In the previous editions of these jottings on entrepreneurship and building a startup into a successful business, I touched upon various external and internal factors that determined outcomes. In this edition, let us look at the need for and importance of having a clear vision that will help steer the startup through the startup phase,
In the previous editions of these jottings on entrepreneurship and building a startup into a successful business, I touched upon various external and internal factors that determined outcomes. In this edition, let us look at the need for and importance of having a clear vision that will help steer the startup through the startup phase, difficult waters, and ultimately to success.
While discussing the business planning process during one of our regular quarterly review meetings, a senior colleague from Japan observed: “Time flows from the present into the future. What happens in the future is determined by what we think and do in the present. The future is created by us, like a road we lay as we go forward into an uncharted and essentially unknown territory. In other words, we create the enterprise and thereby, the future.’’ This was how he expressed his thoughts since he was not very fluent in English, and had to choose his words carefully.
What did he mean? I think what he meant was that we need a clear goal and a workable plan to get us where we want to go. Let us suppose that it is my intention to set up a bakery. There are many bakeries, and I could decide on joining the crowd, probably because I sense there is a supply gap that I can profitably fill. I could, however, also have a different vision for the bakery I will set up: it could be one that will provide every customer with hot freshly-baked products whenever they buy. My product range may be limited, but every baked product will be fresh. Now that objective, if I manage to pull it off, can be a serious differentiator and set me apart from the competitors.
This vision that I have for the enterprise will influence and impact every decision that is taken, including the choice of equipment, raw materials, processes, production planning, packaging, order handling and so on. I cannot therefore produce for stock, and must have processes that get the baked product out and into the hands of the customer without he or she having to wait for too long. Since the baked products have to be fresh and tasty, raw materials must be procured fresh, and not remain in inventory for too long. I may have to have dedicated lines for different baked products, to ensure that products are made to high quality and quickly. All these decisions will make my bakery adopt different equipment from other bakeries, and follow different internal processes.
If your intention is to build an enterprise that makes products of world class, then local standards and regulatory requirements will not determine acceptance criteria. These will now be determined by entirely different criteria, based on international standards and bench marked against the best in the market.
When I set up my small enterprise 30 years ago, to make disposable blood collection bags based on untried indigenous knowhow, I decided that we would match the best products in the world. There were no local competitors, and no local standards. Instead of quickly entering the market with a workable product, we adopted the British DHSS standards that were arguably the toughest in the world at the time. Every batch of product had to undergo 194 tests and determinations before being released into the market! This imposed incredibly tough demands on every aspect of manufacturing. Meeting local regulatory requirements was a cakewalk, as the standards we followed internally were stringent. As business grew, we kept innovating and improving our processes, always guided by the vision to match the best in the world. Today, the plant is one of the largest makers of hi-tech blood transfusion and collection systems in the world.
An enterprise is first born in the mind of the entrepreneur. The vision the entrepreneur has for the enterprise is a picture of what it will look like a few years into the future. It is that dream or vision that will guide the enterprise through knotty decisions, ensuring that all decisions taken nudge the company closer towards the goal. You may find your team members coming to you with many problems which have several possible solutions. It is here that your vision for the enterprise will guide you to make the right choices. The differentiator is always the vision the creator of that enterprise had for her or his product or company. Great products and companies are first born in the mind.