Through my conversations with fellow entrepreneurs, I have come to realise that we often underestimate how personal and lonely an entrepreneur's journey actually is. Each day brings with it a roller coaster of emotions ranging from pure joy and excitement to downright envy, frustration and depression. It takes inspiration to persevere through this but you never really know where you will draw this inspiration from. I want to share some of the 'big questions' that I have gone through in my personal journey and four movies that inspired my thinking and approach in a big way.
Leadership Style - Pirates of Silicon Valley
Super products take a super human effort. However, inspiring your teams towards superlative performance is not trivial. Do you have to demand unreasonable output from the team? Do you have to shout, scream, rant and insult to achieve success? Do you have to be a jerk to become a millionaire?
In PoSV, the characters of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were both shown as hard taskmasters who would drive their employees beyond imagination. I was struck by the question of whether I should emulate those traits. On the other hand, a mentor of mine would always say 'People don't work for companies. People work for people.' My learning is that you need to find a particular style that works for you - whether that is mean or gentle. So you might not necessarily have to be a jerk to achieve success, but it sure helps sometimes.
Playing big on a small budget â€“ Moneyball
Bootstrapping is an inevitable stage in a startups life cycle. I vividly remember my entrepreneurship professor in ISB emphasising, 'Learn to crawl before you stand, learn to stand before you walk, learn to walk before you run'. The problem with bootstrapping is that it is hard to identify these inflection points in real life and so you don't really realise when the bootstrapping mindset is starting to restrict you.
Moneyball inspired me in my approach towards team selection, data analysis and betting big. Some of my earliest and best hires have been amazing people who were either going through a rough patch or lacked on some hygiene factor that a typical HR manager found to be paramount. With a rock solid team, we aimed high and started beating top-tier competitors within our first year.
To remind myself of this approach, I've got a baseball mitt and baseball. I half-jokingly tell myself, I pitch, therefore I am.
Drawing the Line - Wolf of Wall street
I loved Wolf of Wall Street (and Boiler Room for that matter) for their depiction of the relentless hustle on the trading floor. But the main message is that whatever business you are in, you will have a wide spectrum of grey shades in which you have to choose morals and ethics for your everyday transactions. In India, such questions typically would include - Do you squeeze your vendors because your clients have not paid you on time? Do you play dirty at a competitive bid or do you let the best man win?
If you don't proactively decide a position, it can all quickly spiral out of control.
When you're down and out - Khosla Ka Ghosla
I like the quote 'If you expect the world to be fair with you because you are fair, you're fooling yourself. That's like expecting the lion not to eat you because you didn't eat him'. Sometimes life gives you lemons. Sometimes it feels like it's giving you 100 lemons and then one peach. While you are waiting for that elusive peach - there are several moments when the entrepreneur has to objectively consider - Is this where I should call it quits? Is it time to go home?
The real test of character is when you're down for the count. KKG taught me that when all else fails, there's always a non-linear, dramatic approach to problem solving. Isn't it all about the drama anyway?
(Jawa is the CEO of a Gaboli, a digital marketing consultancy company. As told to Techcircle.in's Nikita Peer)