Ritika Bajaj shares with The NextWomen her top seven key tools for entrepreneurial success, drawing on her own experiences of starting up her own enterprise, design and content house MeritC2 – Creatives and Communications.
When I embarked on my journey into entrepreneurship, I didn’t have any fixed rules or ideas; I simply kept my mind and heart open, willing to learn and earn whatever came my way. I started out in August 2009, after the great recession of 2008. Markets were slow, jobs were few, and honestly, there was little to be lost. Thus, it seemed like the right time to realise a dream, a dream to work for myself and start my own business.
My own enterprise, MeritC2 – Creatives and Communications, started very simply, on the basic premise to build on the skills and experiences that were already available. Having been a part of the print media for almost 7-8 years, page design and editing was always a passion of mine. The idea was to continue in the same space, but use the skills for other mediums and industries as well.
Today, MeritC2 – Creatives and Communications is a content and design house that provides a range of services, such as event collateral, logo and branding, website design and development, and merchandise, book and brochure design. In addition to this, editorial services, such as copywriting, feature writing and blogging, and marketing services, such as creating concepts, annual reports and presentations, are also provided. The last year was especially memorable, as we achieved our much-cherished dream of working on a coffee table book, our very own magnum opus. A 300 plus pages book, capturing the birth, marriage and death rituals of Indian communities, Sanskara was well researched and had detailed colourful illustrations keeping all the authenticities of the communities intact.
While there is still plenty of work to be done and so much more to learn, the experiences and lessons of being an entrepreneur have been many. Today, as I look back at my four years of being an entrepreneur, there have been many take-aways from this roller-coaster ride.
With many highs of achievement came equally many lows of failure; with many quickly-bagged projects came many moments of expectant agonising wait.
But what this ride definitely does is make you a whole lot stronger and many years wiser.
I would like to highlight some key tools in this uncertain yet glorious phenomenon called entrepreneurship.
As an entrepreneur, it sometimes gets difficult to instantly hire people and get them on board. At such times, an easy way out is to collaborate with those who don’t mind working on a project basis. But since it is necessary to ensure a certain quality of work, you should double check their credentials and past work experience. Those you co-create with should also share your vision and core values. The same level of commitment and sincerity always helps lay a stronger foundation for any enterprise. At MeritC2, we avail of the many freelance illustrators, developers and printers available, and outsource whatever functions we can. This not only helps us focus on our core competence and gives more time to manage clients, but also ensures quality, a new perspective and a better product.
Just about everyone you’ve met in the past, who knows you and your work reasonably well, will comprise your network. My past years of experience in the media helped me with a ready and existing network. But I did create a whole new network as well, as this time the gamut of services being provided were a little different and catered to a whole new set of people. Since you’re not backed by an organisation, credibility also takes a little longer to build, but if you focus on delivery then that should not be an issue for long.
As you grow as an entrepreneur and get more confident about what you’re doing, you will realise that talking about your venture and building connections will become second nature.
You will also figure out how to join the dots and leverage your connections.
3. Competitive advantage
It’s literally a sea out there and no longer a pond. There are too many players and not that many clients, but we all still have to survive. If you have a novel idea, great. If not, find something that makes you stand apart from the crowd. What is it that you have which can be offered differently? What are the three things you will do to ensure that your client does not call someone else? Moreover, what will you always want to be remembered for? In the case of MeritC2, we provide end-to-end solutions and customise them for each client. What helps is the fact that we take on few projects, but give them full attention, both in terms of creativity and scope.
When you’re clear about your edge, state it in the simplest and best way possible. Right from the time you promote your company to your everyday interactions with clients and service providers, communication will form the cornerstone of your enterprise.
From stating your vision/mission, to explaining terms of association or simply ensuring the client is in the loop, communicate with clarity, precision and flair.
With business, add humour, warmth and creativity to your communications. My own mantra is “Engage as you entertain, inform as you interact”.
Since we are essentially into the business of words, this has almost become our competitive advantage. Keeping the dialogue open, following up with clients and sending that occasional note on new projects all help in building brand identity and recall.
5. Client satisfaction
A broad term, but one which is at the heart of every enterprise, client satisfaction is really the number one rule for survival. It ensures longevity and reaps rewards. A happy client will refer you to more people and almost always give you the first opportunity to work on new projects. What’s more, testimonials go a long way in building goodwill.
At MeritC2, most of our clients have come through word of mouth. Another gauge of client satisfaction is if you’ve managed to create repeat value for them. Again, at MeritC2, we’ve worked with most clients more than just once.
No enterprise can breathe without it. In my view, creativity is the very oxygen for survival, both personally and professionally. Creativity is, in my opinion, a reflection of yourself in your work. The freedom to experiment, take licence and add something that is “you” to your work. It’s the ability to fly with a project, to give it a new dimension and make a statement all your own. Creativity should be a part of every enterprise and encouraged at every level.
Creativity allows people to be the best versions of themselves.
It allows them to take ownership of what they’re doing, and when they get appreciated for a job well done, they’ll probably bring newer and more effective processes into your organisation.
It takes courage to go it alone, and even more courage to stay the course. At every point of your journey, it’s only the courage of your conviction that will take you further. The courage to stand by your vision, tide over the lull periods and rise again to meet new challenges, and very often, reinvent yourself.
In my experience, courage can be built with the help of support systems: by participating in various social and cultural initiatives; taking up short courses to grow your skill set; by attending networking forums to spread the word about you and your enterprise, or interacting with other entrepreneurs and start-ups.
When you hear stories about the journeys of others, your own journey gets a little more inspiration and meaning.
Entrepreneurship is a long and arduous journey, but one that is deeply rewarding and enriching. There are good months and bad months, like in any business, but patience tides you over. There are moments when you feel like you’re ready to give up on a project, and that’s just about when things begin to change. It can be very uncertain and turbulent, but it can also be very dynamic and productive. Keeping a clear vision in place and moving toward it with steady strides helps you go to the next level with greater confidence.
I’ve personally found my time as an entrepreneur almost similar to my days in college, where every day you study a new chapter that unfolds a new world of possibilities and opportunities. All you need to do is be ready to respond to what comes your way.
Luck will surely come, and more often than not in abundance.
So take the leap, risk what you can and give it your best shot.
Image courtesy of [Ambro] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Publised with permission.