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Entrepreneurship Startup

Why it’s better to over-promise and okay to under-deliver

I don’t believe in the conventional wisdom of “under-promise and over-deliver”.

I would rather “over-promise and (be fine with if I) under-deliver”.

The under-promise advice makes people play very safe. It doesn’t let them realize their full potential.

It’s a popular belief that when you’re communicating your goals to your manager, leadership, customers, or investors, you should under-promise and over-deliver.

But when you under-promise, nobody gets excited. Everybody can feel the lack of enthusiasm in those conversations.

This lack of enthusiasm is infectious. As one person starts playing safe, others start playing safe too.

And slowly you’re building an organization that’s bureaucratic and lethargic.

This advice seems good for people who want to “survive” but is bad for people who want to “thrive”.


For growth-minded people and high-growth organizations, there is a better option.

You would rather over-promise, and be fine if you under-deliver.

With the over-promise approach, people play aggressively.

They demonstrate a sense of urgency, excitement, and enthusiasm.

And their urgency and excitement are infectious too.

And you end up building an organization that’s agile and lean. ⚡️


The key thing in practicing this over-promise approach is not to punish people if they don’t deliver the committed goal.

Instead, you should pay attention to the effort invested in that goal and measure what % of the goal is achieved in the end.

And as long as it’s considerable progress — say 60-70% — you should still celebrate it as a win.

In the end, you will discover that, most often, with this over-promise approach, people end up delivering more than what they would have delivered with the under-promise approach.

But the bigger win is — you build an organization of high-energy and enthusiastic people that you want to work with. 🙌

Categories
Entrepreneurship Startup

Don’t Find Ideas. Find Problems.

It is not the only way to build a startup, but building a startup to solve your own problem makes the journey far more satisfying and less challenging.

Of course, if your problem also resonates with even tens of thousands of people, then it’s worth pursuing that startup idea.

But most often or not – it’s always a bad move to start with some hot technology trend where founders don’t feel the problem first hand, so they try to “find the idea” to build some solution.

In such situations, starting is easy, but continuing is hard.

When the going gets tough, which it always does, you need a strong “why” to keep going.

Don’t find ideas.

Find your problems.

Categories
Entrepreneurship

How to Learn to be Bold?

I was recently asked in an interview how did I learn to be bold.

This quote describes my philosophy the best: 👇

“Fear is temporary, but regret lasts forever.”

Take a plunge.

Categories
Entrepreneurship

Phases of an Entrepreneur: Creator, Critic, and Crusader

There are 3 phases of an entrepreneur (3 Cs): Creator, Critic, and Crusader.

I learned this insight from Daniel Lubetzky, the founder of Kind Bars while watching Shark Tank some time ago.

The insight was so crisp and clear that it stuck with me.

Recently I shared it with a friend who’s a co-founder at a startup, so thought I should share it with a larger audience.

Let’s understand what are these 3 phases:

In the “Creative” phase, entrepreneurs are in the creative mindset – brainstorming, ideating, and then creating a solution for the problem they have been facing for a while.

In the “Critic” phase, entrepreneurs need to be the biggest critic of their idea, execution, plan, etc. They need to play devil’s advocate and try to poke holes in their vision, plan, or execution in order to create the best product and company.

IMO, this is one of the most important phases, but most entrepreneurs miss it.

And in the “Crusader” phase, entrepreneurs have a solid plan and execution, so they can be passionate crusaders of their cause to create a movement.

While this was shared in the context of entrepreneurship, I believe we can apply this perspective to pretty much all professions.

You can be an engineer, a salesperson, a marketer, or a leader – we all need to evolve through these 3 phases.

We all need to be creative to identify problems in our environment and come up with unique solutions.

We need to be the best critic of ourselves to make sure our plan and execution are strong.

And then eventually we all need to be a crusader to influence people to follow our cause and plan.

Hope this would help you identify in which phase you’re in, and it becomes a guiding post, what’s your next phase is going to be.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Philosophy

Work Hard, Not Just Smart

They say, work “smart” not “hard”.

The reality is – smart work is the fruit of a lot of hard work.

Hard work is how you become knowledgeable about lots of areas and an expert in a few areas to make better decisions for smart work.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Startup

The Only Right Reason To Do a Startup

There is only one right reason to do a startup:

You fall in love with your customer’s problem.

Everything else is a distraction.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Startup

A New Way of Working

I was on a podcast y’day and the host asked me why I got into entrepreneurship. And it reminded me of how I used to get fascinated by manufacturing factories and used to think – one day, I want to build a “factory”. 🏭

Well, that dream never came true 🙁 as I got into Software 😊. And that got me thinking – that’s a new reality.

