Sunday, December 05, 2004

LBB Lesson - 1. The Network is the Entrepreneur

Mao had his little Red Book, Ghaddafi has a little Green book, so I've decided to follow in these illustrious foot-steps and name my ever expanding compendium of experiences, my little Blue book. :-P

As I mentioned in my last post, I want to do this partly for my own benefit. I am quite absent-minded and I feel quite strongly the need to write down things I consider important enough to remember. A side benefit of this is of course, that other people can read up on what I've written and comment on it, benefiting us both.

So here's the most important lesson on entrepreneurship I've learnt as I've been battered by the vicissitudes of fortune...

Lesson 1 - The Network is the Entrepreneur

When you initially start up your business, it's going to take a very long time to show some returns. Your first clients are absolutely vital and are going to either make or break your business. And guess what? 9 times out of 10, your first clients are going to be people you know. They're either going to be friends, relatives, past employers or even employees. They could be your fellow co-workers from a previous job or club members. Anyone who's known you for a while and trusts you.

"...and trusts you". This really is the crux of the matter. The number one problem for the new entrepreneur is a lack of credibility. Sure, you may be offering the best service or product for the best price, but if no one trusts you to deliver, no one's going to buy. The fear of loss far out-weighs the greed for profit in most such cases. The only way you can overcome this credibility gap is if the buyer already knows you, trusts you or is beholden to you in some way.

Who are these people who trust you and like you already and who therefore are far more likely to give you a chance? They're the people you know before hand of course. And the more such people you know, the more likely it is that there are potential buyers to be found amongst them.

How do you build up such a network of interesting, friendly, useful people? By being interesting, friendly and useful of course! :-D

Give stuff away and don't expect anything in return. Not only is this recommended by just about every religion in existence, but it's the best way to network. Help people out, give them useful advice, go the extra mile; and people will respond in kind. Not all naturally, but enough.

If I remember correctly, there's a Hadith Qudsi that runs something like this (paraphrased from memory): "Do not be discouraged by people who treat you shabbily after you help them, because there will be others who will treat you far better than you deserve for helping them just a little". It all balances out :-)

Join clubs and organisations. Mingle. Hand out your visiting card at every opportunity. If you're shy, hide behind your PC and blog. :-P. Do something, anything but be among people and Inshallah, opportunities will present themselves.

A final word in parting. The people in your network are ready to give you a chance because they trust you.

Never betray that trust.

1 comment:

Vikas Agarwal said...

Very interesing and insightful article Arsalan bhai!