Design of Business

Business, Culture & Entrepreneurship

Author: ksrikr5_wp (page 1 of 2)

Align yourself with people who have integrity

I’ve been reading Getting to Plan B, by John Mullins and Randy Komisar. In it they discuss how one entrepreneur, while at Stanford B-school was inspired by meeting Carlos Ghosn, Chairman of Nissan and Renault, one of the world’s largest automotive companies.

Ghosn, who’s been featured in numerous case studies in business schools across the world and extensively quoted in business media, has unfortunately been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently. Ghosn was arrested in Japan nearly two months ago for alleged financial misconduct. He’s “accused” of under-reporting his salary for several years. Ghosn says he’s wrongly accused and wrongfully detained. It’s entirely possible that Ghosn is indeed innocent though he might be detained for several more months given how the Japanese justice system works.

“The 64-year-old executive is accused of moving personal investment losses worth 1.85bn yen (£13.3m; $17m) racked up on foreign exchange dealings to Nissan. Mr Ghosn says he did ask the company to take on collateral temporarily for his foreign exchange contracts, but that it did not lose any money through this move. He said if he had not been able to do this, he would have had to resign and use his retirement allowance as collateral instead.”

BBC News

Media stories abound of misdeeds of corporate leaders such as Vijay Mallya, Chairman of the United Breweries Group, India, who is fighting extradition from the UK for nearly two years. Hardly inspiring for a man who billed himself as “The King of Good Times.” It didn’t help that his name featured in the Panama Papers.

Of course these much like the Enron scandal earlier or Bernie Madoff are only examples of lack of integrity at the highest level of organizations. As was apparent in those cases nothing good can come of such a lack of integrity – unfortunately it is others such as the employees of Enron and customers of Madoff who paid a much larger price in terms of their lost retirement funds and pensions.

“The spirit of an organization is created from the top.”

Peter Drucker, Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices

As individual job seekers or entrepreneurs, it is important to “evaluate the character of the CEO and top management” be it of the company we seek to join or intend to do business with.

While we may always not be able to determine how a CEO or a Chairman is, each of us can start with the people you interact with. Your immediate managers, your suppliers. Sometimes this shows up in the simplest of ways.

Last week, a young graduate interviewing for a job spoke to me after her interview. She liked the company and the role she was interviewing for. Yet, I sensed she was hesitant. I asked what made her uncomfortable. She said it was the fact that every single person that she spoke with, about their reason for being there, responded that it was “for the money.” Her fear was if money is the primary reason they were there, what would they be prepared to do or not do.

Align yourself with people who have integrity


Ever since I read Drucker’s “The Effective Executive” I’ve been partial to his writings. While there are a few things I find myself occasionally disagreeing, I’ve found few writers with greater clarity on the matter of business and leadership. I’ve begun to re-read The Daily Drucker and once a week plan to blog on a topic from the book. It is a good way to share what I’m learning and reinforce those learnings.

A Look Back at my Top 5 Posts by Readership

The end of the year is as good a time as any other to take stock. As I get working on my first full length novel (set in 16th century Vijayanagara, India) and business book (on selling your company happily) I felt it might be useful to look at what people have found useful or read most on my blog.

Over the last three years, the top two posts, every year have been

Of my own favorites, the three that made it to the top 10 are

Ironically the post authored by me that’s most popular is neither on my blog nor about entrepreneurship. Go figure!

This year, I’m plan to post at least twice a week, and probably focus a little sharper on the topic of selling a business. Let me know what other topics you’d like to hear from me on.

Cherish the people in your life – a new year lesson

Having recently traveled overseas, the wife and I have been struggling with jet lag. In an attempt to stay awake, yet warm we snuggled up on the couch and tried to find something good to watch. Mr. Church was what we ended up watching. Many times before the movie ended, my wife said, “This is one of the best movies I’ve seen. No movie has affected me like this.”

