Make Perfect Entrepreneurial Soup

Some travelers came to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty cooking pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers were unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travelers.

In realizing no one was going to help feed them, the travelers went to the nearest stream, filled a pot with water and dropped a large stone into it. They then placed it over a fire.

One of the villagers became curious and asked what they were doing. The travelers answered that they were making “stone soup,” which tastes wonderful.

Before taking his first taste of the soup, the traveler stated that it needed a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing.

The villager, not minding to part with a few carrots to help them out, added them to the soup. Another villager walked by inquiring about the pot and the travelers again mentioned their stone soup, which had not yet reached its full potential.

Another villager walked by inquiring about the pot and the travelers again mentioned their stone soup, which had not yet reached its full potential.

The villager handed them a little bit of seasoning to help them out.

Soon, more and more villagers walked by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup was ready and enjoyed by all.

Take a moment to think of making stone soup as the only way an entrepreneur can succeed.

The stones are, of course, your big bold ideas.

The contribution from the villagers is your investments from supporters and partners.

The end product is, of course, something everybody radically benefits from.

What are you making, creating, sharing that will add value to everyone? What resources, people, companies can you work with that will help you bring your bold ideas to light?

What human emotions are you catering to and what Mental Triggers are you incorporating?

When it comes to online marketing, some of you may have heard of coin phrases like Persuasion Tactics or even Automatic Response Triggers. Whether it be to capture leads, share your service virally, or to help your customers make a purchase, these Mental Triggers definitely work. I’d like to share an excerpt from the book Influence, by Robert Cialdini, that will give you a perfect example.

“I just read a newspaper article on how a restaurant owner used public commitments to solve a big problem for customers who didn’t show-up for their table reservations.

He told his receptionists to stop saying, ‘Please call us if you change your plans,’ and to start asking, ‘Will you please call us if you change your plans?’ and to wait for a response.

His no-show rate immediately dropped from 30 percent to 10 percent!

Author’s note: What was it about this subtle shift that led to such a dramatic difference? For me, it was the receptionist’s request for (and pause for) the caller’s

For me, it was the receptionist’s request for (and pause for) the caller’s promise. By spurring patrons to make a public commitment, this approach increased the chance that they would follow through on it.”

Trigger the Entrepreneur

Over twenty five years back, as a young engineering aspirant, some of us have debated on this dichotomy of nomenclature, a civil-mechanical-electrical engineering as against a chemical-production technology. Nevertheless, ‘a professional course’ as we call it moulds and directs the student to make a profession of his/her stream of study. Apart from the opportunities in the mainstream functional areas like Project management, Design, Research & Development, or Pedagogy, the quintessential commonality in all streams of study also helps ‘the engineer’ adapt to swings of the market and make smart shifts in career. Year 2000, for instance witnessed a phenomenal shift of career of engineers from all streams of study into IT, a sector which then exhibited a tectonic boom.

Till a decade ago, our country continued to run short of the number of engineers produced annually as against the intake in both the private and public sectors as per a survey. The statistics shows that engineering colleges sprung up in number from a fair 1500 colleges in 2007 to a mind-boggling 3300 in 2015 in India, with a small state of Kerala alone shouldering over 150 engineering colleges. Has this lowered the bar or shrunk the demand for the profession, is for experts to comment. However, living facts like, India presently churns out more engineers than US and china put together, may add food to these thoughts. Haven’t we stratified multifarious our output of engineers in India. The premier group of IITs followed by a group of corporate backed institutes, NITs, the pick of state colleges and then the rest. On one, we see a brilliant topper from IIT Mumbai walk away with a plum crore plus annual CTC on campus placements and on the other an engineer from strata lower down, still struggling for an upkeep in the initial years. A leading UK based global recruiter firm suggested that engineering roles were the hardest to fill as has been agreed upon by 45% of recruiters globally. As per Nasscom report in 2011 only 17.5% of engineering graduates were deemed employable. India’s information technology industry spends nearly $1 billion a year to make them job-ready, the report said. Again, telling upon the prevalent quality crunch. Eventually we heard reports like, over 50% merit quota seats vacant in Kerala, AICTE bringing down the number of engineering seats by six lakhs etc.

