Manage Your Business
A digital innovation entrepreneur sets goals that scare her
CEO of digital innovation agency shares hard and fast habits that help grow business
This story is part of "Dream Builders," a series that spotlights how women turn their business aspirations into reality—often defying tremendous odds—and innovate along the way. It is presented by Chase for Business.
When I came to America from India, I felt lost and out of place. I didn't look like everyone else, and certainly didn't know the cultural norms in this country. But I was able to adapt, survive and ultimately thrive. Those hurdles prepared me to take on the next challenge.
I've often been called the poster child of diversity. Here are the labels I carry: woman, immigrant, minority and gay. But those labels do not define me. I set my own benchmarks.
Life's greatest treasures are on the other side of a barrier. Every time I've overcome a hurdle, it's given me an opportunity to get to a higher level in my business or professional success.
Launching a business
I quit my corporate job to launch my own small business —BeyondCurious—with a mission to help legacy brands accelerate digital transformation and unlock their potential through innovation. But we had no clients, case studies or success to speak of. We were operating solely off our personal savings.
Research indicates that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies won't exist in the future because they are not adapting to change and innovating fast enough. We wanted to be the catalyst that could "make elephants run," and help large organizations move quickly, like startups. But this was 2011, and we were competing against agencies with decades of proven success.
Time and time again, we heard BeyondCurious was "too new" or "too small." We lost—a lot. Eleven times, in fact, before we landed our first major contract.
That first client opened the door to many more. Six years later, BeyondCurious is a fast-growing multimillion dollar business with a national footprint. And more importantly, we are competing against experienced companies, attracting top talent, and have clients across the country.
Making elephants run is not a small undertaking. Neither is building a great company.
Start with a dream, then create the plan
BeyondCurious did not emerge out of a market opportunity—it emerged out of a personal purpose. I wasn't clear on exactly how I would build out my dream, but I knew the organization I wanted to build. I was armed with the essential attributes — a clear mission statement and my core values.
Then I got to work. I reached out to 30 people in my network every day, and almost 100 percent of them rejected, or ignored, me. But I knew persistence would pay off, so I refused to give up.
Stay true to your vision
When opportunities began to cross my path, some didn't align with my vision for BeyondCurious. The companies were too small, or they requested services I simply couldn't provide.
It took a lot of guts to say "no," because I knew those jobs would have paid the bills. But they would have distracted me from building the type of business I want to work at every day. It was like being homeless and hungry, while standing in front of a feast and not being able to eat.
Chasing big businesses is an expensive proposition, but I believed we needed to stick to our vision. We were going all in to get one big client. Once we endured that 12th pitch—and won— it was all worth it. Landing that client helped establish BeyondCurious and gain credibility that helped us earn the trust of other big brands.
Create goals that scare you
I left the comfort of a stable job because I wanted to live my purpose of unlocking the limitless potential in people. When I actually sat down to quantify the number of people I wanted to impact in my life, 1,000 didn't feel like enough. Even 1 million people didn't feel like enough.
Then I wrote down the number "1 billion." That scared me and felt a little crazy. That's how I knew it was the right goal. Then I identified ways to touch so many lives—build a business that helps large companies thrive, become an author and speaker that inspires transformation, and influence public policy for social impact.
When you set a really, really big goal, your strategy for achieving it will be very different than it would be if you're working toward a small goal. Dreaming big unlocks your creativity in a way that thinking small never will.
Take time to reset
I'm really big on habits. Starting in the morning, I take five minutes to plan. In those minutes, I look at the tasks I have slated for that day and think about what will have the greatest impact.
By the middle of the day, every plan has probably gone out the window. So I take five minutes to readjust and refocus. I spend another five minutes at the end of the day planning for tomorrow.
I also take 30 minutes on Sundays to reflect on my past week—what I achieved, what I failed at, and what I learned.
The truth is, as I look into the new year, I don't have answers for all the challenges my business will face as it scales and grows. But I do know that if the challenges keep getting bigger and bigger, I'm progressing. When the barriers get bigger, you're presented the opportunity to learn, grown and adapt to overcome obstacles, so you can reach that next level of success.
Photo: Benjamin Rosser | Nikki Barua is the CEO and Founder of BeyondCurious. She is also a guest lecturer at UCLA and USC and she has been instrumental in supporting incubators developing technology products for healthcare and education.