As with every family or even any two people, we struggle to find movies or shows that we’d both enjoy. The one thing we’ve learnt is that reviews do little for us. Silence, one of the worst movies we’d ever caught had a high Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic score. On the other hand Mr. Church had a poor Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes score. We’ve found escapist fare, preferably not something that will drag us down (Season 3 of Wanted) and short (90 minutes or less) is what works for us. So when we tuned into Mr. Church we weren’t sure what to expect, and were fully prepared to abandon it to our second choice, if it failed to hold us.

Mr. Church didn’t fail us—it held us enthralled. Both of us found ourselves getting drawn in and teary and a little choked up in places. Above all, we’d inadvertently learned our first lesson of 2019.

We are so blessed for all the wonderful people in our lives.

We need to cherish the people—our neighbors in Bangalore and Columbus, our children and parents, family—the numerous cousins, classmates and colleagues in our lives. And for just being there.

As entrepreneurs, I know we’ve all certainly taken people for granted. Whether our partners, employees, advisors, partners or suppliers. Even when we’ve been appreciative of them, we’ve not appreciated the people in our personal lives.

Mr. Church, with its simple, yet moving story of the two protagonists reminded us to be grateful for the blessing that people in our lives are. We couldn’t have started the new year better

3 Tips That Can Make You Accomplish A Great Deal More

The family and I had to make an unplanned trip overseas due to a parent’s minor medical emergency. Shutting down our house, packing for travel and all the other many minutiae of last minute travel was stressful. So to keep our sanity, the wife and I made list of the top 1, 2 and 3 things we’d like to have accomplished during the trip. This is an exercise we’ve found helps us both stay focused and reduce the stress of dealing with change that’s inevitable from having aging parents and young adults.

Many unexpected and not-always-pleasant things happened during our trip—from one of our kids getting a nasty strain of flu to home aides quitting making parental post-operative care difficult. So our way back to the airport, as we listed all that we got accomplished and were surprised at all that we’d been able to accomplish, despite the low bar we’d set for ourselves. As we dug deeper, we realized that as always we had much to be grateful for. Some of these lessons are applicable just as much for our businesses as to our daily lives.

TL;DR

  • Goals – have few, finite and clear goals and de-prioritize all else
  • People – put people first and this will always pay off
  • Self-care – take care of yourself; short breaks go a long way

Goal clarity By keeping three things, as the primary outcomes, whenever we encountered a fork (or plain temptation) we were able to pick the right things (or say no) without dithering or guilt (both hard when family’s involved). Surprisingly, this provided us sufficient wiggle room to get other things accomplished (eight at last count on the airplane back).

People focus By keeping people as our primary focus, we not only had fulfilling and meaningful interactions but once again got more accomplished as the people we met with sought, often of their own volition, to get things off of our plate. In a few instances we were able to actively help them, but in most instances, the joy of meeting one another was both fun and de-stressing that our productivity bloomed.

Self-care While visiting India is always enormously enjoyable, between others and one’s own expectations, real-world constraints not limited to traffic, bureaucracy, and inertia can render the simplest thing challenging. And that’s when the family is not involved. So accepting that there are constraints and it is okay to retreat and seek some time for yourself to recharge is not easy. Even the occasional 10-minute power nap or 2-hour curling with your e-reader recharges and lets you come out roaring.

4 Ways to Make Your Executives Fail

Last week, I shared some of the insights that Bea Wolper, entrepreneur and lawyer focused on family businesses, shared with my class. An area of special interest for Bea is how succession happens well (or not) in family businesses. She shared the four critical steps for succession (which is rarely seamless) to happen well. Upon discussing this with some of my students, it dawned on me, that this is just as applicable to startups and non-family businesses as well. And not just in a founder or CEO transition, but for any major role in a business – such as HR, Marketing or Sales heads. 

