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Growth is Sanity while Profit is Vanity!

An entrepreneur builds a business for two reasons – either to make money from profits or to grow. Choosing which way to go is surely an ‘Entrepreneur’s dilemma’ – if they focus on growth, it may have short-term dents on their profits and if they choose the latter, it will limit their market expansion and penetration.

To understand Profit versus Growth debate, let’s define these two terms first –

1) Profit: It is the fiscal advantage obtained when the revenue from a business activity exceeds the costs, expenses, and taxes required to sustain that activity.

2) Growth: It is an increase in dimension, quantity or worth of a business unit – a point of expansion or opening of additional options to generate more business profit.

For any self-funded startup, Profit is the primary goal because it is the only capital that will be used to run and sustain the business. Bottom line being – for any business to survive for a significant amount of time, profit is essential. Focusing on profitability during the teething period of a business is necessary.

But once, the business moves beyond the start-up phase, the focus should shift from profitability to growth.

Growth, for a business, could vary. Some may measure it as an increase in their Tangible assets such as building a new office, enlarging their infrastructure and resources, launching new products, increasing customer base, entering new markets etc. But for some it is the rise in their Intangible assets that matter such as business from repeat customers, training their resources, customer relationship, acquiring patents and licenses, Trademarks and copyrights etc.

Even if the present profitability of a business is good, it should not stop exploring opportunities for growth because it is these opportunities that will bring the business ‘in-line’ with its competitors and ‘in-sight’ of its potential customers and investors.

Rightly said,

“If you keep an eye on profit, you’re going to skimp on the product. But if you focus on making really great products, then the profits will follow.”- Steve Jobs.

Growth and Profit go hand in hand!

If profitability is the key to basic financial survival, growth is the key to long-term profit and sustainable success.

There will always be a state of flux related to growth versus profitability in business but the entrepreneurs need to be agile enough to foresee what makes sense to them and when.

Young businesses should ‘go for growth and pause down on profitability’ so that they have a firm hold in their market space and are undeterred by any competitive tides.

A long-term vision ensures that continuous investment in growth makes the business sustainable and eventually profitable.

The only catch is when you say you need to invest in growth, your short-term profits only have one way to go – downward!

Here’s why investing in business growth should be the primary objective of an entrepreneur-

It creates brand leverage.

It accelerates your crowdfunding efforts.

It sells directly to people who know your work.

It encourages word of mouth beyond your community.

Take for example Zomato – “one startup that has grown internationally in a way with no exemplar in the entire Indian consumer startup ecosystem till date. Today, it is the number one player in 18 out of 23 countries. In spite of a turbulent 2016 where it battled high cash burn; its strategy has always been – getting to the right users/customers to try out their product in a way that they keep using it.

But with the year 2017 coming in a significant turnaround to their financial losses, the company is confident about their track of profitability. Their focus on reducing cash burn, ramping up revenue, and not compromising on any growth engines have been the key ingredients to their profitable journey.”

A strategy that focuses on growth is an absolute key, but situational awareness and continuous testing of this strategy are equally critical. As a thumb rule, focus on growth but be realistic and achievable in terms of the profits to cloud the bigger picture.

Lastly,

“In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.” – Harold S. Geneen

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Strategies to Fast Forward your Business Growth

Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had nine hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six sharpening my axe.”

The same rule applies to any Business growth today. With competitors striving to create an edge and with entrepreneurs sprouting in rage – one needs to put that right strategy at the right time in the right market. And when a match is accomplished, accelerated business growth occurs.

Although there can be various growth strategies, the right is one that matches best with his business vision and product/service USP. Here are five key strategies for your consideration to help maximize RoI and traction in your marketplace and to ensure fast-forward growth of your business –

1) Expand your reach: Launching new products in unproven markets may hold a higher risk at times. Prefer expanding your reach in an established market by providing something new in the existing product range. By building innovation as your business worth, you may want to give a shot to the risk involved provided you understand all that is at stake.

2) Twist what exists: Sometimes a slight modification in the product or its packaging may open new markets. Understanding the needs and interests of your target audience and tweaking your product /services may serve as that little push to take the lead.

3) Focus on Less: It may sound like a crazy strategy for growth but we often get distracted by more and more in our lives. More marketing campaigns, more promotions, more mailers – it not only consumes our efforts, time and investments but stalls us at the junction of nowhere. So, it’s important to streamline the process and lessen things that deliver mediocre outputs. Narrow your focus and deliver things so that your brand name and products become synonymous.

