Tagged: entrepreneur

NAVY SEAL tips for entrepreneurs

navy-seal

NAVY SEALs or soldiers that have been in combat are a great source of inspiration for the modern day entrepreneur. They bring with them fundamental qualities and attributes that can make a successful business owner. Things like discipline, tenacity, resilience and elite performance are just a few things that one could learn from them.

Here are the top five NAVY SEAL tips:

Plan your mission and be agile: NAVY SEALs plan attentively and carefully. They prepare for various scenarios and pay attention to every detail. However they know the fact that you can never plan for the unknown. Their teams are quick, can handle surprises, are capable of making adjustments on the fly and are agile. Modern day entrepreneurs need to prepare diligently. But it’s the combination of preparation and agility that turns a good team into a successful company.

Embrace Chaos: NAVY SEALs are always dealing with uncertainty and crisis. They need to prepare themselves to be bold, swift and be gone. Results and outcomes matter. A business owner’s day-to-day life would start and end with issues: sales issues, legal issues, service issues, financing issues, product issues, recruiting issues, you name it. There are always thousands of tasks to do and only time for 100, and this would never change. So you need to make peace with the idea of being around constant chaos and the sooner you embrace it, the faster you grow. Break down your objectives into components, define them, plan them, execute on them, and train yourself to be calm under fire.

Never stop training: SEALs believe in 80% training and 20% execution. When they’re not on actual combat deployments, they are spending the vast majority of their time training for a number of different types of missions. In contrast, at start-ups business owner typically spend 100% of their time executing and zero percent of their time training. So it is important to build a culture of training at all levels. Entrepreneurs should never stop learning or taking up training lessons that will build better skills. They should make it a point to build the same atmosphere around their teams and/or company.

Leave no man behind: SEALs make it a point that they leave no one behind during the time of combat crisis. The essence is teamwork. Your teamwork spirit should just not end at holding meetings or assigning tasks. You should be passionate and to an extent highly possessive about your team. Also, showing loyalty to your team is one of the most powerful messages in business leadership. We all know that plans can fail. Objectives can fail. Products and/services can fail, but an entrepreneur’s loyalty towards his team should never fail.

Be focused and minimalistic: No great team or company is ever built without discipline, focus and good habits. Try to focus on what you need to do your job and try not to waste your resources and energy on things that are not necessary in life. Success, failure, turmoil and chaos are a part of the entire entrepreneurial journey. Try to live it and fight it with all that you got and eventually you would discover the important things that actually helped you through the good and the bad times.

The Bilingual Entrepreneur

bilingualDigital connectivity has changed the way we do business. As we become more interconnected and technology savvy, we are seeing the world become smaller as countries are becoming more dependent on each other. Global travel has become fast and easy, which makes it more important for entrepreneurs to become aware and adaptive to different cultures.

Global trade has also changed, it has become easier to buy and sell goods around the world. Technology has made it easier for entrepreneurs to connect with suppliers, partners, and customers and helped business truly grow to its full potential, and open doors to markets that might otherwise have remained out of reach.

In such a global environment, it is important for entrepreneurs to understand the importance of learning a foreign language. Nearly 80% of business leaders surveyed believe their overall business would increase notably if they had more internationally competent employees on staff and knew how to speak at least one foreign language.

As an entrepreneur, while looking at learning a foreign language for the purposes of business, one needs to look at which ones will best fit their needs. Here is a list of the top 5 most languages all global-minded CEOs should be learning.

1. Spanish
Spanish has official status in 21 South American countries and also the official language of Puerto Rico. Spanish is also now the second most popular language at A-level after French, having overtaken German in 2005. Mexico has over 20 per cent of all first language Spanish speakers, while the USA, with 30–40 million native speakers of Spanish, is the country with the largest Spanish speaking minority.

2. Arabic
Arabic is a Semitic language. With over 230 million native speakers and a further 100–200 million people across northern Africa and western Asia for whom it is their second language. It also ranks as the fourth most widely spoken language in the world. Arabic is used as an official language of the United Nations, International Criminal Court, African Union, Arab League amongst others.

3. French
Popularly know as the Romance language, French is spoken by more than 70 million people as their first language, although it is estimated that a further 100–200 million people around the world speak French as a second language. Also, in terms of internet usage, French is currently the language of choice for 60 million users, making it the eighth most widely used language on the internet.

4. Mandarin Chinese
The language with official status in China, Taiwan, and Singapore, Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua), is the most widely spoken in the world with 800 million speakers, mostly in China. By 2020, China will be one of four countries accounting for over half of the world’s population of 18–22 year olds making it a priority country for international education.

