Ashutosh Garg opens up about his idea of entrepreneurship, who can be termed as a successful entrepreneur, the key things that help an entrepreneur keep going, the importance of financial and family support in an entrepreneur’s journey, and why the ability to delegate work is a skill that every entrepreneur should develop especially when thinking of scaling up.Watch on YouTube
The biggest challenge every entrepreneur faces is not getting the right idea. You know lot of people have a lot of great ideas. The bigger challenge is how do I implement my idea.
If you have got a strong business model and you as the entrepreneur are capable of delivering, then you will have no shortage of money.
If your family doesn’t support you then you are constantly balancing the stresses in your mind of your entrepreneurial journey versus relationships and peace at home. So, I think that is something which you need to resolve quickly.
Money is only a commodity. There is no shortage of money for entrepreneurs with good ideas.
To me when someone says that this is my gut feeling it is really an extract of a lot of experience and your perception or perceptions.
You can either remain small and keep control of everything that you have in your business or you can build a team of trusted people.
Often, the beginning of any start-up can be traced back to a eureka moment, a moment when an idea strikes the founder and slowly begins blossoming into a business plan. While this moment is definitive in the life of any new venture, it is what follows that seals the fate of the entrepreneur and his or her dream. Many young entrepreneurs make the mistake of forgetting or ignoring the fact that it takes much more than just an idea to give birth to a successful business venture.
Before diving deep into the turbulent flow of entrepreneurship it is crucial for each aspirant to learn some essential lessons. When talking about entrepreneurial training, proficiency in subjects like finance, strategy, branding, and planning is believed to be of utmost importance. However, these are not the only tools that you need in your toolbox to be successful. Aside from these, a handful of unexpected competencies can help you emerge as a successful business creator whose ventures are not just a flash in the pan but can stand the test of time. Besides, you also need good financial and family support to be successful.
Well as for a for me an entrepreneur is someone who has an idea, has the will to be able to convert his idea into a reality, convert his dream into a reality, has the drive to see through whatever implementation the entrepreneur wants to do to fruition. He's able to build a business, is able to stay the course and is able to keep his or her sanity while going through the 24 hour workday that the entrepreneur will live through for several years of their life.
In 2003, when I founded Guardian the concept of me-time disappeared. I was working 24 by 7 and I was doing any and every possible type of work. I remember one particular instance we had just started Guardian. We were in a small little office and some of the ladies in the office complained about the toilets being dirty. The people hadn't come to clean so I took a broom and I clean the toilet myself. Of course, everyone said why are you doing it but I said you know that is the reality of an entrepreneur. Today you are the CEO of your company and the guy who has ideated and put together this absolutely incredible business plan. However, the stark reality is that you know floors have to be cleaned, coffee machines have to work and in my particular case since I was in retail I had to make sure that the shelves of the stores were clean of the dust and the store floors had to be cleaned and I remember doing this many times.
I know a lot of very young people who have taken the plunge in their early 20s and yet there is the classical example of the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colonel Sanders started his entrepreneurial journey in his late 50s. So, there is really no right age. I decided to do it because after 25 years in the corporate world, I had the urge to take more to tell myself that I had the capability to become an entrepreneur. So, when I turn 46 I quit the corporate world and decided to do something on my own.
The biggest challenge every entrepreneur faces is not getting the right idea. You know lot of people have a lot of great ideas. The bigger challenge is how do I implement my idea. So, when Howard Hilton was asked how does he decide on where to locate his new hotel and he said he only has three factors which is location, location, and, location. The same thing applies to entrepreneurship. You've got a great idea. Afterwards, it's implementation, implementation, and implementation because that's the only way you can achieve what you want to do. It's very important to be able to know what you want to do. But knowing what you want to do and actually doing it are two different things.
I have met so many entrepreneurs who have great ideas but are low on money and that's how the term bootstrapping a startup has come. Where you are actually able to make a start with something which is very small in terms of resources and then there is enough opportunity available for you to either do crowdfunding. I see so many people who have raised money from individuals. There are a lot of angel investors available. I myself am an angel investor. I invest in several companies. Once a company starts moving there is no shortage of money. And, I've always believed that if you have got a strong business model and you as the entrepreneur are capable of delivering, then you will have no shortage of money. The second part, family support, is more important. If your family doesn’t support you then you are constantly balancing the stresses in your mind of your entrepreneurial journey versus relationships and peace at home. So, I think that is something which you need to resolve quickly. Once you have your family’s support then trying to find money for your business because it would take a lot more time and conviction. You can't just walk away because when things go wrong it's your only support system that exists for you. Money is only a commodity. There is no shortage of money for entrepreneurs with good ideas.
