First time entrepreneurs often get confused because they get such conflicting advice. They talk to five different people who they tell them ten different things, which is why founders are never sure whether they are on the right track or not.
Many mentors advice that you should be passionate – that you should dream big and follow your dreams because your goal should be to change the world. They are told to emulate heroes like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk who were able to implement their dreams and create companies which have changed the way we live our lives today.
Yes, this is the holy grail, and it’s well worth aiming for! We all want our children to be ambitious because there is so much that they can accomplish, and we want them to make the most of their potential. Having said this, we also tell founders to not bite off more than they can chew.
There are the unknown unknowns to trip you up.
Yes, it’s important that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, but you do need to remember that you have real-world constraints, and you should be aware of those. We don’t want to clip your wings, but you have to battle well-funded competitors with deep pockets; other startups are happy to steal your lunch; raising money is always an ongoing battle; delighting fickle customers is always a challenge, and there are the unknown unknowns to trip you up.
It’s hard to attract A players, and keeping morale high when you are not sure how you will be able to pay next month’s salaries can drive you nuts.
The risk is that if you try to do too much, all, at the same time, you will end up accomplishing nothing at all. You will burn through money quickly, and your dreams will get converted to nightmares because you are over-stretched.
This is why it’s so important to learn what not to do. It’s essential that you learn to focus, and knowing how and what to prioritize is a key skill every founder needs to master.
The trick is to find the right balance.
So is the founder meant to create business plans which show how she will achieve domination in the world? Or should she show how she can quickly achieve profitability? Either way, there will be criticism. One group will say she is not able to think big; while others will mock her for trying to aim for the moon. It’s because of these mixed messages that entrepreneurs get completely confused.
The trick is to find the right balance. We don’t want to be pessimistic, but we don’t want you to be over-optimistic either, and find that you have run out of steam even before completing the first lap.
Remember that you are running a marathon, and you would never wish to run out of money, steam and stamina! You need to look for the golden mean, where you can show that you have a sensible approach which balances short term pain with long term gains. Yes, this is hard to do, but no one said being an entrepreneur would be easy.
The key is that you should have a well-defined plan, and the courage of your convictions to stick to it, no matter what anyone else says and does. Learning how to meditate can help you find your true North Star and keep your balance!
Dr Aniruddha Malpani is a consultant IVF specialist, who runs one of India’s leading IVF clinics at www.drmalpani.com, along with his wife, Dr Anjali Malpani. They have founded HELP, the Health Education Library for People (www.healthlibrary.com), which is India’s first Patient Education Resource Center. He has authored many books, including: How to Get the Best Medical Care; Successful Medical Practise; Using Information Therapy to Put Patients First; and Patient Safety – Protect yourself from Medical Errors which are available for free at www.thebestmedicalcare.com. His passion is patient empowerment; he believes that using Information Technology to deliver Information Therapy to patients can heal a sick healthcare system. He is also an active angel investor (www.malpaniventures.com).
(It was first published on LinkedIn).
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An IVF specialist who believes in Information Therapy. Founder and Director at Malpani Ventures.