Do it with a sense of humor
We entrepreneurs don’t earn much respect when we say that we built something for fun. Saving the world of its evils always sounds better. As he says in his autobiography, Richard Branson even got flak for saying that he wanted to start Virgin Atlantic for fun. But any longterm entrepreneur would tell you that having fun is serious business. If you can’t do it with a sense of humour, you may not be able to do it all!
Several years ago, as a freshly minted MBA I was trying to raise money for our new venture, sell services that didn’t yet exist, hire people without salary, pay my rent using a student loan and more importantly keep my head sane in a deserted University of Michigan campus. Most of my classmates left for high paying jobs. I convinced my bank about deferring the student loan because I was technically jobless. The financial issues coupled with an unborn business seemed a bit overwhelming.
In our multiple attempts to raise money, we approached a high net-worth individual - a doctor in Colorado who was willing to bet on our plan and invest $25K-$50K. In a couple of weeks, he requested if he could bring on others and invest $200K. I was thrilled that our venture was now going to breath. We would get an office. We would have clients. I would be able to pay back my loans. Even though all those things eventually happened, situations didn’t exactly pan out that way.
After not responding for more than a few weeks, the investor sent us an email that he preferred investing in a vineyard to our venture. It crushed my fragile b-school ego, bringing with it a bundle of doubts. I brooded bitterly for a full two hours and then decided that that wouldn’t serve any purpose. I went to a really funny movie, laughed a lot and got back on the street the next morning. Since then, I’ve made it a habit to laugh and accept everything that happens. I actively look for something positive in any annoying situation and I usually seem to find it. And then suddenly everything does seem a little lighter.
Here’s another story. We had recently moved to a brand new office in a contemporary setup in Mumbai. One late evening, there was something wrong with our A.C. duct and water started seeping on the floor. To our horror, in just under an hour the whole office was flooded. My heart ached seeing our new carpets and furniture soaked in water. Most of our people who had recently joined us hung around, trying to help the situation. Looking at them, it occurred to me that no one actually stopped us from having fun. So I stopped barking at the builders and ordered pizzas for everyone. We enjoyed our cheese slices with our legs still in water, laughed at what was happening. Eventually, we figured our way out and life continued as it always does.
As we built up the company, I realized that the joke is always on you. People quit. Investors disappoint. Clients complain. Cashflows disrupt. Regulators knock. Infrastructure fails. Starting up is only half the story, the rest of it is being able to handle an ongoing churn in the stomach and being able to create despite everything else.
Having fun is a mindset. It makes the entrepreneurial journey more joyous for you and the others who join you on the ride. Really, do it for fun!