5. German
It is one of the working languages of the EU and an official language of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. German is the sixth most common language on the internet, with more than 75 million users.

Reference: Languages of the future.

Q&A with Rimjhim Ray

RRWhat motivated you to turn an entrepreneur?

I had an interesting and varied work life spanning consulting, advertising and digital implementation across the world. The experiences had stimulated me and I was looking to do more, go beyond the job description, to create, to disrupt. At the time of developing the concept for Unmarketeer, an experiential and creative digital firm, I was working with the Leo Burnett group as a business head. While there are a number of digital agencies offering the run of mill social marketing solutions, we wanted to solve a more fundamental problem. Creating next gen connected experiences using the new media. The motivation to create something transformational, something new, to take complete onus of my creativity was a strong impetus to turn an entrepreneur.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

The adrenaline rush that comes from making the next breakthrough be it roll out of the next product version, converting the next big client or making an impact at the next funding pitch. Also, the fact that you can ignite the dreams of others and create employment opportunities, makes you a direct stakeholder in the progress of the nation.

How do you ensure that you bring in the right people for your team?

As a startup building a team which is as passionate about your vision is a key challenge. You are not looking for a skill match alone. You are looking for a match of attitude, of temperaments, of values, of DNA. In our first year we have had some interesting experiences with bringing in new people. On one hand you had people looking for quick profits and instant fame. These are the kind that you should run from. Look for people who believe in a common purpose, whose value systems match, who share the entrepreneurial bend of mind. We have long, honest conversations with potential partners or hires. We explore synergies and long term matches. Individual brilliance is very important for us so we have partnered with leading B schools such as IIM and SP Jain to identify the right talent.

How do you generate new ideas?

Serendipity! A lot of our ideas are born out of brain waves that come from random observations. We believe in keeping our minds open. Also as a startup we are very democratic. So anyone can come with an idea and the whole team will be at it to take the idea and turn it into something concrete we can offer our customers.

How bright is the future for technology startups in India?

While the IT revolution happened in India we have not really been known for original products. All this is now changing with original research and innovation happening in India. At Unmarketeer we are working on next gen customer experiences using augmented reality and gamification, still niche fields in India. We meet several startups working on tech products or tech driven platform. It is really inspiring to be among so many bright minds which are turning India into a viable product nation. Who knows the next Google may actually be created in India.

Could you share some experiences on raising funds for startups.

As a startup, getting the right funding is important from 2 aspects. A. It solves your cash flow problem and adds muscle to the budget helping you expand and grow. B. It gives you a certain amount of credibility, having been vetted by the right VCs. It is important that you spend a lot of time figuring out your funding strategy. We have for example bypassed accelerator rounds and are looking straight at pre series A funding. Our initial funding came from our own savings, family and friends. Plus we also generated a decent amount of revenue in the first year. So right now we want to partner with the right VCs to help us expand our product portfolio and enter new markets. We are therefore looking at synergy in vision and not just the funding amount.

What are the most critical challenges you face as an entrepreneur?

Cash flow is the main one i.e. keeping the morale up as you spend days without the certainty of a regular monthly income. Also putting together the right team is a huge challenge.

What has been your greatest failure or mistakes?

Think we made some hiring mistakes early on. We focused on the expansion velocity and made some rapid fire hiring which proved to be costly mistakes. The lesson learnt was that it is important to balance velocity with sustenance. Another important lesson we learnt is payments can often be dicey. We have started reworking our contracts to ensure advance payments and also built in default penalties accordingly.

What are the 3 greatest qualities of an entrepreneur?

Creativity, grit & persistence.

Rimjhim Ray is a Columnist at the The Huffington Post and the Co-founder of www.unmarketeer.com

Twitter: @globeslother 

What is your competitive advantage?

Competative advantageIf you think you are the only one selling a certain kind of product or offering a niche services, then think again! If you look around you would see that there are many entrepreneurs and business owners that are constantly trying to do things differently, or trying to solve a problem in the most innovative ways. So how does one get an edge over their competitors in the market? Though you might be offering the same product or service, but how can you stand apart in the competition and also get noticed?

With the changing global economy, finding your businesses’ competitive advantage has become the most critical aspect and to add to that, the way you market that advantage will eventually play a key role in how you succeed in the market place. In simple terms, competitive advantage is something that occurs when a business develops certain attribute or characteristic that allows it to stand out and outperform its competitors. This unique advantage could be things like access to specific resources, skilled manpower a specific business model and/or technology. All of this could help in creating a unique product or service or even act as a competitive aid in the overall business process (for example, better identification and understanding of customers).

