Hindrance to Growth & Sustainability – Major questions

After writing http://aji.techshu.com/cents-to-dollars-growth-sustainability-business/ I thought to summarize the post here.

  1. Ask if the owners/founders/management the bottleneck? Are you micro managing? Are you pissing off good people? Are you thinking small? Are you unable to pass on the vision? Are you not able to motivate your team to live the vision together? Are you the bottleneck?
  2. Are you in the right market with the right offering? This is important to ask, sometimes we might go wrong, its good to go back and start it again. http://community.tiekolkata.com/profiles/blogs/sabeer-bhatia-3-questions-to-ask-for-any-product
  3. Is your company’s vision (Direction follows vision) well defined? Is your company a company that is focusing on improving some part of the society? Are you passionate about improving your customer’s lifestyle by solving the problem to best level? (This is so so important: Whenever I hear, “How client doesn’t understand”, “Client can’t freeze the requirement” … I will repeat .. “Thats the problem, we are trying to solve, lets solve it better next time” … Focus is not on shouting at people and client but to solve the problem every day. Making life better.
  4. Is your company a company where people want to excel? Or Is your company a company where its only about revenue and work? Excellence brings revenue. Excellence attracts good people and clients/customers.
  5. Is your company focusing on developing people? (Even if they leave your company, they will stay the ambassadors to your company, “Give when you can  & Ask when you need it”)
  6. Is your company a company where good people want to join? How are you selling your company to new prospect recruits? Are they buying your work culture, your business model, your challenges? (Grrr … Most good people don’t want to join government jobs …)
  7. Is the company focusing on financial management? (Visibility is important, focusing on building the finance is important but it comes secondary to me, it is needed but a good combination of PEOPLE, RIGHT MARKET, RIGHT OFFERING should bring in money, why shouldn’t it? Many disagree here but I still believe, money follows)
  8. Who all are thinking about?
  1. Innovation
  2. Value addition
  3. New opportunities
  4. Team members life improvements (This is major) Point #10 http://aji.techshu.com/11lessons-entrepreneurs/
  5. Customer/Client relationships
  6. Process
  7. Cost cutting
  8. Revenue improvements
Please keep adding to it.

Cents to dollars – Growth & Sustainability (see the 15 practical points as well)

(I am writing another post for Growth & Sustainability)
In my past 10 years of experience, I had opportunities to work with many great Entrepreneurs.  I have seen different growth and sustainability methods for different companies (and many contradicting ones but worked successfully). There is no one thing that works and there is no generalization that works, a company is highly directed by the top minds in the company. A company is a reflection of owner’s way of thinking.

As mentioned here http://www.slideshare.net/ajinimc/iimc-talk-on-digital-marketing-by-aji-issac-ceo-techshucom My first venture was my Church’s youth camp and it was a major success (From one stage where noone believed we could participate to winning it with small margins to winning it for years). From 2002, I am thinking like an Entrepreneur, had my own ups and downs but great leanings. Here are few cents from my experience

  1. Every Entrepreneur is different, so your growth and sustainability principles will be different. Example: I am a domain expert (Digital Marketing), my way to go ahead is to improve Digital Marketing experience (The market is big, I can solve it, now I need to add resources (Finance, Processes, HR etc) to scale up, thats my growth & Sustainability. For an Entrepreneur who is more into networking will like to network around to make the best partners to make things happen. So it will be different for you. You are the company when you start and everything is build on top of you (most of the time, later it will change). Google was made on an algorithm by Larry page, Facebook was made by Mark’s need and so on and on (but later it is all different). I have also seen companies where there is hardly any independence but the work is fixed and defined. They too are successful but are limited by many ways.
  2. Myths about Focus, keep your eyes open, focus is still not defined: In every article you will see focus, focus and focus .. my experience is (and as discussed at SSKolkata, many others experience is) … It is not easy to focus initially, you need to do everything possible to survive and work towards one expertise … Focus will come, keep observing and keep moving. If you have enough money, time .. you are already surviving … you can focus now .. If you are all alone, you are surviving, you can focus now.
  3. Believe that you will be APPLE and GOOGLE – Everybody likes to hear the story of Facebook, Google and Apple. They will say “You know they started in a garage, how fun” but when it comes to really working in garage, its a tough call. So is when you need to expand. You are going good with 10 people, now you need to go for 30, you will have invest, you will have to take risk … its a tough call again as the risk is bigger …. You got to be your own motivator – Growth is uncomfortable at times, its like a child growing, the bigger the child grows, bigger are the responsibility and that is sometimes uncomfortable. You got to motivate yourself and enter change of orbit carefully and with believe.
  4. You got to work with smarter people, smarter than you … This is one of major problem I have seen with people … They are not able to work with people smarter than them .. Also I have seen Entrepreneurs always going for better and better people. It is said A hires A, B hires C, http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/01/the_art_of_recr.html#axzz1ielqY0ni … Search for A hires A, B hires C articles on Google.
  5. Flexibility & Skills: At different stage of your business you need different type of thinking http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=1796 .. We (as owners of the initiative) need to see if we are the bottleneck at any stage of our business or not. Some of us are not good as managers, some of us are good as inventors. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Google (Google had to hire Eric as CEO and founders focused on innovations and product)
  6. Broader thinking – What is this all about? What is big thinking after all …. My company will be 1000 members and 100 crores, is it big thinking? Big thinking is when you act according to your big thinking. If you know and believe your company is going to become big, you for that reason you can think of hiring someone whom you can’t afford now (even as a partner, or promise). I know that the company will be really big, I need to prepare myself, so attending and meeting other greater minds is important. “It’s ok to lose few thousands of Rs to create success stories” .. Think longer version in mind … Getting the wider picture. It’s not easy to explain this thought. Thinking small is a common problem I have seen.
  7. There are many more points that are needed to fine tune an initiative for growth and sustainability. I will write another post.