Today, if you need to start a Software or Internet-enabled business, all you need is – a creative mind and a laptop.

You don’t need a fancy office or expensive machinery. Almost anyone can be in business.

You don’t need unions and departments. One person can do the job of many.

It’s probably easier to start a Software and Internet-enabled business as tools are accessible a click away.

You don’t have to work 9-5. You can work on your own schedule.

You don’t have to take huge debt and a big risk. You can have little savings to get started.

You don’t have to go door to door or trade-shows to sell your stuff. You can sell to anyone in the world by sitting in your home.

It’s a new way of working.

And it is very relevant and important in today’s unemployment situation.

Don’t think you’re starting a “business”. For some people, that is daunting.

Think it like – you are going to work for yourself.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Philosophy

High Vs Low Self-Confidence: Which Is Really Better?

Last week, I had brief interactions with 2 different entrepreneurs – one came across with very high self-confidence and another came across with somewhat low self-confidence.

Normally these differences are not so stark to notice it, but in these cases, I immediately noticed it as the former came across more like – arrogant and delusional, and the latter came across more like – humble and pessimistic.

My first thought was – is one better than the other?

We have been told by motivational speakers that having high self-confidence is the key to success in life. But based on my limited information available on the public internet about their financial success, both seem equally successful.

That got me thinking, what’s the correlation of someone’s self-confidence with their success. Initially, I looked at it only from a financial success perspective, then quickly realized, that’s a very narrow way of looking at it.

In addition to financial success, some people might also care more or equal about other factors in life like relationships, friendships, legacy, etc.

Another factor is – some people are not always authentic. They may show themselves as someone else than who they truly are.

I think there are 4 kinds of people:

  1. People who have high-self confidence, and also display high-self confidence
  2. People who have high-self confidence, but display low-self confidence
  3. People who have low-self confidence, but display high-self confidence
  4. People who have low-self confidence, and also display low-self confidence

Let’s dive into these in detail –

1. People who have high-self confidence, and also display high-self confidence

  • These people often come across fearless, but also arrogant and delusional
  • They have high self-confidence due to their past success, but that quickly turns into “I know it all” mindset
  • These people don’t seem to be more open to feedback from other people, listening to other perspectives and ideas
  • Because of these reasons, my hypothesis is they may not have many true friends or long-lasting relationships – people who are around them for their financial success and status

2. People who have high-self confidence, but display low-self confidence

  • These people often come across confident, ambitious, but also self-aware and approachable
  • They seem to be more open to listening to other people’s ideas and feedback and because of their humility, more people seem to relate with them and often have open and authentic conversations
  • They tend to under-promise but end up over-delivering
  • Because of these reasons, my hypothesis is they have true friends and long-lasting relationships, and people genuinely care about them and want them to be successful

3. People who have low-self confidence, but display high-self confidence

  • These people often come across humble, self-aware, and ambitious
  • They are authentic about their confidence in personal circle, but fake it in professional circle
  • While they doubt their abilities and have more pessimistic views, they prefer to come across positive in achieving their ambitions, and because of that, people are open to give them chances and willing to help them
  • They seem to over-promise but fall short on delivering some of their promises
  • Because of these reasons, my hypothesis is they have true friends and long-lasting relationships, and people genuinely care about them and want them to be successful

4. People who have low-self confidence, and also display low-self confidence

  • These people often come across more pessimistic, less ambitious, and unsuccessful
  • They often doubt their talent and skills, and it often causes other people to also not believe in them too
  • They have more pessimistic views about feedback, ideas and advice other people give them
  • My hypothesis is – they struggle to build long-lasting relationships as while people genuinely care about them and want them to be successful, eventually they stop helping them when they realize their advice is going in vain

In the end, it seems neither of the extreme conditions is great (#1 and #4), and it’s better to be more balanced (#2 and #3) – i.e. it is better to be a little less confident in certain situations even though you are very confident and at the same time, it’s better to be a little more confident than what you feel in certain other situations.

Amongst the better ones, I think it is better to be someone who truly believes in themselves and have high-confidence, but continue to practice being humble, self-aware and open-minded by displaying low-confidence.

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Uncategorized

The First 10

It was an intense but a healthy discussion I was having with my co-founders. We were debating about our strategy, our positioning, how we are different than our competitors, what story we should tell to VCs so they would fund us, how can we define a new category and be a leader of that category, how can we build a big independent business instead of entertaining early acquisition interests, etc.

All were important topics. But after a while, I realized they were just not timely. We were talking about the end state after 18 months, 3 years, and 5 years.

