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I have always believed one aspect to be synonymous with entrepreneurs: change agents. The enterprises we bring to life must advance positive change. The same conviction inspired me to launch my company, Pectiv, which is aimed at addressing the pain points in feminine hygiene by leveraging cutting-edge technologies. Since its inception, the company has continued its focus on addressing evolving challenges by factoring in customer feedback at every turn.
Given my experience with Pectiv, it is my earnest belief that solving customers’ problems should be the overarching philosophy guiding a startup in any sector. Over the course, I have gained strong perspectives on entrepreneurship, particularly in the context of the Middle East. The lessons I have learnt stem from both successes and failures. I have taken them all in my stride. Here are five lessons I believe every entrepreneur can relate to or learn from:
1. Differentiation is key The problem-solving approach does not apply in all sectors and markets. Sometimes, customers may not have stark problems that need solutions. However, if you create a product/service that further enhances their lives, you can differentiate yourself from run-of-the-mill competitors. At times, customers may be unaware of the existence of your convenience-driven offerings. As soon as you fill the awareness gap, you gain a competitive edge. From there on, you can set the product/service benchmark.
2. Customer service determines long-term success The competitive edge you gain through differentiation will not be sustainable if your post-sales customer service is sub-standard. While I have a strong customer-first approach, I place equal emphasis on customer-service executives and their productivity. Pectiv’s commendable retention rate is owed to this approach. I urge the customer-service agents to humanize their interactions, engage with empathy, and provide viable solutions. A good service is characterized by effective and speedy resolution without multiple touchpoints, and without running from responsibilities.
3. Aim high, but stay grounded When I was the marketing manager of a team with 110 executives and salespersons in a big pharma company, we achieved a 187% year-on-year growth one year- a remarkable feat at the time in the industry. And I believe it was possible because of a seemingly unachievable target. The aim should be so high that even a failure to reach the target should lead to above-average growth. In other words, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. After you set a high target, stay grounded and work tirelessly.
4. Avoid overexposure to venture capital Every venture entails capital. So, many turn toward venture capitalists (VCs) in no time. However, if you believe in your product/service potential, you should bootstrap the business until clarity emerges on your return on investment (RoI). Subsequently, when you reach the expansion phase and attain good bargaining power, you can onboard VCs on terms that favour you and the future of the startup. It is important to know that VCs come only when they are convinced of your capabilities. If such capabilities exist, then you shouldn’t have a problem raking in ROI- with or without the VCs.
5. Knowledge is your ally Learning is a continuous process, especially for an entrepreneur. You are navigating in a competitive ecosystem where one misstep can prove costly. If you are a lifelong learner who sees the silver lining in the darkest of clouds, it will be hard to edge you out of the competition. Continued learning keeps you agile, enables you to take calculated risks, and ensures you always have a finger on the pulse of customer expectations and market conditions. Knowledge is power- it was, is, and always will be.