The scenario here triggers the need for an entrepreneurial upbringing of our young engineers. If we track the career path of engineers from premier institutes in India in the recent past we can see that a good share of them either venture on their own or take a short term industry exposure and then go enterprising. The story from the premium B schools in India is no different. Moreover their curriculum itself introduces entrepreneurship. IITs and IIMs have shown growing fervor for entrepreneurship with as high as 4-5% of students preferring startups to plush placement offers. At IIM Kozhikode 15 of the batch passed out the previous year are entrepreneurs. A recent report reveals that 41 students out of the new batch of various IITs are at various stages of their startup blueprints. Interesting statistics there! The question is, why are such initiatives just restricted to premium institutes and not others? Why can’t we raise the bar and bridge the gap. To be a successful entrepreneur is perhaps the toughest of all assignments, but certainly the most gratifying one at the end of the day.

Let’s go through a few successful examples. Sachin and Binny Bansal, two ex-IITians from Delhi after some initial exposure in Amazon, ventures into an e-commerce start up in 2007 beginning with small transactions of book and electronics. Now, in less than eight years the company has evolved into a billion dollar business house Flipkart, on an M&A spree gobbling over all small timers. The case study of Make my trip, OLX and UBERs of the world, unfolds similar success stories. A 19 year old young lad, a Harvard sophomore invented a networking tool with a simple intention of getting connected to his friends in college, in 2004 which turned an instant hit. The site now is one of the biggest in the world with over 40crore connections, Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg. Endless goes the success stories of startups in India. This is not just restricted to the IT and e-commerce sector. Services sector, logistics etc also has witnessed flavors of success through startups. Redbus, Taxi4sure goes the names of innumerable startups conceived by brilliant young engineers and in a span of just 7-8 years established a, strong brand equity. Grey orange robotics established in 2009 is the first of its kind venture offering logistics automation solution. Robots move shelves stacked with various products scanning barcodes, yet again the brainchild of two BITs pilani youngsters.

“Zao Foods”, a Mitali Khalra vision to inculcate a habit of eating nutritious food. She came up with ‘cafe Crostini’ in south delhi. Indiblogger. in was started as a free blogging platform, but the founders had some bigger game plans, to connect the corporate world, companies and brands to their customers as a revenue model.

‘Under the mango tree’, a social venture promoting bee keeping, by Vijaya Pastala, an MIT alumni took 14 years to establish. Swapnil kamat and his wife Ruchira had to undergo hardships before establishing their dream venture, Work Better-Training and Development, an executive training company focusing on teaching behavioral and cognitive skills to corporate employees. Helpingdoc. com, an online venture by a team of medical professionals conceptualized the idea of providing medical support online. An overview reveals that, innovative ideas have explored all facets of life, low cost energy, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotech, health, fashion, food, technology, service, and what not. Investors are now running after genuine ideas of business to fund for. Not just the angel investors or venture capitalists but even the corporate allot funds to invest in startups.

Ratan Tata, the ‘Tata group’ honcho, stepping aside from the day-to-day responsibilities of the corporate conglomerate, took interest in investing in 10 startup ventures shortlisted. The investments typically vary between 1-5 Crore and spread across dotcoms, health care, clean energy etc. The pick of them all is ‘Swasth India’, a Mumbai based affordable healthcare setup providing medical services to low income population, again an IIT Mumbai alumni venture. Franchise India, recently hosted a forum in Mumbai inviting business ideas. We also have Pro Bono consultants providing services to startups non-profit with social relevance and commitments. IIT Mumbai has an Entrepreneurship Cell, a non-profit independent student body which instills the spirit of entrepreneurship among students and working professionals. The Entrepreneur cell of IIT Kharagpur recently held an entrepreneur awareness drive, a massive initiative to encourage students across the country to embrace the concept of entrepreneurship. These E-cells incubates startup ideas by connecting investors and entrepreneurs of similar interests. The Global entrepreneur summit, Eureka – International Business plan competition etc are some of the events which drive the young budding engineers. IIT Chennai also runs an incubation cell C-Tides and Research Park for Startups. Kerala is no behind in startup initiatives and promotions. We have Kerala Startups Society, a not-for-profit organization with the objective of building a vibrant startup ecosystem. Regular meets are organized to interact with investors, successful entrepreneurs and players. Based in the IT technology park- Trivandrum, is Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) formerly known as ‘Techno-park-Technology Business Incubator’. Under the guidance of Kris Gopalakrishnan of Infosys we have the startup village, another technology business incubator in kochi.

