Journeying through entrepreneurism 2: The Force Within


Most decisions get taken on the basis of limited information, with limited resources, and need to be implemented in limited time.  All entrepreneurs want to do things right or perfectly, but perfection itself is limited in the entrepreneur’s world.  Sometimes, despite these limitations, things work out, and sometimes not. There is very little that differentiates between success and failure.  That little has to do more with how different elements come together rather than how good each of those elements are.  A good (sometimes ungraciously labeled ‘lucky’) entrepreneur aims to put together the right things in the right way without undue wastage.

OK so you have decided to go for that start-up idea you had.  It seems an exciting thought, and you hate your job anyway, and you need to make your billions before you become old, and if you don’t try now then when?  The thoughts driving entrepreneurs vary widely or perhaps not!  I used to get at-least two to three people every week asking for gyaan on how to build a successful start-up.  Initially I used to make the mistake of studying their idea in detail.  Now, I am not sure of the importance of great ideas (more on this later!).  What matters most is whether the entrepreneur knows what she wants and whether this is in line with her abilities.  Read that one again: (a) What the entrepreneur wants (b) whether he knows it and (c) ability to deliver.

Each time there was a financial failure – a failed product introduction, a failed business venture, and failed project, it did not get to me as badly as financial failures get to many entrepreneurs.  For me failure meant another try was required albeit with lesser resources.  And success meant another try was required with more resources!  But something new was required every few months if not weeks.  I realized early on, whatever be my persona, as an entrepreneur I was more of a gambler and I would keep on gambling until my internal force turned its attentions elsewhere.

This is true of all entrepreneurs I know.  There is a force within that pushes towards decisions which we rationalize later, but critical decisions are mostly taken instinctively.  In other words, the entrepreneur’s decisions are made somewhere deep inside and spreadsheets, experts, well-wishers all come later – the way information is shared, the assumptions that are made to arrive at an ‘independent’ deduction, etc. are all gamed to get the conclusion that the entrepreneur wants. And in case he still does not get the recommendation he wants, the ‘gut feel’ will do the job!  He will withdraw from an incredible opportunity at the last moment, sometimes leaving close friends and potential partners high and dry.   Our decisions are determined by an internal switch, and this switch answers to a higher power deep within our unconscious, and this higher power is what I call the ‘force within’.

And so, every time a friend or family member asks me for advice, I try and first figure out what is the decision they have already taken! And then I try to veer the conversation around that thought.  I figure that is the best way to help the person who many times does not even know what he has decided!

This driving force behind the entrepreneur is important in determining which direction the business will take. A person who is more interested in success than in excitement will think and consequently differently.  One’s business will be more stable, the other’s less so.  Whereas an entrepreneur more scared of failure than his love of success will tend to run his business more carefully, taking great care not to make mistakes.

When there are investors or creditors or even family money involved, these inherent tendencies get subdued, but not eliminated.  They get subdued because typically the investor imposes a control over the entrepreneur.  They don’t get eliminated because outside control can impose only limited constraints.  Day to day decisions are still taken on the basis of instincts and no amount of overseeing either through directors or other methods of monitoring and control, can eliminate day-to-day decisions based on this inherent tendency.  In fact when the investor wants something that is not in sync with the entrepreneur’s instinct, there is bound to be serious trouble.  And mature investors spend many hours in a social setting with the entrepreneur to gauge their instincts.

In the decade and a half of entrepreneurship, I met hundreds of entrepreneurs, and found that that any of the above instincts can be associated with business success, stagnation or failure.   I am not at this point attempting to answer what will succeed more than others.  All that I am saying is the character of each business will originate in the character of the entrepreneur that resides deep in the entrepreneurs unconscious.  In the next post, I will stick my head out and make the claim that there are only three kinds of entrepreneurs.  But for that wait a few days!


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