“I want to be my own boss” is a thought that has definitely crossed the minds of most corporate managers at some time in their careers. When you look at all the work you put in at work, working 12 hour days, the thought of doing all this work for yourself would definitely have crossed your mind.
Over the years, younger managers have also started to get attracted to the excitement and opportunities of the world of startups.
This thought had often crossed my mind as well before I set out on my own and founded Guardian Pharmacy in India.
It was in 2003 when I was 46 years old that I took the decision of quitting the corporate world after 25 years and take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship. I had worked for ITC Ltd for 17 years and then in the world of aerospace for 8 years before I quit. Everyone thought that I had taken leave of my senses when I walked out of a high paying high profile job. I was convinced that I was taking the right step.
Yet most people hesitate to take this giant step of becoming an entrepreneur for one reason or another. Giving up what one has today, including a regular monthly pay cheque and the perquisites that come with the job to pursue a “dream” definitely appears to be an intimidating challenge for anyone who is contemplating changing his status quo. On the other hand, for people who have made this change, the realisation is why they took so long to take this step!
Most people have a great idea in their minds. Once you have crystallised your thoughts and decided to take the plunge, here are some thoughts from my own learnings.
It Is Never Too Late Or Too Early To Make A Start
Getting over one’s own fears and anxieties is possibly the biggest challenge that you will face. There is no right or wrong age when you can start a business. Remember that Colonel Sanders of KFC took the plunge when he was sixty-five!
Ensure That You Have Family Support
Your family will be the biggest stakeholder in your decision. You will invest not only the resources of your family but also most of your time, a large part of which also belongs to your family. Ensuring support from one’s family helps every entrepreneur to take the plunge faster. If the home front is solidly behind the venture then the entrepreneur can press ahead to tackle the challenges with renewed vigour.
Be Prepared For A Complete Lifestyle Change
An entrepreneur’s job is a lonely one. Days will blend into nights and weekdays into weekends. No job will be too small or big and what you take for granted as a corporate manager will be a challenge you will have to address personally. No question of asking someone why the lights are not switched off or why the coffee machine is not working or why the toilets have not been cleaned. Yet, the fruits of your efforts will be visible at the end of each day.
Find Your Calling And Stay The Course
Once you have made up your mind on what you want to do, take a plunge with 100% commitment. Write out a realistic business plan for yourself. Part time entrepreneurial ventures have never succeeded. Invest in your own dream and not the dreams of others.
Once you have started your journey, you will be confronted with challenges that you would never have imagined. Yet, no challenge will be insurmountable. Many ventures with high potential have failed because their promoter gave up when he was so close to seeing success. Many others have failed because the promoter started out with an outstanding idea but changed course based on a new whim.
The new buzzword in the startup business is “pivoting” – if the business is not working, start doing something else. As a startup entrepreneur, you have definitely not reached the stage of pivoting.
Funds Will Be A Challenge When You Start Up
A family investing its savings into a business is a strong message of confidence for any banker or private equity investor. Manage cash very carefully.
Costs have a habit of running out of control and revenues will generally lag behind what you may have planned for when you wrote out your first budget. As long as you are doing what you had thought you had set out to do, you will start to see light at the end of the tunnel, sooner than later.
Essential To Find A Strong Management Team And Empower Them
Finding the right talent for a startup and empowering your management teams for success will be a challenge. Good professional managers will not agree to join a startup easily. At the same time, you, as a startup entrepreneur will not be able to afford such high-cost managers. Therefore, it is necessary to draw upon skills of friends and family and part time managers to start any new enterprise. The promoter is also human and will make a lot of mistakes. This is when a good management team comes in and takes charge.
The going will be very tough and challenging for the first few years and very often I did sit back and think whether I had taken the right decision. However, looking back, I don’t think there could be any other path I would have wanted to take. Remember the fruits of all the hard work will be very sweet though you may have to wait for a long time for these fruits.
If becoming your own boss is your dream, there is no date as good as today to make a beginning.
In conclusion, this quote from Colonel Sanders says it all. “Believe. Dream. Try. Succeed. Age, No bar!”
[Ashutosh Garg is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.]