Sunday, March 23, 2008

When you hit the wall but decide to keep going!

Going nowhere!

The meeting was depressing. No good news, low morale and a dim future. This was the weekly meeting at Panera with my business partner to review the status of our business venture. After almost six months of going at it, the news is not good. Some reflections on what has transpired and what may happen.

The business model sounded simple. Find IT staffing opportunities and staff the positions. Lots of folks are doing it, we have been in IT for ages now, we have the contacts and connections to make it happen - easy enough! But getting started has been anything but easy. Reality is - don't underestimate what it takes to succeed in a new business venture.

Every business has its nuances, rules/regulations, terminology, network, competencies and competition. If you have not done it, account for the learning curve. And the bigger lesson learned is - be clear about how you intent to penetrate the market? In a saturated market (like IT staffing) - unless you bring something new or unique to the table - you are wasting time.

When the going gets tough, how do you persist? Passion and early success are two items that can provide that lifeline. If you are not passionate about this venture - your ability to persist is limited. Ever wonder why most diets fail! If you are not clear why you started on this road, think now. Believe me - I have been doing a lot of thinking lately and it is definitely an eye opener. How do you function in new situations, what are your strengths, what are your limitations - are some of the questions you come face to face with.

A key motivator is success. So plan for early successes. Before you get to your dream state, you will have to learn to walk. Be ambitious but also be realistic. Early success will help morale and keep you going. We made the mistake of setting very lofty goals which obviously were not achieved and thereby felt like a setback. Ideally, you want to plan for small victories, give yourself sufficient time to execute your plan and manage your expectations.

Overconfidence can also lead to unrealistic expectations of growth and success. The larger your expectations and dreams, the more the risk that the bubble will burst and you may not be able to recover. Be realistic about what you can hope to accomplish in a new business venture.

Start small, achieve some success, review your strategy and start on the next phase. Increase expectations as you validate your strategy by actually succeeding in your business venture.

Change Direction
The last six months have been a learning exercise for me. And in the process we have brainstormed regularly to tweak our strategy. As you learn more about your business environment, you have to leverage that knowledge to change direction. Keep tweaking the model till you find the optimal balance. And sometimes - maybe the model cannot be tweaked and it may be time to seek a new venture. I have not reached that point as yet but it is an option to consider at some point in time.

"Persistence isn't using the same tactics over and over. That's just annoying.
Persistence is having the same goal over and over."
Seth Godin

It has been a learning experience but success still eludes us. I am going through a lot of soul searching and objective evaluation. Is it in me? Is this the right business? What is my passion? It is both frustrating and challenging but the saga continues. Will keep you updated!

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