If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, Nikki Barua (@nikkibarua) has some advice for you. Co-Founder & CEO of BeyondCurious, an innovation consultancy that creates digital solutions for leading brands, Nikki is a serial entrepreneur known for her sense of purpose, passion and persistence. A minority woman in the predominantly white male world of tech, she celebrates her failures and sees them as opportunities to become a better version of herself. Here are her tips for aspiring entrepreneurs based on lessons she has learned.
1. A great idea is not a great company.
Customer needs might change. Competitors might launch better products. Technology might disrupt the marketplace. There are so many reasons why your brilliant idea may fail. But if you know the reason WHY you want to be an entrepreneur, your purpose and passion will guide you through your journey. Remember, if all it took were a great idea, we would have seven billion entrepreneurs today.
2. In cofounders, great skills matter but aligned values matter more.
Choose a cofounder who is completely aligned with you on the things that matter. It's easy to fall in love with a pedigreed profile and impressive skills. But alignment in what you believe and what you care about matters more. Don't let the most important relationship in your business turn into miserable one because you are misaligned about mission, vision and values. Choose wisely.
3. Don't just scratch the itch; cure the pain.
It's not enough to build something customers want. You have to build something MANY customers want and are willing to pay for. It's not enough to have a product that serves a need; it has to be something that a large enough market is willing to buy.
4. Make your idea better; share it.
If you think your idea is so precious that you can't share it with anyone, you are missing a huge opportunity. We live in a connected world of constant innovation. While you're working on solving a grand challenge, chances are someone else is doing it too. Rather than hide your idea, socialize it with advisors. Share it with customers. Learn through feedback, and make your idea better.
5. Smarts is good; heart is great.
The biggest challenge facing companies today is finding top talent. Great people are the biggest differentiator in any company. But extraordinary skills are becoming table stakes. You need something more to do great things. You need heart. Hire people that care about what they make, how they make it, who they collaborate with, and why it matters. Look beyond the resume.
6. Care about revenue, but obsess about cash flow.
As your business grows, you will be celebrating every dollar of revenue earned. Top line growth is thrilling. But cash flow is king. More businesses fail due to poor cash flow than due to poor profits. Don't let your business get threatened by cash flow instability. Anticipate the cash needs of your business and keep a close eye on it. Negotiate favorable terms with customers and suppliers, while managing shortfalls through debt financing or investments.
7. Stay focused - only say YES to the right things.
When the going gets tough, you'll be tempted to chase every opportunity. Or completely shift your focus to go down a safer path. Even if it seems promising in the short run, the cost of losing your focus can be very damaging in the long run. Don't clutter your world with too many things. Say NO to all the things that don't matter so you can make room for what does.
8. Don't just have the eyes for greatness, have the stomach for it, too.
Being an entrepreneur sounds glamorous, but the reality is far from it. Everyone has the vision and desire for grand successes but not everyone has the stomach for it. The journey of an entrepreneur is filled with obstacles that can only be overcome with limitless passion, relentless persistence, and sheer hard work.