From Employee to Entrepreneur – 2
As I talked to my friend, I realised that it wasn’t an easy decision at all. The transition from an employee to entrepreneur is one of the toughest decisions anyone faces. What should I do? How will I start? Where will I raise the capital? What if things don’t work out? What will be the impact on my family? Is this the right time? A million questions keep popping up. While the answer for each question requires deep introspection, there are some common facets of this transition which can be abstracted out.
Just like driving down route 1 along the California coast, the entrepreneurial journey has its mix of tricky turns and magical moments. The road to entrepreneurship has more thorns than roses, but it is an expedition well worth taking at least once in a lifetime. This is what I told my friend and this is what I’d like to share with you.
The decision to be or not be an entrepreneur is an intensely personal one. It is one which needs to be discussed and debated with family and friends. It depends on each one’s appetite for risk. There is never a right or wrong answer, just as there is never a right or wrong time. The fundamental decision has to come from within.
I also believe that once the decision is made to leave the world of employment and move to the world of entrepreneurship, the safety line needs to be cut. If we know that there are always the options of going back to the safety and security of the other world, it will be much harder making the entrepreneurial option work. In a sense, as we close one door, other doors will open. But we have to close doors. We have to believe that making the new venture succeed must be akin to a life-and-death battle. One has to fight knowing that there is no looking or going back.
Once the decision is taken, how do we begin? Where do we get that wonderfully innovative idea which can transform the world? The answer is: s-l-o-w-l-y. While it is always possible that one may know exactly the niche to focus on, more often than not, one of two things will happen. The idea itself may take time to crystallise clearly, and the idea may not turn out to be as great as we thought from the other side of the fence. So, just focusing on the idea is not going to be enough.
The most important thing for an entrepreneur is to build a mental model of the industry under consideration. The mental model takes time to form. It is more about internalising the external views, developments and trends. It is the mental model which creates the foundation for the business. Understanding the bigger picture takes time, but is extremely important because of the challenges we will face on a regular basis as we seek to build out our business. Change is continuous and constant. It is the mental model or the latticework of mental models that will help us navigate the terrain, not with maps but with a compass.
Another way to start thinking is to travel. I have found travelling internationally to be one of the best strategies for thinking and ideation. As we leave the regular environment and put ourselves into new scenarios, even new countries, we get opportunities not just to use the wide-angle view, but also a to dig deeper. A couple of weeks of travel combined with meeting people in different lands can be one of the best tonics for thinking and imagining tomorrow.
Postscript: It is never easy giving up the comfort of a monthly paycheck to the certain uncertainty that entrepreneurship does. But once it’s done, there is no looking back. Remove the safety net and experience the freedom. The odds of failure are high, but the rewards of the journey are even greater.