“The Martian” & The Entrepreneur

It’s only when you are pushed into a corner, with your back up against a wall, that you come up with your most innovative, life-changing ideas!

In one line, this is the essence of the latest Hollywood Hit “The Martian” and also of every entrepreneur who survived the start-up journey and lived to tell the tale. Without giving away too many spoilers about the movie ‘The Martian’, let’s take a quick glance at why this movie speaks so much to the entrepreneurs in us.

1. The Plan

The four of us who started Fourth Ambit took the decision to plunge into these unchartered waters after much deliberation over countless Skype sessions, picking holes in each others’ business ideas, reworking financial investments, even renegotiating family priorities with our respective spouses, and only after a concrete plan was in place. Much like the astronauts who had detailed plans and procedures to follow no matter what surprises came their way.

Now, I have always led my life ‘by the gut’; instinctively taking decisions that “felt right” rather than bother with a detailed analysis of the underlying factors, economics and machinations that drive those decisions. In hindsight, that is not such a great idea — Not on Mars, not here. I would surely go with the laborious efforts that planning demands.

Yes, things go wrong despite the plan. But that’s just the dramatic bits. Without a plan, the mission would be doomed much earlier, perhaps like the failed attempt to send supplies to Mars. What’s more, without a plan, it may not be one person who would have been endangered, but the whole team.

So plans and procedures that control progress towards those plans are the life blood of any organization — be it a Start-up or a Fortune 500. If anyone is telling you otherwise, they just don’t like you much and want to see you fail.

2. Tough Decisions

Make your plans, analyses, preparations, crisis management drills, and prepare for all sorts of emergencies — There will still be things that go wrong.

You will have to take new decisions based on the facts in front of you — like, when the weather in mars changes from a picnic mode to something slightly more uncomfortable. Do you leave a colleague behind because there is a more than a good chance that he is dead? OR do we ditch your biggest and oldest customer because the incessant demands are just not cost effective anymore? As an entrepreneur, you will be forced to make Tough decisions when the going gets tough, and you WILL NOT always have all the necessary information before you. As one of the quotes misattributed to Albert Einstein says, “Adversity introduces a man to himself”.

As an entrepreneur, be prepared to make tough decisions based on incomplete information. Hey, I didn’t say it would be easy — if it were, everyone would be an entrepreneur!

3. Crisis Management & Coming out Alive

Being left alone in Mars would definitely top my list of “least favourite places to be”, narrowly edging out the driver’s seat on Wednesday evening commute back from work or being responsible for doing the dishes on Saturday; But as Mark Watney says, “ When you hit a state when everything is going South — You can either accept it or get to work” . You may not know the end solution right away but “You solve one problem and then the next… and go on from there”. You will have enough to save your start-up! Yes, you will have to deal with a lot of shit, and not have much but potatoes to show for it; But then, you will also be the first person to colonise Mars… That’s something :)

(Author: Ruby Peethambaran. Originally published on Medium) 

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