Charu Srivastava
Apr 29, 2024

Taking the entrepreneurial route: Lessons from a first-year founder

Starting a business is no easy feat, but it's one of the most fulfilling adventures you could undertake. Charu Srivastava, co-founder of TriOn & Co., reflects on her first year leading the business.

Taking the entrepreneurial route: Lessons from a first-year founder

Starting your own business can be daunting. You start from scratch, building people, processes, offerings, and so much more. A founder's worth is frequently associated with the company's stability and success, and while ‘company success’ might imply different things, one thing remains constant: The founder's journey can be stressful and lonely.

I often get asked if I regret co-founding our strategic communications consultancy, TriOn & Co. The answer is simple: Not one bit. One year on from having done so, I've discovered that when done well, the self-led journey can actually be rather liberating and rewarding for one’s mental health and peace of mind.

One year on, here is my secret sauce to breaking down entrepreneurial barriers:

Form an all-star team

From the very start, I made no qualms about the fact that I did not want to be a sole founder. I have worked with many talented people over the course of my career, and I believe it's the diversity of talent and perspectives, as well as the assurance of not being alone, that can really take a business to the next level.

So, when the opportunity arose to work with my co-founder, both ex-colleagues with whom I had a fantastic working relationship, the writing was on the wall.

Each of us possess a unique expertise, yet our values and work ethic are all in alignment. This eventually translates to unity in our working process, as well as a high level of adaptability in our service offerings. On top of that, our prior experience of working together habituated us to each other's working styles and personalities, which came in handy when one founder had to cover for another.

Lay the foundation

Now that we have an all-star team, the work can really begin. This juncture is also when alignment is highly critical.

It was interesting to apply some of the counsel I have given to my clients over the years as a communications consultant: Set strong foundations, prepare for all eventualities to minimise and manage risks, aim for steady and sustainable growth etc.

Before we had our first client, my partners and I were in complete agreement that we needed solid, clear policies and processes in place. From legal to people matters, finance, insurance, code of conduct, diversity and inclusion, employee handbook, and our manifesto (my personal favourite) we made sure that our business would function on a solid base.

The methodology for ensuring these policies and processes was simple. We researched as much information as we could, from online sources to our industry peers and other experts. We filled in any gaps with our existing expertise, and hired and consulted external professionals whenever necessary.

When you're trying to better your finances, it can be tempting to go all out in terms of gaining clients and revenues. However, this small investment of time and attention to your internal policies and process is impactful. Even if many clients are won, the business will likely crumble on itself if it does not have a solid foundation of policies and process.

A founder must pay extra attention to aspects of accounting standards, legal matters, contracts, and policy drafting. If you require external professional assistance to understand these matters, invest in them. In my experience, you will save yourself a lot of potential grief and it goes a long way protecting the business from unforeseen circumstances.

No one is perfect, and that’s okay

We will make mistakes from time to time, but the most important thing is to be realistic. Set up mechanisms that will allow you to work more efficiently, such as consistent vetting from your partners or even online tools and guides. So, even if things go wrong, you can always learn and grow as a person and a business owner. 

Take care of your mental health

It is usually a given that ‘health comes first’. But just trying to keep your business afloat may lead you to disregard warning signs that you need a mental break or extra care. When we think of it from a business standpoint, sleepless nights and resulting anxieties are all surefire ingredients for low efficiency and productivity.

As a founder, you must always think of the long-run as much as your present-day matters. I am in this for the long run and I want to be mentally happy in this journey. I believe I can still have a fun time doing what I do and love what I do while creating and building a thriving business.

I remind myself that I am in control of my story. And as cheesy as it may sound, positivity begets positivity. The entrepreneurial journey does not have to be lonely, so it is okay to ask for help and to lean on trusted professionals as well as our friends and family along the way.

Enjoy the ride

During tough times or situations that call for difficult decisions, I always go back to my core motivator: I love what I do.

That love only grew stronger when I was able to exercise full agency, quality control, and strategic freedom in founding my own business. Most importantly, I continue to value the partnerships formed. I believe that every entrepreneurial journey is unique, and it is up to the individual to shape it. Personally, I choose not to embark on this adventure alone, which may work differently for others.

But as long as one has a strong support structure, both internally and externally, being a founder can be a manageable and enjoyable endeavour.

Charu Srivastava is the co-founder of the strategy communications consultancy TriOn & Co.

Campaign Asia

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