First is you are to be there around the clock. While an entrepreneur has the luxury of choosing which 20 hours of the day he wants to work, he also has to work hard in those 20 hours. The second one is that as the organization grows you need to carry people along. So proper management of the people in your organization is very critical. The third thing that's important is to be able to carry all the stakeholders. Stakeholders are your investors of course but they are also your suppliers and your customers. If you've got a bunch of suppliers and you don't pay them on time and then you don't reach out to them and tell them why you have not been able to pay on time they'll pull the plug and stop supplies to you. The fourth one is good health. An entrepreneur's health is very important because only if you remain healthy yourself will you be able to run your business. And finally what's important is to be able to manage your money. You need to know how much money your business is burning. You need to know how much money your business is going to be earning if you are burning more money than you are earning then you need to figure out a way to keep bridging the gap otherwise you will go bust. Raising money when you don't have it is far more difficult than raising money when you have it. So those are some of the points that I would ask any entrepreneur to consider.
To me when someone says that this is my gut feeling it is really an extract of a lot of experience and your perception or perceptions. When you feel that something dramatic will happen in your business today, that's because you've in your own mind collated a whole lot of probabilities and said this is what I expect will happen. So I think gut feeling is an important part for any entrepreneur. As far as a business plan is concerned, I think every entrepreneur must write out a broad framework of what they want to be able to achieve. Obviously you can't foretell all the things that will come and all the opportunities that will come your way but you must have a broad framework for the direction that you wish to go down.
The first line of the business plan that I wrote was to build Boots in India. Boots you may know is the England's largest pharmacy chain like a drug store and then America has the two big ones - Walgreens and CVS. Since I had been to the UK many times because of my earlier jobs my first thought was to build Boots in India. I still go and stand in Boots stores in London for hours at a time. I got to know most of the top leadership there and I said why can I not create something similar and therefore the look and feel of all the large stores of Guardian were actually based on the design concepts that I learned in the UK. The second one was to get a small 300 square foot store and actually start running it. So, I remember standing in the store for at least the first two or three months sometimes behind the counter. I'm not a trained pharmacist but we had pharmacists employed but I was learning the business so I would stand behind the counter, make the sale, cut the bills, learn the systems. So it was a process that we went through and even at later dates what was more satisfying was to be in store rather than sit in the head office.
The first one was really when we opened our first store. I used to visit you know at least once a week. The second was when we got into hospitals. At one stage we were the largest pharmacy chain inside hospitals, both private and government. The third stage was when we decided to get into nutrition and we signed GNC. It's an interesting story of how GNC came. I was in the US with my older son as he was looking at colleges and we stopped at a mall to have lunch. I saw a GNC store, walked in and said would you like to partner with us in India? They gave us the name and reference details of the leadership in Pittsburgh. I wrote to them and that's how the whole relationship started. Another milestone that is very dear to me is when we decided to build the brand, Guardian instead of spending money on advertising I reached out to my friends in Hindustan Times and Dainik Jagran. We actually created a four-page broadsheet called The Guardian Health Chronicle and it used to come once a month with the Wednesday edition of The Hindustan Times all through the NCR and in English. It became so popular that people would call our office and say do you have last month's edition and can we get a copy. So it was four pages of great data on health care.
This is an interesting dilemma every entrepreneur faces. You can either remain small and keep control of everything that you have in your business or you can build a team of trusted people who can never have the same passion as you but who will certainly have the same amount of commitment because you are grooming them and because you are giving them a stake in the business either through a profit share or through stock options or through more senior positions. It is important for you to grow the business and for you to get a group of trusted individuals who will be able to grow the business along with you because if you don't get people then even your existing people will start to say what happens to us, where do we grow. It's essential for you to expect a growth, get good people and at the same time also recognize that your costs will increase. Hopefully your revenues and your profits will increase faster than your costs. You also have to start to learn to overlook errors that are being made. I used to get very agitated in the early days when I would find errors being made and my first reaction would be I'll do it myself. Then I realized that if I wanted to try and do everything myself then I didn't have time to do what I was supposed to do. So, get good people, learn to delegate, and keep growing the business.