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Dangers of becoming a ‘Do it all by myself!’ Entrepreneur

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One of the perks that I get as part of leading a company that focuses on starts ups is that I get to meet with a number of eager beavers. These are typically founder, co-founders or part of the core startup team that has embarked on an exciting journey.

They are all about action…now or never, just do it, should have been done yesterday… type of attitude. Nothing fundamentally wrong with this attitude, but this attitude should come with a warning label of ‘Don’t overdo it’ and more importantly ‘don’t overdo it by trying to do it all by yourself’.

To help entrepreneurs prevent from being in this dangerous situation, I ask them to follow the principle that was taught to my elder son when he was in first grade.

clip_image001The principle…simple….STOP & THINK!

His school emphasized so much on this principle that they would give out STOP & THINK award at the end of school year.

There’s a reason why this principle of STOP & THINK is applicable in case of startups and especially the technology focused ones in India is for a few reasons:

1. They focus on their organizational strengths and put all their precious resources toward that. For example, most startups (the core team) are extremely technology focused. This means that the little precious resources they have are exhausted in writing the last line of core for beta or buying software or getting that one additional developer to speed up development. More often than not this leads to no resources, mostly money, being left for other critical activities like Product Strategy, Product Marketing, Sales, etc.

This leads to the next reason…

2. Since there is no money / resources left they venture into attempting to take on tasks that are not their core strengths.  In the example that I mentioned, it would be a person focused on technology trying to get into Product Strategy, Marketing and Sales activities. Due to these none core skill set activities that they perform, they not only lose focus on core activities but badly botch other key activities that are not core to them.

A thoughtful balanced approach…

In my view, here is what startups need to do…

Every time there is a task or a type of activity that you have performed…STOP & THINK…ask yourself the following 5 questions:

  1. Do you have skills to perform that activity?
  2. Is the right activity to be focusing your time and attention on?
  3. Is it going to take you away from your core activities?
  4. Are there other related activities that might come up?
  5. Is this activity going to end up being huge time sink?

9 out of 10 times as an entrepreneur you will be better off getting paid professional help for taking care of your non core functions. It doesn’t have to be super expensive. But you will end up being saving time, money and make faster progress on things that you want to focus and spend time on.

[box type=”shadow” ]One of the most common mistakes that technology focused startups do is not getting the appropriate help for Product Strategy and Marketing.[/box]

These critical functions when done right, can help in many ways, some of them being:

  1. Identifying the right customer and market segment.
  2. Building the right product by putting yourself in customers’ shoes.
  3. Putting the development team on right product development roadmap.
  4. Identify partnerships for expanding product offering and increasing product adoption with large customer base.
  5. Position the Product in a way so that customers of the product can relate to it.

(Product Strategy and Marketing are topics in themselves and I will elaborate my thoughts on them in the next couple of blog articles.)

If not done correctly and at the right time, lack of Product Strategy and Marketing can spell doom on the startup because…

  1. Team has built technology that the user doesn’t want.
  2. The technology is cool but cannot be monetize
  3. Team has run out of resources to make any course corrections.

If you are one of those technology focused entrepreneur, then I strongly recommend that you take a balanced approach and pull in experts where needed, when building your products and services, early on.

Remember you are sufficient for your idea, but call on experts for running a successful business built on that idea…

  1. Vicky says

    This is so true. I always find my self in this situation.

  2. dominic murphy says

    Starting up a business all on your own is a massive task to undertake especially if you have limited experience or limited prospects for basically making money, recently someone in my family started up their own business and it has been a very testing a stressful time but he now seems to be getting the customers he needs to make ends meet but is still in the red, but starting your own business is all about grit and determination and your STOP policy is a great idea as it stops spur of the moment decisions that may seem a good idea but have repercussions that end up being quite damaging to the business, you need to follow all the correct procedures and ethos of the company and set your KPI’s and stick to them.

  3. Altaf Rahman says

    Nice article. Its not only true for Tech Start ups but in every field of commerce.
    In general I am talking about industry. We come across some new managers who act as if there is no tomorrow. They ‘want’ every thing yesterday or atleast 5 min back.
    Even when the thumb rule is a certain task can be done in certain time, they try to push it a bit hard. They dont know that after a certain extent the pushing gives negative results. When they see that you cant deliver the task yesterday, they start interfere your way of work, try to advise you the way to do it in the name of assisting a weak sub-ordinate, force you to do the task ‘their way’ and when you fail, award you the title ‘non-performer even after management support’.
    Finally the bad policies of such managers lead the company to go down which again is blamed on ‘non performing sub-ordinates’, and ‘inspite of the best efforts of the bright management’.
    The author of this article advises enterpreneurs to adopt STOP policy.
    I say the higher up managements like Directors should force this policy on managements to get meaningful success to the companies.
    Just my two paisa :)

  4. Ravi says

    Most of the do it all by myself entrepreneurs fail. I only know 2 successful DIAMBE Walt disney and founder of Harland Sanders, KFC.

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