Starting a new business venture is a challenge.
You as an Entrepreneur are always in shortage of time, money, resources.
Because of my involvement with 3 ventures (now) in different positions – i am witnessing the challenges entrepreneurs of startups face – first hand.
What i am getting to see are common business problems in starting a new venture while working with these 3 ventures. (all of which are at the starting stage or are waiting to start)
One of the ventures is a Digital Marketing Agency started by me (The Sharp Brain). The other is an e-commerce company (Manja Box) selling curated home décor and utility items and the third is a mobile app gaming company (Grandeur Apps).
I am leading one. Investing and mentoring the second and providing business consultation to the third.
In between, my product which was to see the light of day after my last Startup Eureka Moment is unofficially now on hold (Damn!).
While I did work very hard with the product development for months, The venture lost steam as I could not find the zeal in me to take the venture to next level.
Nevertheless, I had another Startup Eureka moment (Archimedes would be so proud of me. His Eureka moments have become a regular feature on my blog). This time the product is replaced by a venture very dear to my heart “Digital Marketing”.
I have spent the last few years experimenting with digital marketing in my Digi Lab situated at a dingy corner of our office. (top secret stuff)
My prowess as a Digital Marketing Expert is good enough to help me build a digital marketing bomb and drop it on North Korea to set them straight and bring some social media happiness to the residents of the country. (I will keep the bomb idea for some later day. As of now “Yay” to our new venture).
The “disruptive” product we were working on won’t see the light of day for another few months. It is added to my list of ideas which I must implement before I tread on the path to hell.
Well! My employees from the current company (the bread and butter supplier company) have cursed, abused, threatened me on the internet.
They claim to have done a deal with Satan to keep a bed vacant for me in hell. (“Thou shalt burn in hell!”)
Before the doomsday arrives, I am just passing my time trying and failing as many startups as possible 😊 .
It had been a while since I last worked with a startup and now since I am involved with 3 startups, I am getting to see the “unpredictable” world of startups from a very close distance.
The harsh truths of running a startup are making an entry back into my life.
The other day my better half (co-founder of Manjabox) said: “If we are unable to sell all our stock in next 1 month, I am going to take up a job”.
Manja Box is just a 2-month-old venture. I asked her “What were you thinking?” only to be given the “Keep your mouth shut or you are sleeping on the couch look”.
I got the hint 🙂
We, the misunderstood men know quite well, when to back off.
Manjabox’s initial plan was to sell on amazon, ebay. The product did not sell like hot cakes there.
Then we did a small exhibition at home which was good in terms of brand awareness but did not exactly set the stage on fire in terms of sale.
The stuff she bought was excellent stuff (I am not writing to appease my lady) for a specific customer segment.
She was targeting high-end customer but all her promotions were targeted to a different customer base. We were targeting a customer base which did not want to buy luxury items.
I have seen customers appreciate the products.
The problem is, she ran out of patience even before we could say “Ready – Steady – Go”.
I don’t blame her, We live in times when patience is the last word in our startup dictionary.
All we want today is fast funding, Amazing sales in the shortest time and unrealistic goals.
The good old days of running a business (slow and steady) are a thing of past.
Quoting a Gentleman I met yesterday “Sales is Vanity – Profit is Sanity and Cash is Reality” is what we were taught when we started our business.
(Disclaimer: The above lines are not for any of the Indian startups who have set a plan of 100 years to break even)
Fast forward today, the quote can very well be modified to “Cash is Vanity – Funding is Sanity – Sales Prediction is Reality” and Profits? Well! Screw Profits.
With billions of dollars in funding, who cares about profit. No wonder the list of failed startups in India keeps getting bigger.
Making initial sales for a startup is one of the most difficult jobs.
You overestimate, underestimate or worse, do not estimate the worth of your products.
Frankly speaking, you don’t even know what your product is worth.
The market is yet to decide the worth of your product.
The worse happens, when the sales register does not get ticking. You get impatient. You lose confidence. You start doubting your startup/business venture.
The mind starts playing its games. This is what had started happening with manja box. Before the “evil” mind could force the lady to close the venture, the gods smiled.
They provided us with an opportunity to exhibit at a mall.
The response was nothing less than overwhelming. The sales had finally started ticking.
Even Amazon had few orders for us last week. It’s not as dark and gloomy as it was.
The game is on. Think what would have happened had we closed because of little or no sales in initial months.
Moving on to the other venture which I am mentoring as a business consultant, Grandeur apps. The gaming app of the company was to go live on 1st June.
