Brilliance or team work?

Thomas Alva Edison had experimented about 1000 times before he could successfully make a light bulb. According to him, he did not fail, but only found out 999 ways of not making a light bulb!

He is just one of the many brilliant scientists who made their indelible mark. Be it Albert Einstein or Marie Curie – they all had one thing in common – they worked alone. And they produce the most brilliant results!

But that is not how companies run. A company’s aim is to survive and grow. Its aim is to serve its clients as best as it can. They have deliverables. And it requires the expertise of a whole bunch of people, working in tandem, to achieve the desired levels of excellence.

Why can’t you work alone?

Working in a team increases your efficiency
Team work goes a long way when you have big projects in hand. Doing everything yourself can have two effects, and both of them not good – you’ll not be able to finish the project on time, there’ll be an extra load on you, and as handling every aspect is not your strength, some parts may end up not being up to the mark. Hence, it would be wise to let other people handle various aspects which their expertise lies in. After all, it is about getting the work done on time, and not who gets the credit!

Improved relations
People for healthy relationships when they can depend on each other. When people work together, it gives them a chance to bond, to form relations that last. They also feel valued when their work is successful and appreciated. And since each member’s contribution is required, it leads to the generation of trust.

Play your strengths
Every project has parts. And one cannot be expected to be a pro at all. There would be a couple of aspects you would excel at, while you might have a general knowledge of a few. Similarly, your teammates might have the knowledge you lack. This is where you build a symbiotic relationship – each playing his/her strength.

A company does not want people who are the best, as that is usually accompanied with narcissism, a superiority complex, and a holier-than-thou attitude. It wants people who are ready to work with others, are ready to learn, and are not under the impression that they are always right.

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In an entrepreneur’s mind

Indians think that one cannot be an entrepreneur if they do not have the capital to invest. This was true till some years back. But now, with the burgeoning of so many venture capitalists who are ready to invest in a good idea that can bring about a change in the world, now all you need is a promising idea. Now, all entrepreneurs need is the resolve to start out on their own.

Being an entrepreneur is not a piece of cake. While you can see your company growing and your ideas taking shape, there can be extremely tough times. When my company was around two years old, we hit a rough patch. We were not getting enough projects. I had to pay my staff, and I did not have any source of income. Sleepless nights had become a regular affair at that time. Profits seemed a dream. I did not know where to get the money from.

In all this, my son had turned two. We had to enroll him in a school. The expenses increased, without any sign of them being replenished. I was running into debt, and the pile kept increasing. I had started doubting my choice of becoming an entrepreneur. What if I am not cut out for it? Did I make a wrong life – altering choice? For me, the answers to these questions were more painful because I had two people who depended on me – my wife and my son.

I started meeting other entrepreneurs, in the hope of finding some solution to my problems. Although I did not get any magic solution that would make my problems vanish, I did learn something important – all entrepreneurs have their demons. All might not have the same problems, but they are similar.

One guy committed suicide because his idea was not showing profits even after a couple of years. He could not sustain with the money provided by venture capitalists, and started picking up loans from various banks, without a thought about the interest rate. Once he could repay the bank, he took another loan from another bank to pay the first loan off. Thus started a vicious circle he could not get out of.

Throughout this difficult time, I had the constant, undulating support of my family. They gave me the support I needed, and without them, I would not have made it through the difficult times.

Difficult times do not last, even though they seem to go on forever. The fear of such circumstances should not stop you from pursuing your dream.

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A positive attitude helps win wars

If you take a look at most entrepreneurs, you’ll see that they have one thing in common – they have studied in the best schools in the world and have pretty impressive qualifications. They also have one more thing in common – they are fierce believers. They believe in themselves, they believe in their dreams, and they believe they can do it. This belief is a manifestation of a positive attitude.

How does a positive attitude help?
To go on your own, you need to have an aptitude for business. But this aptitude is no good if you do not have the right attitude. A qualification from a reputed school can only take you so far. After that, it all depends on your attitude.