An innovative business model is all about identifying a social problem to work an effective solution. Thus the startup drive is not just a commercial drive but one of social relevance. A friend of mine recently travelling from Orlando airport to the hotel while on a business tour took an airport cab to destination paying about 90 bucks, but on return smartly took a Uber cab for as low as 25bucks for the same distance. A cost effective solution offered here. A decade ago if one planned a multi city travel in India, it involved a lot of planning and follow-ups with travel agents, hotels, cabs etc. Whereas now it all gets done in a jiffy fiddling with a chosen smart mobile App. Instance of life made easy and smart with start ups. Understandably the mortality rate of startups, are high and not all ventures flourish evenly. But for the youth it is a learning curve to introspect, re-model, and evolve to success.

The recent business visits by the Indian PM to the US, EU and middle east especially the one to the silicon valley, has generated overwhelming response in terms of investments proposals to India. The digital India drive by the Prime minister intends to generate innovative ideas in digital Technologies which include Cloud Computing and Mobile Applications. As we all know the new generation engineer is sharp, innovative and creative with a higher level of IQ than their predecessors. Now we have the brains, the bucks, the governance and all it takes is some out-of-the-box thinking to churn out the “ideas”. Let the academia with the conducive faculty instill this passion in our youths.

Truths Savvy Entrepreneurs Learned the Hard Way

Welcome detours and failures with open arms

It is a common perception when things get bad that this is “worst thing to ever happen to you” and more often than not when your no longer in the moment it actually turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Successful people, especially people with an entrepreneurial streak, welcome detours and failures as a natural part of the journey. So first and foremost never question your passion and your ability to get things done. If you have the confidence in yourself, in where you are going, and what you are trying to build, this is what will get you through tough times. And that is all it’ll be – tough times.
Just don’t stare at the closed door too long.

“No” is just one step closer to “yes”

If you aren’t being told “no” on a daily basis, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough or taking enough risks. Develop a thick skin and smile all over because the “no” is one step closer to “yes”.

Success is not the natural state of things

One of the most important lessons is that without failure, you do not truly understand success. So worry when success comes too easily or too early in the process, as it will lull you to believe it is the natural state of things, and when failure comes at a later date in some form or another you are most often utterly unprepared.

The worst decision is indecision

Learn this lesson above all others: *the worst decision is indecision*. When you’re an entrepreneur, you must move quickly and act from your gut. If you don’t, you will miss out on opportunities that can help your business immensely.

Also, at the end of the day there is no right way or one way to run a business. When you start a company, you think there is a road map or holy grail to success. There isn’t. Ask questions, acquire mentors, gather knowledge and then make an educated decision and do what’s best for your business.

Find Niche As An Entrepreneur

Write Your Heart Out

So you may ask, how does one even begin on the journey to finding one’s niche? The answer is to open your heart and mind and start writing. What is it you know that you want to share with others? The answer to this question may take a bit of soul searching, but it is well worth the effort and time. Once you figure out what you want to shout from the rooftops, the rest will start flowing naturally. You can then begin to lead the pack down an untraveled road.

Create Something New

Have you ever thought of something brilliant, only to find out somebody else has already cashed in on your idea? It happens. But there is something deep inside you that no one else has accessed before. If you search far enough and open yourself completely to the process of discovery, you will find it. That will be your niche.