4) Retain and not refrain those Referrals: Customer Experience is everything. You may initiate the best marketing campaigns in the world but if your customer experience sucks, you are sure to see your growth numbers falling. Putting a percentage of your revenue for customer retention and experience – be it a simple card, a feedback form or just delivering what you commit can set the pace and leave an ever-lasting impression on your clients. Focusing on customer experience is a must if you are focused on business growth. Remember happy clients are brand ambassadors of your business who will surely spread the word and refer you to more prospects.

5) Adapt Agility: Business blueprints change with the changing technology and offered choices. To lead the game, it’s important to be flexible to accept changes and to stay up-to-date with the latest trends of markets and consumers.

Business growth is much more than wishful thinking. The long-term success of your business will depend on the right development and right implementation of your strategy.

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” – Andy Rooney

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Staying Alert from ‘Vision Hitchhikers’

‘A mindset is important because thoughts are nurtured there. A vision is imperative because actions need to follow thoughts.’

 A ‘leader’ is a visionary who is clear about where they see themselves in coming years, their short-term goals and their achievable long-term goals. They know what is possible even when the idea seems absolutely insane to others. As a leader, a great technique for nurturing your vision and actions is to make your goals visual. Having a vision for a product, a service or company at large is as important as the commitment to manifest it.

There have been many leaders who started their journey with crazy ideas – ideas for which they were criticized and even ridiculed at first. But they took a stand for their vision. Even though they may have faltered sometimes along the way, they returned to their commitment to the vision that not only fueled their determination and tenacity but also their ability to tolerate failures along the way.

When a leader puts the vision in front of the world, there will be people who will like the idea and will be willing to support to make it happen. There will also be people who will criticize and belittle it. But there will be a third group who will be neither for nor against the vision – these people may akin to the thought but will have their own interpretations about how the vision should be manifested. These people do not hold a grudge around someone or something but they have their own opinions which can easily debilitate a leader’s original idea.

This group of people can prove to be a major diversion for the business vision. This form of “sustain with seize” attitude is much dangerous for a leader than someone who chooses not to support the idea. As a result, delays happen and key resources are tied up struggling between the inconsistency between the ‘the add-on opinions of the vision’ and in aligning with the leader’s vision.

Preventing your vision from getting hijacked – The ABC Concept:

1) Awareness about ‘buy in’: A leadership concept that people leverage to mean that all viewpoints should be taken into view and any disagreement should be acquiescent. But achieving a 100% agreement rate sometimes kills the essence of business vision. The foremost thing which a leader can do to resolve this ‘buy in’ issue is to be very clear about what he wants and then attract volunteers who want to own it and take it forward to the next level. People who have a tendency to ‘hitch’ and ‘hijack’ the vision with their own ideas and agendas should be encouraged to do so, but outside the business.

2) Be clear and consistent: A leader should be so clear about his vision that there is a bleak chance of it becoming hijacked with the wandering thoughts and ideas of others.

3) Comprehensive Communication: When there is a vacuum in vision communication, many enthusiasts step up and add to what they feel is missing. Their sole purpose is not putting forward the missing voice of the vision but inserting it with their own agendas.

Sometimes consciously or unconsciously, these vision hitchhikers become vision hijackers. It’s necessary to stop and seize the wheel; else the business will end up moving miles apart from its original destination.

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Will Millennial Lead C-Suite?

Millennials- Juvenile, Vibrant, Highly educated employees born in the dawn of the digital era, may seem like a bizarre breed, but the future of any company depends on understanding their intellect and using it in the right comportment. We have been hearing about how the world changed during the growing years of these Millennials. The internet followed by the digital age paved the way to character description of the beliefs, values, expectations and above all the identity of this generation.

Numerous researches and surveys clearly pointed towards –

• Agility in workplace,

• Significant and Momentous work

• Express growth

Is what these millennials desire for!

On the cons side, we have thought leaders talking about scenarios that have hit this generation such as –

• Appalling parenting,

• Reduced social skills

• Poor attention span

But the fact is- the baby boom generation will soon give way to these millennials to take up higher positions in the C-suite. So, it is the right time to leverage the strengths of these Millennials. Recruiting them, giving a patient ear to their viewpoints and teaming them with skilled and qualified members of your team may act as agents of game-changing novelty or transformational change.

With a wider exposure to digital innovations, social trends, startup spaces, changing consumer trends, crowdsourcing, virtual communities of interest – Millennials could actually be the C-suite’s secret weapon for innovation.

Not only the Meme Generation has a fresh take on the perspectives but they also engage with the world in a very diverse manner than the Gen X.