  • Ownership In a family business this is usually a controlling interest. In a startup or other enterprises, this is equity with the potential for significant upside. As Bea pointed out this is the easiest to “do” – you sign a piece of paper and it’s done. This is however only a necessary condition and not sufficient. If you do this alone, it is almost always going to result in failure.
  • Knowledge Change is never easy. Having a new person in charge without equipping them with everything that your organization and you know is dooming them to fail. This ranges from how things are done, who does them, how they are done and why they are done (or not) the way they are. I have walked into marketing positions, with nary an introduction to existing customers, current prospects and can tell you it’s not fun. Successful organizations, debrief and even put together a “Bluebook” of everything the person leaving the position knows for their successor. Ideally, you have a team, including the person presently playing the role do an ongoing knowledge transfer for the successor.
  • Relationships The old cliché “business is all about relationships” is true. So formally introducing the new person to key employees, key customers and of course key business partners—starting with bankers, component suppliers, channel partners is vital for success.
  • Authority This is where the rubber meets the road and even well run companies stumble. When you promote someone or hire someone new, but other employees still come to you or their old boss or colleague, you’ve not handed authority. Most times the founder/entrepreneur is the problem (or “Dad” in the family business) when he is not willing to relinquish his authority. So the new person while having the title has little or no actual authority – or what he has is undermined by others.

As you can see any one of these, even when you’ve done the other three well can cause your executives to fail. I’ve been guilty of violating every one of these, at one point or the other. Which ones have you not been giving adequate attention to?

7 Simple Tips for Success from an Entrepreneurial Lawyer

One of the joys of teaching is the opportunity to invite guest speakers who bring their experience and insights alive for the class. The speakers have the added advantage of being a “guest” lecturer and their message not only sounds new but resonates well. I was fortunate to have Bea Wolpert, an amazing entrepreneur, lawyer and woman leader.  Over an hour, Bea in her inimitable style—reality laced with humor and self-deprecation—shared her own experience as a lawyer and entrepreneur as well as the stories of some of her entrepreneur clients. I realized her stories and insights serve well as advice for most prospective and practicing entrepreneurs. Here they are

  • Purpose Be purpose-driven – It’s well worth figuring out what are you passionate about. Pursue that passion rather than money alone – be it dog-walking, raising Labradoodles or being a chef or lawyer (all examples she illustrated)
  • Relationships Work on building authentic relationships – these take time and will pay off in spades
  • Give forward Focus on giving something of value first – people will automatically seek more and become customers. This could be a blog, seminar or webinar, free consultation, or samples at farmers markets – make it easy to buy from you.
  • Sales Recognize your job is selling – not just being a chef, designer, lawyer and learn to become good at it.
  • Numbers Business is about numbers – so the more you learn to understand numbers – costs, profit & loss the better off you will be
  • Commitment Be all-in. Don’t expect a bank (or anyone else, except a parent possibly) to fund your company or you, if you are not willing to be all-in and
  • Plan Whether a business plan for a bank, succession plan for yourself or a marketing plan for the company, planning is both important and will help.

Maintaining Privacy in Social Media – An Ongoing Battle

I had been planning to write a piece on how folks are getting off of social media particularly Facebook—from the famous such as Om Malik to a lot of 18 to 29-year olds. Even when people choose to stay on networks (social or professional) it’s hard to maintain the degree of privacy or control they seek. It’s hard for at least two reasons

  • there’s just a LOT of options, kinds of data, kinds of audiences an and
  • companies just don’t make it easy for users to turn on or off something.

This became really evident when I tried to help a LinkedIn user yesterday to maintain some contact info private. You’ve have thought that you would go to Settings & Privacy, as I did, and fix it. Well, you’d be wrong, just as I was.

While I consider myself a technophile and an experienced user of LinkedIn – neither a dekko through their settings nor a Google search produced a reliable answer on, “How do I not reveal by birthdate on LinkedIn?” The nearest I got to was this Quora post, and of course, LinkedIn had changed things around again!

The changes range from explicitly leaving out the word Birthday from the options listing, which was tucked away under Contact Info, which was hidden (and not evident at all) under the Intro section of your profile.

and how to get to even this stage. It involved

  1. Selecting View Profile from the Me menu on the top right
  2. Then choosing the Edit (pencil icon) in the Intro section
    LinkedIn-Edit-Profile
  3. Scrolling down to the contact info section (above) and choosing the Edit (pencil icon) again
    LinkedIn-Contact-Info
  4. Clicking on the eye icon to now actually select the desired settings for your birthday
    LinkIn-BDay-Options

It took me nearly 20 minutes to research, test and ensure this works before I could help the original LinkedIn user who’d sought my help. Not cool! LinkedIn you can do better than this!