Love What You Do

Discovering your niche is a privilege all on its own. You will love everything about it and it will show. Embracing it is not only about knowing something, it’s about knowing something that belongs only to you. It is your own little secret amongst an overly “out there” society. You will only stand out from the crowd if you focus on being yourself. Others pick up on uniqueness. It shines out of you and creates excitement, which makes others flock to you simply because you’re telling the truth. Get going and tell your truth today!

Women Entrepreneurs

Manage by DATA

Thinking artsy? think again. Define what Data you need to know if you are getting closer or further from your goals, or if you need to modify them. That means: Create KPI (key performance indicators) that are aligned with the goal of your organization, and establish key milestones that help you focus and feel accomplished. Stay away from unsubstantiated information that might as well be a paradigm waiting to be broken.If you are a woman entrepreneur seeking funds: DO NOT MANAGE BY INTUITION

Work on Design and Strategy

Boy (I mean girl) that is a hard one. Work ON the business, not IN the business. That means: make your job redundant continuously, learn the basics enough to supervise early on, but quickly hire talent and move to think strategically. Every minute used on doing the work is a minute wasted to think strategically. Stay away from repetitive tasks, use technology or outsource it. If you are a woman entrepreneur seeking funds: GO BEYOND GETTING THE WORK DONE.

Become Known

Shake out the boy’s club or the men’s club. Nurture relationships, everything is right about professional and personal connections. That means: be (or become) a reputable expert in your field, deliver value in your conversations, help and ask for help, and be grateful. It is not what you do but who you are. Stay away from feeling sorry that you are not remembered or recognized, be useful. If you are a woman entrepreneur seeking funds: DO NOT RELY ONLY ON YOUR NETWORK.

Be Irreverent

Rejection does not measure your value. Keep your inner voice as more important than other’s opinion of you. That means: accept feedback and listen very attentively when someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, then filter inappropriate from relevant feedback, and then decided if you accept that feedback. Stay away from making quick judgments without asking enough questions or having data, and accept that no everybody agrees with you. Rejection does not define you, it is an opinion about an idea. Use “What do you mean?.” It is a wonderful question. If you are a woman entrepreneur seeking funds: DO NOT PURSUE REINFORCEMENT.

Leadership Tips Startup Entrepreneurs

An entrepreneur does not run a business with his or her acute business acumen alone: it comes with leadership skills.

  1. Be a good example. Startup leadership entrepreneurs must be able to lead his or her business by example. Coming to work early and leaving the workplace late could send a message to the employees that their employer works, too. His or her work ethic must encourage others to follow his or her lead.
  2. Exude confidence and optimism. A startup deals with what can be called a “baptism of fire.” There are challenges that a startup hurdles as it goes through the crucial first year of operation. In these trying months, an entrepreneur must exhibit confidence and optimism to encourage his or her staff to also believe in the company and the product or service. It is bad marketing for the company if an employee is himself or herself a non-believer.
  3. Be a doer. An entrepreneur does not only deal with paperwork and financing of the business; he or she is also ready to roll up his or her sleeves and ready to do the work.
  4. People are your asset. A successful entrepreneur knows that his or her greatest assets are people. A successful entrepreneur surrounds himself or herself with good-quality employees and experts. He or she values the opinions of his or her employees. He or she treats them as family, not servants.
  5. Be tech-savvy. Every entrepreneur these days must be tech-savvy: must be able to do business using mobile devices, network with peers through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, among other social media; must recognize that business must conform with the sweeping changes in technology and employees must be attuned to these changes; must understand that the use of some applications or software could lead to better efficiency and productivity at the workplace.
  6. Education is key. A successful entrepreneur sees the values of education; he or she constantly sends his or her employees to trainings to keep them highly skilled.
  7. A leader commands respect. A successful and good leader not only commands respect but also inspires people.
  8. Communication is important. No successful entrepreneur shuts down the lines of communication to his or her staff. Through a healthy conversation, an entrepreneur understands what his or her employees’ needs are and what they believe would make the business succeed.
  9. Share blessings. A successful entrepreneur knows that the key to longevity in the business is getting the community to support his or her business. As a token of appreciation, an entrepreneur always has the best interest of the community in mind. He or she sees the community as a partner in building the business. Some big companies take their social responsibility seriously. A startup enterprise must see this responsibility as important early on, too.
  10. Take calculated risks. A successful entrepreneur knows how and when to take calculated risks. He or she makes an informed decision before taking on any risk.

