13 June 2012

Stage 1 Start-Up and The Guidelines from I-Ching

Start a new business is a most worthy thing to do. It is difficult and so start with some good advice from I-Ching: Meaningful Mission, Follow & Adapt or Create A New Wave, Right Conduct for Execution and Do it with Passion.
Starting a business is a most worthy thing to do. Business is the real thing that creates the jobs and provides the real useful things either in products or services. Government fiscal policies of reducing taxes and monetary policies on increasing the money supply and reducing interest rates do not really create the jobs. They are indirect factors. But starting a business is not only difficult, it is also filled with risks. There is no guarantee that you will make a profit. There are much problems to overcome. Let me praise you if you want to start a new business. Here are some good advice from the Ancient Chinese Book of Change, the I-Ching.


S1 Start with a Meaningful Mission - #03 屯 Sprouting 
Firstly, you must decide what is the mission of your new business. What unique value does your business bring to your customers? i-Ching tells us to pick a meaningful and worthy mission. What are some worthy missions? Making the world a better place is one. Prolonging life and health are good. Protecting the environment is also good. Righting a wrong and relieving of suffering are good too. Some successful entrepreneurs tell us business is making meaning and not money. If you make meaning, money will follow you. If you just try to make money, you will soon loose your meaning and eventually also your money! The Bible in Proverbs 23:4-5 also tell us that if we focus on just seeking money, the money will take on wings and fly away. This advice is exactly the same on in P4 of 5 Principles for Success in Life According to Lao Zi!

I-Ching further advise us to get talents that share the same mission or vision as us. It warns that we may need to change our plan as we go along. Survey of the successful start-ups show us that only about one third follow that original plan A. Two thirds have to follow Plan B, C, or even a Z, practically something quite different.

I-Ching tells us that if after repeated attempts, we may need to prepare to quit and start all over again. Not many entrepreneurs make it on their first attempt. A professor define a start-up as one probing to find the right offering and business model for profit.

S2 Follow a Trend with Adaption & Contentment - #17 隨 Following
Depending on our capability and resources, we can choose to follow a trend or create new trend(see S3). We need to observe and study the market. A key skill that we need is Discernment. We must be able to discern the trend that is rising and sustainable. We must be able to discern the major from the minor. Not any new changes will last. We need to pick the right one. We can also be safe and pick the conventional ones. In which case, we need to know how to differentiate so that we will not end up in competing for low-margin business.

In any case, we must always be adaptable to change. We must be willing and be contented with making changes or sometime just waiting it out for the next big as Steve Jobs said when he came back to take charge of Apple  Inc.

A real entrepreneur should enjoy such challenges that start-up business brings.

S3 Create the Wave and Lead the Trend - #57 巽 Wind
If you have the foresight, insights and resources, you may want to create a new wave of disruption instead of following a trend as in S2. This is a more challenging task. Setting the Sail requires you to set the direction clearly and know how to set it rightly to catch the wind and sail off.

S4 Execution with Right Conduct - #10 履 Walk
Right execution is a key part of a successful start-up. Many start-ups have great visions but fail in execution. Right execution is about right conduct and positioning. Sustainable business is built on integrity and respect for staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. In this global world of diversities, we must appreciate the cultural differences and need to understand the right manners and conduct so that misunderstanding can be avoided and clear communications can be achieved. It also involves matching the right talents to the right positions and jobs. We must walk speedily but at the same time watch for pot-holes. There are many to trap us. Successful entrepreneurs don't just take risks, they try to minimize risks. They ask, survey, conduct experiment to find out more about the potential risks and try to minimize them. I-Ching also tells us to follow your heart. This is best discussed in the next guideline S5.

S5 Do it with Passion - #16 豫 Enjoying
You should enjoy what your are doing. Enthusiasm and passion gives the strength and creativity to outperform others. I-Ching warns us that true joy comes from doing the right things. Despite the temptations and pressures, never give in on your values and beliefs. I-Ching also warn us not to over-extend ourselves so as to harm our health. It also tells us to reflect on our progress and learn from it.

More advice can be found in the various hexagram mentioned here. For the details, please refer to Manage Change with I-Ching(registration is required).

I hope I have given you some food for thoughts for your new venture and I wish you the best for your success.

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Lim Liat(C) 13 June 2012
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