October 21, 2006

Is Entrepreneurship for You? - by Sanjay Anandaram

Here is the draft of the third installment of Sanjay's Indipreneur column for the Financial Express.

Is Entrepreneurship for You?

by Sanjay Anandaram

September 18th, 2006

Lets face it: all the talk about entrepreneurship and of being in charge of one’s own destiny can be heady stuff. There’s the hype, glamour, cool-factor, and even sex-appeal associated with announcing “I’m an entrepreneur and on my own” when everyone else around you is dishing out their corporate cards. But is a startup for everyone? Here are some pointers to help you decide if a startup is for you. Or, if you are better off wherever you currently are.

First, you don’t decide to “become an entrepreneur”, it happens; It’s not a job; It’s not a switch you can switch on and say, “I think I’ll become an entrepreneur; I have reached financial security”. The passion and desire to accomplish a goal are the key drivers. Lets look at some of the traits.

Passion: This is the key requirement. You must feel the burning need to be a successful entrepreneur deep in your bones and believe in yourself, the team and the opportunity. You must be willing to be consumed by the business especially in the formative years. Passion will help cope with the excitement and glamour of a startup as distinct from the reality. Why should people leave their jobs and join you? Remember, passion can be infectious!

Resource constraints: Are you willing to give up a cushy corporate lifestyle and the accompanying trappings and luxuries? Are you willing to deal with situations where your new business card no longer gets you appointments in a hurry? Are you willing to manage with limited resources, handle the immense pressures on your time and yet “give it all you have” performances? Are you willing to have your quality of life negatively affected? Are you physically and mentally healthy to handle the stress and long hours? What are you willing to give up to achieve your dreams?

Self-confidence: Do you have the self-confidence to realistically believe in your capabilities and harness the opportunity in the market? Can you communicate this self-confidence to your team mates? To your customers? Do you have the self-confidence to convince hard-nosed investors that they’re looking at the opportunity of a life time? Can you deal with rejection?

Humility: Are you humble enough to learn from others? Even if they are much younger? Are you willing to listen to others? Are you humble enough to go knocking on doors asking for help and advice? Are you willing to suspend your ego and contribute to the building of the company? Or do you think, “Taking out the garbage is not my job; I’m the CEO? Or, I was the CEO of this big company?”

Team Player: Are you individualistic or are you a team player? Do you share or hoard information? Do you help others on your team with their jobs? Is there trust between team members? Is there a single minded focus and belief on the objectives and goals in the team or are you there for your personal agenda? Can you delegate with confidence?

Knowledge: Do you have the required functional and business knowledge and expertise? Are you capable of spending time with customers and others to learn? Are you aware of the market, business and technology dynamics and trends? Can you command the respect of the board, investors, and others with your knowledge and awareness?

Time Sensitivity: Are you sensitive to the most valuable resource, namely time? Can you make quick decisions with less than perfect and inadequate information? Are you willing to change all 4 wheels of a moving car?

Communication: Are you an effective verbal and oral communicator? Can you communicate with your team, motivate and charge them? Can you communicate with the board and investors effectively? Can you convince customers, partners, and others of the value proposition of your company?

So, do you have it in you? What do you think?
Sanjay Anandaram is a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship in India; He brings close to two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, corporate executive, venture investor, faculty member, advisor and mentor. He’s involved with Nasscom, TiE, IIM-Bangalore, and INSEAD business school in driving entrepreneurship. He can be reached at sanjay@jumpstartup.net. The views expressed here are his own.