“If you believe in what you are doing, then let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done.” – Dale Carnegie
Fresh out of my MBA, my husband and I co-founded a small EDA (electronic design automation) software company based on a piece of technology he had invented. I was idealistic about the possibilities of ‘MBA’-grade work and thought of all the great managerial things I should be able to do, supported by flawless analysis of opportunities and instantly brilliant execution. We incorporated the business and almost immediately got the opportunity to start with a consulting engagement. We didn’t have enough money to hire an admin, and here I was learning about payroll, taxes (state, federal, franchise), setting up books, learning to create websites, all the while trying to understand this highly complex technology when I didn’t even know how to code a single line in C/C++. After a few months of this, out of sheer frustration, I cried out, “This is NOT why I busted my backside in b-school. How is this exciting?!” My Yoda-like husband simply said, “You got a Masters in Business Administration. What did you think ‘business administration’ was about?”
Needless to say, it changed my perspective about what I do. I am the one in the company who has to figure out what it takes to create a company, run it and have the knowledge to anticipate the operational direction we need to be ready for. I have come to know the financial machinations like the back of my hand, but even more importantly, I have developed a reputation as someone who simply gets things done.
Put a stake in the ground
My father always said that you cannot row with two feet in two boats. Trying to hedge your bets at every turn might mean that you miss your windows of opportunities. “Paralysis of Analysis” can, at its worst, make you fall behind market movements or, among other things, create impressions of managerial ineptitude. You absolutely need to commit to a decision and put everything that you have into it. In addition to making forward progress, it will also help you align your employees towards a single, clear vision.
The devil is in the details. Once you are committed to a path, you need to anticipate the laundry list of things you have to put in place for successful execution. Even though the Internet has become a gold mine of information, I find it hard to separate good information from bad. To the extent possible, talk to people who have been through similar experiences and create your plan. Once you have these executables identified, choose whatever method works for you to track your issues. There are many nifty planning tools/apps out there to help you along. I find these especially helpful when I need that extra bit of inspiration to keep going on days it is hard for me to see the forest for the trees.
Create friends in ‘right’ places
Everybody wants to be treated with dignity. After many encounters with different government/non-government agencies in different countries, my conclusion is that the more you throw your weight around, the less likely that you will get your work done. I have found that there is no better strategy that to build rapport with the individuals who are your service representatives at each of your vendors. They are either knowledgeable about your problems with their service or, better yet, they are very willing to find a solution for you because it allows them to learn on their job. There is also no harm in asking the most outrageous questions when looking for the solution. The worst that can happen is that they say no. Be earnest in your engagements with them and they will stand by your side when they know you really need it.
Running a business is not rocket science, though there are a lot of moving pieces to track at any given time. At its core, business is about creating value that someone is willing to pay for. It is about keeping an eye on the operational details that let you wake up the next morning and focus on continuing to create that value. It is about taking pride in the work that you do and the difference you think you make. Follow through with your dreams, execute on your plans and there is little else that is more satisfying than having a job well done.