The title of the post is grand, but all I am trying to do in this post is note down things that I learnt during the past two years as a part time entrepreneur (yes, it is possible to do so). And for those who are new to the on going circus that is my career, please read this first.
I entered the trucking business along with my brother in law, tentatively by buying a single truck with almost all our savings put together. I had taken time to prepare the business plan and had calculated my break even conservatively, still the fear was always there. In the initial days, I used to check up on how much we made each trip. Each rupee of profit gave a new high. There are people for whom the process of making money is an end in itself rather than spending the money. I am one of them, who enjoys the thrills of pitting wits with the market and trying to come out on top. The first year was good, so the nxt year I added one more truck to the fleet. Things were going smooth and steady until a dollop of good fortune came our way, with one of the major players falling out of the market. Some one had to fill the vacuum and due to a combination of timing, service levels and plain good luck we were able to step into that gap.
Till this point of time, we didn't have much to do other than deal with the drivers and a couple of clients, so part time enterpreneurship worked fine. But once this opportunity rose, I had to spend more time travelling. This started eating into my current job of potato selling. Hence I was faced with a choice, whether to quit the day job and plunge into business or not. Around the same time things started to get a little sour at the current work place too. I half heartedly tried for other jobs, but didn't get anywhere, probably because of my unconventional resume. So that sort of made the decision for me. I am now a full fledged transport fleet operator.
Things I have learnt so far about being an entrepreneur :
1. Think why you want to do it. If you want to start a business just because you can't get along with your boss, don't.
2. Prepare a business plan. Keep your expenses high and your revenues low in your plan. If you still think it is feasible, do check with others to see what you have missed.
3. If nobody is doing a business, then there must be a good reason. Find out why others aren't thinking like you.
4. Tap your email lists of college friends and ex colleagues for funds. It works. Don't feel shy about it. You aren't asking for a personal loan, you are offering them a business proposition. Make it clear upfront what are the returns that you are promising.
5. Keep a close watch on the way the business is doing in the initial days. You will be your own accountant, auditor, clerk and peon. Focus on the cash flow, check whether you are making operating profit. I have seen businesses fold because they didn't find out that they were spending more than what they were earning.
6. Read a lot. Not the self help books, but those about businessmen who succeeded. If you are in India, do not miss to read Business Maharajas and Business Legends by Gita Piramal. Other books I would suggest are Made in America - Sam Walton, Made in Japan - Akio Morita, Losing my Virginity - Richard Branson (despite the title, it is a good business book). Recently there were two good interviews of Mukesh Ambani and Sunil Mittal (Free registration reqd). Look out for such articles. CK Ranganathan of Cavikare and Mahesh Murthy too have been my role models.
7. Dream big, but make sure that there is some arrangement for running your day to day life. If your dad has left you a fortune, good for you. Another option is to have one spouse working full time while the other is chasing his/her dreams. All my risk taking is possible only because of the solid support of my wife, who takes more than her share of the family burden.
8. Have a mentor, preferably a older person who has been in the business. Check notes with him, don't feel shy to ask for help. You need lots of them.
9. Pay your staff well. In transportation, the success or failure is in the hands of the driver. I make sure that we pay them more than the market rate, and they pay it back by working doubly harder. All businesses boil down to people, so treat them well.
Madman has written about this better than me, do read it. Other bloggers who have switched over as entrepreneurs I know are Badri Seshadri (Publising), Kasi Arumugam (Tamil blogger, home appliances), Bala (Stock Market Trader), Prakash (Industrial Information Systems) . I am not much aware of the web 2.0 guys, so that is my list.
This post is more for myself than others. If it did help you in some small way, good for you.