I was just speaking to Rishav, co-founder of Moshi Moshi and a senior from college. He was proposing some ideas to me to grow my business and I “hmmed” in agreement over call. He said, “what happened? Do you not think I’m making sense?
I said no absolutely not, I completely agree with what you’re saying. But sometimes I just feel like -how much can I do alone? I’ve never thought that I’m not enough, but over the past few days I’ve been feeling that being a solopreneur is harder than I had imagined.
He said, “I completely know what you mean, sometimes when my co-founder isn’t in town – I also wonder whom to speak to and self-doubt is very natural.”
Till now, I hadn’t put a term on what I occasionally feel – self doubt. He was right. When I look at many entrepreneurs around me, they worked with someone as part of their core team. Their family, their friends or even investors. Someone who’s a long-term partner in your ambition, not just there to fulfil their requirements and leave.
Nothing troubles me more than when someone from the team says they are going to leave. I remember one of the girls who worked for us abruptly left as her parents called her back to her hometown and I wondered – what did I do wrong?
I used to drop this girl home every single day so that her parents felt she was safe in another city. My mom, who’s also a doctor, treated her so many times when she was unwell. We planned a day trip with everyone to an animal shelter so they could unwind and have fun. We did everything we possibly could to make her feel at home and then she left in 3 months. I wondered if there was any point of going the extra mile.
I had another such case where I still recount an operations manager joined us and right in the middle of Diwali 2019, when there was chaos everywhere and we were bustling around the kitchen to dispatch orders – he said, “Megna, I want to quit.” I was so shocked by his tone and moreover his timing, that I really couldn’t gather the wits to say what I really wanted to.
I have heard of stories of founders behaving very badly when people leave. From an employee’s perspective, it’s just not fair and seems very immature. I have heard of bosses refusing to speak to the person on their entire notice period because they feel so betrayed that the employee wants to work somewhere else.
Why do they do this? Because as entrepreneurs, we value our team. We do little things for them - take out time to check in on them, make sure their birthdays are celebrated well, try to build a safe environment for them to enjoy their work. For us, it’s a significant investment of our time to do things that are not written in the book. But we think the investment will reap returns in the long run, people will remember what you did and stay with you because they are happy. That is not true. As employers, we need to start realizing that you cannot equate happiness to a guarantee that your team will stay.
And as an entrepreneur, you just have to deal with it.
Identifying Self Doubt
If you ask the kitchen team, I don a very strong personality while at work. If you ask our customers, I am quite a charming sales person. If you ask my vendors, I’m a hard negotiator. But what if you ask me? We tend to wear so many hats that underneath we forget what our real hairstyle was.
Self-doubts creeps in when you act a certain way, anticipating a certain outcome and it isn’t as you hoped. Self-confidence comes when you act a certain way and the outcome is far beyond what you had imagined.
For entrepreneurs, over-confidence becomes a part of one of their many character traits. This is the character that they show the world.
“Fake it till you make it” they say.
“If you don’t believe in yourself, how will the world believe in you?”
I agree with all of this. And most of the time you will find me preaching exactly this. You need to be so full of positivity that any negative thought will bounce right out of your head. But everyone has a soft spot, for me, I have learnt that it is my team.
So what happens when you realize that over-confidence is not a permanent feature in your soul. Sometimes, you’ll look at yourself and wonder if you can really do it? Has it been worth it? Will it be worth it?
Overcoming Self Doubt
Some people say, “Megna, why don’t you take a break? You will burn out.” Personally, I can’t overcome self-doubt with a vacation. I can only overcome it by working more and seeing results. In the second week of January, we had half of our team members say they want to leave us. So, I worked harder to announce I’m hiring, and over the third week of January, 50 people emailed me their resumes and I interviewed 10 candidates. As my best friend and biggest critic says – the harsh reality is that employees will leave you. But another reality is also that they are replaceable.
Another fellow entrepreneur, Vibha Harish - founder of Cosmix says and I quote, "You gotta fight it everyday. Every action taken in the right direction takes us further away from self-doubt."
Since this blog post has been filled with so many questions (it has the word “doubt” in the title haha), let’s answer them one by one:
What did I do wrong?
Absolutely nothing. Some things are out of my control, and I need to stop overthinking about situations and imagining what would have happened if I acted another way. Maybe you can try differently in the future, but what’s gone is gone. I act with conviction and regret is not a word in my dictionary.
What if you ask me who I am?
I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. I may be different people in different circumstances but that does not make me pretentious, it makes me human. And that’s okay.
Can I really do it? Has it been worth it? Will it be worth it?
I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.