In my previous two essays on proficorns, I wrote about building a proficorn and compared proficorns and unicorns. In this series, I want to share some of my learnings through my 28 years as an entrepreneur who has focused on profitability, never raised external capital and yet created significant value through two successful enterprises – IndiaWorld and Netcore.
Even though I coined the word ‘proficorn’ a few months ago, I realised that there are many common threads in my approach to doing business. The need for profit was drilled into me early on by my father – because without profits one has to either shut down or be dependent on a continuous inflow of external capital which would mean sacrificing decision-making freedom at some point of time. To be profitable and maintain a track record of profitable growth in a business is never easy, especially in the world of technology where obsolescence and disruption are never too far away.
As I have been thinking about proficorns, I have realised that there is a mindset which defines one’s approach to business. For me, getting to cash flow profitability on a monthly basis was the most important requirement – the spectre of continuing cash burn was too horrific to contemplate. As such, the decisions I made were driven by the desire to get to profitability and keep it that way. It also meant creating a cash reserve during the good times which could serve one well during difficult times – like the present times where most businesses are facing declining revenues.
Like the Feeling
An entrepreneur’s life is never easy. There is no switching off Friday evening. The business and its future consumes you because failure is just one mistake away. It is also a lonely perch because no one else can fully understand today’s challenges and tomorrow’s uncertainties. Decisions made cannot be easily unmade; the rear view mirror exists only for post-mortems. And through all these times, one must always maintain a positive outlook because pessimism can create a negative spiral.
These words from Dan Bricklin that I read a long time ago have stayed with me through the years and beautifully capture the essence of being an entrepreneur:
Being a successful entrepreneur is tricky. You have to live with having control and not having control at the same time. It’s like this: In big business, when you need to cross a river, you simply design a bridge, build it, and march right across.
But in a small venture, you must climb the rocks. You don’t know where each step will take you, but you do know the general direction you are moving in. If you make a mistake, you get wet. If your calculations are wrong, you have to inch your way back to safety and find a different route.
And, as you jump from rock to slippery rock, you have to like the feeling.
That is the feeling I have liked and lived through for 28 years.
Tomorrow: My Proficorn Way (Part 2)