Five influencers every entrepreneur must have
Prerequisites for transitioning from a fledgling outfit to a successful venture.
Dr Bharat Damani
Entrepreneurs and startups struggle to make their venture a success, often ending up in difficult times. It is not surprising because the entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves. Here are five influencers every entrepreneur must have in their journey to make their venture sustainable.
Mentors are experienced professionals who have travelled the journey, have become wiser and are willing to share their insights with budding entrepreneurs. It is not difficult to find a good mentor.
However, the mentor should be willing to spend time with you as and when required, at least two to three times a week over the phone.
They should know you and your family at a personal level to enable discussions and suggest solutions around your strengths, weaknesses and available resources. Having two or three such mentors with diverse backgrounds makes eminent sense.
No individual can execute and manage all the tasks, activities and functions of running a business. An entrepreneur generally has expertise in one or two domains, be it technology, product development, software, IT, operations, quality, marketing, sales or finance.
The other domains become equally important as the venture grows.
However, commercial acumen is the most important as the market and the customers ultimately decide the success or failure of the venture. Having two to three partners in the venture to cover the areas of technology, operations and commercials is considered prudent for a startup.
Selection of partners is an important exercise and must be done in consultation with the mentors. As is known, a good team can make a weak project successful while a bad team can kill a good project.
Independent Directors Decision making at various stages determines the journey and in the case of a company, the Board of Directors is empowered to take important decisions.
It is important to have professional and independent directors on the Board (people other than the partners and their family members/relatives) to balance and temper the thoughts of the partners on the entrepreneurial team.
Entrepreneurs are known to be passionately adamant, but this should be limited to their drive and motivation. In commercial matters which affect the cash flows, it is judicious to have an objective and professional perspective to enable balanced decision making.
Domain experts are required for insights and decision making in complex areas such as technology, production, specialised software solutions, marketing, taxation, etc. They are knowledge experts who are focussed on their domain and can provide keen insights gleaned over long years and their vast exposure.
These are the go-to persons for a specific problem, the answers to which are not generally available in the public domain or the internet. The domain experts will share their knowledge and provide the pros and cons of the situation. They possibly will also provide alternatives to address the situation.
The decision making is then left to the entrepreneur to exercise in consultation with the mentors, partners and independent directors. Such domain experts could be difficult to find or reach out to; or, they may not be willing to share their knowledge unless approached through a reference or a common platform.
However, they could be tapped through the mentors, independent directors, advisors or the alumni and entrepreneurial platforms.
Board of Advisors
Advisors are the strategists who foresee the future and provide the vision and direction to entrepreneurs. Their expertise is in tracking the global scenario, understanding the macro picture, visualising the trends and translating them to the near term of two to three years. They are the ones who anticipate change and are an integral part to make the change happen.
They are thought leaders who are networked at very senior levels of the government and industry which provides them with insights otherwise not available to the public.
Such people would be very selective in lending their name to a venture and would like to associate with those which have a potential of making significant impact.
Reaching out to them requires the entrepreneur and the venture to first demonstrate their solution, weave a compelling story and communicate the passion to make a lasting impact. Getting such advisors on board is an achievement in itself and which immediately increases the enterprise value.
It will be pertinent to note that having these five influencers need not necessarily be accompanied by a financial cost. There are many professionals who are willing to share their knowledge and experiences to guide startups in their journey to success. Entrepreneurs can reach out to them through alumni networks, the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the relevant professional bodies.
They are more approachable by interaction on the sidelines at conferences, seminars, trade shows and periodic meets of the networks/professional bodies.
In all such events, one of the important takeaways is the people you meet with should be ones with whom you can develop business relations. Such influencers are more than happy to share their knowledge and experience with aspiring entrepreneurs and become an important part of their success story.
Originally published here.
Dr Bharat Damani
Associate Professor and Chair of Entrepreneurship at FLAME University, Pune. Experience of 34+ years with manufacturing startups in various capacities as lender, investor, advisor, consultant and mentor. Teaching experience of 29+ years at B-Schools in Mumbai and Pune.