Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Always Be Caring. The other ABC.

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Always Be Closing is a popular term in startup and business to keep a CEO/entrepreneur’s laser-sharp on two things viz. 1) relentless focus on sales and 2) fund-raising. It’s the top advice mentors give to startups.

However, there is another ABC, Always Be Caring, where it drives a CEO/entrepreneur to continuously reflect on what others may think about the product or company. Caring about the feeling of others, caring about what customers think about the product, caring whether people are getting value from the deliverables.

Here’s some of the things to care about:

  • What are your customers telling you. Are you listening what they are not telling you? If you care about the customers, you may be able to listen what they are not telling you
  • What is your team not telling you. Team members will seldom tell you what’s wrong, unless they feel that you care about them and their feedback
  • The smooth edges of your website. Website is your store-front. Doesn’t matter whether you are consumer or enterprise business. A smooth design tells people that you care about the visitors, whereas a sloppy conveys many things otherwise.
  • Design, usability of your product. Ditto.
  • What’s in the refrigerator / pantry. This is also depends on where you are and how much money you have and cultural sensitivities.
  • Quality of the product. Slightly different from design, usability. A usable product may be delivering zilch value or may have incomplete features. However, a product with every feature working and delivering utmost value conveys positiveness and that you care about your customer’s time and attention.

Closing is good. However, if you care then you can start and also go back for more. If you care, people will buy, instead of you selling to them.

The cycle of Business and the importance of Team

Monday, June 7th, 2010

On Saturday, I did a presentation to the Jain International Trade Organization (JITO) at their Annual Growth Summit. I spoke on the topic of ‘Building Winning Team’ (presentation to be uploaded). The following was part of the talk.

While internalizing the topic, a wonderful chart depicting the ‘cycle of business’ got scribbled in the notebook, the final version of which came out as shown below.  The importance of a team in a business can be visualized by looking at the chart.

The cycle of businessThe chart shows four tangible entities which are the main constituents of a business. Each constituent is in it’s own quadrant.The inbound arrow depicts movement or  utilization of a resource. As owner/CEO, you create the business. The Team which you hire creates the product or service. This is consumed by a Customer which brings Money to the business. The Money in turn funds the Team.  If the Team is weak or inefficient it would impact the product or service. Even more, an incompetent team may consume the money unwisely thus hampering the overall cycle of the business. Though the business revolves around the presence of the Owner/Founder/CEO, the continuum of the business is maintained by the efficiency of the team.

The upper right quadrant is the most important one — more than customers, if you build a great team, great products would come out with efficient use of capital. So, build a great team, manage them well and sometime later you probably don’t need to “actively manage” the business no more.

As a CEO have you immersed yourself (including showing that you are an idiot)?

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Bragging alert: This post talks about a recent personal experience to prove a point.

I was offline for the whole of last week attending a marriage in my exetnded family.  While attending the event, I’d put myself out for stardom, popping my neck M2out wherever/whenever possible and making an ass out of myself at other times.  From participating in mindless discussions to taking split-second leadership roles; to managing wherever required and at times staying out of the loop sipping beer at the poolside … and of course flirting occasionally (Don’t worry, my better half never reads this blog).

I was able to enjoy the 7 days as I did not hold myself or the attitude and without worrying that I may look like an idiot in front of others for certain acts — On the contrary whenever the idiocy was on the rise (or the attitude was it’s natural best), the guffaws of laughter were at their zenith. I told my story to everybody, to strangers and even to the staff of the hotel I was staying.

Result…connected with a lot of family members with whom I had lost touch, made some new connections and solidified the existing ones…came back home, happy.

No holds barred immersion into your business is one quality which IMO keeps people at sidelines. If you don’t engross, how can you tell the story, if you don’t act foolish, how can you break the ice and win nay-sayers? If you don’t keep showing your face, how would people feel your presence.

You may have a product, you may have a team but are you engaging yourself with customers. Are you telling the story of the product even if there is only one person listening? Are you flirting with other investors when you already have a term sheet from your existing Series A dude. Are you exposing your gullible side to your mentors? Are you ready to experiment with your idea when people are ready to call you an idiot? Or you want to wait for a perfect product?

Are you ready to start dancing with 10 unknown people in the middle of the traffic with your best suit down? Or you are waiting for people to pull you in? You want to ignite rather than add logs later.

Picture taken while doing the ‘hands-up-in-the-air’ dance on the streets of Jaipur and later cropped on the boundaries to anonymize the identities.

Leadership Primer: Colin Powell style

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006
  1. “Never neglect details. When everyone’s mind is dulled or distracted the leader must be doubly vigilant.”
  2. “Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.”
  3. “You don’t know what you can get away with until you try.”
  4. “Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavours succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”
  5. “Organization charts and hence titles count for next to nothing.”
  6. “Never let your ego get so close to your position that when your position goes, your ego goes with it.”
  7. “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”
  8. “Powell’s Rules for Picking People”—Look for intelligence and judgment and, most critically, a capacity to anticipate, to see around corners. Also look for loyalty, integrity, a high energy drive, a balanced ego and the drive to get things done.”
  9. “Have fun in your command. Don’t always run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you’ve earned it. Spend time with your families.” Corollary: “Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard.”
  10. “Keep looking below surface appearances. Don’t shrink from doing so (just) because you might not like what you find.”

Successful leadership consists of a formula rather than a two variable equation.