5 MISTAKES THAT CAN SLOW DOWN YOUR TRAVEL START-UP

Fear of failure has nipped many a start-up in the bud. Small wonder, then, that Silicon Valley’s mantra of ‘fail fast, fail better’ has found wide-spread favour among entrepreneurs; by putting a positive spin on failure. But according to a Forbes article, this adage might well be just lip service. Most entrepreneurs are, in fact, terrified of failing and writing away their investors’ hard earned money (and trust) in the process.

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Image Source: Google Images

While failure cannot be avoided entirely (and could also prove to be a stepping stone for greater success), wisdom dictates that we learn from the mistakes of our predecessors and avoid making the same ones. Here are 5 commonly made mistakes, culled from the experiences of various entrepreneurs in the travel industry.

1) Failing to create a water-tight business model

Many entrepreneurs get so caught up in the fuzz of ‘inspiration-first’, that they fail to establish a robust monetisation model for their product, believing money will follow inspiration. According to industry veterans, this is a recipe for disaster. Consumers may not beat a path to your door just because your product is inspiring or interesting, especially in the long term. Hammering out your business model and outlining a realistic cost of customer acquisition is crucial before launching a start-up.

2) Not offering anything different, or better

At last count, there were more than 200 start-ups (as estimated by traxcn.com) in the online travel domain, not including the heavy-weight offline players. To make any headway in this crowded industry, your product would have to fulfil an unmet need of consumers, or offer something way better than what is currently available in the market. In his interview with the Economic Times, Michael Lyngdoh, co-founder of Tripoto, has voiced his conviction that this field still has a lot of room for improvement, as no player has managed to close the travel loop fully. The Economic Times article has further highlighted niche segments such as last minute bookings, metasearch, tech providers to hotels, personalised travel packages, alternate stays and budget hotels, as relatively unoccupied areas to focus on.

However, there is a flip side to this. Many entrepreneurs concentrate their energies on a niche, just to avoid the fiercely competed segments. While this strategy may prove lucky, it isn’t the go-to formula for success. If we look closely at the genesis of flourishing start-ups, we can identify a common trend – they’ve all come into place because their founders identified and capitalized on an unsolved problem of consumers.

3) Being under-capitalized

Your start-up is like an airplane. It needs a decent stretch of runway (read money) to take-off smoothly, or it will inevitably nosedive. Statistics cite shortage of funds as the number 2 reason for start-up failure. To get a fair idea of the capital investment needed, make an honest, detailed account of all your expenses, including marketing budgets, and secrete away sufficient cash (around 5%-20% of your entire budget) for a rainy day.

4) Being too invested in your original plan

Every entrepreneur needs to be fired up about their idea; they cannot be entrepreneurs otherwise. However, resting on the other end of the scale, where you are completely consumed by your idea and blind to the inputs of others – is no great shakes either. Start-ups would do better to follow the trail where it leads, and more often than not, it leads to entirely new horizons not previously envisioned.
Take Instagram for example. This immensely popular app was originally Burbn – a multi-faceted, check-in project, similar to FourSquare. Burbn had many complicated features, one of which was a photo-sharing app. But following inputs and behavioural trends of consumers, the founders trimmed down the features to just the popular photo-sharing one, and re-named it as Instagram. Sometimes, listening to others, especially your customers, can make or break your business.

5) Not working with an A-team

Have you heard of the successful one-man company? You couldn’t have, because it doesn’t exist. A successful start-up depends on a team of highly-skilled and deeply-invested people, who put their heads together to make magic happen. Hiring the wrong resources, either from ignorance or due to lack of funds, can prove to be a start-up’s undoing. Your product is only as good as the people working on it, so make sure your key members are the best money can buy.
For some founders, hiring for attitude rather than just skill is a game-changing factor. Elon Musk is said to have told Business Insider that his biggest mistake was, “Weighing too much on someone’s talent and not someone’s personality. I think it matters whether someone has a good heart.”
Jim Collins, the famous American business consultant has summed it up quite succinctly in his quote – “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

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Image Source: Google Images

What mistakes have you made, that you wish you hadn’t, while launching your start-up? Weigh in with your advice in the comment section below.

 

 

Established in 2015, deAsra helps individuals become self-employed by offering them end-to-end support across all stages of their business lifecycle, including bank loans, compliance support, supply chain guidance, recruitment advice and more. In the next 5 years, deAsra seeks to enable 25,000 self-employed businesses.

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5 TYPES OF FRIENDS EVERY ENTREPRENEUR NEEDS

Building a business from ground-up is hard work. While running your own show can give you a high, there are days when it can pull you down so low, that all you want to do is crawl under a blanket and hide. This is when it really helps to have the right circle of friends and supporters, who can help you pick up the pieces and march onward, chin and head up. Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, has said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If this is true, it makes sense to choose our friends wisely, and once we have found them, ‘grapple them to our soul with hoops of steel,’ as Polonius advised Hamlet.

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Source: Google Images

Here are 5 kinds of friends every entrepreneur would be well-advised to have.

The Mentors

As a new entrepreneur, mistakes will be a part and parcel of your life. Which is why every entrepreneur can benefit from a mentor who has been there, done that, and knows enough to tell you not to do that. A good mentor is like a compass – they can point your business north when things are going south. Mentors will also help you skirt around common entrepreneurial stumbling blocks, while offering you sound business advice. To make more ‘mentor friends’, go out and network with as many people as you can. Remember to look first within your own circle of family and friends; you never know who may be a perfect fit. Brooke Stone, Founder and CEO of Brooke Stone Lifestyle Management, realised that her entrepreneur father was the ideal mentor she had been looking for, when she once happened to call him in a moment of complete overwhelm. Find a good mentor and befriend them early on in your business.

