In the earlier generation, majority of new businesses were run by either people with formal management education or by folks hailing from families with an entrepreneurial background. The trend is now changing, with a lot of engineers and tech-savvy folks quitting their corporate jobs and starting up.
This is my second post here and wanted to write about a few things which I learnt on how to run a business coming from an engineering background and with no prior first-hand experience running a business.
1. Understand your current organizational processes completely:
This is a very important step which needs to be done before you quit. Wherever you are working, do not limit yourself to the small module/product which you are working on. In your free time, make sure you browse the intranet portal and do a lot of reading. Understand clearly, the entire business flow in your company, how requirements are arrived, how feature approval happens, how costing is arrived, HR processes & Policies, Legal & Accounting processes, Hiring processes & Policies and so on. You need to realize the fact that they are an established company because they have undergone years of fine-tuning to arrive at the current streamlining. When you start your own company, you have to make sure you do not re-invent the wheel, but take good inspiration from how things work in your current setup. I personally learnt a lot during my four years as an employee, which are of great use to me today.
2. Unlearn, Evolve and Adapt:
It is very vital to comprehend the fact that your startup is not a big corporate which you worked for. You cannot blindly apply all your corporate learnings into your new company. All the hierarchies and workflows in a big corporate will complicate your startup in the initial stages. So it is very important to unlearn what is not applicable to your startup at the moment, and to evolve and adapt what you learnt till now, in a way that suits your current setup. Simple example is that you cannot afford to use the Enterprise-grade tools which you used in your corporate, in your startup. You should adapt yourself to work with free tools rather than investing in expensive enterprise software at first.
3. Ramp up your Business Communication Skills:
This is one skill I have found lacking in most engineers. In the early days of your startup, you are the marketing team, you are the sales team, you are the HR, and you are the technical head as well. Each wing essentially requires varied communication skills, be it writing professional emails, preparing business presentations or giving pep-up talks to your employees. Fine tune your business communication skills, as going forward this is going to be the most important tool which helps you scale up your business. One more thing people tend to forget is that Reading is probably the most essential part of communication. Inculcate the habit of reading a lot, both tech as well as non-tech. There are a lot of resources online using which you can train yourself to better your business communication skills.
4. Learn to delegate your work:
This is the case with most high-performers. You tend not to trust someone else with the work you have been doing. You will have a strong belief that only you can complete that particular work with 100% quality. But after some realization, you will understand that your time is limited and you need to concentrate more on the core part of your business and that you need to find and train people to do all the secondary work you were handling till now. Initially they will need a lot of hand-holding, but as time goes by, you will find things start improving. And in the process you will make one more important realization –there is a replacement for everyone in this world, including you. It is also imperative that you find a co-founder who can complement your skills. A clear split of responsibilities always helps.
5. Be Open to Change:
Change is the only constant. You should stop pushing all the technology you know into your product, and start building only what your ideal customer wants. Your thought process should change from a technology perspective to a customer perspective. We engineers tend to vouch always for the technology we know and worked on. You need to be open to change, the technology you worked on might not be suitable for your new product. Understanding the market situation and your customer will enable you to use your technology skills more appropriately and effectively. Keep your work processes agile and always anticipate and be ready for change.
6. Realize Ground Reality:
Unlike the luxuries of being in a corporate, things will not be all green when you startup. You will realize that there a lot of obstacles out there and should be in a position to understand them and tackle them. When you startup, you will honestly believe your service/product is the best in the whole world in that segment. But slowly the truth will hit you hard, that you are just another fish in the pond. Competition is tough, and to survive you need to be business-smart. There are a lot of bad people and situations you will encounter, so you need to be very focused and mentally tough to keep the ball rolling always. It is really key that you understand the ground reality of how businesses work and equip yourself accordingly.
Thank you and wish good luck to all of you!