So, for the last 8 months, every single day of my life someone or the other has come up to me and asked, "So, how is the recession treating your start-up?" Obviously, I have 2 fundamental problems with this question:
a) It is not a recession, it is just de-growth (for the lack of a better word!). I know a lot of people make this statement to demonstrate their "intelligent conversationalist quotient" and I will risk being classified as one of "those" people, because this IS a fact according to any authentic definition of the word 'recession'.
b) I am not running a start-up; I run a small business! Today marked the 2nd IIMA convocation since I graduated. It was exactly 2 convocations back that I was proud of Quetzal being referred to as a start-up, but not today!
Of course, we still do have some of those traits - For instance, we do not have a clear idea about which one of our business streams we should clearly focus on. We still have budding entrepreneurs joining us to "experience" how a "start-up" operates! We still, at times, convene our "Board of Directors" meetings in coffee shops! We still operate out of 3 "galas", where the CEO and Interns share the same desk and keep betting with each other on everything under the sun - from Federer winning the French Open to who is going to lose more weight faster!
However, those are start-up traits that we want to hold on to and do not match the overriding criteria that indicate our graduation from the "start-up" mode. For instance, we have had more than 70 Quetzals who have worked with us in the last 2 years - most of them being people with spectacular pedigree. There are hardly any large educational institutions or companies in the sectors we work in, that don't do business with us. There is hardly any project that goes through without the intervention of Quetzal's stringent quality processes! Truth be told, I am not projecting this in the hope that it would help me win over clients or employees or investors - I am more in touch with reality than to assume that! Of course, my opinions could be coloured because of my emotional involvement with my company, but come on - on MY blog, I couldn't care less about being objective!
Anyways, after having battled with peripheral issues like the inaccuracy in the framing of the question, let me try to address the real concern/curiosity (obviously the latter in 99.99% of the cases- exceptions being parents and lovers - who, for some strange reason, will continue to operate on a totally tangential plain of small talk, dominated by questions such as, 'what did you have for breakfast?' and 'what are you wearing?') My take on this is twofold:
1. I have been dealing with survival issues for 2 years. A "slowdown", my friend, is just one more of those "issues" to deal with and not something that will "shake me up"! Not to contest that there has been a tangible dip in our sales and revenue collections, but how much does it additionally matter when I have been riding a sinusoidal wave (I like to believe that the mean of these sinusoids is upward bound!) for the last 2years!
2. From being enamoured with "overnight success stories" like that of Facebook and YouTube in my early start-up days, I have, finally, reconciled with the more popular notion shared by the been there-done thats: It takes years and years of arduous effort and commitment to create something world-class from scratch! Sanjeev Bikhchandani took 13 years, Richard Branson took 20 years and I will not fool myself into believing that I am the "lucky" or "smart" one to beat that kind of a time curve! So, I am in this for the long run. And, it is but natural that in this ultra-marathon, there will be downturns (some of them being as drastic as this one!) and booms all the time. Earlier they are in my entrepreneurial career, better it is for me, because I end up learning when there is relatively less at stake, than later on when it will come at a higher price!
So, by some vague chance, if you are one of those people who have asked me this question in the last 8 months, no matter what my politically correct, fitting-in-with-the-global-paranoia response to you has been, I have muttered under my breath each time the immortal line from Gone With The Wind, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"