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My husband and I started our careers around the same time close to two decades ago. In fact, I started mine before his, conveniently avoiding the B-School/ Post Graduate route. He is often referred to as the perfect poster boy in our family- went to a reputed boarding school, was a high scorer, graduated from one of the best colleges and most reputed B-Schools, which in turn saw him land a job even before he left college.
My path was a bit more adventurous. My association with an international student organization during my graduation days saw me tap my entrepreneurship skills at an early stage. Of course, its a different story that at the age of 18 years, one has no idea what entrepreneurship means. But at least I experienced the pain and struggle of my phone calls not being returned, emails not being replied to and the joy of winning a contract or finding that perfect internship for some Japanese student who wanted to come and spend a few months in another country. This eventually led to my going off on an entrepreneurship myself to foreign land twenty years ago. Point to be noted, all along I had no idea what my career path was going to be. I was an Economics Graduate, who was very clear wanted to do nothing with the subject.
Like any young aspirational professional, my first job in Public Relations was with a reputed and one of the largest firms in the country. At the age of 21 years, thats all mattered. The thrills of working with big brands, being part of mega launches was the high. Then fell the first opportunity to test my true entrepreneurial skills- to join a newly formed agency with just one client and the Founder. I always consider that to be the tipping point in my career. Building a brand from scratch and playing a key role in laying its foundation excited me.
Subsequent career moves saw me play key roles in firms that were at critical growth stage. More often than not, we only had a table and chair to start with. Well, truly that how most organisations start. All this finally led to me starting my own agency a decade ago. Ironically, starting with a table and chair, a lot of grit and resilience, it grew to become one of the largest local agencies in its market.
I have a reason for sharing my story. Life throws a lot of surprises at us and at every stage its important to look at it more like an opportunity and make the most of it. More often than not we fail, but those failures teach us way more than the successes. Each stage taught me more, challenged me to not give up and to all along find that perfect balance (if there is ever one), that let me balance home and work (even if it meant taking career breaks).
It’s been over a decade and all along one thing has been common- brand names don’t matter anymore, only people do. Over the last fifteen years, my entrepreneurial adventure has led me to believe that once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur.
Some mantras that have stayed with me for life:
- Resilience– You can’t survive as an entrepreneur without resilience, because you are going to fail at least once, maybe multiple times and sometimes multiple times in a day. That’s the nature of trying something that’s never been done before. The best way to take it in is by saying, “I have just found ways it won’t work.”
- Passion– It’s very rare to find an entrepreneur who is not passionate about what he does. But to ensure that passion is passed on within the organization is the challenge. One can’t expect our employees to be equally passionate but to impart a sense of ownership, so they feel are part of the larger picture if key.
- Adaptability– Being open to where you are wrong and adjusting is key to nailing the right product, sales, and market strategy. Find the truth rather than stick to your guns. Be passionate about building the right product or solving a problem, not about your idea or solution.
- Say yes only after thinking– A situation most entrepreneurs are often thrown into. New geography expansion, product enhancements tied to a big client contract- are you really able to do it? Think before you say yes- a lot of times, it pays to be honest and to say no.
- Humility and Gratitude– The first step towards self-awareness is to recognize and be open about the things that cause stress, anxiety, and negativity in one’s life. From there, it’s possible to accept that sometimes you’re just plain wrong. One of the most admirable and useful traits for entrepreneurs is the ability to admit your mistakes and move forward.
- Share your success– Never to forget your team has played a key role in your success. You may be small today, but every action at that stage goes a long way in building the foundation. They joined you when you were nothing. Make sure they are rewarded when the success starts tickling in. Your people are your strength.
When we started our careers in our 20’s my husband and I would often joke that would retire in our 40’s. The 40’s are here but retirement is nowhere in the picture. I just embarked on my latest entrepreneurship journey at the prime age of 41 and there is no looking back!
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