Three More Steps to take as an Entrepreneur for your Employees

Last year I wrote an article about three small steps in treating our employees that can make a big difference as an entrepreneur. Great teams are made up of employees who help each other, know their roles, set aside personal goals, and value team success over everything else. I want to expand those steps and add three more very simple things we can do –

Your first few employees will make or break your company

Your first few employees will make or break your company

4. Be the First to Take the Blame
Whenever something goes wrong, as it will many times, it is the boss’s duty and responsibility to be visible and face the music from inside and outside. Otherwise, anger, upsets and blame can set in and make things worse for the future. While taking blame, you also have to be honest about what is happening and efficient in dealing with the repercussions.

5. And the Last to Take Credit
Always give credit to the team first, because any success you have is actually theirs. That doesn’t mean discounting your role which you should always acknowledge. But your success is not only yours, and that’s why you should pass on every credit you get to the people behind, who normally wont get much visibility. Make sure they know their part in the success and importance in the company.

6. Make Sure Your Employees know how much They Mean to You
If someone is working a weekend for you, make sure you are there too. Otherwise, do something to let them know how much that means to you. Nobody wants to work on a weekend, and it is your duty to acknowledge their effort and responsibility to make them feel thanked for their contribution.

Not Listening to, or Moving Forward Despite the word NO Thrown at You

One side effect of being an entrepreneur is that you stop hearing the word “NO“. In fact, one can say that you still hear the word but you don’t listen to it or it doesn’t stop you anymore. Where it gets interesting is when this start happening even in personal and day-to-day issues apart from just professional matters, as I have observed in the last few months.

Lately I have noticed that how I have annoyed and surprised many people as I have ignored when they said NO to a certain matter, or how I have come up and followed up with them again and again. People are not used to hear back from people after they have uttered the NO word, but it works for me as long as it gets the job done.

What's your definition of NO?

What’s your definition of NO?

I think what entrepreneurship has done is forced me to change the definition of NO to “not right now”, “not this way” or something else depending on the situation. If I look back, I can remember very clearly a few instances when I have followed up on a NO response with – “How about tomorrow?”, “How about if I do it this way?”, or “Is there another way we can work it out?” and similar such questions until I get at least a part of what I wanted in the first place.

When we are working on something we really care about, it is very easy to get discouraged. It is very normal to even assume NO as the answer if the opposite party doesn’t reply or get back to us for a few days. But the truth is that there is probably a reason unknown to us for the No or No Reply. And in most of the cases, there is an alternate to that reason which, if explored, could lead to a Yes eventually.

I guess this is almost second nature to entrepreneurs, but we must always keep persevering if we “really” want to get what we desire. And if it is meant to be, it will happen eventually. We just have to keep on it, day after day, week after week, and month after month.

And even if you get a final NO (like somebody threatening to hit you the next time you bring a certain issue up) or you decide to move on (which is always a fine line), I have also realized that setbacks are often the starting points of something else, and not an end in itself. The only question is how we approach them, and where we draw that thin line between “giving up” and “going after what you really care about“.

In Business – Don’t Take Care, Take a Chance

As I have written in some of my previous articles, what distinguishes great people and organizations is not how they succeed, but how they fail. Great organizations (especially dealing with innovation) are about taking risks to do things that haven’t been done before. And like with any experiment – you know there are going to be more failures than successes. That is the definition of innovation. If the odds were higher and success was almost certain in every one of two cases or so, every Tom, Dick and Harry would be doing it.

Take Intelligent Risks
We live in a world of risks, and we live in a world of failure. Entire industries like venture capital, portfolio management and insurance work on the model of taking intelligent bets and risks, and making the few big wins count more than the numerous failures. So rather than eliminating risks, we should take intelligent risks and learn to eliminate the uncertainties. Because without risks, there is no moving ahead.

Look Far Ahead – The Bigger Perspective
When you look at the big picture you will realize that when you fail you are not finished. Failure doesn’t mean a full stop, it just means a temporary barrier on your way to wherever your vision is going to take you. Failures build our character amid immense challenges, and that is an incredible muscle to build for tough times. Over the period of a long journey, the definition of failure changes for most people, and we start becoming much less scared of it.

Be Ok with the Fear of Failure
What is lacking in the current environment is the concept of constructive failure, by which I mean the ability of doing things and failing, then learning from the mistakes and iterating until you reach the milestone of success. Failures can by compared to the lighting lamps on the way to every success story. Being able to take failure as an asset is a unique trait. When you really learn is when you are confronted with failure.

