NO, You can’t do it all Alone…
While growing up in a soccer fanatic community, we used to hit the field everyday after school for a rigorous regime of competitive gameplay for several hours. The routine from formative years instilled a good sense of camaraderie but there were ample opportunities of displaying independent showmanship and the greed to earn individual credit for dribbling with the ball and scoring all by myself. We actually worshipped solo craftsmanship in the field and upheld great players by their ability to score from under the center-line all the way to the opponent’s goal all by himself.
Later in my life, when I decided to embark on a journey of entrepreneurship and startups, we kicked off with 3 co-founders. That was my first venture right out of the corporate grind and I was terribly naïve about outreach and team building. Yes, those were my childhood years of entrepreneurial dreams. Nonetheless, I tried hard in my role of CTO to bring the idea to life while managing a team of 10 developers across two different continents. Ironically, I was merely a manager trying to balance tasks and deadlines. My job was no better than what I was fretting all these past years during my stint in a large global bank.
Finally, reality caught up when we ran out of money. I bounced across couple more temporary ventures and finally decided to take it all by myself. Now here where the childhood romanticism of solo heroism blended with ignorance and lack of experience started playing to the cadence of ambition. I believed that I could make it all happen by myself. To some degree, I would still credit my myopic foresight to the risk I took to pursue into the uncharted territory of running my own business. After four years of slowly building the practice and moving from freelancing to a team of designers and developers, I reached a plateau! Now, like slow poisoning, I didn’t realize the slowing growth as I was still pursuing everything by myself with sheer energy and passion. I believed that it’s ME who is not putting enough effort, it’s ME who is not doing it right, its ME who is not able to find more leads for the pipeline. And all these about ME had strong chemical reaction inside my mind and body where sense of failure kept crawling into my psyche and started to weaken the foundation of my confidence — a critical attribute of an entrepreneur.
What do I do now? My back has hit the wall, the business is not moving upward but more sideways and the lead funnel is getting dry. AM I ABOUT TO FAIL?
This is what I love about failure (or fear of failure). It forces you to think out of the box and deconstruct your inner beliefs. Of course there are plenty of rooms for technical improvements such as better messaging, targeted prospect discovery, price promotions and what not. But soon enough I realized a fundamental piece to the puzzle — outreach. Historically, I have been somewhat introvert when it comes to reaching out and building relationships. But that isolation had a reason — lack of purpose. While I was busy trying to create something by myself, staying focused all within; I didn’t have a purpose for reaching out to people because I didn’t understand its real value. We entrepreneurs have an intrinsic characteristic of arrogance. We tend to believe that we understand what we are trying to do and we could just make our pursuit more effective by putting more gasoline to the same V4 engine. Failure is then the medication needed for enforcing a change in direction. In my case, frustration, fear of failure, and continuous introspection revealed that I miserably lacked what is called The Multiplier Effect!
What is a Multiplier Effect? It is the ecosystem of relationships that enables you to reach your objectives X times bigger than what you could be achieving over the next 100 years by yourself alone.
Often we mistake success stories around exits of ventures with personal development, personal empowerment, solo pursuits, single-handed heroism and isolated sacrifices. The media loves to highlight one or two founders solely responsible for the mammoth task of growing the company from a co-working space to a multimillion-dollar acquisition. We dream about the David versus Goliath story where a celebrity founder fought all the odds and struggled against industry incumbents and made it happen for himself and his employees! Wow! Aren’t we obsessed with Hollywood? And even I was indoctrinated with that heroic belief system from my soccer games in childhood. Go, do it yourself, show the world!
You may love to feel that you are capable of ideating product strategy, develop the product, execute a marketing plan, do biz dev, hire people and create your own content. But, creating a real business that grows with time is far from a single-handed effort. We entrepreneurs are devised to create a vision and drive our instincts around that vision. However, most of us do not realize that a vision can translate into something tangible only when we build the right team around it. There could always be someone who is far more agile in opening leads and building relationships, and there could be someone who may be great in building solution roadmap and architecting your product vision many times quicker than you do. What would your business become if you had both of them building towards the same goal as yours?
And that team formation starts from our outreach. For me, I was in some degree of isolation. Being a solution provider all these years, working under a white label brand, my job was focused on providing the best products and services to my client. I hardly pursued network building or developing a brand for my company and myself. Finally, when the fear of failure started engulfing my existence, I endured and decided to rewire myself.
The first step of my rewiring was to create a story of my culmination from a wallflower to a missionary. I would highly recommend this exercise of story building that brings clarity to one’s goal and purpose. As I mentioned, without a purpose, I do not find a basis for outreach. I am just not a natural networker without a strong objective. Again, do not take me wrong. A purpose is not a sales pitch or a fundraising exercise. A true purpose is a trajectory to our long-term intent of changing the way we operate. In my case, I realized that my sustenance and growth of my organization is tied to finding that multiplier effect. And to create that effect, I needed wider and longer hands (more than my two) and people who are better and more resourceful than me. So, a story was essential to inspire such kindred soles that would find resonance with me and would help me reach that goal. Empowered by that story, I embarked on a journey of reaching out, be receptive to diverse needs and views, be willing to listen and learn and be open to sharing a piece of my dream so I could create a 100X of that.
Even during the last several months of outreach and building the foundation for that multiplier effect, I have experienced things that are to some degree near paranormal. Again, for an introvert like me, I didn’t quite believe in the perceived and intangible (initial) value of networks. As I was always driven by an instantaneous return of emotional and financial investments, the long tail concept of sustained value creation in nurturing relationships was foreign to me. But once I started putting some serious effort into it while maintaining my integrity in place, the purpose worked like the North Star. As long as my story is true to the core and my outreach is empowered by the essence of Pay-It-Forward, amazing things start happening. It is almost like Yoga! Nothing happens on day 1 or day 2. But after a month, things start changing. You start realizing that there is an unknown factor that is slowly opening new doors. The process of relationship building itself operates like a subterranean, under the radar, multiplier. But, you have to diligently pursue it and keep improving, tweaking and honing on your ability to communicate, reflect your purpose and be transparent about sharing your dream and the bigger objective — your Moonshot!
I am new to it and have been practicing since last 3 months. And I am already seeing results. I do not want to sound like a prescription medication. But would definitely like to instill the faith in pursuing outreach beyond your comfort zone. It works!
Reach out, mobilize others with your passion and there will be amazing multiplier effect when great souls and minds join your mission!
May the force be with You.