Of becoming owners and running companies

One of my clients just got licensed in the DIFC.

They are three professionals, who got together to launch an investment advisory business. Their first foray into the world of business ownership.

What should we look out for? They asked me.

Well, keep it simple, I replied. Manage your costs, keep your clients and staff happy, and don’t be too stingy.

I guess every business owner should follow these three simple rules. All other management advice comes later – but these are the basics.

It is not easy to transition from a salaried individual to a business owner. From a fixed amount per month paid by someone else, to you paying others to work with you.

It carries a lot of responsibility, a lot of effort, and behind the glossy facade of high-flying businessmen, lies decades of hard work and dedication in the face of adversity.

The results are beautiful, but the way to get there is thorny.

As I had mentioned earlier, everyone does not have to become the biggest. You cannot. Even the biggest companies today will be beaten not in decades, but a few years. Bezos himself said that Amazon will not be the biggest 15-20 years down the line.

There is little space at the top, and the order keeps changing. Aim instead, for a sustainable, profitable, and complementary business model. Live, and let live. Don’t fret too much about market share, and pricing models and poaching best performers. There is enough out there for everyone, and more.

Don’t lose that excitement you had when you first started out. I got asked today (and yesterday) – what is your exit plan?

I replied that I had none. If I think of an exit, I am already bored of what I do. And I am not. YET. I feel the same energy, even more, than what I started with. The day I feel that it has become monotonous, I will start doing something else. Till then, no exit plans.

Stay true to your passion, and stay true to your staff. The former motivates you, the latter motivates them. Money doesn’t, as much as truly caring for the people you work with.

Most importantly,

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ||

You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.

A profound verse from Srimad Bhagavad Gita, with a meaning so deep that it is not possible to present an elaborate commentary on it within the limits of this discussion. I would borrow the words of Shri Eknath Eshwaran, prolific author and Indian-born spiritual teacher, who says:

All work develops in phases. If you look only at the immediate consequences instead of the goal, you are likely to get emotionally entangled and burn out or lose hope. You may even get so personally involved that you begin resorting to wrong means just to get things done the way you think they should be. In the long run, this can only weaken your work and turn results against you.

“Yoga,” the Gita counsels, “is evenness of mind.” When we are working for ourselves, we feel driven and burn out. When we are working for prestige and power, we get tense and even sick. Not being anxious about results means that when fortune smiles on you, when success comes, you don’t get excited; you just say thank you. Then, when fortune frowns and friends desert you and everything seems to fly in your face as is bound to happen—because that is the nature of life—you don’t get depressed or lose heart. Nothing can shake you; you are at your best whatever comes. That is living in freedom.

All the best!