It is with a heavy heart and the bitter taste of failure, still wearing me down, that I write this. Today I put out the first public communication of closing down what has been my holy grail for more than 2 years, my small business. I have always turned to blogging and writing to cope but my observations from this might just be of interest to more than the handful of people that read my blog.
1.Empathy — Don’t drown in it.
In my opinion, being empathic towards your customers and employees is key to be a good entrepreneur. It helps you understand the needs and pain points which become the basis for creating better products, services and work cultures. However, in the business of mass customization, I’d look for a rational hard ass as a team member! Not all customer needs can be addressed by sustainable solutions at THIS time. They can be work in progress or future opportunities. They can also end up destroying your operations. Spend time figuring out the difference, if you can’t, find someone to advise you.
2. Talk to the truck driver
Have a great product? Awesome! You know who gives a shit? Nobody, because your operations makes people want to smash it against the wall! Sound and fast adapting operations can triple the value of a good product from first-hand experience. Customers are always happier to pay the premium for convenience but the novelty of having an excellent product wears off pretty quickly, once they get used to it. Struggling operations also creates intense employee frustration leading to hidden costs of losing talent. This really did end up being a huge factor in the death of our business.
3. The Indian parent trick
When it comes to expectation setting, no one does it better than Indian parents. Even if they can afford it, they will simply withhold certain frivolous luxuries from you because, “aadat na ho jaye” (what if he gets used to it). Be wary of performing too well too quickly. Customers absorb good things very quickly, if you are uncertain that you can stay consistent and replicate a good practice, DON’T OFFER IT.…YET. This even applies to things you or some of your service staff might have done unintentionally.
4. Find yourself some HUSTLERS!
Interestingly, the people who do things right and the people who get things done are vastly different. Don’t underestimate the value of a good hustler. Every early stage business needs people who can solve small problems creatively alongside the big thinkers who find long term solutions. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean doing unethical things. I simply mean, your team should be capable of decision autonomy at all levels with both ability and courage to execute creative fixes. This includes people in very controlled, repetitive jobs with low impact like cooks etc.
5. PULL OUT if nothing else (Not advisable for your dating life)
It has taken a toll on my being, but I am proud of the fact that we knew when to pull out. It is easy to be swept away by thoughts of potential and future gains. Far more tempting to stay invested due to fear of lost capital. Numbers and projections have a way of being molded to tell the story you want to hear. As someone who is good with numbers, be wary of pulling a “Consultant move” on yourself! If you don’t see a sustainable future in terms of where your business is heading, recognize that you have the responsibility to step back before you climb debt mountain with a chute of forecasts.
Hope it was a useful read and if not, rest assured you’ve still gotten in a good deed by making my superficial side feel validated by increasing the number of views on my article. Just kidding, do leave me your thoughts!