Tuesday, May 7, 2019

How Intense is your Entrepreneurial Stamina ?

(draft blog, editing in progress)

A few months back, i was speaking with an entrepreneur friend of mine. He was dealing with the challenges of an early stage start-up. During the course of conversation, he made a remark that i found intriguing. He said that engineers from IITs (premier institute in India) have far more stamina to slog and do hard yards needed to pull off difficult job tasks. I didn't contest his observation, but i did find his use of the word 'stamina' fascinating. I had often used this word in the context of running but to think over it, it matters a lot in the work context as well.

Yesterday night, i was reading the book 'Why I Stopped Wearing My Socks'. The book delightfully captures Alok Kejriwal's journey as an entrepreneur with the key learnings summarized for the readers. Given that the book is written in a story form, autobiographical in style, I chose to read not at a stretch but a few pages each day. I am sharing the extract that caught my attention:

...a classic blunder of mine, something I would remember forever. Abhay nodded at Ajit, then softened up as he looked at me and said, Alok, you have be something great going for you. The passion in you to create contests2win.com is undeniable and infectious! We don't want to disturb your momentum by making you a part of rediff, just you have lots to do, and prove and we think you deserve to do it on your own terms.
Then Abhay said something that I have never forgotten. He said, Alok, you've just begun to run this race a few months back. I want to see your entrepreneurial stamina. Let's see how long you run this race and the distance you go. What sounded a bit provocative was the most inspiring advice I had ever heard.
The scene of this conversation was the intent of India's premier portal (in early 2000s) rediff.com acquiring Alok's contest2win.com. The acquisition did not materialize eventually.

This snippet of experience also clearly suggests that stamina matters at work. In the earlier example, it was about an employee staying with problem long enough, spending the necessary hours. In Alok's example, it was entrepreneurial stamina. The senior executive of rediff.com (Abhay) who made this suggestion to Alok seemed to co-relate entrepreneurial stamina with ability of entrepreneurs to outlast challenges, of consistently demonstrating resilience over a longer period of time.

In my experience of working with intrapreneurs, i have seen entrepreneurial stamina as a make-or-break trait. A lot of people enthusiastically work to sign up for Innovation programs. Among those who choose to participate, a few get selected to work on their ideas. But what is more disheartening is that a lot of people tend to leave their innovation pursuits midway when they are faced with issues like priority conflicts, inability to spend time in a short turn, inability to make a compelling pitch presentations etc.
On the contrary, the teams that did well in innovation programs were the ones that had this special muscle to deal with adversaries, who didn't get bogged down by temporary glitches and found a way forward.

In summary:
1. The innovators who eventually manage to make a dent are the ones with more entrepreneurial stamina than their peers (everything else being equal).
2. Not everyone possesses entrepreneurial stamina equally. But this is a trait that can be built, it's not an in-born trait.

What differently would you do today to intensify your entrepreneurial stamina ?


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