Life Hacks for Becoming an Entrepreneur: Learn from Your Experiences

by November 23, 2018 0 comments


Being an entrepreneur is not easy, but if one learns the skill of making the most of their experiences from failures and life lessons, they can go a long way. In fact, there are a number of venture capitalists who have invested in those entrepreneurs who survived many pitfalls.

Failure and age are the two biggest reasons why people do not venture out of their comfort zone and try new, exciting and innovative ideas. This shows that individual or societal perception of failure is directly proportional to entrepreneurial attitude and intention in an economy. We all love to hear stories of young entrepreneurs, from Mark Zuckerberg, who changed the way we communicate with the world, to our very own Ritesh Agarwal, who is known to be one of the youngest CEOs in the Indian hotel industry besides being the first resident Indian to be awarded the prestigious Thiel Fellowship. With the advent of booming techpreneurs around the world, youth have become synonymous with entrepreneurial success. Does that mean that youth and inexperience are better than experience in both life and industry? Not really. A study by the Kauffman Foundation states that the average age of successful start-up founders is 40 with at least six to 10 years of industry experience. They are twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 as well as people of age group 20 to 34, thereby bursting all myths linking youth and entrepreneurship.

Additionally, according to a recent survey by First Round, an early-stage venture capital fund, almost one-third of start-up founders are over 40. In fact, busting the myth, failure may not be a bad word in a start-up world either, since an entrepreneur, who has never experienced failure, is untested and has not learned from adversity. Quite a few venture capitalists have been known to invest in entrepreneurs who have undergone multiple entrepreneurial failures. There could be several reasons for failures like bad timing, funding, or product-market fit. It is not failure that would matter the most but the kind of lessons an entrepreneur is able to draw from it and how many times s/he gets back up on his/her feet. This intrinsic ability to bounce back from a failure and a ‘never-say-die’ attitude makes an entrepreneur successful. Failure is a great teacher and all entrepreneurs must learn from it.

We all know about the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. However, we are unaware of the failures they have faced to reach where they are. Steve Jobs was an unconventional leader and an impressive entrepreneur not only because of his tremendous innovations but his innate ability to make emphatic comebacks from almost irrecoverable failures. Having found success very early in his 20s, Jobs was fired from the very company he created, Apple, at the age of 30. Undaunted by the failure, Jobs found a new company, NeXT, which was eventually acquired by Apple. Once back, Jobs proved his capacity for greatness by reinventing the company’s image and taking the Apple brand to new heights.

Not many of us realize that one of the world’s wealthiest persons, Bill Gates, tasted failure early in his entrepreneurial life with his first venture, an early version of big data, Traf-O-Data, which was a complete disaster. However, the failure did not hold Gates back from exploring new opportunities, and a few years later, he created his first Microsoft product and forged a new path to success. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who recently surpassed Bill Gates as the richest man on this planet, also has had his shares of failures. Before Amazon became a household name, the company’s CEO had several failed ideas. One of the most notable was an online auction site which evolved into zShops, a brand that ultimately failed. Still, CEO Jeff Bezos re-purposed the idea into what eventually became the Amazon Marketplace.

Walt Disney, one of the most creative geniuses of the 20th century, after being fired from a newspaper apparently for lacking creativity, formed his first animation company called Laugh-O-Gram Studio, which failed due to the closing of an important distributor partner. Disney achieved success later in Hollywood after facing similar criticisms and failures.

The journey for making Hershey’s successful was not as sweet for Milton Hershey as their chocolates taste. After his initial three candy-related ventures failed, his fourth attempt in this business started showing results, which eventually led him to create Hershey Company, one of the well-known companies in the candy industry and also led to realise the dream of milk chocolates for the masses.

There are numerous entrepreneurs for whom age is just a number and one can find these examples in all industries. Colonel Harland Sanders, the man behind the world famous KFC’s chicken recipe, is far from being an ideal entrepreneur. Having faced troubled early years, Sanders slowly gained popularity for his delicious chicken recipe while working at a local service station in Kentucky. In 1952, at the age of 62, Sanders franchised his ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ for the first time. Today, KFC has over 18,800 outlets in 118 different countries and territories.

McDonald’s, which is highly popular in India as well as around the world as one of the leading fast food outlets, was popularised by Ray Kroc using the franchise model who finally ended up buying the company from the McDonald family for $2.7 million at the age of 52.

In entrepreneurship, information networks are inefficient, which provide opportunities to the founders to use their unique prior knowledge to fill existing gaps, and experience plays a vital role in it. Often, these unique opportunities reveal themselves with time, learning and exposure to a variety of challenges to make a product better or a service more efficient, and provides compelling value proposition and the basis of a successful company.

Experience also helps founders to have deeper networks, team managing capabilities and better business skills to deliver on their vision. Although failure is not being eulogised and is not a pre-requisite for success, it has its own part to play and lends the capacity to build valuable character traits for entrepreneurial success such as tenacity, perseverance and resilience, which are all vital for any kind of long-term success.

There are several reasons why entrepreneurs, who start businesses later in life, have a better chance of reaching success. The first reason is experience, with the most obvious and undeniable benefit of starting a business later in life. As one grows older, the level of business acumen and hands-on experience along with patience can give a business the best chance it has at success.

Over the years, there has been an economic shift from industrial to knowledge-based processes where age makes entrepreneurs more valuable as professionals because it brings more skills and knowledge to the table. This economic shift will support older entrepreneurs who decide to make a go of it later in life because one can transform experience into a highly sought-after commodity.

Second, a large and diverse network of peers and colleagues provide invaluable connections to drive a business. This depth of a thriving network often takes years to build. So, age is certainly an asset in this situation.

Third, goal-setting is an integral part of starting and running a business and is necessary on a consistent basis during the life of the business. Experience makes an entrepreneur a seasoned goal-setter, and the process of outlining a desired outcome as well as the actions needed to make outcome a reality, become second nature. It helps the founder move forward in a more efficient, cost-effective and productive way. An entrepreneur who has “been there, done that” has a better chance of being backed by investors who are looking for older, seasoned and experienced entrepreneurs who are able to make smarter investments.

Fourth, as a financially secure, seasoned professional, older entrepreneurs have more options when it comes to the path to entrepreneurship — buying into a franchise; leveraging the power of an already successful brand and making it their own legacy; forming a partnership with a fellow entrepreneur and splitting the costs, workload and profits or; becoming an investor, moving to the other side of the table by providing capital for someone else’s business idea, in return to a percentage of the business, leaving the work for the younger lot to handle.

Sustaining a business isn’t easy and it takes hard work and discipline to reach success. An entrepreneur should not only learn from mistakes, reflect and accept the failure but revisit the business with passion and keep pursuing goals no matter what. So, don’t count yourself out no matter what your age. Experience from failures and life lessons are crucial for an entrepreneur.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, Amity University)

Writer: Hima Bindu Kota

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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