The relationships you build provide the organization with strength

courtesy: www.pinterest.com
courtesy: http://www.pinterest.com

Last week I was catching up with my eldest son and a couple of his friends all of whom are millennials. One of them asked me –
how can we contribute, to the organization, as employees outside our functional roles. This post is a result of that chat.

For an organization success is measured by differing metrics depending on the nature of business and industry. One common thread is the fact that employees make all the difference between success and failure due to the extent of their engagement and involvement with the organizational goals.

Whilst employee engagement is the responsibility of organizational leaders, employees, too, have an individual responsibility in developing healthy relationships with their co-workers.

Whilst an organization may have product or service advantages, innovative patents and technology in use, at the end of the day the strength of any organization is in the relationship its employees have within themselves.

It’s the people who make all the difference.

Developing strong and rewarding inter-personal relationships come about from the way we are socially conditioned to make friends, network and influence, communicate and give value to each other. This is where communities and groups emerge from.

So as an employee how do you go about creating beneficial relationships?

  1. Interact: Use the official events, such as team building sessions, training, sports, employee parties and community services, to reach out and connect with employees from other divisions. In large organisations one of the key issues is that people don’t know who does what in which divisions. So provide your fellow colleagues a-face- to- a- function so that they know they can reach you when they have the need.
  2. Volunteer: Step up and volunteer for projects that are not in your functional area. These project teams, usually, are set up to deliver key goals for the organization and is a great way to:
    — Get yourself to interact with the organizational leaders and show       additional initiative that goes into your annual performance.
    — Helps you identify possible mentors and work functions that you may want to move into in order to grow within the organization.
  3. Talk: In any group meetings there are always issues being discussed. Put aside your fears of looking stupid, in front of your bosses and peers, and speak up. Make sure you understand the context, of the issue at hand, and then put forth your suggestion.
    On a personal level, when you see a fellow colleague from a different unit at any time of the work day, stop for moment and ask how he or she is and how their families are.  Share a minute or two connecting on common personal areas.  Be careful when you do this. Do it meaningfully and not in passing.
  1. Help: If another colleague, either from your own unit or otherwise requests for information or assistance, help them. Not only would you be earning respect and gratitude of your colleague but you’ll be communicating to the leaders that the interest of the organization is what matters to you.

 

 

I’d be happy to know if this post is useful to you.  Do share your views on ways in which you have nurtured  internal relationships for the benefit of the readers.

Every moment of your business has a fresh beginning

Visual Courtesy: www.successimg.com
Visual Courtesy: http://www.successimg.com

Doing the same thing day in day out brings about routine. Whilst a routine is great in generating efficiency, the flip side is that it makes us lose lateral thinking or what I call joining the strategic dots.

From time to time it’s helpful to simply put a bit of emotional distance between the daily needs of the business and our functional role in order to get some
blue-sky thinking going.

What this does is that it helps generate the links in joining the dots between strategy and tactics to result.

As T.S; Elliot said,” Every moment is a fresh beginning”.

In our present day world of information overload, constant connectivity and erratic business and economic climate, the times can be quite overwhelming. More so the need to have some off or down-time to have clarity of thought and come back with a fresh beginning.

Whether we are running our own business or we are a corporate manager the commonality is ensuring success in our strategy and daily tactics in business.

In this process you need to continually review your operations strategically and refresh your business strategy.

Here’s 5 ways to give your business that fresh beginning.

  1. REVIEW: Undertake a simple review of how the business operations are performing against plans. Are the specific activities bringing the desired results or not?
  2. EXPLORE: The areas of operations that are not delivering results, look at process, strategy and tactics initiated. Is something missing? Would you do something differently? Explore other solutions that may not seem to be the norm, but probably could have significant impact in a longer term.
  3. NEGOTIATE: In any organization, often times, there is a conflict between the strategic direction and the necessary tactics required. Having reviewed and explored options that may be more effective, you would have to present a probable solution tactfully. You’d have to influence your senior team in order to ensure their compliance so as to be able to deliver on the solution.
  4. EXECUTE: A strategy is as good as its execution. Sometimes, the best plans fail due to bad execution.  So when executing a new solution, keep a close eye on the input and reactions and be adept and flexible enough to react and change as you and your team carry out the execution.
  5. WIN: Finally, get ready to win and enjoy the success that comes in. Throughout the process, it’s crucial that you keep a positive attitude that communicates confidence to your team and your clients/customers. Such positivity would rub off during negotiation and execution and bring you achievement of your targeted plans.