Patter the millennial attitude –

As the ascendant inhabitants, millennials give the real insight in the shifting scenarios of how the business should work. How?

• Most of them have an entrepreneurial bent of mind

• They contempt bureaucracy, distrust big institutions and are cynical about authority.

• For them, nothing is impossible.

• They care about social skills, human suffering and have a strong value system to save the planet.

For C-suiters, instead of being repellent to the thought process of these millennials, learning from their fresh ideas can be the paramount approach.

They say, “If you can’t beat them, join them”

Here are some strategies which the senior management of an organization should apply to connect and groom these young leaders –

1) Millennials are growth seekers: Unlike Gen X, Gen Y views professional as well as personal development in a very different perspective. Giving them varied opportunities to learn, grow and use their potential to its fullest will serve as an appetite-booster for them.

2) Empower their belief system: Millennials are that workforce, who will dedicate their expertise and aptitude to an organization that values them. They are okay to work for less with a company that matches their belief system and ideals. So give them the freedom and culture that aligns with their values and goals.

3) Be open to new ideas: Even if you don’t understand the digital language, those slangs or what people love about the new app – listen and be open to the new information that is flowing. It’s okay to learn from a younger colleague. It may not motivate you to get into things but will surely give you a piece of dominant society.

4) Engage these collaborative learners: The Gen Y, also commonly known as “Me-Me” generation is not all about themselves. They are great collaborative learners, who easily acclimatizing and connecting with other generations. Encourage them to know, participate and work together as a team for the success of an assignment. Engage them in a different aspect of business and they will thank you all their life.

5) Encourage their enthusiasm for transformation: Providing them with the power to restructure the corporate landscape could be a great move. This workforce does not believe in fixed office hour job. They like the flexibility to be more creative. For them, some days working remotely just refreshes them from the daily work routine inside the four walls. Embrace these changes by finding a balance between flexibility and control.

Lastly,

Millennials are a vital element in any business growth. These digi-savvy people are the powerhouse of ideas in today’s dynamic environs. If you want to grow your business, unleash their potentials and understand their viewpoint. These young minds have an immense mobilizing energy. They love to dream and think outside the box.

Their only mantra is – “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

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5 Steps to Bridge the Strategy- Execution Gap

Businesses are implementing increasingly intricate strategies to survive, succeed and generate real value in today’s competitive global markets. But even if a business defines most brilliant strategies by carefully examining the market and technology trends – the battle is only half won. Because if these strategies are not put into action and executed accurately – they are worthless.

It’s easy to spend hours and hours for articulating a good strategy but that doesn’t mean a thing if it is not backed up with actions.

More than 80% of organizations will have a great strategy at one end of the planning gamut and execution process at the other. Why? Because executing a strategy is an uphill struggle.

Many leaders have a blind spot in the execution area- believing that their job is only to set direction and execution is the responsibility of lower-level managers. But strategy and execution are fluid and intertwined. As these both flow, execution demands adjustments to strategic planning in terms of communication and cross-functional coordination thus making the overall task of execution more challenging and time-consuming.

Many organizations fail to recognize and act upon this execution gap and unfortunately, become a force fit into existing operational processes and organizational structure. It’s important for companies to make a conscious effort to close this execution gap. All that is required is to take steps to create some fundamental elements that encourage a “get it done” culture.

Such as:

1) Start your execution with a plan and not the strategy: An end-to-end thought through execution plan will not only improve the efficiency of the project but will transform the business at large. Set an ambitious strategy – not in terms of finances but in terms of sustained value creation and aspire just as high on the execution end in terms of dedication and obsession of achieving the goal. When held together, an ambitious strategy with an obsessive execution plan will work wonders for your organization.

2) Forget your weaknesses and Play to your strengths: Look for your strengths that set you apart from others. Use them as a starting point to step up the success ladder. Articulate your achievements, where you excelled as an organization and outline what it will take to build on your strengths. The more you are aware of your strengths, the more opportunities you will look for to build on them.

3) Involve people who are ‘Bilingual’ for decision making: In business, bilingual means, to be able to speak the language of the boardroom as well as the execution team with same ease. For bridging the gap between strategy and execution, people across company need to master the skill of bilingualism. This way they can envision a great strategy and its execution route. Encourage bilingualism in processes and practices so that people can relate to the big picture easily.

4) Change your performance management system to a business toll: Any business can have a remarkable vision and enthusiastic people. But in a result-oriented business culture, it’s important to have a good tracking system that can monitor the road from strategy to execution. Once a strategy is signed off, it should be integrated into an employee’s performance and appraisal measurement system. This will set a culture of “how to do” instead of “what to do”. Employees will be clear of actions to be taken to support the strategy execution that will meet company’s long-term objectives.

