Lessons on Entrepreneurship and Life from My Dad
December 30, 2014
Hi Passion Fit Crew! I hope you all have been enjoying the holidays and have had some time off to relax, reflect and rejuvenate. 🙂 Right now, I’m back in the Midwest with my immediate and extended family and have been really enjoying time with all of them. I also thought it would be fun, while home, to interview my sweet Dad, who’s a retired executive from Corporate America and currently an entrepreneur. He’s one of the wisest and most intelligent people I know and has been an amazing mentor to me as I’ve become an entrepreneur myself and launched Passion Fit. Therefore, I wanted to share his insights on entrepreneurship and life with all of you, live from his home office!
Passion Fit: Tell us about your academic and professional background:
Dad: I have two Bachelor’s degrees in both Engineering and Law from Ranchi University in India and a Master’s degree in Engineering from New York University (NYU). I’ve worked in the foundry and forging industry for six years, the brewing industry for 29 years and the insurance industry for 10 years. I’ve worked in industrial engineering, strategic planning, operations and sales functions for large, Fortune 500 companies such as Miller Brewing Company (previously owned by Philip Morris) and have started my own business, so I’ve had a wide variety of experiences in my career. Even though I’m now retired, I currently have my own business where I provide commercial insurance and consulting services for various clients in the hospitality, IT, healthcare, retail, home and auto industries.
Passion Fit: What are the most exciting things about being an entrepreneur?
Dad: I’m responsible for all aspects of my company such as sales, marketing, business development, consulting, relationship and account management, finance, operations, etc. The success and failure of my venture resides with me and that’s really exciting to me to have that kind of influence. I make my own decisions and enjoy creating the vision and direction for my company. I also enjoy assessing the needs of my customers and creating customized solutions for their businesses.
Passion Fit: What are the most challenging things about being an entrepreneur?
Dad: Sometimes my customers have extremely unique and complex needs, therefore, it can be challenging to develop solutions that are both cost-effective and fully meet their needs. It also can be tough when you lose customers to competitors, especially when it’s based on price. In addition, the insurance industry is very highly regulated, therefore, providing quality, up-to-date solutions requires a great deal of research, time and effort.
Passion Fit: What is your feeling on taking risks?
Dad: I believe in taking calculated risks, especially if you’re passionate and believe strongly in what you’re doing. I took the biggest risk of my life when your Mom and I immigrated our family from India to the U.S., 44 year ago in 1970. I left a very well-paying and secure engineering job in India and came to New York City with one suitcase and $400 in my pocket in search of the “American dream.” This was during a major recession with high unemployment rates and the first four years were extremely difficult to make ends meet. I worked two jobs to support our family while attending graduate school part-time. I had a lot on my plate and didn’t have as much time to spend with our family during those years as I would’ve liked. However, once I received my Master’s degree, a lot of doors opened up for me professionally and for our family personally, which made the risk worthwhile. Therefore, I wholeheartedly believe that America is the land of opportunity, but you have to pay a price by making sacrifices, working hard and pursuing a higher education in order to increase your competitiveness and sustainability in the marketplace.
Passion Fit: In your opinion, how long should you give a business or company to really take off and start generating revenue?
Dad: I think you should give it at least two years because it takes time to build a brand and customer base and determine what your core competencies are in order to differentiate yourself in the market. Therefore, it’s important to save for start up costs and those first few years when revenue won’t be coming in.
Passion Fit: What is your overall advice for anyone interested in starting their own business or company?
Dad: My advice would be to do a lot of research on the industry and marketplace you plan to enter. Understand what requirements there will be in terms of licenses, forming your company and meeting all the state, federal and regulatory guidelines. Create a solid business and financial plan and test your hypotheses and market assumptions before fully launching.
Passion Fit: What life lessons have you learned from being an entrepreneur?
Dad: I’ve learned that you should never get disheartened if things don’t go as planned. Put forth your best efforts and know you’ve done all you can because the end result is not always in your control. If you strive for something and you get it, that’s good. However, if you don’t get it, then that’s even better because there’s a higher power telling you that it wasn’t in your best interest in the first place and there’s something better coming along. Also, remember that small thinking and focusing only on your own self interests won’t allow you to accomplish big and grandiose things. You have to think much bigger than yourself and focus on the interests and needs of a much broader group of people. In addition, if your determination is fractured, you won’t be able to weather the storms that may come your way. Your determination has to be unwavering to get you through the tough times before becoming successful. Finally, never lose your cool or professionalism, even if the other party you’re dealing with is being difficult. Stay polite, positive and professional and try to remain on good terms because you never know when you might come into contact with them again in the future.
That’s it for today, Passion Fit Crew. Thanks so much to my Dad for his words of wisdom. 🙂 Have a Happy New Year and I’ll be back with another post soon!