As a proficorn, one always has to look at controlling costs. The question always is how far to take the focus on costs. I remember what my uncle, who runs a hospital in Pune, once told me many years ago. He said, “Accept that there will 2-3% chori (theft) in the business. Factor that into your costs. Don’t try and focus on that. If you keep trying to find the chor (thief), you will put so many control points in the business that it will become unmanageable.”
In most businesses, theft is perhaps too strong a word. I like to think of it as costs that are wrong but difficult to identify. It could be as simple as vouchers filled by sales people for meetings that did not happen. It could be some items bought at prices higher than they should have been. There are many ways such costs happen. The key point my uncle was trying to make is that accept that there will be a small percentage of such spends and get on with life. In the effort to control each and every spend, the entrepreneur will be so bogged down that the bigger focus and perspective will be lost. Keeping a tab on costs is very critical, but one cannot make it an obsession.
I have always been cautious on big bets – especially when it comes to marketing spends. The focus needs to be more on the product. In IndiaWorld, I put a press release and an ad when we launched – and that was it. My belief was that if the product (in this case, the content service) was good, word-of-mouth will help us grow. Ads could get someone in for the first time, but after that it was the product that had to bring them back the second and third time. I was confident of our product. And that worked out well – sites like Samachar, Khoj, Khel and Bawarchi grew because of the strong word-of-mouth marketing by happy visitors.
Even as one tracks revenues and cashflows, an entrepreneur needs to keep a check on the costs – up to a point. Don’t try and optimise every cost. Else the functioning of the business will be paralysed. Eventually, most costs can be justified if there is strong business growth. Until then, trust – and verify.
Tomorrow: My Proficorn Way (Part 27)