In Continuation of the series of write-ups, here is second in the series – Entrepreneurial Journey of first generation entrepreneur Dippankar S Halder (Founder & Chief Executive officer of ALLDOX PTE. LTD.).
Stay Frugal, you will never know how far is the shore
When you begin your journey, all excited to build that life-changing thing, you surely have a (fairly optimistic) plan. We also started with one such plan. Then everything started evolving, esp. with smart phones exploding usage of consumer apps and productivity apps finding way to every home. Mobile adoption completed changed our plans and the game got bigger than what we were prepared for. This piece is not on our journey of tech transformation, so I will stop here. Point here is that you will have controls at start but end and everything in between will not be in your hand. Shore could be much further than what you will anticipate in your initial plan.
I remember my conversation with my classmates during our silver jubilee reunion last year at IIM, Ahmedabad campus. One of them asked me in a typical MBA style ‘What is the most important learning for you?. ‘Stay Alive, period’ was my response. Staying frugal is the mantra to stay alive longer, until you reach your goal. Keeping establishment costs to a minimum is one big piece. If you are coming from corporate like I did, don’t fall for what you have experienced all this while. Start small and expand gradually and expand only and only when necessary. We moved two of our offices five times in total and shut one office to go virtual, until we got our optimum model. Starting small with our first office and not opening a ‘good to have’ office surely would have saved us some efforts and money.
Not only for big items like office, we have learnt to go threadbare on every expense line. We explore options and actively look for free stuffs. For example we signed up for Microsoft SmallBiz program to get free Office tools. If you take desks in some start-up launch pads, you get freebies like wifi and free storages. Tools for designing or animation or platforms like Fiverr, there are enough free or almost free stuff available today. You and your team need to look for them, shamelessly. It is important to share this philosophy with everyone in the team. Its’ just not about cutting costs, our engineers now know that writing codes ‘first-time-right’ and before plan can save us serious money, and it is another great way to stay frugal. By all probability most of the team members will not get this initially. Stay patient and be consistent with your messages and they will.
Draw the line
You have heard enough of start-ups running in garages. Makes perfect sense when there is no one other than you and your co-founders. Why even garage? We ran most of our first year at home, coffee shops and at office of our tech partner building version 0.0.1.
Then we got our own office, bigger than we actually needed. We had fallen for that as it was nice, readily available and we thought that team would grow fast. As we moved forward, progress got slower than our plans, our cash reserve came under pressure and we swung to the other side. We moved into a cheap, one and half room small office. Our productivity went down with the team morale and we lost a couple of good people as well. We were lucky to move back to a decent office soon, this time sized right and a nice office with great vibe. Please do not try to cut cost big time on office space. Compare them with the salary bill and you will know why. Compromise on location if you have to, but never ever go down on quality of workspace. After all you and your team will literally live there, longer than you will stay at home. Say no to cheap hardware or pirated software. Cheap hardware will impact productivity after a point; you will eventually end up spending more. Using pirated software will not only pose legal risk to your business but will also impact value and culture of the organisation. When you are reaching for the stars, you should always be holding your head high! I had touched on cheap PR and cheap leadership in my last write up. Going by our experience they are bad ideas. 3 points to summarize :Stay frugal (and stay alive), Know where to stop and Take your team along.
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