Some Practical points that helped me:

  1. Thinking alike to reduce learning curve – SVN and folder structure, now dropbox and structure. (Knowledge structuring) … For all our clients we have a folder structure where we have named it alike. So every person knows where to find a file, everyone ones what to do for a client etc. Thats to SVN and dropbox, our monthly cost for all these management was less than $5.
  2. Thinking togetherProcess incubation folder & Dropbox (Knowledge management & Knowledge sharing) .. People keep adding documents to this folder, I keep organizing it (Later R&D team will do it, this quarter we have initiated the R&D team)… “I was promised an increment but nobody looked into it” … I will ask the HR to add a document for recruitment and thereafter .. we will keep working till we know we get a clear picture of how the process works and there is visibility and follow up. (Not easy but a process incubation folder helps us to start the process)
  3. Dashboard – FengOffice + customization (I had to own the dashboard code) … Now we know where we invest our time, where are we losing money and where are we earning … who is working good and who is not.  This was one of most important thing for scaling, without this … measurement of various activities in the company is crucial.
  4. Going fearless to make company better – Making team members public and bold http://www.techshu.com/bloggers/ … They need to own the company, it can only happen if we are fearless of losing them.
  5. Hire them when they are available not when you need them: When you are small, small people don’t apply. Nobody wants to join a small company but there are some great people who come forward, don’t lose them. When we started the company, we had given open offers to many of the people whom we knew, they join at different stage of your company, whenever they say “YES”, we make space for them. Good people are very very important.
  6. When a good person leaves, do given them open offer to come back: There are people who will leave because of different reasons (Grass is greener on other side), they might come back. We have a Facebook group which is always open for all ex, interns and current team members.
  7. Anything that is repeative and non-intellectual should be automated. – http://www.techshu.com/faqs/ (Techshu leaks & Process excel sheet)
  8. Programming is extension of your mind – SEOAPPY.com … automated a hell lot of things for our team.
  9. You need to own the industry in longer term .. Jeetbo.com (for HR issues), digitalsoch.com (for corporate training) … anhour.in (for client education) etc to name a few.
  10. Invest in good seeds – Always hired people with good background for top layer work .. One who can’t think of getting 2 lacs a month as a salary can never make your company going to 200 crorers. … http://www.seoforclients.com/about-us (Read the Jack Welch’s quote)
  11. Work towards relationships – We have incurred heavy losses, still paying the debts … we worked for people for free, we did not collect the money when we could not deliver, we switched off few months payment to compensate … reason 2 relationships 1) With the client 2) With the ROI focused.
  12. Define every word correctly … Our company is defined as “ROI focused End to End Digital Marketing Mix partner” (Every word is well defined and that is what stays with people”
  13. Keep training people … They reject your wordings but sooner or later they will realize the need. Sweat in training to avoid blood in war… http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=155229661206652
  14. Keep exploring new options … Keep thinking and keep documenting …. the documents allows me to see the complete picture, playing with your thoughts inside your mind is difficult but arranging it on a doc and rearraging it on a doc is easier. I had documents which were confusing for 2 weeks but it came out to be the best after 2 weeks.
  15. Focus on Logic – Anything that is not logical is not supported .. Why should I ask my team members to come on time (when we are only 4), Why should I have a leave policy when we are only 10, why should I focus on accounting when my revenue is only 100,000.