5) Clarify. Clear. Communicate: Assuming the team will understand what needs to be done is a manager’s folly. It’s important to keep the expectations as close to the actions as possible. Underestimating the need to communicate and clarifying “what needs to be done” with the team may result in unwanted bottlenecks.

Executing a strategy successfully is a constant challenge. To gain a competitive advantage, it is imperative that strategic and operational decisions are translated into action in minimal time and once they do, you’ll notice an improvement in individuals, teams and the overall ability of the organization in executing plans and proposals. Wins will come in easy bringing along inspiration and encouragement for the employees and making them more efficient and responsive.

And then you realize that your mission statement actually holds true!

“Theory without practice is pointless, practice without theory is mindless.”

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The Catch 22 of Strategy

The success of any strategy execution relies largely on managing the underlying tensions that are nothing but parallel contradictions – paradoxes that pull in two opposite directions. In business, such contradictions always prevail and persist.

Execution of strategy gets extremely noisy at times – generating a lot of communications, calculations and burning escalations to other lines-of-business.

But the real challenge lies in skillful balancing of these situations which often are the biggest blocks on the road to successful strategy execution.

Progressive vision Vs Aggressive targets:

An inspiring vision is imperative for sparking the commitment of people to embrace change. Communicating the need for change, the final state after the change and the tensions that will accompany the strategic execution is equally important.

Explain them about the strategic tensions and how strategy and execution need to work together with the tension to make the experience real.

Put aggressive targets and provide direction to challenge people. This will not only make people aware of the pre-requisites to achieve long-term goals but will also prepare them for meeting tensions upfront.

Authority Vs Autonomy in decision making: 

Empowering people with a sense of ownership that can influence change tends to make them work hard, contribute more ideas and thus value-add in the overall process. Its flip side being – various passionate groups dashing around in multiple, uncoordinated tracks resulting in off-tracking and delay from the initial set of decisions and execution plan.

No doubt, ‘strategic tensions are dynamic- they change while execution’ but it typically circles around:

– The right type of conversation about the strategy with the team,

– The quality of decision making and

– The excellence of execution

Expanding Capabilities Vs Delivering Results: 

We all have faced it – sometimes the pressure or tension related to delivery of immediate results are so intense that we fake existing capabilities and compromise on the overall quality of the deliverables. But working on these expanding competencies along with delivering short-term high-quality results is yet another challenge.

Such tensions help us to ‘test our vision-strategy’ and the overall approach in organizational context. So, if you have pressures that come from the outside world, then your strategy and its implementation plan must be able to monitor those external tensions and should be able to balance them.

Control Vs Creativity:

‘Control’ is usually inversely proportional to ‘Creativity’ and one of the hardest tensions to balance in business. We all fear that if creativity is encouraged, control and discipline of the organization will go for a toss. But the truth is uninterrupted creativity leads to unforeseen results and insights.

Getting good strategy executed often calls for trade-offs between innovation and delivering short-term results. But organizations that can balance the existing deliverables while flourishing the mind bugs of its employees are far ahead in implementing successful strategies that persist for long.

Rightly, put by Einstein –

‘The ability of a person to hold two contradictory ideas in their head and still function, is the sign of a genius’

So, leave no excuse – look at the contradictory ideas as a ‘constructive strategic tension’.

You will never find a perfect balance between strategic tensions; some days will require greater emphasis on execution while other days will profoundly focus on future-oriented strategic planning. But if you cautiously handle, maintain and balance these tensions, very soon you’ll navigate your business towards the future of your dreams.

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RETURN TO INDIA: In the Spotlight, Bangalore

TBM technology vision 2017-18

This white paper examines the factors involved in understanding the trends, challenges & critical success measures in conceptualizing and activating a potentially successful “Return to India Program” for competing India based technology companies, especially the one in the e-commerce space. 

R2I stands for Return to India. It’s a term used to describe the return of an NRI (Non Resident Indian) or PIO (Person of Indian Origin) professional relocating back to India after a significant amount of time abroad especially the USA – Bay area / Silicon valley, Texas, Boston/ Jersey/ Tech centers in the USA.

Since 2009, the Wave 1- R2I, it was the Technology Services Companies of Tech giants with captive Tech or R&D operations in India who drove the programs for getting the leadership talent, which could bring valuable insight into the client side work culture and expectation for developing the delivery capabilities.