Entrepreneurial Benefits of Failure

It is important that entrepreneurs learn to see the benefits of failure and learn to identify the lessons that can be learnt from it.

Further, it is important that we learn to be resilient: it is easy to be disheartened by a defeat and to become convinced that the idea is not worth pursuing. But no experience should be disregarded, no matter how unsuccessful the outcome.

Failure, in one form or another, is inevitable for everyone, but particularly entrepreneurs. The first thing to do when facing disappointment is to take account of the facts – don’t ignore what’s happened or try to put a too-positive spin on it. Be honest about what’s gone wrong so that you can you accurately identify the lessons and take action.

For entrepreneurs, not knowing whether or not something would have worked can be worse than failure. Thomas Edison is claimed to have said of inventing the lightbulb,
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Whether or not Edison actually said this doesn’t really matter. The point is that someone did and they were right: when an attempt fails, we do not have the result we were looking for but we do have a result. We know how not to achieve something and that is in itself a lesson.

Failure has its benefits

For one, in crisis we find clarity.

When something is going wrong we are often at our most clear-headed and decisive. We are able to think critically and thereby better isolate problems and find solutions.

Furthermore, crisis tends to have the result of polarising employees. When things are going wrong, the strongest members of the team will be the ones helping in whatever way they can and coming up with innovative solutions. Those that are ambivalent, defeatist (not to be confused with realistic), or simply unwilling to help, may not be employees for long.

Defeat is an opportunity to be creative. Now you know what doesn’t work, you can approach it from a different angle. Most entrepreneurs are creative and resourceful thinkers who thrive on challenge and risk, and are always keen to learn.

Not only does failure tell us what not to do but it gives us an opportunity to start fresh, imagine new ways of tackling a problem, and acquire new knowledge.

Finding success in defeat

Although failure is not ideal it should not be seen as a black mark. Instead, consider defeat as an experience. Experience is what makes us capable in life, hireable on a CV, useful in a crisis. We need experience in order to succeed; thus we need failure in order to succeed.

Indeed, we could argue that an entrepreneur that has failed more has simply taken more risks. Indeed, Elon Musk said, “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

We can see failed attempts as simply part of the process of iteration. In attempting to achieve a goal, we must assume that we will at some point fail. But failure is just part of the process. This is particularly true for serial entrepreneurs who, I would go so far as to say, would not be serial entrepreneurs were success always guaranteed.

Because failure can be so devastating, we often attribute that which is beyond our control to some individual flaw. The tendency is to take it personally.

Rather than being disheartened and discouraged, consider these questions:

  • What were we trying to achieve?
  • How much preparation was done? Was this enough?
  • What was the approach?
  • What were the problems with the approach?
  • Of those problems, which are in my power to change, and will doing so change the outcome?

The answers to these questions will help you to construct your next, more successful approach.

Be a Productive Employee or Entrepreneur

Follow 80-20 rule.

20% of the work produces 80% of the result. That is the sole pretext on which the rule works. When it comes to employees who hold designations like that of managers, it helps them allocate resources depending upon the importance of a task. Entrepreneur on the other hand, must understand that if he or she is operates in the buying and selling space, then bulk purchases will always provide more revenue than individual sales. Thus, focusing on those bulk buyers will produce better results for his business.

Both employees and entrepreneurs must concentrate their energy on restricted and dedicated activities which can then boost productivity and yield better results.

Have a healthy routine

If you look at some of the top entrepreneurs of the world, all of them have a certain healthy habit which keeps their minds and bodies from giving up and becoming unproductive. Padamsree Warrior, Chief Technical and Strategy Office, Cisco Systems meditates every night and spends her Saturday’s doing a “Digital Detox”.

