How Building Startups Is Like A Game Of Surviving In The Wilderness


By Anand L. 

In entrepreneurship there is nothing called ‘winning’ – the keyword in this game is  surviving.

The survival can be for a lot of things like to remain in business, to get that next customer, retain another employee, and to survive the consequences of various decisions you take each day.

As an entrepreneur, you need to survive the pressure of all of this and then live up to the expectations of your customers, family and suppliers.

And entrepreneurs are required to do this with no vacations at all! So, if you have nobody to delegate it to, it becomes even more difficult.

Survival in entrepreneurship builds character of the entrepreneur. For starters, it will make you more resilient and more amenable to various kinds of people.

It will teach you how to take your own decisions and how you can design your life in an optimum way that gives you more freedom and time to spend doing what you love the most.

Most likely, it will be your business that you love the most. And as an entrepreneur, you are likely to spend the most time with it – like a lover with his or her muse.

Does this love wane away?

Yes, if the love is not innovated upon, it will become mundane and this will lead to the entrepreneur losing interest.

Innovation is nothing but keeping this love and passion alive, and it is supercritical. The key to survival is keeping this fire burning in your heart.

Basic things for survival in a barren land or a hard terrain: 

  • A Never Say Die Attitude: For entrepreneurs, an attitude of ‘Never Say Die’ clubbed with a method of constant rejuvenation is extremely important.

One can get rejuvenated by spending time with their family, hitting the gym, or by mental catharsis with their mentors – there are multiple ways of doing so.

Doing this while maintaining a strict discipline will develop a positive attitude towards life despite all the odds of the business.

Those who have a negative attitude towards life should never start a business. Within a few months of starting their business, their negativity will overpower them and this would lead to their business shutting down.

Image by Adam R from Pixabay
  • Conserving Energy: For being an entrepreneur, one needs to develop an attitude like those who survive in the wilderness.

They have an inherent and altruistic nature, which is coupled with a mode to conserve food and water for emergency.

An entrepreneur needs to have similar instincts. He needs to conserve his or her energy and – at times –  take it slow.

For instance, rather than attending five meetings in a single day, they should spread out these meetings in five days. Even attending one meeting a day can be fruitful if they do it diligently in a disciplined manner and have fun doing it.

Similarly, an attitude to survive requires one to decide their burn rate and the runway. Once an entrepreneur does this, he should keep on stretching his limits till they raise some external money or get self funded through customer’s money.

  • Being Like A Galapagos Tortoise: Not burning out is the key to survival – in life as well as in business. The key is to sometimes be like a Galapagos Tortoise.

A Galapagos Tortoise weighs 400 kilograms and from a distance, it looks like a stationary object or a dead rock.

If you happen to go near it, it withdraws in its shell – which further adds on to its rock status. And it can stay stationary like that for days, without even moving a limb.

As an entrepreneur, sometimes you have to show that you are not moving anything and are just stationary.

When you do this, don’t think about your enemies, rivals and peers, for they may not take it positively.

They may assume that your business is dead already. But sometimes, conserving energy makes you the dark horse which continues running, or at least walking, when others have fallen off and died having burnt for years without any food or water.

Besides attitude, here are three strategic moves an entrepreneur must make to survive: 

  • Planning, Planning & More Risk Planning: Nothing in business success without planning and strategy. So you must develop a strategic plan and also think of a Plan B and a Plan C. If one particular plan does not succeed, follow the other one.

But for this, you must have an alternate plan ready at all times. In business a law is always at play – Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. So, you must always be prepared for the eventual and the ultimate.

It’s often said that if you plan for Goal A and B, generally you will achieve Goal B. But an entrepreneur should always plan for Goal A, but with Plan A, B and C in action. By doing this, you will be able to reach Goal A from multiple paths if you find a detour, a ‘no-entry’ or a bad road on one path.

This is because in such a case, you will be able to take another highway that you have constructed in your mind to take you to your goal. Thus, never leave the Goal but design the different paths to reach it and have alternative strategies. This is the mark of a successful aka surviving entrepreneur.

  • Ensuring Supply Of 3 Key Needs: Food, shelter, and basic necessities of clothing should always be provided for – either by yourself or with your savings, your investors, partners, friends, relatives, parents or even your child.

If these needs are not met, you will constantly worry for them, as it’s basic human nature to do so. However, this can also need to paranoia, which is not good for your business, its stakeholders and employees.

A tip: Don’t quit your job unless you have arranged for all the three basic needs. If you don’t have a job, you must find an investor or someone who can take care of the shelter till the time you build the business and become self remunerative. If your business is such that it does not give you the required revenues to have a shelter over your head, open a side business that will help you make quicker money than this one.

  • The 3 Natural elements: Water, Fire and Food: These are the basic things needed to keep your body in shape. Any entrepreneur will require these in ample to keep the simple process of a body to survive the emotional, physical and mental stress of building a business.
  • Sharpening Your Survival Skills: Sometimes you don’t possess the skills of rock climbing or climbing ice, but then, if you get stuck in a mountain of ice and desperately wish to get put, such skills come handy.

Thus, sharpening or developing those naturalist skills is critical. And if you don’t have them yourself, you must hire someone to pull you out of that pit and knows how to pull a rope and also has the rope.

Without the required skills, you will always be losing in the business. Not having these skills may also make you always depend upon someone else and bleed a lot of money on something that you could do by yourself. This tip is particularly for the early stage entrepreneurs and startups.

Other way to survive when you have fallen into a pit is to just wait and wait for and wait for someone to pull you out – whether it is an investor, mentor or a partner – till you find your feet. The trick is basically to survive and not die.

Don’t let yourself or your startup die before reaching a place where you can find more food and water.

It’s all a game of survival and the last man standing. Nothing is too glamorous about it. In fact, it is really hard.

(The author describes himself as a failed entrepreneur and an amateur mountaineer.)