The Wave 2- R2I is focused on the hunt for Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence experts who can interpret the required data sets to help businesses make better strategic decisions. Hiring’s are being done with compelling rationales for making a shift from a Google, Yahoo, and Facebook to a Flipkart, Snapdeal, Ola or Zomato in Bangalore.

Current State of Attracting Talent in E-Commerce/Mobility App space

  •  Competing for Bay Area Talent – Intense competition is emerging in this area as India based companies like Flipkart, Ola, Zomato, Snapdeal are articulating & communicating ambitions on a global scale to hire Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence experts from the Bay Area.

However, the Leadership talent of Indian origin in the specific areas of Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence is not abundant, as multiple companies chase the exact fits as trophies.

Also, talent in Bay Area, working in cutting edge or complex areas of Product Engineering, Data Science, Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, often see a departure from the Bay Area Ecosystem as a career negative. Countering this would translate into institutionalizing cutting edge Tech development programs and committing resources for their maturity.

  • Communicating Vision & Ambitions Effectively– For Silicon Valley’s top talent, nothing attracts more than a mission to dominate the world. “The idea is always world domination”, currently if you speak anything less than that, you are not ambitious enough or the Vision may not be motivating enough to buy into.
  • Matching and bettering Salaries is the New Normal– And may not be enough- All salaries being offered look handsome and silicon valley-competitive in dollar terms, and most assignments have to involve complex technology solutions for the mobile platform in order to appear as an attractive career opportunity for a top notch talent.

Challenges at the Candidate Level

At a candidate level, a number of challenges are involved in executing an R2I career move. A typical return entails a lot of planning and a lot of decision making. The process takes three to six months and requires total commitment from the whole family.

Some of the concerns include:

• Financial and tax issues to take care of matching salaries.

• Citizenship issues, for children born abroad.

• Selling of house and car.

• Education & School admission for kids.

• Housing & lifestyle.

• Losing Professional / Social Connects.

• Ability to return back to USA in Future-should one chooses to.

Conceptualizing and executing successful R2I program

The challenge of creating compelling reasons for candidates to consider a position in India especially for the tier 2 and tier 3 levels requires more than top management commitment and a compensation war that technology leaders from the Bay may demand.

Bay Area hires for their rank and files require the R2I programs to maintain the momentum over long periods, requiring frequent re-invigoration and media campaigns.

It involves addressing multiple areas. Some of them are highlighted below:

1. Ensuring clarity in the Objectives of the Program at all levels.

2. Establishing the Program Leadership for engaging the R2I talent.

3. Developing unique career propositions and career Road-maps e.g. Cross border Labs as the in-house yet independent development organization.

4. Identifying Potential R2I candidates and network from Target companies in the space.

5. Identifying the Key factors, that inspires them think R2I.

6. Keeping the R2I candidates motivated and keeping them integrated with the Bay area Ecosystem.

6. Developing and orienting and managing vendors across shores, uniquely positioned to execute various stages of the program like pre-empted reach outs, propositioning and recruitment programs.

7. Developing and delivering the Program experience in a Communication package touching social media, networks and forums. Almost like giving a walk-through of the R2I experience to a potential Incumbent. Relocation & integration Support at candidate and family level.

8. Ensuring Engagement Quality at all stages including engaging their spouses effectively as well.

9. Compensation & Benefit strategy- Matching and better USD salaries. Savings opportunities.

10. Professional Development as a part of the R2I program execution.

A Case for Potential Employers- Pre-empting the questions

  • While communicating, as a Market leader looking to raise the Bar may be a good starting point to excite R2I trophy’s, a key question will be asked -What a potential employer wants to do at world level and the market apart from innovating within its current focus?
  • Also what specific technologies that will enable innovations and such a future needs to be communicated.
  • What’s a potential employer take on competition “Creating an On-demand Future” needs to be visualized, articulated and communicated as a part of its corporate communication strategy to set a direction of its innovation and strategic intent.
  • Other questions may include- Can the technology developments, fire up developments of other apps and can its API’s create an ECO-system? What is the vision of such Technology intent and what does the R2I hire is expected to do in this context?

Answers to these questions will create the foundations of communicating the strategic intents to fire up the imagination of potential leaders expected from the R2I program.

Conclusion-

The R2I program execution is an emerging specialization and competitive area for the Talent management organization with in Tech companies. Very few recruitment vendors or consultants can run it at a strategic level, ensuring all areas of the program development and execution are addressed effectively.

The companies expecting to win the war of talent in the Wave 2 need to run their R2I programs with a lot more commitment at the strategic level than the tactical hiring done in Wave 1 scenarios in the past.

Lets Stay Connected!