I was worried about this month and this quarter. All I wanted to do was – onboard first 10 customers for Avoma.

Somehow we agreed on key points and wrapped up the discussion. But the first 10 customers concept stuck in mind.

Since then, while I continue to think about longer term vision, strategies, etc., but in the end, I always bring the conversation back to getting the first 10 of whatever that key milestone we wanted to focus on.

Some of the examples are:

  • The first 10 manual prospecting emails before we implement email automation
  • The first 10 trials converting into paying customers
  • The first 10 paying customers that we don’t know
  • The first 10 customers who absolutely love us and can’t live without Avoma
  • The first 10 customers came from one particular channel
  • The first 10 customers that were referred by existing customers
  • The first 10 $10K+ contracts

This mindset always helps me to get tactical and start acting on the next milestones immediately, without getting lost in over planning and delaying the execution.

Obviously, the downside of this mindset is that once you are bogged down in achieving the first 10 of “x”, there is a high chance that you are not thinking about the bigger picture. You need to find a good balance between the both.

As they say, entrepreneurs are a special breed who need to have a great macroscopic vision and at the same time they need to have a great microscopic vision.

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Uncategorized

The Delusion of Success and Failure

How Success and Failure are dependent on each other and are also tangled with each other.

I had shared this brief thought on LinkedIn the other day, but due to their number of characters limit for the post (BTW, it’s 1300), I couldn’t explain the thought in detail. So expanding it here.

The Context

A few days ago, I met a founder, who was very smart both academically and intellectually, and had raised a solid Seed round from Valley’s top-notch VC firms, but after 2 years of execution, they had to shut down the company.

In her own words, they failed to achieve a product market fit. They had built an innovative solution, which was looking for a problem.

In her defense, it’s not that they didn’t know how to identify a problem. She had read everything about Lean Startup, Customer Development, Paul Graham’s Startup essays, etc. and had done extensive customer development interviews. Despite all of this, they still failed.

While it’s one thing to learn these things in theory, it’s a completely different ball game to follow it in practice.

Failure?

Meanwhile, I kept thinking, did she really “fail”? And failed from what perspective?

If you consider her entire career span is just 2 years, then yes, probably she has failed.

But if she’s still early in her career, then in my opinion, this is just a setback. Her entrepreneurship journey is not done yet. She can come back again with a new venture and be successful next time.

You could argue that she failed to return investors’ money.

But again, if she had executed with her best effort and intent, then those investors will most likely back her again for her future venture, which could be wildly successful too.

Success and Failure — Dependent

The boundaries between success and failure are diminishing now.

Many times you become successful in future after you face a failure. And many times you fail in future because success goes too much in your head.

Success and failure are pretty much dependent on each other.

If you failed to achieve your desired objective, but keep the right attitude and rise up again, the chances are you have more drive and are better prepared to achieve it this time around than the first time.

In that founder’s case, if she keeps the positive mindset, and decide to start her next venture — (it need not be immediate as she could take a job somewhere and learn more skills as well), then a combination of her on-job training and her lessons learned from previous failure, she would be much better prepared for the next venture.

Similarly, as we’ve also seen in many cases for celebrity people, if you achieve too much success too early, chances are you will lose it all if the success goes too much in your head as with the success, your behavior, priorities, and expectations change.

I just saw this tweet from Alok Kejriwal on my Twitter timeline today morning — it’s very relevant and consistent to the point I’m making here –

Success and Failure — Tangled

On the other hand, we classify “failure” as if everything was lost and there was nothing to gain.

Failure can be absolutely devastating if you look at it from only one perspective.

But if you look at your journey to achieve any objective and the number of other things you gained before you failed in achieving your core objective, you will realize that it’s not a zero-sum game.

In that founder’s case, I could argue that while she failed in her core objective, she had achieved success in other areas like — learning lots of new personal and professional skills, building strong relationships and network, etc.

I’m not saying that we should take pride in failing and nonetheless celebrate it because we learned something.

In fact, I argue that you could be considered failure too from one’s perspective while you’re wildly successful from many’s perspectives.

I’ve known some people who’ve achieved great financial success, but at the cost of some health issues, family problems or some kind of personal sacrifice.

In that founder’s case, I could also argue that there are actually thousands of other people of her age who took more stable, less risky, high paid salaried career paths. So financially they are successful, but from one perspective, they could be considered as a failure too because they didn’t take the risky route she took and didn’t gain those valuable skills and relationships, etc.

Conclusion

So the best way is for us to confront these failures as much as possible early in our life as we do successes too.

And we should treat these failures as more of temporary setbacks in our journey than calling it an end.


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