The Flipside of Entrepreneurship

LightCastle Analytics Wing
October 16, 2014
The Flipside of Entrepreneurship

Listen to your heart. Follow your dreams. Be who you are. Don’t seek jobs, give jobs. These are just some of the teachings we receive from authors, speakers and motivational coaches in this era of start-ups, bootstrapping and tech wizardry. But we are told very little about the other side of the story – when things don’t go according to plan.
Start-ups are not just about hitting the bull’s-eye. It takes time and a series of trial and error to understand how your business will flourish. And it’s not as easy as reading this article. So here are a few words of wisdom to consider before you pack your things and quit your normal job for a start-up of your own.
Sticks and stones
I talked to Khijir Hayat Khan, the founder of KHK Productions, a multimedia production house specializing in feature films, television commercials and corporate adverts. When asked about his share of challenges during the start-up days, he smiles and says, “When I changed the course of my career back in 2006 and started my own business, I almost had nobody to root for me, not even my own family. Eight years down the line and I am yet to convince many of them. In Bangladesh, the hardest part is having to deal with the persistent negativity you receive from people around you. I had to stay calm and look forward. Most of the time, you’re the only person you can count on for motivation.”
In our society, it is obvious that you will get demotivated and challenged by your peers if you intend to do something that’s unfamiliar and has never been done before. You will not realize what a letdown such provocations can be until you face them. So, before you start off, mentally prepare yourself for the volley of verbal condemnation up ahead. Decide exactly what you want to say to the first person who questions you about your ideas and don’t chicken out.
In the dark
In recent times, fresh graduates start off their work life with their very own businesses. There is nothing wrong in doing what you want to, but the reality is you probably lack a lot of the skills required to run a business. When it comes to first-hand experience, the things you picked up at the few months you spent as an intern only go so far. For example, you might land a very big project, courtesy of your epic pitching skills, but when it comes to getting the job done on time, it turns out you don’t have the resources or manpower needed. You’re simply going to lose the account to somebody more experienced and efficient if you can’t up your game, and that’s going to take some time.
A little passion goes a…
What’s the secret to success? I would’ve said passion in a heartbeat until recently. Passion is obviously necessary but when you’ve been in your line of work for some time, you’re going to see yourself constantly experimenting and trying out new and exciting things but not getting very far with them. Passion is useless without patience. You need to understand that it’s taken people years to establish their businesses. In the time you spend making mistakes and learning things as you go, you could’ve made a whole lot more working for someone else and become a higher-level manager in the process. So, think twice about what you want from life – money and relative success, or the pride and fame that comes along with becoming a self-made entrepreneur.
Delusions of grandeur
Get this one thing clear. There is no guarantee that you are going to make heaps of money right away, or ever in fact. The likelihood of that happening is actually very slim – ninety percent of all startups fail within a few years of launching, and only a few businesses make it in the long run, and even fewer go on to become cash cows.
Nahidul Islam is the Director of Operations and Offshore Business Development of 23Degree, an architectural firm that works in 3D animation and interactive design. I asked him about his journey with 23Degree. “First of all, an entrepreneur does not get a regular income like your typical salaryman. There are ups and downs in the business, so sometimes it becomes too tough to handle all the costs to support yourself or run your family. Secondly, even if you have regular clients, you have to put in continuous effort to retain besides finding new clients. You need a ready repertoire of backup plans and constantly look for ways to diversify and opportunities to expand. You can’t settle for just good, find ways to be better.”
The bottom line
I asked Khijir for his take on budding entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. “Before deciding to start up, you should ask yourself these questions: Can I handle the pressure when I hit a low? Will I be able to stand on my own two feet again? What is my backup plan and how solid is it? Is this really what I want to do with my life? If the answers for most of these questions are positive, then welcome aboard. Otherwise it might not be your thing. There’s no harm in choosing to become a great manager instead of a leader,” he said.
Entrepreneurship is the “it” thing these days, and students and graduates often jump into it without doing their homework properly. Nahidul’s advice for them is, “Do enough market research until you detect the holes in the system that actually need to be filled up. There’ll be problems around you at all times but you’ll always find a way to out if you can believe in what you do.”

WRITTEN BY: LightCastle Analytics Wing

At LightCastle, we take a systemic and data-driven approach to create opportunities for growth and impact. We are an international management consulting firm which creates systemic and data-driven opportunities for growth and impact in emerging markets. By collaborating with development partners and leveraging the power of the private sector, we strive to boost economies, inspire businesses, and change lives at scale.

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