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Starting a business: What my school didn't teach me

18 May,2022 07:57 PM, by: Posy Lui
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In India, there is a craze for government jobs but unlike a few years ago, it is starting to change. We are now realising that Government cannot provide everyone with employment, it's impossible to create an equal number of jobs for the eligible population. Therefore, people are stepping out of norms and opting for more versatile opportunities by becoming self-reliant. 

What do you see as a common trait in all the billionaires in the world?

Be it Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mukesh Ambani, or Ratan Tata, they all have one thing in common, they are learned men and have a sense of business etiquette. Most of us are inspired by their fame and success, everyone wants to follow their path because they have money,  luxury, and power.

Entrepreneurship is the newest market for the visionaries and innovators to put their skills and experience into use and make living heaven out of it. Like many hopeful people looking forward to making money without a 9-5 job as well as helping other people grow, I took the initiative to start my own business but nobody told me that it is not always rainbows and butterflies along this path.

Here's a compilation of information for first-timers that I learned and experienced as I stepped into this industry/venture.

 

1st: Choose wisely which sector you want to get in. 

Focus, research, and make plans as the industry is pretty vast. Take time on your choices and actions before stepping into a business venture. Whether you meet the criteria, whether you have money to invest or if you think it will work etc. 

Because I didn't have any prior business knowledge or idea about the market standards or the demand for the products or the competition around the business etc. It took a toll on me while adjusting or understanding how to bring the particular business to success. I had to quit my job (a big mistake), which later affected me, to focus on a sector I had zero understanding of. You will be in a mess if you just go on and about with a random business you chose to pursue without any background knowledge, experience, future planning, or financial backup.

 

2nd: Don't be emotional, be professional. 

Of course, it's your first business venture so your business might need as much exposure, attention, promotion, love, and sharing from the people. So you want to be nice, provide quality, explain ideas, set standard prices, etc. But you will find people berating you for the quality, the quantity, and the price of your products.  Or the behaviour/service of you or your employees etc may displease them or just anything in general. Don't ever get sentimental over your choices. You have to understand that they are the customers, they are the ones paying for your service. You are in an industry that provides services to the people according to their needs and demands. You must serve. But that doesn't mean you don't have the right to deny them the services, you do.

First-timers like me didn't know any better. I would give free materials to my family and friends. I would feel guilty if we didn't meet the customer's expectations and therefore lower the price or just give them for free. But at what cost? We'd lose more than we have invested.

I would pay the employee with zero experience more money before I even started profiting, and more than they were serving. Why? Because I felt bad, I knew I was at a disadvantage and was in no position to fire them because it is hard to find low-paid employees. I had given the employees too many privileges and freedom to motivate them but it backfired, two employees absconded, one after stealing money from home and the other for a personal reason.

That's why you should be professional when handling matters such as employees, budget, customers, profits, etc.

 

3rd: Have enough money or investors, to begin with.

Starting without money and potential investors, you are doomed. Small businesses which require less investment and little to no employees in the initial stages are way more of a positive approach if it's your first step into becoming an entrepreneur. 

I, on the other hand, had no backup money lying in my bank account, or any major investors. I had saved and collected my investment money while working for 2 years in a 9-5 job. But the money I saved was just not enough and my plan was a failure from the start because I did not know the world of business. The sum of all the construction and materials, labour charges, electric and water bills, employee payments, product costs, and other expenses were nowhere near to what I estimated or even pondered. The risk, you ask? If my business works, I succeed and earn profit. If my business fails, I lose all my money, time, and effort. Period.

 

4th: Never start your first business with a friend or any partner.

Try to start your first project solo. Or find an investor rather than sharing the business altogether. The relationship between you and the friend or any relative you might have started the business ]with might turn sour soon and you might never be on speaking terms again( point is, have professional relationship).

I was low on investment, had no family support and my business idea was bigger than a cybercafe but lower than a Tesla dealer. I needed an investment, an investor but I chose my friend. My friend, as a business partner. We started having creative differences, less communication, and more cold wars, a blame game on who is investing and working more and whose work is slow and insufficient.

Even if you happen to start with a partner, set the ground rules straight and get it on the paper. Because my friend and I were childhood friends, it didn't bother me much initially until you realise you are putting your time, money, and effort into this one thing you quit your job for, and your friend is merry-making around without much contribution. This type of situation will leave you bitter and one of you will eventually have to pay the other ones a hefty amount for their little bits of investment.

 

5th: Never tell/share your ideas.

Don't share your ideas with anyone, not even your closest friend. They will steal it and use it when you are in the most desperate and despicable situations. Know that honesty will get you nowhere, don't be too trustworthy.

As I started sharing my ideas and hopes for the future, I see my words traveling faster to a friend, of a friend, and his girlfriend, and his girlfriend's friend, and to another district. Within a year of me starting to share my ideas while trying to build my business, I came across 3 friends and 2 acquaintances embarking on the same industry due to my big mouth's influence.

While it's good that you are influencing others, it would be better if you show them your dream rather than share the ideas of your dream.

 

6th: Believe in yourself no matter what.

Remember, that you must believe in yourself first. You must support yourself first before asking for validation from others. You are a dreamer, a hopeful individual, a visionary, and a leader. If you have dreamed of entering this sector, you are already a fighter.

Although you may encounter fake friends and relatives, they will eventually falter if you work smart and are determined to succeed. Know that there is someone who supports you even if it's just one person. Because one single support and belief in you when you failed is way more valuable than the thousands of applauses after your success.

These are the few things I have gained from my past experiences. I didn't fail, rather I learned. These events came as an experience in such a way that now I am clearer about my goals, plans, and actions for the future. I hope these will give you some sense before you take a leap of faith in starting a business just as it will immensely help me in getting ready for my next big step.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Critical Script or its editor.

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