While identifying your advantage, try to divide your competitive strategy into three broad categories:

– Expertise: If you are a specialist in your field and think that you are offering a cutting-edge product or service, then expertise is something you would need to focus on while marketing your competitive advantage. Also, if you or your business has been involved in one industry for a number of years, you can add that to your competitive advantage.

– Business Process: If you feel you manage your business better than your competition then that is something you could show as your competitive advantage. Focus on your results based and customer centric approach by including testimonials and case studies in your marketing material. While marketing your business process you would need to always keep in mind that your high quality staff is the most critical piece to the success of your business.

– Relationships: If you spend the time making your customers feel special and understood, then focusing on your customer relationships might be the way to go. Though there are potential risks involved in this option because you would need to dedicate time and energy to these relationships and that may mean you can only take on a select number of customers at a time. However, it helps if you are able to build a good ongoing business relationship with your customers and market that advantage at the right time.

As an entrepreneur it is important to analyze your business and find that unique aspect that will make your product or service stands out from your competitors. It is important to always focus on one area or aspect and market it as your competitive advantage, rather than focusing on multiple advantages and marketing them all together. It is always advisable to start small and slowly penetrate the market with your uniqueness that would eventually offer you a long lasting competitive advantage.

Q&A with Rahul Varshneya

imageedit_2_6007827613Q. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

A. My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is the fact that you truly define your success. You will grow as much as you really want to and that there’s no one else that controls your fate.

Q. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

A. Like I mentioned earlier, the biggest difference in my opinion is that Entrepreneurs get to define their own path to success. They go as far as they can imagine. Now one can argue the same for those who work for others, but those people most often don’t control the fate of the company directly. Being an entrepreneur is all about taking decisions that decide their fate as well as that of the company’s.

Q. What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business?

A. The spark was fueled by a problem that I personally faced, or I saw someone that I was connected to, face. All the companies that I previously started were based off that and the same goes for the current business as well. The services arm (Arkenea) was launched to help entrepreneurs and businesses to deliver a fantastic user experience to their customers through technology and the product (Foster) helps these startups and small businesses to keep their audience engaged by sharing engaging content. The problem that Arkenea was started to solve was faced by my co-founder and I when working in our previous organization. And for Foster, the problem emerged when we were looking for a solution that could help Arkenea keep its audience engaged to project ourselves as experts in the industry, as well as help keep the brand alive in the audiences’ minds.

Q. How do you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?

A. This is the biggest challenge for most companies. There isn’t an easy solution or the right way to this. There are many things that send across a certain message to the potential employee as well as gauge their interest and culture-fit for the company. We spend a lot of time telling them about us, our values and culture to make sure they realize what they’re getting into. We lay a significant focus on getting a buy-in from the employee and we ensure these are the right reasons they’re joining the company for, by clearly laying out the growth path for the employee. Once the employee joins, the ‘care’ part is built over a period of time by engaging them in certain activities apart from their KRAs where they feel they play a role in the organization’s growth.

Q. How do you generate new ideas?

A. The best ideas come from problems. I look at day to day problems and gather information on how intrinsic or deeper it is. If it is something that someone would pay to solve, then I look for a way to solve that problem in the most efficient and user-friendly manner. That is how I generate new ideas.

Q. What motivates you?

A. The biggest motivation is knowing that what you do actually makes a difference to someone’s life in a direct manner. That keeps me going day after day!

Q. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?

A. I’m not sure if you’d consider Steve Jobs as part of history, but the way I look at it, he would be one person that I would surely love to meet and talk. Steve Jobs somehow knew the pulse of the market and knew how to interpret insights into experiences for consumers. He had an eye for flawless execution and would leave no stone unturned in making every product clearly stand out in the market. Steve Jobs is my hero.

Q. What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?

A. There have been many failures along the way of starting and running a few companies. Even with the existing ones, you keep testing hypothesis to see if it can get traction. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails. But if I would have learnt one thing, that would be to be persistent. I love this quote from Albert Einstein, who said that, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer.” If you stay with the problem long enough being committed to finding a solution that works, something that finally resonates with your customers, you will find a solution and find success in what you’re doing. Most often, people quit. Quitting, according to me is the biggest failure.

Q. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

A. There can never be a pattern or formula for becoming successful. If there were, wouldn’t everyone be just successful? One of the other things is that everyone’s definition of success is different. Would you call 1 million downloaded a success or the one that received $100,000 in revenues? Is making $1 million a year successful or making $1 billion finally called success? In my view, success means you enjoy every waking moment of your life doing what you love.

