“The end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
- T.S. Eliot
A lot of people ask me this one question.
“What is your opinion on turning your hobby into a business? You turned your photography interest into a business. How do you feel?”
And thank him silently in my mind!
In January, when we were looking for an office space, I was very enthusiastic about getting a nice posh space for ourselves. After all, we already had 6 figure revenues. Also, we would get 5 lakhs from the Morpheus fund.
“We deserve a good space”, I used to think – altruistically!
Once upon a time, there lived a simpleton!
He came from a far-off village and his education was so-so. Teachers at his modest Government school would often say, “you only know to eat, why do you even come to school”. Somehow he struggled through to complete 8th standard – the equivalent of a degree in his village.
Now that education was ‘done with’, his father reminded him of his family duties – getting any job that would help reduce the family’s burden.
Just like every ‘educated person’ in his village, he too set off to that paradise called Hangalore in search of a career. High hopes and a smile on face.
Nostalgia is painful.
You look back and you see the green lush meadows around your childhood home.
You see schoolchildren playing happily without much ado. Suddenly, you realize you are one of the children playing.
And you are sitting in the classroom, with friends. You are in 8th standard. You think life’s going to be fun all through. Oh yeah, fun & some romance, if you include that new crush of yours (who apparently is the crush of almost every boy in the school).
You see the lovely route home – through the woods. You can see the handlebar of your bicycle and can almost feel the heaviness of the schoolbag pulling on you.
Time runs fast! And I tend to digress.
I am sick of salesmen who only bother about the sale.
The insurance guy who sells his policy and disappears. The bank agent who stalked you for a deposit and went missing after getting your signature. The telephone service provider who charges you for a “Hello tune” that you never opted for and wont refund you. The door-to-door salesman who doesn’t understand his own product, but is desperate to sell it to every house out there.
I hate them all.
To them, a sale is the end of a transaction.
A discussion I had with friends triggered this post!
To them, what I did after quitting my job appears cool.
It’s cool to be able to say that you run your own company! Right?
That you neither have a boss nor an appraisal every year!
That you are the master of your own destiny!
And there are no more Monday blues!!
Yup. I think it is awesome to say yes to those questions. However, beneath the cool exterior, there’s a different beast. There’s reality to boot!
Everytime we try to do something, we think of all those reasons as to why to do it and convince ourselves into doing it.
How many times do we stop and say, ‘wait, let me think of 3 reasons NOT to do this’ and see if the thoughts still hold.
Invert your thoughts when you step onto something and ask yourself for 3 reasons not to do it.
That might give you better perspective.
I met an entrepreneur a few days back.
One of the discussions was about planning for future and stuff like that.
After coming back, I gave it some serious thought. What were my thoughts and plans at these stages:
- Mar 2011
- Aug 2011
- Mar 2012
- Aug 2012
Looking back, I had hugely varying plans in each of those periods. And like they say, change seems to have been the only permanent thing.
I don’t know about the other entrepreneurs out there, but with me, I know I will change again, probably in 6 months. Hopefully in a positive manner like it has generally been so far.
That’s not bad at all. In a way, its an indication that you’ve grown and matured. While fluctuation and distractions could also lead to changing thoughts every 6 months, my point is more on the lines of more learning and knowledge inducing you to redirect the path in a better than planned manner.
This is especially true with entrepreneurs like me who are learning on the job. For people like us, having concrete plans beyond 6 months into the future is futile.
Make a 6 month plan, step on the gas pedal and execute, make sure you learn a ton in the process and…. be willing to adapt to the new lessons and learnings that you went through in the period.
You should be willing to re-evaluate your plans every 6 months depending on the feedback loops – both positive and negative.
Positive feedback loops are extremely important in the sense that they are what will catapult your company into the next level and beyond. Something is working well, you do more of it, it gets even better and it starts feeding itself. That’s how positive feedback loop generally works.
At the same time, negative feedback loops are very important as well. They are the ones that will point out something is going out of target and causing instability of the system. At that time, you have to pull things back and set the house in order. For eg, if you are eating and you “feel” full, you have to stop. That’s your internal system asking you to stop. Without that negative feedback to stop eating, you wouldn’t be a normal person.
For a startup like ours, where we are still on our discovery path, phasing our growth on the 6 month feedback loop seems to be a much healthier approach than having concrete plans that go poof every 4th month.
Of course, you have a general direction for the company – but how, why, where, when, etc could alter depending on lessons.
To give you an analogy, think of a missile.
You want to hit a moving truck.
What do you target? Not the location for sure, because the truck would have gone by the time your missile lands there.
So you build a feedback loop mechanism.
Every few minutes, you check the position of the target.
If it is on course – that’s a positive feedback. Keep going in the same direction, probably even faster.
If it is misaligned with the target, that’s negative feedback. Change direction and check again. And check again.
Rinse and repeat till you hit the target.
In 2010, I developed an itch.
To do something on my own!
When it grew strong, I simply quit from my job. I had no clue in life as to what I would do next.
There were a few sleepless days – driven by fear of going nowhere. However, the itch was bigger and helped me stay put.
Over the next few months,
- Tapprs happened.
- fear of not having a salary disappeared.
- fear of not being able to do something in life went away.
Things looked bright.
- Tapprs looked like the light at the end of the tunnel.
- We crossed 7 figure revenue in reasonably quick time.
- We resolved a fraud that had almost no information.
- We turned bolder.
The itch was different now. We were gung-ho about an all-India reach-out plan.