This article is written by Haris Chaudhry and originally posted on anthillonline.com.
Founding a new business is akin to starting a family – it’s great thinking about it, almost anyone half-capable can do it and it’s quite exciting too – especially at the start.
Turning that start-up into something bigger, commercially-viable and successfully creating the scale is a different kettle of fish and requires a very different set of skill, attitude, commitment levels and commercial acumen.
Now multiply the fun bits times 2 or 3 and then it gets really exhilarating – as much exhilaration as raising triplets, each with its own well-defined personality and demands. Each one requires different feeding and bath times, waking up and going to sleep at odd hours with very frequent tantrums and a degree of unpredictability that is painful to manage. And then there is the nurturing.
Having worked successfully in senior executive roles in multiple public and private enterprise and scooting around 5 continents in creating shareholder value over 15 years across a wide array of sectors, the time for me came in 2011 to create something I would call my own. It’s always great to be ‘nanny-ing’ businesses for others; it’s a whole different feeling shaping your own baby and seeing it develop and grow.
Along came quintuplets over a period of 4 years between 2011 and 2014. An emissions management consulting firm, Climate Ventures (founded in 2011), a recycling operation using the latest technologies to turn waste into energy, Pak Energy & Agro Ventures (founded in 2012), an Australian public company, the world’s first in offering curated fine dining for at-home diners, Endulj (founded 2015) and finally a London Stock Exchange listed and rapidly growing public company in life science, beauty and personal care, InnovaDerma (founded in 2014). The journey had begun with a bang!
Whilst the workload, time commitment, resources and creative-genius increases in creating and running multiple entities is widely regarded as a big NO within the wisdom-guide penned by the movers and shakers of the enterprising world, my very successful journey thus far demonstrated to me the importance of some underlying observations during my journey. These include:
Create the end before starting out – imagine the exit in vivid detail before taking the first step towards each venture.
Most entrepreneurs I have met are more focussed around the perceived value of their start up enterprise and less towards a very clear, quantifiable, and visible outcome. Starting without an end in mind is expecting a merry-go-round to push you further ahead rather than chasing your own tail. What is the clear aim of the enterprise?
Each one of my ventures has a stated goal and exit pathway and whilst things change midstream based on the growth trajectory, it is critical that the success is always benchmarked and continuously measured against the original goal and to continuously adapt the strategy to reach that outcome or adjust the goal periodically to suit the changing circumstances.
Identify the key people that would lead the challenge and create success for you.
This one is perhaps the trickiest. It’s highly contingent on the success of multiple ventures where your role is to provide the leadership, vision and resources to enable the CEO to make inroads. It’s akin to hiring a full-time nanny and trusting the person enough to nurture the baby on your behalf. Get it wrong and the venture is toast.
Identifying the right person with just equal amount of hunger, skill and commitment to make the venture a success on your behalf is a tricky business. For me, it has made more difference towards my success in identifying and empowering the CEOs to create the scale whilst you are busy providing leadership and guidance. It is a fine balance between micro-management and sufficient autonomy and delegation, especially during the first year to create a robust venture.
Just as raising twins doesn’t take twice the work and effort, building successful businesses don’t necessarily need twice the effort and time since the guiding principles remain the same.
Identify the unique and repetitive bits for each business and spend more time managing the unique elements (direction, vision, support) that are critical to the overall success of each venture and leave the running in the hands of the team.
Burn-out is one of the most common causes leading to early-death of the venture. Create a habit in nurturing the people that run the business rather than nurturing the business yourself. It’s a common trap most entrepreneurs fall into in their inability to let go of the control of the day-to-day operations and leads to business run by employees rather than leaders.
Don’t be afraid of confronting people, picking good fights, head-butting and being hard-nosed
Businesses are by their very nature ruthless creatures. Unless you give them what they need to flourish, they die. Don’t forget to negotiate hard, pick fights when necessary, be assertive, combative and do whatever needs to be done to ensure the survival and progress of multiple ventures.
Being always agreeable, nice, overly-polite and wanting to wait for things to calm down will take the precious time and resources which could be better channelled towards creating a win. Singularity of purpose in creating the win for the shareholders should reign supreme above all.
This doesn’t preclude the need to be warm, courteous, understanding, and generous towards the people and partners that will underpin the success. Understand the value of being hard-nosed whenever necessary.
Be bold – take risks
In my opinion, life without risk is a life wasted. For me personally, risks shape me and is at the core during early stages of all of my ventures. It is a single largest contributing factor which separates good from great and has the potential to shorten the journey to generate scale by years.
The degree of risk however reduces and should as the venture takes shape and grows. Managing and mitigating the momentum during early rapid-growth phase should. Creating win is about managing risk at almost each step of the way.
It is simply about people
Inability to inspire, lead and motivate people is the best recipe of suffocating any self-respecting venture. Don’t over-do the inspiring bit through meaningless talk. Be the example. Live the “actions speak louder than words” motto.
Excellence, execution, energy and strategic vision are felt by others and not heard. Be warm and generous in your feedback and assertive in your approach. Conversely, don’t be mum – and expect your key people to read your mind. Engage, inspire, communicate and share the journey.