Entrepreneurial journey in a pandemic: How to thrive in a world that you never imagined?

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Rajiv Dingra

RD&X Network's Rajiv Dingra lists out the 2020-inspired lessons one must keep in mind while starting out on their entrepreneurial journey.

If someone told you in January 2020 that you’ll spend 80% of your year at home doing the dishes, juggling video calls, and learning how to cook and that the whole world right from Sydney to San Francisco would have the same experience, you would surely laugh it off. This year has taught us that what the future holds despite all the astrologers, expert predictions, and predictive artificial intelligence, is clearly beyond human guesstimates. As an entrepreneur and founder who faced and survived the 2008 Lehman brothers crash within 2 years of founding his agency, I feel extremely connected to the pain and uncertainty that many entrepreneurs and founders might be facing this year as they tread forward in their entrepreneurial journey.

This year has been eventful for me to say the least. I exited and stepped down from a company I founded and scaled for 14 years and also started a new bold venture in the middle of the pandemic and I did all of this while coping with a world spinning 360 on its head with the pandemic. Am I brave? Adventurous? Silly? Maybe all of these or then maybe none. But I’m a long-term optimist and that’s what I keep looking at when I make decisions. Here are 3 life lessons I learned from the 2008 crash and also from all the innumerable times as an entrepreneur when I felt that my world was falling apart. 

Never let short-term uncertainty overwhelm your long-term optimism

In our movies, there is a popular dialogue which implies that ‘if it’s not a happy ending, then it’s not the end’. I feel this is one to remember on your entrepreneurial journey. Many times we take too much load of short-term failures or mistakes of today that haunt us so much that we start doubting why we started what we did in the first place.

Our reason to start a new venture is always long-term optimism. We see a vision that we believe will be a reality and then start putting in efforts towards turning that vision into reality. Somewhere along the way roadblocks, uncertainties, and failures make us doubt that vision. This is by far the most common route every entrepreneurial venture takes. The pandemic is nothing but another one of those uncertainties. Accept it for what it is and work around it. Focus on moving towards that long-term vision even if it means you just take baby steps today.

Adjust your path but stay in the same direction

An entrepreneur always needs to know where they are headed. In short, you always need to have a clear direction. You don’t need a GPS at all times, all you need is a compass. The route to reaching the North can be many and may also have some U-turns, but as long as you are clear that you want to reach the North and keep walking in that direction no matter how many turns and U-turns you come across, you will reach your destination. 

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Survive day to day. Dream decade to decade

Entrepreneurship is first a game of survival before you can grow. Even the largest and most funded start-ups burn to ash when there is no cash and in business cash flow is the blood flow for a company. Profits are the excess protein that makes you stronger but if the blood stops flowing, you die in an instant. Profit is not equal to cash and the sooner you learn that the better you will be able to manage your business. Survival is managing cash to the best of your abilities.

Many companies shut in this pandemic and the ones that didn’t were the ones that managed cashflow better. And yes, the pandemic is a once in a 100 years kind of event but you can’t suddenly get better at cash management, you become better with practice. You manage cash every day since the start of your business and if you manage it well it comes in use in times like these. Just like airbags in an accident. Also, as a paradox, while you build cash flow you need to reinvest the excess on long-term bets, bets that may unravel over time taking the longer-term into account.

Be it launching a new service or a new offering that would evolve and grow over time. And that’s dreaming the next decade. That’s how you ensure you are ahead of the competition and not just getting by. 

In summary, to thrive on your entrepreneurial journey in an uncertain, unprecedented time like this, one needs to survive the short-term while keeping an eye on the long-term. Think hard on choices, pivots, and turns you take in your business today as it could be critical to the path you tread in the future and decides whether you thrive.

This article has been authored by Rajiv Dingra, Founder & CEO, RD&X Network.

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