Q. What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

A. The top three skills according to me would be Persistence – to stay with the problem long enough to find a solution, Focus – laser-sharp focus to get things done and Humility – to accept your mistakes and customers’ feedback, and learn from them.

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder of Arkenea LLC which helps entrepreneurs and businesses build engaging mobile apps. Click here to subscribe to his free email course on maximizing app downloads.

Find a Mentor

imageedit_2_7958483912You might have the greatest start-up idea or have strong financial backing to kick-start your business, and to add to that, you might also have the knowledge and industry experience to get started on your entrepreneur journey, but ask yourself this: wouldn’t you rather ALSO have someone like a guide who could help you, or support you through the whole process of becoming a successful business owner?

A good mentor is what you need! They help you think through the start-up phase with a more experienced outlook; suggest ways to do things the right way and sometimes also help you with necessary industry knowledge or know-how that you might be missing. A mentor is someone who understands your perspective or perhaps has walked the same path that you decide to embark upon. A good mentor will be there to motivate you and identify your achievements and also give you a cautious heads up when crisis strike.

Here are a few points to remember while finding a mentor:

Be ready to be mentored: This is one of the most necessary characteristics of a wannabe entrepreneur. If you have an “I know it all” attitude then you are not open for coaching or mentoring. If you want to learn and grow fast, then you should be willing to consider ideas that may not match your expectations or opinions. Your business ideas and approach might be perfect for you, but another viewpoint will help you get a broader perspective about the situation, and will help you make the right move.

Networking is Key: As an entrepreneur, networking should be your second nature. Your approach towards networking should not be just to build customers or associates, but to find people who you could learn from, people you think could be potential mentors for you. Remember, networking is not about sending bulk email or handing out business cards to people you meet at a seminar or an event, it’s about making the effort to connect with people, collaborating, learning and adding value.

A good mentor is someone who has had success as an entrepreneur: According to statistics, the very best mentors are usually those who have been or are entrepreneurs themselves. A good mentor is someone who has walked the path of entrepreneurship and has gained the required experience, which is not long ago. Such mentors have been through the phases that you are going through and genuinely want you to succeed as well. In a typical situation, you should be able to see yourself “succeeding” the same way your mentor is today.

Thank your mentors and Pay it forward: It is always important to acknowledge and thank people who have helped you. Generally a good mentor would not be in it for the money, but would want others to grow. It is important to find ways to thank your mentor for all the support and help they provide you. Last but not the least, try to pay it forward i.e. you may never be able to pay your mentors back, but you can recognize what they have done for you by becoming a mentor to others.

The GROW model

GROWIn order to run a profitable business one has to be good with managing people and the key to managing people is effective coaching and mentoring. As an entrepreneur, you might come across numerous instances in your daily lives where you find yourself directly or indirectly coaching people. Coaching involves making sure your people set realistic objectives and achieve those objectives in desired manner. By effective coaching you can help them make better decisions, solve problems that are holding them back, help them develop new skills which would eventually progress their careers. There are many coaching methods that one could adopt. A specific method of coaching might suite a leader, whereas the same method would not be favorable for another leader, who might be dealing with a different set of people and objectives.

In the early 90s many leaders saw the need to structure a formal and effective method to coaching and objective setting. They eventually came up with the GROW model (or process), which is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring coaching or mentoring sessions. It was developed in the United Kingdom and was used extensively in the corporate coaching market in the late 1980s and 1990s. Even in the present day work cultures, coaching is some way or the other related to the GROW methodology.

The word “GROW” is used as an acronym here and stands for:

G – Goal
R – Reality
O – Options
W – Way forward

So to put it in simple words: while coaching and setting objectives for someone, treat it as a journey i.e. first, you decide where you are going (the goal), and then establish where you currently are (your reality). You then explore various routes (the options) to your destination. In the final step, you establish the way forward i.e. prepare yourself for the journey and plan your next move. This method is a simple yet effective way to coach and helps people think more realistically.

Many a times, leaders get into discussions with their teams, where they bombard them with information, facts, steps, plan etc, but lack this simple framework. The most effective way to use the GROW methodology is to align the basic coaching framework with your firm’s objectives. For example if you were to help a team member set objectives or deliver a desired result for your company, you would first need to discuss and set a clear cut goal, examine the current reality, evaluate the options and plan the way forward. Finally, decide on a date when you’ll both review the progress.

This method is highly effective even while setting personal goals and objectives. The core of the framework is that it helps one think and channel their thought in a more structured method, rather than get into a haphazard information dump. As with many simple principles any user of GROW technique can modify and apply a great deal of skill and knowledge at each stage but the basic process will always remain the same.