A year after selling a part of the business and closing operations for good, I can now look at the rear view mirror more objectively. These are my learnings – running the business and closing it down. While some I would have liked to avoid, others were worth the effort, but all are dear to me.
After 12 years in Finance, I ventured into the unknown field of executive search by chance. I liked what I did, loved talking with people and hence my new avatar was born. Compared to the one-dimensional approach HR consultants took I was much better equipped and rose from being a Senior Manager to CEO in 2 years. In the times of 2009, when all were failing miserably our company was doing well. That made me think of starting on my own – and that was my first learning..
First learning – New kid on the block
Starting on my own with a team that joined me (reasons for their moving were entirely independent from my leaving – but that’s for another time), we immediately got clients who called and wanted to work with us. But they were expecting lesser rates than what we were charging earlier. I learnt that perception of strength is greater than strength itself.
Second learning – It’s all business Charlie
Your clients are not your friends. All the encouragement and personal interest was for the work at hand. It’s always business first. They are nice to you because you fulfill a need. Hence make them dependent or lose them.
Third learning – The pit has a bottom
The lure to put in more in anticipation for higher returns is always huge. It is like the slot machines. Every small payback makes you want to keep playing more even if you know that the slots are not giving you enough to cover those dimes you put in. Work out your cash-flow and operate within your plan. This goes for larger space, larger teams, bigger branding, et al.
Fourth learning – Don’t take it personally
When you are a first time entrepreneur you are too close to the business. Every criticism of the business is perceived as a critique on self. I learnt it the hard way after losing a client or two – Maintain the objectivity.
Fifth learning – Your baby is only yours
I found that I used to train amateurs and they would quit once they had learnt and were doing well. I learnt that you need to take care of your business and its contingencies. No one else will feel the pangs of motherhood – only you. Learn to disassociate and create back ups for attrition. People will leave no matter how well they are treated.
Sixth learning – The amputation will save the limb
This I learnt very late, but I wish I had earlier. It would have saved me a lot of money and heartache. There will always be some laggards with some stars; sometimes the two tied together irrevocably. In my case they were married. To hold on to one I endured the other, only in the end to let go of both. Some I kept out of kindness, some out of loyalty and some out of need. Now I have learnt to make a clean cut the moment realization hits. It is a lesson well learnt but still difficult to follow.
Seventh learning – Expect and thou shall be disappointed
I reveled in the fact that we were one happy family; loyal and trustworthy. Eventually I learnt that expectation of anything but work was over reaching. It is not necessary that the subject of your benevolence would also feel the same way. One must learn to be apathetic to these minor digressions.
Eight learning – Leave a legacy
Help whenever and wherever you can. It will never go waste. Amidst all the fickleness of human kind, you will still find people who value you. Your work will speak for itself even after years. So do the work you will be proud of.