 

How Do They Do It? Secrets of Great Storytelling

Twenty-five years after publicly announcing it, at a party in Cupertino, I’ve finally begun to work on my first mystery novel. The visit to Hampi, which ironically I did many years after I had visited Pompeii, was the catalyst to set my murder mystery in early 16th century Vijayanagara. If you think making daily sales calls is hard writing every day is harder still. And I’m not even talking about writing well, just putting words on paper.

As entrepreneurs, we have to be storytellers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about making stuff up. Each day, whether we are trying to hire a new person, motivate an employee who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, persuade an investor to make a bridge investment or trying to get a customer to buy or better yet pay us an advance, we are trying to persuade others. Make no mistake, persuasion is selling. In a manner of speaking, we are all sales folks. The sooner we accept it, the sooner we can get better at it.

It’s no accident that the best sales folks are good great storytellers. Here’s the good news, like most things storytelling is a learned skill. With a little attention to how others do it and a good deal of practice, we can all get better at it. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – and there’s no reason you can’t make a resolution or start a new habit on the 1st of November. Make improving your storytelling skills a goal. Notice I say improving, for we are all natural storytellers. Any time you’ve tried to lie to your mom, or a friend or fudged the facts with your spouse (none of which you’ve ever done of course!), you were telling a story—not necessarily well. Let’s get started. One of the simplest and most fun ways to do this is to join a ToastMaster’s club near you. Your storytelling will get better (mine certainly did) but at the very least you’ll make some new friends. It never hurts to have a life (and a few friends) outside of our businesses.

To make things easy for you, I’m sharing one video (below) and one article.- Get rolling.

Storytelling in a corporate setting – 11 examples

 

2 Tools That Will Improve your Effectiveness as a Marketer

Every year I try to learn something new – be it a skill, a tool or just some facts. 2018 has been a time of great learning, thanks to my daughter, I wanted to share two tools that I’ve learned about from her and since put to good use for myself and customers.

  • Canva, as my primary online visual design tool – from making Twitter or web post headers, webinar announcements to trifold brochures and even eBook cover design, this has been an amazing tool where every day I’m discovering more. Here are some examples

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

  • Tableau as my data visualization tool has similarly been a much used for not just number crunching, but being able to create excellent visualizations as well as insights that aren’t always self-evident from staring at the data in Excel.
    Here are two examples

Visualization of Girls Toilets Availability


The kicker is, both of them are available online, easy-to-use and you can get started for free. They also have great online communities that can help you get up the learning curve fast. So give them a spin today and share your own favorite tools in the comments.

4 Simple Things Startups Can Do to Retain Employees

Earlier this week I read at least two articles that spoke of how startups in India are having a hard time retaining their employees. One spoke of startups now having higher employee churn than Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms!

The article asserts “The reason for this high churn rate is that young professionals come to startups for all the wrong reasons.” While understanding why startups, particularly in India, are having this employee turnover problem is important, it’ll have to wait for another post. What should startups do to retain the employees they already have?

As Lao-Tzu (or was it Confucius?) put it “When the student is ready, the master will come,” my daughter shared this video by Amy Cole, CEO of Amy Cole Connect, on 4 Tips to Retain Your Talent. For those of you who are too busy (really!) to watch the 2.5 minute video, here’s the TL;DR version

  • Excitement – are you exciting your team members from the day they come on board? Many simple things can make the job and your company exciting – do it!
  • Engagement – how are you engaging your team – making their job meaningful and laying context rather than assuming they’ll stay motivated and engaged
  • Encouragement – are you explicitly encouraging them – from paying attention to active inputs, are you helping them grow and not taking them for granted
  • Empowerment – do you trust and provide them flexibility, as long as the work get done? Are you all about control and not empowering them?

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