How To Overcome Startup Challenges: 04 Lessons from Tamzid Siddiq Spondon, Managing Director of Zanala Bangladesh
Tamzid Siddiq Spondon is the co-founder and Managing Director of Zanala Bangladesh, a leading communication services company based in Dhaka. Over the years, he and his team at Zanala Bangladesh, have built an empire from scratch. What started as a scrappy software development company in 2001, today, Zanala has businesses in communication, hardware and software development, tourism, pure food and much more.
In an interview with FS, Mr. Spondon shared struggles and challenges he had to endure in the process of building his company. This article illustrates some of the lessons from his journey so far. This article is an excerpt from his interview, you may read the full interview here.
From Tamzid Siddiq Spondon:
01. Develop a better understanding of your business
Tamzid Siddiq Spondon: The first challenge came from our lack of business knowledge. We had no clue how to go about things. As a result, we made many small and big mistakes that had hurt our growth in the early days and made things challenging for us. Had we have a better understanding of operation and business, we could have avoided a lot of these mistakes.
02. Learn the art of persuasion and confidence
Tamzid Siddiq Spondon: Our most critical challenge in the early days was convincing our customers of our worth and capability. We used to get this small value work from our clients and they used to hesitate to give us large value work. We knew that a client had a big project but we would not get it. Now when I look back today, I can see the mistakes we made at that time and why clients did not trust us with large value work.
Eventually, we realized that it is a skill and we decided that we have to develop it. We gave huge effort but there was a gap and it took us a while to understand that.
Sales are all about confidence. Before your client believes you, you have to believe in yourself. If you do not have confidence in yourself, then where would your clients get the confidence? We eventually discovered the gap (for not getting high-value work) and it was our lack of confidence. We were too nice to take seriously. Eventually, we worked on it and overcame that challenge.
03. Use your money wisely
Tamzid Siddiq Spondon: Financial management was a big challenge. We made a lot of financial mistakes. We spent a lot of money without thinking much. We wasted money on things where we should not have. We made all these mistakes. Despite that, we survived because our business was generating revenue. But things got worse in 2003 when we lost one of our Australian clients, which was our biggest revenue source at that time.
Consequently, we did not have much earning for the next 4-5 months, which led to other difficult challenges. Some of our best people left us at that time because we could not afford them anymore. We could not pay our rent on time. It sounds interesting, even inspiring today but when you go through it, it is not a pleasant experience.
You start with a big dream and then you stumble and even could not pay your office rent. Your best people are leaving you. You are struggling to pay the bill. People are saying bad things about you. And despite your best effort, you could not manage. It is hard to endure.
I would say that almost every entrepreneur goes through this phase and these challenges. This is when most founders give up, most ventures die and entrepreneurs decide to pursue something else. This phase is critical. If you could endure this phase, nothing would scare you anymore in life.
04. Be resilient and own your struggles
Tamzid Siddiq Spondon: When we started Zanala Bangladesh our only capital was passion. We had almost zero capital. On top of it, initially, our families were not supportive, which means we did not have anyone to guide us. And when you don’t have a mentor, you make mistakes. You make small and big mistakes alike. We had to learn the hard way. We screwed things up and then we learned that we should not have done that in the first place.
I would like to highlight the aftermath of that difficult phase of my life. That journey of hardships and difficulties has been a tremendous help throughout my career.
Nothing scares me anymore because I have seen the worse. I have become resilient. It was good training for me. It taught me not to be afraid of any situation no matter how challenging the situation appears. This is not something that I inherited or born with. You develop will power through practice. When you get to this point, everything becomes easier. Then and again, in business, there will always be challenges. Your job is to find ways around it and move forward.
Ayrin Saleha Ria is an undergrad student currently studying Applied Sociology at ASA University Bangladesh. She takes a deep interest in human society and behavioral science and loves reading. She works at FS as a Community Management Fellow and writes about interesting companies.