A positive attitude has the ability of affecting those around it. If you have a positive attitude, it will affect your employees, your clients, your vendors – essentially anyone you come in contact with. You will influence the attitudes of those in your company, and a positive attitude always attracts people. This means, your customers will want to do business with you and won’t hesitate to recommend you.

A negative attitude is a dampener. You will not be able to motivate people and they will feel gloomy around you. This will drive your customers away faster than a mosquito repellent drives away mosquitoes. And your business will suffer.

A positive attitude gives you the feeling of being in control and you’ll be infused with confidence. And this in turn will impel you to give it your best. The absence will not only destroy your confidence, but will also affect your health, performance, and mental abilities.

Being positive without being practical is being foolish. You need to be aware of the market conditions and the way he economy looks. You’ve got to ensure that your business can absorb the shocks of any economic downturn. You really would not want to go the Lehmann Brothers way, would you?

You might have to change a few processes, enhance a few strategies, and take a different approach to solving problems. But being aware of problems does not mean being bogged down by them. Every business has problems. It’s just that a positive attitude will help you sail through it by seeing opportunities that a negative attitude would never imagine.

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Hold on for one more day

One of most romantic notions that wannabe entrepreneurs have is that having a good product/service is the sole and sure way to succeed in the market. Well, nothing can be farther from the truth. The fact remains that for almost everybody (from Warren Buffets of the world to the panwallas of the streets), the journey is long and most of the times lonely. It is very tempting to give it all up in the face of relentless pace of obstacles that one faces in the entrepreneurial journey.

Pick up any magazine and read any interview and you will know what I am saying. Success depends not just on your strength to build a product/service, but more so on staying long enough with that strength. It is not just talent or intelligence that sets successful entrepreneurs apart, it is the persistence that gets interviewed at the end.

Consider this 61 year old who wanted to sell chicken sandwiches just because he thought he has a secret recipe that people will love. The sandwiches came out the way he formulated the recipe. Ironically, in matter of months, he was almost broke and unemployed. It dawned on him that he recipe wasn’t to everybody’s taste. He is believed to have had more than 1,109 chicken recipes before he decided to say YES to one best combination. This guy is popularly known as Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

One of the best questions to ask yourself before you start on your journey is “Am I ready to fail any number of times before I succeed?”. Persistence in simple terms means moving forward in spite of failures. More often than not, a brilliant by-product of persistence is ingenuity. Not just in business, even in our daily lives we need to stay long enough. Is it not your persistence that is at work when your child just doesn’t want to fall asleep, night after night? But you put those late hours just to ensure your child goes to sleep.

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Impatience is the number one enemy for entrepreneurs

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, argues that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on anything. In other words, unless you are persistent, you will never be able to see the fruits of your labor. When a true visionary starts a business, he would have already spent months toiling away polishing the idea. However, entrepreneurship is also about people. Just because you are organized and work very fast doesn’t mean others will follow suit. And that’s precisely where impatience creeps in and relationships sour.

I would say impatience is the number one enemy for entrepreneurs. You will have to factor in and accept that everything that you have planned might take painfully longer than usual. It is at such moments that you will have to dig in deep, be unrelenting, and persistent. Staying the entire course is the hardest thing for any entrepreneur and this is why it is important to have self-belief.

Be ruthless as far as the company you keep. Keep the naysayers at an arm’s length. It’s important that you believe in yourself irrespective of what others might want to say about you.

Keep enterprising in your own small way. For all that I know, we can start with your garden. You need the flowers and fruits! But yes, you have to tread through the mud and thorns. I am reminded of Nicholas Spark’s quotation here: It’s the possibility that keeps me going, not the guarantee.

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The bacterial survival instinct

Nature is not only man’s theatre but it is also the source of his inspiration. In school as a child, we were all told about King Bruce. He watched the spider fall time and again but never gave up till it weaved its web. Even as the spider inspired Bruce, people look out at inspiration and find it!

