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Jumping obstacles in your professional career – one obstacle at a time

1 Mar 2021 2:36 PM | Anonymous

An exclusive interview with Desh Deshpande for ISW eSandesh
By Ragoo Raghunathan

Many small businesses and non-profit organizations are started by people with pure passion and a good heart. A few fortunate entrepreneurs see their ventures take off while many face daunting failures. Even successful ones often lack the operational experience needed to scale and establish their business; to take it to the next level. How does one approach and overcome these obstacles?

I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Desh Deshpande, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist who has been through this multiple times, to have him shed some light and impart his advice to our readers. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.

Desh, you are a leader and philanthropist who has been very successful in doing this over the past many years. I wanted to have a quick chat with you to see if I can transfer a small piece of your experience and motivation to our audience.

Let’s start with your transition from the academic world into your first significant job, can you share your thinking or mindset in making that change?

Please click here view Desh’s Video answer.

What are the top 3 things an entrepreneur should keep in mind after launch and preliminary success?

  • Establishing and communicating a compelling vision is very important. It helps you attract great talent, good board members and advisors. It will also help mobilize resources.  Doing anything meaningful in life is hard. You need to have a story that explains that while you are setting out to do something hard, it is well WORTH doing.
    • For example, Akshaya Patra stands for making sure that no child is denied education because of hunger. This is a very compelling vision that brings in a lot of people together to serve a worthy cause.
  • Building a cohesive egoless team that is open minded is particularly important. The organization must navigate through many challenges and hence a team that works together is key.
  • Being a good listener and listening carefully to customers is also very important.  Entrepreneurs are passionate people and love what they do.  However, success comes from customers loving what you do rather than you loving what you do.

With respect to finding resources, how would one go about securing it? What are some things that have worked for you and others?

  • You need to clearly define mileposts that show that your effort has a chance to reach the promised land.  You must then manage your resources to make sure you reach the next milepost.  Showing success by reaching meaningful mileposts makes it so much easier to get additional resources and to fund your journey to the next milepost.

When it comes to scaling operations and keeping up with the demand, what are some foolproof approaches to be taken?

  • Make sure that demand is real
  • Make sure that you have enough resources to deliver the goods and collect the payments to fund the next order
  • Make sure you have a well-rounded capable team that can execute

What are some recommendations for adapting and pivoting when needed?

  • The reason to pivot is either what you are trying to do is harder than you thought, or no one wants what you are trying to do.
  • Being objective about carefully reviewing both these reasons is especially important before you decide if you should pivot.
  • If you do pivot, earlier the better.  As they say if you must fail, fail fast and fail small.

Is running a nonprofit organization different from a for profit business? If yes, how do they differ? How are they similar?

  • Non-profit organizations energize the founder and everyone around them by the noble nature of the cause.  However, most of the time they lack resources and the talent to execute.
  • On the other hand, in the for-profit world there is a natural feedback loop. When a customer pays you more than what is costs you to make the product that confirms you are headed in the right direction.  This type of feedback is hard to get for non-profits.  Non-profits need to go out of their way to make sure that their beneficiaries are indeed benefitting from their efforts.
  • For example, Akshaya Patra does a fabulous job of being connected with their beneficiaries, the students. They make sure that they get a hot nutritious midday meal at school that they love. They serve local cuisine to children so that children really enjoy the food they are served.

What are some tips to running a successful organization, be it for profit or non-profit?

  • Honesty, Integrity, knowing what you don’t know from what you know, ability to delegate and always keeping the team focused on the mission of the organization.

Thanks for your valuable time and thoughts. Any last words of advice or encouragement for our budding entrepreneurs to keep in mind as they go through the different phases of establishing an organization?

  • The world continues to change rapidly in every aspect.  As the world changes, each of us have an option; either we lead the change or grudgingly accept the change.  An entrepreneur is the one who leads a change to make it a better world.  There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to lead a change.  When you take on a challenge and make things happen, it is the most fulfilling feeling you can have in life.  I am sure most of you are driven and want to be a part of the positive change.  I wish you all the best.
BTW you can view Desh’s interview with Aamir Khan referenced in the video clip on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/SUzfmSeL1Rk

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