“The high performance entrepreneur” by Subroto Bagchi, Penguin Portfolio (2006), ISBN 0-670-999-180 Chapter 1

“The high performance entrepreneur” by Subroto Bagchi, Penguin Portfolio (2006), ISBN 0-670-999-180

Subroto Bagchi’s book on entrepreneurship has set a new landmark in content, quality, style and presentation; its contents break new ground and steer from a “textbook” approach that talks of business plans, negotiating with VC, early stage & late stage funding opportunities, market research etc., but focuses on “high performance” and “organization”, the rare combination that the author combines so well. The quality of the writing, even the physical design of the book including the jacket design, is superb; it forces you to grab the book and read it, if not in one go! The style is “direct” – the author “speaks to you” more vividly than any video conferencing systems, showing the power of the “letter”. Finally, the presentation of the ideas in short eighteen chapters of about 8 to 24 pages is a brilliant way to make the book readable, particularly to the younger (Internet) generation.

Starting today I plan to blog each of the eighteen chapters, roughly a piece a day; I plan to use some “quotes” from the book interspersed with my words. I find that is the best way to “review” this amazing book.

Read and enjoy; at some stage I am sure you will grab your own copy.

Isn’t it an interesting coincidence that both Bhagavad Gita and Bagchi’s book carry eighteen chapters?

Chapter 1: “When do I know if I am ready?”

This is a “must read” for many students thinking of entrepreneurial opportunities. Using three simple stories

• “Neil was clearly frustrated and wanted to something on his own”; but he was not ready for the “critical first step needed to be an entrepreneur – the ability to make personal needs and comforts subservient to the larger organizational goals”. He was caught in the “inevitable comfort trap”. Bagchi quotes Mindtree founders’ experience “each one of us took a salary reduction of 40% at the start and some of us even took an additional 25% reduction when the economy tanked in 2001”

• Vincent’s example of “poor resilience and the lack of integrity” showed clearly he is not going to be an entrepreneur. “Faced with the smallest obstacle he was ready to give up” as demonstrated by his request “assuming that I gave the idea a try and failed, do you think you could hire me at Mindtree?” Doing it after excusing himself from his two colleagues showed his lack of integrity too.

• “Ismail was married to an extremely attractive woman given to the creature comforts of life. Ismail rented a guest house and appointed a company cook who for all practical purposes was to cook for his wife. With that he subordinated organizational goals to domestic peace” – sure ways of not demonstrating entrepreneurial capabilities.

“Failure cannot be an option when you raise money from others or take on employees who work to make the shared vision a reality”

“Starting your own enterprise is a little like motherhood. You waive all caution and comfort to embrace”. I resonate so well with Bagchi as I used to say in the earlier days of IIIT-B that “I am like the mother of an infant; the infant calls the shots; my time, schedule and activities are completely decided by IIIT-B’s calls”

Bagchi also punches holes in the common follies associated with entrepreneurship

• “Being great friends and having fantastic ideas is not a sufficient condition. Apple, Intel and Infosys are great examples but there are myriad examples where not only did the companies go haywire, so did the relationships”

• “All it takes to build a high performance organization is a great idea for a new gizmo” is not true. Bagchi convincingly argues quoting GE, Ford and SONY examples. “Building a company is not like planning one giant tree. It is about creating an entire forest some day”

• “My career is not getting anywhere. I hate this company and I do not like my boss” are no reasons for starting a company. Once gain Bagchi convinces you using the examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

• “My time is running out” is no great argument either. Bagchi’s excellent idea for such impatient youngsters is to “get a boy friend or girl friend, get married and raise a family”. Last, but not the least important

• “I do not need the money I want to do it for the country”. Bagchi is crystal clear “if you do not need the money, do not start a company”. “Profitability is a social obligation of an enterprise”

Assuming one has all the right reasons, the next question to ask is “Am I entrepreneur material?” Wait for the second chapter.

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