sure there is explicit clarity on the division of responsibilities and line of authority. Have the hard conversations upfront.
  • Optimum utilization of resources: Getting funded isn't the real achievement. Using that money wisely is. If you can do it painstakingly deliberately and wisely, it can be a catalytic gamechanger.
  • Values before excellence: Always. You'll be tested time and time again by situations where you'll need to make a choice between values and excellence. And invariably, you'll be tempted to favor excellence. A prime example would be whether to fire a star performer who compromises on integrity or perhaps compassion or whatever other values you might espouse at your company. I also know that no matter how many times people tell you, you're bound to make the same mistake countless other entrepreneurs have made before you. For what it's worth, I'll say it again- values before excellence. Always!

Entrepreneurial Pitfalls to Avoid For New Entrepreneurs

As someone just about to embark on their entrepreneurial journey, there are a few key factors to keep in mind to ensure keeping roadblocks to a minimum. Some of them, from my own learning experiences, are:

  • Not having a balanced approach to trust: Trust too much too fast and you can lose control and end up in problematic situations that are hard to get out of. Trust too little and you'll never get anything done as you'll spend your life looking over everyone's shoulders. The good news is that it's easier in the beginning and you have time to hone your trust instinct. The challenge is to get the balance right as you scale. In my case, initially I trusted too much. Then, once bitten by an internal embezzlement scandal caused by a criminal accountant, I started trusting too little. I hope I'm not being smug when I say that I eventually found the right balance.
  • Avoiding having the tough conversations upfront: It's the tough conversations that make or break your business. Whether it's with employees, co-founders, investors or even your family, you have to have them as early as possible or you just end up exacerbating the issue at hand. I wish someone had told me this earlier.
  • Losing focus: In the quest to innovate, do new things and achieve more, I have often made the mistake of spreading myself too thin. There's nothing more effective at achieving excellence than focus- of capital, bandwidth and attention.

The Role of a Successful Mentor - To Navigate and Guide Young Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship, while an individual and personal journey, can be exponentially more effective and successful with the help of a mentor. Think about it this way-would you attempt to play a new sport or learn an instrument, without any help? No, right? Entrepreneurship isn't much different. The value of a coach, mentor, support group or Board of Advisors is immeasurable. For an entrepreneur, it's quite lonely at the top. While everyone else in the organization can derive their motivation and morale through inspiration and guidance from a leader or leaders, the leader, too, needs genuine guidance and support. Even just a simple feeling of solidarity can provide mental support and comfort for an entrepreneur.

The Role of Peer-to-peer Platforms in Moulding AGrowing Entrepreneurs and their Business

At peer-to-peer platforms, entrepreneurs rely on each other for counsel and help, both on functional issues, as well as in navigating deeper and more significant business-related life challenges, serving as a sounding board and mirror to each other. The distance from each other's businesses often gives them perspective that is the perfect blend of being objective, yet positively interested.

There are all sorts of factors- both, intrinsic and extrinsic- responsible for entrepreneurial success. But the foundation of it all rests on two factors- grit and self-belief. You're bound to face infinite obstacles in your journey but it is these two qualities that will help mitigate your way through them. After all, success is what happens when you fail enough.

Roopak Saluja

ASCENT Member, Founder & Chief Executive Officer - The 120 Media Collective/Founder - Sooperfly/Aspen

Listed among the 2014 Campaign Asia-Pacific ‘40 Under 40’, Roopak Saluja is Founder & Chief Executive Officer of The 120 Media Collective, a communications and content group, working with some of Asia’s largest advertisers through its subsidiaries Jack in the Box Worldwide, Sniper, Bang Bang Films and Sooperfly. His extensive experience has led to various speaker and jury positions as well as awards and recognitions globally. An MBA from INSEAD (where he is also a guest lecturer now), Roopak’s education, work and life have allowed him to live in ten countries on six continents and he speaks nine languages. He has also been a trance DJ, performing around the globe and co-founding his own trance label, Procyon Records (Budapest & Paris). His eclectic interests span Japanese cuisine, single malts, Tintin and trivia. He lives in Mumbai with his wife and two sons.

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