Contrary to popular belief, an entrepreneur’s life is not unenviable, even in the challenging business conditions of 2022.
A recent survey found that startup sentiment has reached new heights, and 73% of prospective entrepreneurs agree or strongly agree that it is an excellent time to start a business. Couple this with the fact that India is among the world’s top five economies for starting a business, and you have one big question to answer — what is a typical day in an entrepreneur’s life? With the number of entrepreneur businesses exploding in our country, how do these highly talented professionals juggle tasks, execute ideas, and collaborate toward success?
We can find patterns of a “typical day” in an entrepreneur’s life. Still, the daily experiences will vary from person to person — depending on the priority of the business, the product or service, experience as an entrepreneur and one’s unique leadership style. But setting these differences aside, there are a few things that every entrepreneur’s life has a commonality. Recent work with entrepreneurs has shown that the ones that succussed primarily driven organisation development by hiring for learning, nimbleness and speed rather than for experience or ability to execute. The problem statement focus or problems do expand or change but focus on persistence is critical as it helps you recover from setbacks and close deals.
While entrepreneurs need basic management skills, aptitude for managing and leading others is a critical skill, besides the ability to make decisions with an appreciative inquiry mindset, as they recognise that they may not have the experience and expertise to know it all. For example, leaders of large companies have trained to work with complete data to measure speed/performance for excellence or efficacy. At the same time, entrepreneurs must work with good enough data to make decisions. Another big difference between prominent enterprise company executives and visa-viz entrepreneurs is that they handle failure by firing executives. On the other hand, entrepreneurs work on improving or iterating on ideas to pivot away from thoughts, processes, or systems that do not work.
An early start
Unlike operational leaders like CEOs and COOs, entrepreneurs rarely get the recommended 7–8 hours of rest per night. They typically have an early start to the day, and collaboration must begin soon after. Entrepreneurs rely heavily on their smartphones and other mobile devices to stay connected with their network, VCs, channel partners, employees, and other stakeholders, often working across time zones. It makes having an early start all the more critical — but it is also crucial to have some morning routine to centre oneself before the day can begin.
Today, social media plays a vital role in an entrepreneur’s life, no matter the nature of their business. For B2B companies, it could be LinkedIn, Upwork, GitHub and Guru to engage, communicate and learn. At the same time, consumer-focused brands and design houses focus squarely on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok/Snapchat, depending on their region of operations. Social media also entails a variety of publications, online platforms where they may be featured, and brand mentions. A portion of the morning is spent on social media monitoring informally.
Commuting has become less common in an entrepreneur’s life in 2022, but it will come to centre stage in 2023. Thus, it remains relevant. The process of a short drive to the office, walking into a coffee shop or co-working place, visiting warehouses or physical stores, or simply gearing up to enter the home office performs an important psychological role. It prevents the line between work and personal life from getting blurred, which is almost always challenging for entrepreneurs and business owners. Therefore, the commute is an integral part of the day when one is alone with their thoughts and can focus/reorient oneself. During the commute, use the feedback analysis tool to measure your expectations from yesterday’s actions and what outcome you got. Does it make sense to review your actions/owners or adjust your expectations? If you begin your day with this step, you are less likely to be disappointed in meetings and less frustrated.
An entrepreneur must conduct several meetings across the day, and this typically takes up the lion’s share of their work hours. It includes brainstorming sessions with senior members of the company and meetings with VCs. In addition, it accounts for a young business, staff meetings for engagement, vendor meetings to maintain the supply chain, and meetings with regulatory stakeholders. The objective is to iron out any bottlenecks in the smooth functioning of a business, which may involve getting compliance certifications and regulatory clearance from local governments. While taking precedence, time management and outcome from sessions must become critical for assessing if such discussions should be continued or discontinued. The challenge in meetings is that deliberations, different points of view and data become central, while decision-making has to be quick, reduce choices, and have the focus to make progress.
After a morning of meetings and a quick lunch, it is time for the entrepreneur to sit down with the C-team and catch up on operational progress. For some businesses, the entrepreneur or founder acts as the CEO, while these two are kept separate in other cases. Either way, the afternoon huddle is a small and close-knit meeting to discuss operational successes and challenges, financial health, the state of the supply chain, and, most importantly, customer sentiment. At the growth stage, business success relies hugely on marketing, word of mouth, customer awareness, and conversion. Therefore, decisions impacting these areas are agenda in these huddles.
Most entrepreneurs typically try to finish their work day by 5 PM, although their tasks and responsibilities may extend well beyond this timeline. Therefore, evenings with employee engagement managing complex issues around people-price performance, corporate programs/initiatives not giving desired results taking centre stage, or quality time with the family is preferable. Alternatively, depending on the state of the business at any given moment, evenings can also be occupied by overtime work and meetings.
An entrepreneur’s typical day isn’t the same as a startup CEO or a business leader. Today, entrepreneurs often double up as the face of the company, which entails a lot of thought leadership, PR, marketing, and branding efforts. But, no matter the product or service’s nature, the entrepreneur’s self-investment drives the business forward.
In the future, I recommend that entrepreneurs focus on an acronym, “RSP”, denoting relationships, service/solution fitment and price-people performance matrix. The acronym RSP is the short name of the Founder of NIIT Group, R S Pawar. At NIIT, we had a culture of calling each other by first name or 2–3 alphabet short form of the name; as an entrepreneur, he committed himself to these domains.
Relationships: Leaders must stay connected with external stakeholders like experts, investors, compliance or government influencers. They should also focus on internal stakeholders like employees and partners/vendors. Finally, engage with the customer’s potential and current as confidence and trust increase when entrepreneurs act as if they are in the middle of the game rather than becoming reviewers or escalation. For example, the Chief Growth Officer or Sales & Marketing business leader leads business growth. However, the entrepreneur has to work with such role-holders to build togetherness, transparency and trust in the relationship and commercial engagement.
Service/Solution fitment: Customers like leaders who enjoy dreaming up since they thrive on opportunities which can lead to product ideas rather than being driven by the size of the opportunity. Customers like leaders who solve the problem rather than handing down the work. Entrepreneurs usually work around small bets and iterate with big problems breaking into ideas which help the customer a little more. At the same time, prominent company leaders focus on creating innovation processes and defining growth with budgets/expansion goals. As a result, service and solution innovation suffer, leading to identifying new growth ideas rather than spurring innovation in existing theories. Marketing and brand promise remains vital tasks as the proposition needs to be communicated and delivered.
Price-People performance: It must be seen as two sets of actions but co-related. One is price performance, which is a constant endeavour to deliver a better version of the product/service at the price point, and it should improve over time. The price-performance goal metrics are growth, retention or disruption of competitor strategy. Performance management disciple varies from goal or target-setting reviews, which are quarterly or yearly; performance management discipline offers an opportunity to help teams to succeed on an activity or transaction level by building the process of reviews and transparency. Entrepreneur leaders are primarily emotional, and they advise their non-emotional teams to improve themselves for the betterment and align their vision. Such leaders are good observers, and thus by observant behaviour, they provide attention to detail and improvement. People’s performance requires constant attention as a great team consists of role holders beyond having only task-doers; companies also need adaptive and appreciative inquiry mindset members. Finally, members can do their jobs beyond their remit, thus demonstrating contextual behaviour. Building and rejigging such teams is never stopping activity as the entrepreneur’s needs and challenges change; therefore, the demand for people also alters.
Finally, they are responsible for the “big ideas,” they must also remove any bottlenecks getting in the way of its execution — even as they maximise any opportunities to grow the business.
Thank you for reading! Share your observations via email at Arvind@am-pmassociates.com or comment in the published forum.