The Business Butterflies

The business butterflies are those blessed individuals who are connected to absolutely everybody in the business world and can introduce you to all the right people in the right places. If you are lucky enough to have friends like these, ask them for help and guidance.

If your influential friend list is currently stuck at 0, you can start out by meeting more people at networking events and building strong relationships with them. Remember to be genuine, and honest in your dealings, and more importantly, since this is a two way street, be open to lending your help too, as much as possible. Like the famous American author and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, has said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

The Sunbeams

Friends who light up your life with motivating words of encouragement and support are your Sunbeams – and every entrepreneur needs a few of these – or rather, a truckload of them, given the rollercoaster ride entrepreneurship is. When you’re down and out, you need someone to believe in you and remind you of your strengths. Acclaimed author Stephen King, who rose to fame after his first novel ‘Carrie’ was published, had in fact trashed the novel drafts and would’ve never worked on them again, if his wife hadn’t retrieved them from the dustbin and urged him to keep at it. We all need a friend who will show us the bright side when we want to give up on our ‘Carrie’.

 The Backers

Having supportive friends is crucial. But sometimes, you need more than just moral support, you need financial backing too. And for most entrepreneurs, turning to friends and family first is the way to go. Judy Wicks, founder of the wildly popular White Dog Café,  (featured in Condé Nast as one of the “50 American restaurants worth the journey”), first started out with a $75000 loan from a friend, which she used to build a kitchen with a grill. Millionaire fashion designer Eileen Fisher, had only $350 in the bank when she launched her namesake company. Eileen borrowed money from her friends and paid them back with an interest of 2% a month as soon as her deliveries cashed in. When you have friends who believe in you to the point of lending you runway capital, you’ve literally hit the jackpot.

The Critics

Life is not always sunshine and roses. And that’s good. While positive words of encouragement are essential, sometimes, we need people who can give us constructive, intelligent criticism, without holding back or getting personal. According to Elon Musk, getting critical feedback and knowing how to take it is vital in order to run a successful enterprise. “Ask what’s wrong”, advises Musk. “People don’t like to complain or point out faults, but that’s what will make your business stronger.” Friends who can deliver tough news with a soft bow and make us pull up our socks eventually help us grow into better business leaders.

So what kinds of friends have been instrumental in your business success? Share your stories with us in the comment section below.

The goal of deAsra Foundation is to help individuals become self-employed.  Our mission is to build a scalable platform to enable 25,000 self-employed businesses over the next 5 years.  To this effect we are focusing on urban services businesses. For individuals wanting to do these businesses, we have established a rich eco-system that will be able to provide individuals complete end-to-end support across all stages of the business lifecycle such as bank loans, compliance, supply chain, recruitment etc.  We are particularly proud of the work we have done in building out “Business Guides” (http://www.deasra.in/#BusinessInABox)

The Checklist

We have been talking about planning as a prerequisite for sustained efficiency and quality. The systematic planning makes us more agile and we can deliver quality work in minimum time frame.  Here is an example of how failure to plan has lead to a  big chaos. You may have read a few days ago that Maharashtra Chief Minister’s flight could not take off from the airport because one of the officials accompanying him on the international tour had forgotten to take along  his Visa papers! The Chief Minister along with the rest of the passengers had to wait till it was  retrieved from his home.

The common sense answer to avoid these lapses is – the checklist. Mere planning is not useful unless it is executed flawlessly.  The checklist serves as an effective tool – Plan. Do. Check whether the things are happening as per the plan. If not, Act i.e. make the necessary correction. This is called the PDCA Cycle. This is the foundation of ISO 9000.

We often tell school children that they must keep ten minutes at the end of the exam to go through the answer sheet and to make sure they have   attempted all the questions. Another very common example in our daily lives is  we check the taste of a recipe before serving it to people to ensure that it is upto the expectation.  What we are doing here is simply checking if all the ingredients have been added, and in the right proportion to give the right taste. Once we are sure of it, we are ready to enjoy all the compliments that come our way as guests relish the dish!

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Image Source- Google Images

If we use this ‘checklist’ in so many activities in our daily lives, why not in our professional lives.  A company manufacturing auto spare parts had to dispatch parts in lots of 8, 24 and 72. The client would randomly check the number of parts in the boxes and if any one box had a,shortage, it was presumed that all  boxes contained the same quantity and he used to deduct the  payment on the entire consignment causing substantial loss to the supplier   The company, then, started a system wherein they sent parts in multiples of the lot number to the packing department. So for the lot of 8, they sent 800 parts for packing, no more, no less. This way, as the parts got packed in boxes, in case one or two remained, it meant that some box had been filled with a wrong number of parts and it  used to be checked immediately.  The loss to the company was  averted as with systematic packing of job  there was no chance of delivering the wrong quantity. The point is, to accomplish excellence in quality and to  maintain the consistency  the job/product needs to be checked at various stages. Dr. Atul Gawande’s book ‘ The Checklist Manifesto’ underlines the importance of regular checks on processes to prevent damage or loss. He has related his observations of the American hospitals where lapses in following protocol in examinations led to spread of infections. The book lucidly explains the cause and effect of the problem and how it was overcome by  observing a strict protocol and following it.

We often avoid  following PDCA Cycle referred above.  You will be amazed  to know  how much difference this little checklist can make while presenting the final, flawless product. It not only gives you the opportunity to rectify errors but also enhance the final effect of the product, service or process and to enhance Customer Satisfaction.

Author: S.R. Joshi

The author is a director at deAsra Foundation. deAsra Foundation is a Section 25 company, a not for profit association formed to contribute to social welfare by enabling entrepreneurship, which will create employment opportunities.