Healthy routine does not only involve eating healthy but also disconnecting from one’s gadget filled work life. Spending time relaxing your brain is important. Its recovery is vital unless you wish to push yourself to a burnout. So if you like walks, go for strolls in a garden or a beach and don’t listen to music but instead listen to the sounds of nature. Meditation and Yoga are also extremely effective to develop a sound and healthy routine.

Pay close attention to your sleep and anxiety patterns.

This happens too often to employees and entrepreneurs that they end up burning the midnight oil and thus causing great damage to their health. Entrepreneurs especially love to work till late and often have anxiety levels higher than usual. Both employees and entrepreneurs must develop the habit of taking power naps whenever low on energy. When you feel too nervous and are anxious about something, distract yourself by going for a swim or playing a sport or simply some game on your smartphone.

Allow technology to make your life easy

This is one of the most vital techniques to being productive. Several facets of technology like Gadgets, Apps, etc can make your life easy. As an employee, can you imagine life without your smartphone and laptop? When was the last time you managed to survive a day without them? If you cannot recollect the answer to these, which means you have allowed technology to make your life easy. It is vital that you change alongside technology and adapt to it. For every new gadget brings something more to the table, for every new app smoothens a process and every new establishment makes a product or service available to you at your fingertips.

Born to Be Entrepreneur

Ideas after ideas constantly flow in and out of our mind, but the confidence to pursue those ideas doesn’t always stay with you. For those that manage to grab a hold of their confidence, will also snatch one or more of those ideas and begin to weave them into a plan to build a business.

Entrepreneur minded people can never be happy with a nine to five job. Their minds will always seek to fulfill what their heart craves. For some, the urgency to make money will be their driver, for others it is their passion to create that will propel them into action. Unfortunately, for a great many, the soul will want what the soul wants, but doesn’t always know how to deliver. So their dream will end before it ever begins.

Once the realization of this sets in, so will their level of frustration. So that this doesn’t become your reality, you will need to make a real concerted effort to go after your dream. That will mean stepping out on faith!

In order to make it happen, you will need to throw a lasso around your confidence, pluck your ideas from your head and begin to create and work your plan to build your business.

Business building is tough work. Stress can be a major factor. Doubt, fear, and skepticism may live with you on a daily basis. Nevertheless, you will not be completely satisfied with your life until you do this and; for those that have started, finish it.

Entrepreneurs all over the world are in various stages of building. Some have it on their heart to become an entrepreneur and are ready to take their first step; while others have just begun the process. Further still, there are those who are much, much further along in the process and are either thriving or failing.

Entrepreneurs Are Like Explorers

The provisions were there, the signs were there, but Burk and Wills did not understand what the signs meant and so they died a horrible death from thirst and starvation.

In business, entrepreneurs are like explorers. Lewis and Clark were successful. They survived. Burk and Wills were not. They died. Who do you want to be like?

This same tragedy gets repeated with businesses today. The way to survive it there, but business owners fail to read the signs. Those signs are called key performance indicators, or KPI’s. If you are not measuring you are not managing. Make sure that you are measuring right things the right way.

For example, if a customer is worth $10,000 a year and average lifecycle is 5 years, then they are worth $50,000. So if it costs $1,000 to get a new customer and $200 per year to retain them it is a great deal. There are several KPI’s here. Cost of acquiring a customer, cost of keeping the customer, sales value of the customer per year, lifecycle of the customer. And notice that it costs 5 times to win a new customer verses keeping a customer.

What are the activities that must take place in the marketing and sales cycle that can be measured? Advertising cost, number of responses to advertising, appointments set, requests for quotation, number of sales, sales revenue. These are all opportunities to measure what is going on in your process. Develop meaningful targets at each stage in the process and compare them to your current performance. If your people are not meeting these KPI’s you need to find out why. These are signs that your business needs improvement.

You have an advantage that Burk and Wills never did. They did not have someone that they could ask to help them understand what the signs meant. You do. There are coaches that you can ask for help. The signs are there, and KPI’s can be set up so you can measure right things the right way, and avoid the equivalent fate of Burk and Wills.