What makes a successful entrepreneur?

The many nuances necessary for an entrepreneur to comprehend

An entrepreneur is a person who conceptualizes the foundation of the company or an institution and plays an instrumental role in the success. Failure of a setup is owed to him or her as a decision maker holding the key mandate also. This may also include both achieving as well as steps for downsizing which are attributed to the person. 

In many cases, we wrongly define the entrepreneur with that of a person of mandate. The engaged Managing Director or Chief Executive Officer is being considered as an entrepreneur -- rightfully or wrongfully. However, the person is generally not. At the same time, the entrepreneur may not be in charge beyond envisioning a concept. 

The extent of a mandate given to the person certainly gives others the possibility of identifying the person as a so-called “entrepreneur.” That is why in many establishments, we are treating the Managing Director / CEO as an entrepreneur due to the extent of a mandate given to them.

Now getting back to the original point of a “successful entrepreneur,” one must scrutinize the idea of what success is. Success is to be able to grow an establishment over a given tenure. Being successful is not an everlasting process at all times because continuity of success is a difficult and ardent process, which everyone cannot get or be able to show. For some time it is reflected, but there are risks of a downward turn too. 

In Bangladesh the downward turn is treated as an institutional failure, which it is, but it is not the end! A downhill tumble is a way to avail a learning exercise to reassess and reevaluate the situation. There will be ups and downs in business or achieving, and we must be ready to shoulder a storm or hindrances alongside. Therefore, an entrepreneur must be mentally accepting so that the appropriate mindsets exist for occurrence.

What entrepreneurs lack

The sad truth is that many establishments including their entrepreneurs cannot reevaluate, therefore they tend to either downsize or shut operations. They are focusing on the short term only. 

Other wiser entrepreneurs use the ability to reevaluate to exercise choice and proceed forward with re-strategizing. However, the main aspects that are touched upon are always the profitability and pricing index where applicable. Others tend to seek opportunities to envision what should be the way forward. But is this always correct to touch upon the pricing and profitability? 

Most of the time it is but at the same time one must also understand that saturation points and diversity need to be taken into consideration when visualizing a roadmap. 

Therefore, short term and long-term goals and appropriate plans must be in place. Diversification is always a consideration in the long run.

But is every entrepreneur able to diversify? Can he or she envision a diversification in approach? Can the person really comprehend beyond his or her comfort zone? In most of the cases, no. Therefore, what should be done?

Why is it the case that entrepreneurs or decision makers are not able to diversify? The truth is that diversity requires the ability to assess situations and comprehend from a multidimensional perspective and at the same time be a visionary, so that a destination roadmap can be dreamt up and put into action in phases within a stipulated time frame.

Well why can they not proceed? They are sitting with the money. They are sitting with the establishment and they are sitting with the teams. The sad truth is that to envision, experience matters, exposure matters, confidence matters, and so does the ability to take risks. This is where we are not able to proceed.

An entrepreneur could have a team that can help envision the steps forward, but to what extent remains the question. They may envision the next one or two steps, but not the possible destination roadmap. The destined model will comprise of both milestones and hindrances along the way. 

How to tackle it and how to achieve the milestones and overcome the hindrances should be addressed with confidence. One cannot be reactive in approach. Being pro-active is a less costly process and being reactive may mean strategy change -- but it also does impact more suddenly, as readiness for reactive approach is not something we envisage.

That is why success stories of the 50s and 60s have eventually had to close down or downsize. The same is applicable of the 70s and 80s, even the last 30-40 years have similar occurrences too. 

It is a continuous process and this is attributed to all establishments, whether proprietorships, banks, IT companies, garments, buying houses, trading houses, projects, government projects, telecom companies, e-commerce companies, training institutes, upstarts, and many more.

Hiring the right people

That is why the role of specialist hands or subject matter experts and external arms are more and more a necessity because they help in showing both the roadmap as well as helping to plan the way forward. The role of R&D personnel/team is mandatory in each successful institute globally.

The question may arise: What did I do wrong in building my own team as an entrepreneur? This is the biggest problem a corporation faces. 

The person taking the decision in selecting the resources is often not doing his or her task rightfully. A job description of a key person is very critical. Just basic PR by the person is insufficient. The CV or resume must carry weight. The candidate for the position must be qualified with sufficient diverse experience meeting the requirements. 

At the same time the person must be looked at objectively by expert hands who can do a better assessment than me as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, I must be ready to part with a sizable salary package for the said person to meet the task requirements if the position is very critical and important to an establishment. 

And favouritism and back door entrances must be minimal. In Bangladesh, this is a common occurrence besides of course hiring a person from the same district, being a relative, or considering a candidate due to the person's desperate need for the job rather than on meritorious grounds and objective perspective. 

Therefore, it is very important to permit external arms to select for you, so that what you cannot do, the experts will do. This may cost money but in the long run, the investment made is worth it. This mistake is not just that of private companies, banks, institutes, and corporates, but even advisory companies, consultancy firms, as well as major MNCs in Bangladesh. 