Dont Live Life, Be Alive
Many people say you can learn from the failure of others, but there is only limited knowledge and experience you can gain from reading books and listening to others. You can’t relive the experience of falling from a bike by reading about it. So in terms of failure, if we ‘really’ want to learn the lessons and want our time and money’s worth from failure, they better be our own. There are some experiences which must be felt if you have to learn the lessons with them, and there are no short cuts.
Infact, most of the success stories we know today are also stories of many more failures which are never highlighted by the media. To give a few examples, Henry Ford failed in five businesses before starting the Ford Motor Company and Soichiro Honda was turned down by Toyota for a job and was jobless for some time before he started making his own scooters at home. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for a “lack of imagination” before he started Disney. To stress the point that innovation in business is similar to experiments by scientists, we have the examples of Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. We will have examples in art, politics and sports too of such people, and some names that come to mind are Winston Churchill, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, JK Rowling, Elvis Presley and Michael Jordan.

How to Treat your Employees – Three Small Steps That can make a Big Difference

Employees are your first customers. If you want to make your customers happy, the first step is to delight your employees. However, this is a double edged sword and easier said than done. Being flexible to listen to and find the best fit for an employee in your company and still being able to take decisive actions is a tough skill to master. Here are three simple steps every entrepreneur should take to ensure the right working relationship with his / her employees.

1. Share Everything
I believe that honesty is the best policy, so celebrating the good news together and breaking the bad news first is very important. Keep everything transparent with your employees and other stakeholders (unless something is legally confidential) to build trust and ensure their co-operation. It is important to learn the lessons of entrepreneurship together with your employees, and make sure they understand everything and grow with you.

Thomas Watson Quote

Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. No, I replied, I just spent $600,000 training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience? Thomas John Watson, Sr.

2. Do Everything
Never ask your employees to do something which you don’t want to do. Always tell them that you are ready to do whatever it takes for making the business successful. Do tasks from time to time to build emotional bank deposits and build trust. Make sure they understand why everybody is doing what their roles demand, and how it all fits into the bigger picture.

3. Get Connected
Make friends with your employees. Get to know them personally, their families, problems in life and what they want to do and achieve in life. See if you can make a difference. Respect their private space, but always recognize that they are human beings first, and employees second. And health and family will always take preference, as it does for us. So if they are not able to give their best at work because of some other issues, as an entrepreneur, it is our problem to make sure they have whatever support they need.

Now that I have written 3 points, I think I can write another three. But I will save that for a later post and time.

Want to start your own company? Welcome to the Jungle

If I were to compare a startup to hunting, then the idea of hunting that bear is akin to the new business idea you are pursuing. But the hunting doesn’t start unless we get our lazy asses out in the jungle. Similarly, entrepreneurship only happens when we enter the jungle (execution), with all its uncertainty and dangers which we all miss in the city (idea). Below are some rules of the jungle, if you have forgotten –

1. No Reasons and Excuses
Once you have stepped in the jungle, you can’t blame the wild bushes and animals and the lack of roads. You can’t demand a hospital and a restaurant in a jungle. So if you think you need funding to execute an idea, or a quiet time to write that book, or that degree to be successful, then shut the **** up and stop giving excuses. Outside in the civilized world you can give these reasons, but in the jungle these become just excuses. Nobody wants your MBA degree in the jungle, and neither can it make any difference.

Life is a zoo in a jungle. Peter De Vries

Life is a zoo in a jungle. - Peter De Vries

2. No Blame, Only Responsibility
In the jungle, you can either blame the thorns and the leeches for you not being able to hunt, or you can take responsibility for stepping into the jungle and dealing with whatever it has to offer. Taking responsibility will ignite the inner fire in you, to take charge of your life and improve/change and do whatever is required to reach your goal, inspite of all the challenges that the jungle presents to you. And yes, it takes strength.

3. Calmness amid Change
In a jungle, you can’t blame that the ecosystem changes every inch. If fact, it is utter stupidity if you expect anything other than change in a jungle. Similarly, in the startup world, you must learn to accept that life is filled with change. The only thing that matters is how accepting or rejecting you can get of that change, discomfort and hardship? The more you accept that as normal and stop resisting it, the more easily you can find the hidden treasures of entrepreneurship. As one wise man once said – “It is much easier to ride the horse in the direction that it is running.”

4. One Difference
If there is one difference between a startup and hunting, it is that in hunting you know which tools to carry and what animal you are going to hunt. But in a startup, most often you don’t even know your target (customers) so there is no question of having the right tools like a gun or a knife with you. So, you will not have the programmer, the sales guy, the money when you need it the most. Face it. Using whatever tools, you have to do get the job done. Using rocks as knifes and stones as guns can look funny to others, but that is the best you can do in your situation. And so you do it.

Taking it a notch ahead, I would say LIFE itself is a jungle. Think about it? For me, that is what makes it so exciting. For you, only you can answer this question?