While the grandeur of the Lion inspires the rulers, the flight of the Cheetah inspires the sports persons. Was it not Darwin who spoke about the survival of the fittest? Hidden from the naked eye are microscopic bacteria that in their many species have survived, adopted, grown and thus inspired. The entire anti-biotic industry working in the midst of millions of dollars is proof of how these bacteria survive. Even as they challenge, they must inspire.

It is not just the instinct that aids survival. Application and adaptation are important factors of survival. The life of the bacteria is a message, it fights big Pharma houses million times their size in wealth, power and potential. While the Pharma industry may help eradicate many anti-human bacteria, they cannot kill the inspirational message that bacteria carry for man.

Historically nations fight and survive by strategies, revolutions, wars etc. As we move around the corner of the 63rd milestone we are bound to be inspired by a whole generation of people small in size and power but so strong in will power and character that they led the march against the mighty British empire. It may sound like a piece of historic fiction when we learn that India won freedom by peace. Even as India fought two bloody wars and spread blood across the globe, a saintly loin clothed man with his toothless smile inspired millions and ensured freedom without wars.

Gandhism was a historic bacteria, that renewed faith in dialogue and pointed out the need for tolerance. Today the World faces another looming catastrophe. We must perhaps go back to the Gandhian philosophy. The crux of this philosophy was that we must appeal to the conscience of the offender. Here lies the key against terrorism. At first sight it may sound impractical, think again and you will realize that it is the only solution.

Gandhian tolerance is a facet of bacterial survival. Minor nuances apart, they both scream out the need to strategic applications for the purpose of survival. Dis-engineer the functional button and detoxify the mind that is eager to push it. The bacterial survival instinct, the Gandhian text of tolerance will help us safely handover the Planet to the next generations like our forefathers did to us.

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Trek Up!

We all journey in life looking yearning at milestones. Sometimes we reach there; sometimes there is a constant distance between our travel point and the milestone.

We live in a time when men don’t walk Plateaus, they peak hills. Thus it is no longer enough to arrive. It is important to arrive competitively. It may sound childish to believe that the tale of the hare and tortoise has a theme. It may sound immature to pin a fable into our life yet did the hare not lose for the lack of hard work? Put otherwise, did the tortoise not win because of passion?

It is different to throw out a mantra that assures success, perhaps there isn’t one. The recipe however does have a few defined ingredients. The twin ingredients that power the vehicle of success are arguably are passion and hard work.

Sheer hard work will throw peter’s principle at your face sooner than later. It will earn you good reports at office, added salaries, luxuries and affordability of enlarged dreams.

Passion is what thrusts you on your journey. After the initial push, it converts itself into dreams, visions but just that.

Everyday is a new opportunity; look out at the Sun, hidden somewhere in the early ways is the question: Do you want to hoist the flag or do you want to be the invitee at somebody’s celebration party? You arrive first, you unfurl the flag. You arrive later, you only salute the flag.

The framework of the journey on the trek to the precipice must therefore involve the thrust of passion and hard work to focus on the flag point.

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Create your own stars

Success is rarely repeated. Yet you can learn from success and inherit the wisdom. To therefore believe you can replicate is to overlook the fact that success can then be a multiple function which surely it is not.

People who believe that they can poach a success team and replicate success are bound to be only chasing a mirage. The hunger, the feel and drive that makes a team contributes largely to success therefore success arrives at the doorstep of a vibrant team. A vibrant team is not always about a talented group, it is about inspiring, sharing passion and putting the bricks together. This comes both as a challenge and a solution to those who start of.

Startups obviously cannot hire the very best. Good leaders invest in men just as good investors enter the market. Angel investors and dynamic leaders thus make the difference. Just as angel investors need to be patient, dogged and hopeful – infact put money and hope in the same basket. Angel leaders must also understand that building chemistry and ambition is how you allow boys to grow into men.

From the one opens up the office and doesn’t frown when required to serve a cuppa tea well after office hours to an important guest or a late working colleague to the leader who builds passion. Everyone in a startup work on an untested ground. The weather of this journey is unpredictable, it is therefore necessary to have a team that not only gives you space when requires but cuddles when called.