Today, we are almost 1 month far from the first launch date and the beta version of the gaming app still isn’t live.
The development team went slow with the work and we added to the delay by suggesting some end moment changes.
Ultimately, the delay has cost the client money, time and energy.
Again, things did not turn up the way we envisioned them.
The initial days of running a startup can really get so frustrating at times.
Coming to my startup, the sharp brain. We are now exactly 1.5 months behind the launch date.
Reasons range from incorrect hiring to my engagement with a lot of other things.
The pace is slow. Am I getting impatient?
Frankly speaking, I have my fears but having failed and succeeded so many businesses, I can put myself in the lot which pretends to have a lot of patience but when the situation demands, they are the first one to act crazy :).
Most common business problems starting a new venture might include:
- Money Trouble
- Product’s reach
- Marketing Issues
- Vendors not delivering the product on time (for retailers)
- Government departments dragging their feet over your license clearance etc, etc.
And then, there are problems which are beyond your control. Tsunami, Armageddon, World War, Alien attack to name a few. (just kidding!)
When we started, I was the impatient entrepreneur. You could notice me from distance taking long walks around our office or acting wonky.
And then I had this bad habit of going into my shell avoiding the outside world.
I hated when things did not go as planned.
I still feel for the guys who worked with me during those “struggle” days.
I hope they understood that I was a young guy trying to make things work without any help from anywhere.
Some of them did vent out their frustration on emails, the internet, etc, etc. Remember, I told you about my easy lounge access to hell for a rendezvous with the Satan. They are the ones who have set it up.
So how do we handle pressure during testing times? Especially, when things go south.
It would sound weird coming from the mouth of someone who has been at his wit’s end when he was to be the mature guy. Here are the words of wisdom “Have patience”
Over the years, I have transformed into a man full of patience, perseverance and persistence. (reformed like Donald Trump!).
I am at peace with times.
The entrepreneurship toll has turned me into a mellowed man.
I am no more the dynamic, aggressive horse running to win every single race.
Here are a few more words of wisdom (don’t get bored. We are just halfway through the article) for all of you.
For startups with investors:
If you have an investor sitting on your head, waiting to spank you for your follies, pray to holy god or evil Satan or curse your karmas (for atheists) because you are going to be beaten black and blue in front of your board members.
It could get worse if they control a majority stake in your company. They could very well send you to serve “kala paani” in Andaman Nicobar islands or give you a one-way ticket to Somalia.
You can plan your future ventures with the Somalian pirates 😊. (In fact, it’s not a bad idea. They have run out of creativity and innovation for the last few years. How about you go and launch a Somalian pirate startup which steals out of the box?).
And for the bootstrapped ones:
First and foremost, always have a plan B or a fallback plan.
And if things don’t even work as per the fallback plan, spend some time in planning your resources again.
The biggest stress during the few days/weeks of your startup/business venture is your resources which comprise of money, team and time.
You will have sleepless nights. You will be grumpy (quite obvious) and you will hate the world.
Don’t be surprised if you start blaming the big giants of industry or funded startups who according to you are having things very easy because of the easy availability of money.
Trust me, they have their own battles to fight.
Just because your startup did not take off as per your expectations, do not curse others. Cursing others won’t help your cause.
What I wrote above were my feelings when even before I started, one of my failed startups had turned on the self-destruction button. All my Optimism went with the wind when the startup refused to resurrect like a phoenix, even after the best of my efforts.
The sales did not come, teams deserted us and we turned into headless chickens.
Your ventures might not work the way you want them to work (90% of times)
You as the relentless entrepreneur must keep trying different ideas. With Manja Box, one of the customers who had seen our website and products on Amazon came to us and told us, the product images do not show the real product you are selling in the exhibition as they should look.
As per her, the images did not justify the real products.
She bought 3 to 4 pieces from our range and left us a wonderful feedback on Facebook.
The unpredictability of the venture has made way for some direction.
We just persisted and kept trying different ideas. I am not saying the venture is an enormous success. In fact, it is still finding its feet and we do have our doubts.
The challenges and common problems of starting a new business venture are still there but we are well ahead of our unpredictable months.
We know the products we are selling are good. We just have to try different ideas to increase sales by reaching a wider audience.
Challenges are bound to come when you start a new business venture. They only look more difficult initially because of our lack of experience. As time passed, we become experts in handling them. They are what you call as the real-time learnings. They shape you as an Entrepreneur.
The next time your startup faces unpredictable tasks, do not get a heart attack.
Trust in your idea. Trust your product and have faith in your abilities.
Always remembers, “Storms do not last forever”.