Invest in yourself first

“I have invested about 3 Million and still spending 20,000 every month. I am yet to see revenues coming in” said an entrepreneur who was into dairy farming business. I asked him “In the hindsight, what would you have done differently? He said “Firstly, I would have invested more on cows than on state-of-the-art facility…” Before you think how he could have missed the obvious… I see this happening in a knowledge industry [read IT sector] as well where companies tend to invest more on the facility rather than investing in their employees.  Let’s look at another instance.

“I had about 11 properties and now have only 4 remaining. I have invested more than half a Million in this eCommerce portal and still have not made any serious money!” said another entrepreneur. It was very obvious to me why he lost so much. I saw this clearly during his meeting with a vendor. Purpose of the meeting with vendor was to test their ability to deliver better services. Unfortunately, the tables turned and the vendor was on the offensive while this entrepreneur was simply on the defensive. He clearly lacked confidence and the necessary skills to showcase his company’s value & potential even to a vendor!

This brings to my mind one of the most fundamental truths about business. The business or the industry we choose to be in is not a liability in itself. In other words, one does not lose money because of the type of business or industry, it’s really the entrepreneur or, to be more specific, his level of preparedness  to capitalize on opportunities.

Before we go further, these facts hold true for an Intrapreneur as well.  How do you build a Billion Dollar Business with 45,000 employees across 45 countries around the globe?  One of the powerful philosophies was to create & nurture a strong team of Intrapreneurs. I had the honour and privilege to consult this  client, observe first-hand and absorb the culture, philosophy, systems and processes that put them on path for accelerated strategic growth. This experience bore much fruit while advising a firm on scaling up to 1000 employees from their existing strength of 280 employees. We will talk more about that experience at a later point in time.

Here’s how “Investopedia” defines an Intrapreneur.

“An inside entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur within a large firm, who uses entrepreneurial skills without incurring the risks associated with those activities. Intrapreneurs are usually employees within a company who are assigned a special idea or project, and are instructed to develop the project like an entrepreneur would. Intrapreneurs usually have the resources and capabilities of the firm at their disposal. The Intrapreneur’s main job is to turn that special idea or project into a profitable venture for the company”.

Henceforth, every time we refer to an entrepreneur, kindly consider it from an Intrapreneurs perspective as well. I also hope that established entrepreneurs would spare some time to reflect on this. Often, we are prone to mistakes when we forget the basics. We also tend to live in a fool’s paradise when we assume we know it all!

It continues to amaze me at how much time & money entrepreneurs & CEOs are willing to pour (rather than invest) into their business without ever making a serious effort to challenge their existing thought paradigms or even acquire skills. Serious deliberations are warranted along the following lines –

  1. What does it take to be a successful Entrepreneur/ Intrapreneur in today’s dynamic market?
    [You might want to read about our first post on INR 200 to USD 5 Billion as an inspiration]
  2. How do we identify, capture &  leverage on business opportunities?
    [Often many jump in & launch a new product/ service/ business just because their competition or neighbor is making money in this area without questioning if they are equipped to venture in this business]
  3. How to identify the business best suited to one’s passion, interests & talents
  4. Understand market needs, trends, business models, key differentiators, sustainable competitive advantage, etc.,
  5. Build a minimum viable product
  6. Marketing the business by pouring ingenuity & thoughtfulness rather than just money.
  7. Building a team
  8. Training oneself to foresee potential problems that could arise in business
  9. Turning setbacks & difficulties as stepping stones for future success
  10. Sustaining the business over long term

I also hope CEOs would gauge their internal leaders on similar lines. Leaders, who are assigned to manage one or several business units, launch new products, services, businesses would benefit by taking proactive steps in equipping themselves on these lines.

I recently met a PhD with a brilliant mind. He had several unique ideas that could be commercialized. The only problem…his belief was  based on that premise that “If I build a better mouse trap, the world will come knocking on my door to buy it”. Well, how do we know we are building a better product? Next, I asked him how much time and money did he actually invest in acquiring PhD. He admitted that his education spanned more than two decades (if you count his schooling as well) and the investment was worth a few millions!

I smiled and fired another salvo – “How much time & money are you currently investing in Becoming an Entrepreneur?” He drew a blank. Fortunately, he realized then that he needs to change his perspective that entrepreneurship is a science and not just an art. Well said, Abraham Lincoln! “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. Sharpening the axe or in other words enhancing one’s existing skills or acquiring new skills for that matter is more relevant in business now than ever.

So, what does it take to be an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur? What sort of person do you have to become to start and grow a business? What are the most important traits? How do you know if you have what it takes to succeed in business?

We will dwell on these questions and much more in the following posts. But before that, I would love to hear your views and experiences about investing in oneself.

Until next time,
Ronald Raj

P.S: In the next post, we will look at the one of the most important traits of an entrepreneur/ intrapreneur… They thrive on challenges!



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