“The high performance entrepreneur” by Subroto Bagchi, Penguin Portfolio (2006), ISBN 0-670-999-180 – Chapter 2

In this Chapter Bagchi addresses the “Profile of an entrepreneur”. As in the previous chapter his personal experiences are well articulated to convey the message convincingly.

The key question is “Is there something common between GE’s Thomas Alva Edison, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, the Tata’s Jamsetji Tata, Dell’s Michael Dell, Wal-Mart’s Sam Walton and Sony’s Akio Morita?”

The first attribute is “Self confidence: the # 1 attribute” – “there are no exceptions to this rule. You cannot show me a person who does not believe in herself and yet is a successful entrepreneur”; of course, “it is possible to build self-confidence and it is equally possible to lose it due to circumstances”

Bagchi uses a series of examples drawn from his life; selling balloons in the village market, staying back with the school he liked, getting married to the person he liked – all demonstrating his self-confidence.

He lists a number of self-check questions

• Do you take the important decisions in your life?
• Did you enjoy the process, irrespective of the outcomes?
• Can you make friends with a stranger?
• Do you see things to completion?

The second attribute is “entrepreneurs value their sense of freedom, but they are also very disciplined

Quoting from his own life Bagchi says “I do not like someone telling me how to go about doing my work”; yet “freedom is not lack of accountability”. Quoting MindTree example, “we are answerable to the government agencies of every country in which we operate. We are answerable to the analysts who track us, press persons, industry association, and we are answerable to our customers. So what is left? What is this talk of freedom?”

“Freedom to an entrepreneur is the ability to choose a line of business and set goals consistent with the stakeholder ambitions”

The third attribute is “Entrepreneurs work very hard”. Quoting examples, Bagchi adds “Wipro Chairman Premji averages 80 hours a week, yet Premji never asks someone to change his holiday plans. Ashok Soota, CEO of MindTree works as hard and averages 140 days a year of travel when he is 62. Along with hard work comes the ability to work unsupervised”

The fourth attribute is “Entrepreneurs recognize the power of “emergence”. Bagchi quotes the example of IBM founder Thomas Watson Sr. who decided to sell the first five “accounting machines” to the New York City Librarian. “Had it not been for Watson’s capability to go with the emergent events – accounting machines to general purpose computers – IBM would not be what it is today”.

“Providence is very powerful in our journeys and entrepreneurs must make room for her”

“Nine out of ten companies born at the same time as us, do not exist today. Entrepreneurship requires the uncanny ability to seize the moment”

The fifth attribute is “Entrepreneurship is all about egolessness”.

“A person’s corporate success often comes from the power of the chair he sits on”. Bagchi quotes his personal experience of a very hurting interview, where he was made to wait for 45 minutes. “I realized that this was a set-up by destiny to prune me”. Bagchi goes on to add “when a rose bush is pruned it does not like the experience; yet without the pruning it will not give great blooms”. “The ‘senior executive’ and ‘your last organization’ are past and best treated as fiction” is his advice to budding entrepreneurs.

The sixth attribute is simple “Entrepreneurs love money”. Bagchi’s prescription is plain and simple “if you do not love to make money, do not start a business”. He cautions “some people have disdain for money because they associate money with being consumerist. In the hands of the creator of wealth, it is not always so. Some people use wealth to build more wealth”. Bagchi goes on to add “in the Hindu pantheon, wealth is generated by a goddess named Lakshmi who does not come to those who treat her as if she is incidental. So, if someone says money is not my prime motivator, know that the goddess is listening”.

Bagchi’s observations are deep; his articulation is wonderful and his examples are compelling. I do not know of any treatise that talks of entrepreneurship in such accessible language. The first chapter dispelled the myths; the second chapter talked of the key attributes of successful entrepreneus. The next step is to “sense the opportunity”; wait for the third chapter

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