They all learn it the hard way, by getting someone engaged first and then facing hindrances due to the person's non-readiness to be able to undertake their said responsibilities for the given tasks.

Now besides resources, the establishment's structure, organogram, and processes with appropriate checks and balances is a must -- this conformity to standards is a necessity. It is not as if a unique model exists for my company and the rest of the world is different -- global best practices are uniform everywhere. 

It is therefore a necessity that a tycoon/magnate/owner agrees to conform rather than attempts to be stubborn because his or her purview is more limited than that set by global standards.

But why will the entrepreneur be stubborn ? Well he/she has managed to build success in his or her set of guidelines, institutional norms, and knowhow. This is his or her exposure or perspective, you may say. But why the limitation? 

Generally, in Bangladesh, the largest problems in private companies which have graduated to renowned corporates, the entrepreneurs have only understood the company and have not exercised exposure elsewhere. They have not sought experiences or knowhow working elsewhere before setting up the company, establishment, or institute. 

The experience availed elsewhere helps to embrace international corporate norms which can be replicated smoothly. But the limitations working in a singular entity only makes the entrepreneur's perspective narrow. A learning exercise can be undertaken -- however the intent to learn must come from within.

But what do we do if the corporations are too large or stubborn to embrace changes? 

Using technology

Well, many changes are easier than one thinks. This is where technology plays an instrumental part. Automation of procedures and conformity to set policies as well as rightful evaluation of resources along with checks and balances besides transparency in approach exist. To instigate smoothly so that the matter is easily conformed to and utilized without individual staff members challenging the newly set procedures through persistent approaches of neglect is the challenge.

The next problem is identifying the right technology. This is a very critical thing, because the entrepreneur may select the wrong solutions. This may be due to misguidance, misinterpretation, as well as not having the right person around for appropriate guidance.

This is where you engage external arms as well as qualify people who will be appropriate for the said tasks. Whether the task is short term or long term, being protective of your existing team's wrongful decision may not always be correct.

After touching upon the resource and infrastructure, how does one touch upon diversity in approach because that is where a success story of an entrepreneur lies. Well, the ability to diversify requires mandating experts in key positions with substantive authority and decision-making ability.

This also requires decentralization of processes, procedures, and most importantly, authority. The idea should be: I make minimal interference in micro and macro matters as an entrepreneur. I will only see results. I will look at assigning the person with a task with a substantive budget fund and necessary starting infrastructure and he/she will provide me with a plan of action for a tenure. This way success is a certainty. 

If the entrepreneur tries to think he/she is God where the person feels he or she can implement success singlehandedly, without expert hands and appropriate persons, then the likelihood of failures are more. Many have burnt their fingers trying to do so.

However, what about diversity in approach itself ? Where do I go or what must I do or how must I proceed? Your aerial purview must have some relevant cross-selling opportunities. The cross-selling opportunities must be scrutinized, analyzed, and evaluated thoroughly. Then comes economic analysis -- whether the subject area is profitable or not. 

In many cases, the less profitable areas become more profitable considering that they are piggybacking on the same platform. That advantage really must be looked at too. Examples are ecommerce with logistics, Fintech with IT, banking with agent banking, insurance, and brokerage houses, etc, distribution with multiple products, consultancy with multiple services, and many more. 

Yes, this can go on and on so it needs to be looked into thoroughly. Mobilizing forward is a lot easier if one can confidently move forward taking into consideration all of the above.

Now back to the successful entrepreneur. He or she must have a strong set of generals to fight the battles. To fight the battles, the person must be strongly equipped. This includes: 

* A good marketing head and team who will address both sales and strategic planning

* A good HR head with substantive authority reporting to the entrepreneur is a must 

* For diversity, a good R&D Team leader and Project Head with independence and space is essential 

* A strong CFO with experience and exposure reporting to the entrepreneur for financial planning and management of company assets 

* A good Chief Operating Officer and a diverse team to manage the back office functionalities

* Finally, a good Chief Information Officer with a strong team to address all diverse aspects of IT 

These are the basic requirements though many more can be added, depending on the scope of work but also the need of the time. 

Selecting a team of good and bad resources and making them work together, whether they are more or less competent and providing motivation, drive, aims, aspirations, as well as having control, justifies both a synergy in approach and shows proof of  good leadership. 

All this is a necessity in an entrepreneur's overall success. Giving departmental heads substantive space and authority must be entrusted to them to push forward to meet requirements.

This may sound simple and elementary, which it is. However, things tend to be made unnecessarily complex, by others, who butt their heads into the same matter creating pointless confusion in the mind of the decision maker. 

So being objective, not exercising any personal bias and engaging expert hands (internal and external where applicable) in tasks must be the modus operandi.

An entrepreneur must be able to understand all the above to proceed towards an eventual triumph and a success story with a team of accomplished members who are equipped to shoulder sizable challenges and become achievers.

Waleed Morshed is a Consultant (Process Re-Engineering, HR, IT Presales, ESG, ERP, Finance, BFSI, Project Management, Audit, Academic & Career Counsellor), Institutional Advisor, and Entrepreneur.