There is no pre-arrived hero in this experiment. A startup is like a plant nursery, each sapling can grow and flower, however each sapling needs care. Each needs attention. With care and attention, even the organization understands the hidden talents and the hidden capabilities which remain to be used and exploited. Next time a startup recruits a team, they need to understand that they are not recruiting an employee, they are inviting a team member.

They are two ways: look up and admire the stars or create them and look up with pride. Run behind the stars – you will collect the stardust, pause and create them – you will get the applause.

Search for the stars in the team and help them shine rather than look up at the theatre of the star performers. Don’t just applaud, be the recipient. Create your own stars.

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Big victories don’t have early finishes

Success, people believe is serendipity, which is often in some convoluted manner a product of circumstance. While endeavor and focus are pavement material, the road is often travelled by factors beyond the perceivable laws of navigation. Many a mute Milton, an unrecognized Einstein or a drowned Darwin leaves without making an impact or telling the story.

Writers, Scholars often acknowledge the assistance of teammates and colleagues who have helped and aided their journey to the victory stand. I have a different list, my bibliography is different.

I too started from the log cabin and to me the White House is still a building in Begumpet. I too have slept looking up at stars and drifted into ambitious dreams; I too have looked at milestones and tied up my shoe laces.

The other day someone declared that my journey is over, I saw a bird fly up in the air and its bouyance reminded me that I need to keep flying. The prophets of doom have written me off, it shall be my pleasure to prove them wrong. Big victories don’t have early finishes. If life is a magnum opus, dramatic moments are bound to be its part. Life with me is not a short story. It is not a simple tale with a twist in the tail. It’s a novel full of novelty, strife and challenge.

To those unnamed in my bibliography and to those who have just passed me away, to those who have seen me off, and to those who are agnostic of my promise, I can only quote the poem

To those who have pushed me, thank you.
Without you, I wouldn’t have fallen.

To those who have laughed at me, thank you.
Without you, I wouldn’t have cried.

To those who just couldn’t love me, thank you.
Without you, I wouldn’t have known real love.

To those of you who hurt my feelings, thank you.
Without you, I wouldn’t have felt them.

To those of you who left me lonely, thank you.
Without you, I wouldn’t have discovered myself.

But, to those who thought I couldn’t do it,
it is to you I thank the most because without you, I wouldn’t have tried.

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From logarithms of elements to algorithms of structure

The industrial revolution contributed to the popular belief that necessity is the mother of invention, but as we moved from activities in the real World to the Virtual, invention became the mother of necessity. It is not just the play of words, it is an entrepreneual evolution to envisage need rather than answer it. Today, therefore many add-ons in the virtual World are luxuries not needed in the orthodox sense of the term.

Yet another vital factor of invention and investment is shelf life of such inventions, there quick applicability and global adaptability.  The dynamics of the virtual World is therefore totally different from the real World. Travel as we do from the real into the virtual, we notice that we occupy the said planet on terms totally different from our existing knowledge repository of physics.

Till the other day we defined matter as a function of weight and space. In the virtual World, there is so much “matter” which does not “weight” or “occupy space” in the traditional sense of the expression. We don’t ask questions relating to gravity and conductivity of matter in the virtual World. The nuances of matter have shifted from the logarithms of elements to the algorithms of structure. To understand the shift in the physics is a vital starting point of all and everything that happens after the click and on the monitor screens.

Entrepreneurs have noticed the power shift in this virtual World. Toffler’s treatise apart, the virtual entrepreneur lives in and occupies space in global village. Even as traditional scientists are perfecting IPR regimes, the software men are throwing up transparent algorithms and making hard earned formulae of yesterday ridiculous today. So transient is utility but so continuous in the chain is the formulae that entrepreneurs need to know quickly, forget, adapt to the new and create the newer. In short, like cricket 90, 50 , now 20. Time is nano and value macro. It is this challenge that the virtual entrepreneur needs to meet.

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