Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The 12 rules of start-up

It’s been a different school of thought at Infy and I am enjoying my learning here. The work culture, the ethics, the environment and the hierarchy @ Infy is a class-apart :). Every time I am confused about anything literally anything @ Infy I know whom to ask for help – Balaji Desikamani (dearly known as Mr. Encyclopedia at Infy MKTG). Life is fun and learning at Infy is phenomenal. The only thing I am missing the most here is the start-up environment. It’s a different league game to be part of start-up, few things that come to my mind (the one’s I love the most) @ start-up include:

You don’t have to wear formals with tie (Unless you have a client visit) – No one cares wat u wear (LOL good for lazy humans like me).

You don’t have to wait for 3 – 4 levels of approvals to execute your idea.

You don’t have cabins and conf rooms.

You don’t have fixed timing (you spend majority of ur life in office :) ).

First thing first – priority matters :)

Sense of ownership – everyone feels it’s his company and he has to excel in his job.

The list goes on however why are start-ups in India not very successful? A recent study by Inc 500 shows 8.5 of 10 start-ups in India fail during first year. I have been reading many blogs on this and the one I loved the most is written by Mark Cuban (He is a serial entrepreneur co-founder and chairman of Denver-based independent cable network HDNet and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team).

These 12 rules are edited from his book. How to win at the sport of business: If I can do it, you can do it.

1. Don't start a company unless it's an obsession and something you love.

2. If you have an exit strategy, it's not an obsession.

3. Hire people who you think will love working there.

4. Sales Cure All. Know how your company will make money and how you will actually make sales.

5. Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them. Pay up for people in your core competencies. Get the best. Outside the core competencies, hire people that fit your culture but aren't as expensive to pay.

6. An espresso machine? Are you kidding me? Coffee is for closers. Sodas are free. Lunch is a chance to get out of the office and talk. There are 24 hours in a day, and if people like their jobs, they will find ways to use as much of it as possible to do their jobs.

7. No offices. Open offices keep everyone in tune with what is going on and keep the energy up. If an employee is about privacy, show him or her how to use the lock on the bathroom. There is nothing private in a startup. This is also a good way to keep from hiring executives who cannot operate successfully in a startup. My biggest fear was always hiring someone who wanted to build an empire. If the person demands to fly first class or to bring over a personal secretary, run away. If an exec won't go on sales calls, run away. They are empire builders and will pollute your company.

8. As far as technology, go with what you know. That is always the most inexpensive way. If you know Apple, use it. If you know Vista, ask yourself why, then use it. It's a startup so there are just a few employees. Let people use what they know.

9. Keep the organization flat. If you have managers reporting to managers in a startup, you will fail. Once you get beyond startup, if you have managers reporting to managers, you will create politics.

10. Never buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, it's okay to buy for your own employees, but if you really think people are going to wear your branded polo when they're out and about, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money.

11. Never hire a PR firm. A public relations firm will call or email people in the publications you already read, on the shows you already watch and at the websites you already surf. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them a message introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communication with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.

12. Make the job fun for employees. Keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your people and reward them. My first company, MicroSolutions, when we had a record sales month, or someone did something special, I would walk around handing out $100 bills to salespeople. At and MicroSolutions, we had a company shot. The Kamikaze. We would take people to a bar every now and then and buy one or ten for everyone. At MicroSolutions, more often than not we had vendors cover the tab. Vendors always love a good party.

One of my Infy friend and colleague (John dearly known as Lovely in the team for his wittiness) is on his way to experiment with a start-up. I wish him all the best and look forward to hear more lessons from him.



Oh!! The perks of working in a start up are plenty! I completely agree on most points mentioned! But yes, it does have its own drawbacks. However, I'm not complaining! Have loved being a part of start-ups.

Rohit Vyas said...

Dude you missed the Gyan part. Start-up teaches you what any B-school cannot through a formal class room sessions :)

Raghavendra said...

@Meenakshi : I completely agree with perks are rewarding :)
@Rohit : U bet :) it atleast changed the way we think and act.

Jayakishor Bayadi said...

Hey Raghav, Great post may want to see another facet of working at start ups. I have written about that 3 years back and is still relevant...

Jayakishor Bayadi

Steve Kumar said...

Wow!!! Nicely penned Raghav Just to add to what you said Start up's give you the chance to suck in maximum knowledge by exposing you to the world of experiences in the shortest span of time. I am currently a part of this journey and believe me I am every minute of it

John Loney said...

Hey Raghav. I sure hope I will be able to give you some gyan in few months (naa, years) time. Being able to give you gyan; that will be an achievement in itself.