I’d be delighted to know how helpful you found this post for your work. Do share your comments and tips.

Winds of change blowing on Islamic finance

A distinct trend emerging in the global Islamic finance industry is the rising number of professionals opting out of the corporate rat-race and entering entrepreneurship. 

The question is why?
  • Does this have a correlation with lack of talent development in the industry?
  • Or with the lack of Islamic finance being used by other industries?
  • Or a lack of professional standards where technical competencies are concerned?
  • Or a lack of vision within the industry?
  • Or the lack of convergence between Islamic finance & the Halal industry?
  • Or simply the lack of tangible progress?

Food for thought for  later as the global Islamic finance industry is, indeed, getting affected by all these issues and needs to address them quickly.

From the professional perspective, to get an insight into what’s driving professionals in the industry to trade-in a secure pay-check for the uncertainty and flux of entrepreneurship, I met up with Mr. Shakeeb Saqlain— CEO of IslamicBanker.com .

Here’s the interview published in Business & Finance April 2015 issue:

 

Impact of Work Culture & Leadership on Brand Sustainability

Brands

Last week I was contacted, by an organisation involved in providing advisory services to entrepreneurs and business operating in the Halal industry targeting the global Muslim community, to speak at a workshop on ‘branding’. During my discussion with the organisers I realised that there was a communication gap occurring! What they meant by branding was all about logo and logo design & what I understand on the same issue, and was trying to get across to them, was all about ‘the insides of a brand’ that should be focused on in order for the branding to be engaging.

There are two extremely, critical areas, that we need to focus on when developing or making-over a brand:

  1. Work Culture: It’s important that time is spent on identifying the ‘way we do work’ or in other words how has the work flow processes come about; what are the key habits and behaviours that guide daily work flow and approach to tasks. Identifying the type of work culture results in knowing what is the possible brand personality that would be projected and     what would be potential service level standards. This has an impact on the nuts and bolts of what the brand promise would be, how it would be provided and communicated.
  2. Leadership: The other important aspect to evaluate is the type of leadership the organisation has i.e. is it a mentoring or coaching style of leadership where rank & file are encouraged to contribute ideas as well as align self-development goals with that or the business goals or is it a directive and instructional style of leadership where it’s a top-down order giver syndrome?

The style and type of leadership will have a direct impact on how the brand communicates both, internally & externally. This in turn will have an effect on the respective engagement programs that marketing and human resource would have to initialize.

Branding is not just a logo and its colour and design. Branding involves strong and deep understanding of business planning & organisational development i.e. business purpose, focus market identification for growth, resource mapping, work culture, leadership styles etc; coupled with the ability to translate this information into design and effective communication.

So the next time someone comes about saying “hey, can you help us on our branding” have a chat to ask your client on the above two points. You may be pleasantly surprised at the response you get.

 

Ignore the politicians, what can entreprenuers do to survive?

Article by Ashish Rajadhyaksha at  Entreprenuership Central

There was a time when politics was about public service, making a difference, and politicians cared about solutions and working together.  Now it seems like it has become a career and profession rather than a call for doing something productive for a greater good.  I sound like a cynic, you bet! Recent events like the budget fiasco in the U.S., continuous ups and downs in the EU decision-making, and the announcement of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Indian retail sector which was rolled back only a few days later due to opposition all point to the same things; politicians are generally out of touch with ground realities, and they act and react to things rather than have a definite roadmap for us.  With financial markets see-sawing every day and economic environment so uncertain, what can we as entrepreneurs do?  Plenty it seems!!

  1. Build Alliances:  Unlike other specialized areas of management theory, Entrepreneurship is a collaborative process where you learn different things that you had no idea or training in by doing it over and over; by observing & building a network of allies, mentors, vendors to help you navigate all kinds of market environments; and partners with complementary skill sets to keep you learning and growing.  Business is all about relationships, and put together, all these alliances will help you when going gets tough.
  2. Diversify:  It’s a cliché financial planners often use to remind clients not to put all eggs in one basket as different asset classes have less than perfect correlations, and so     diversifying helps in somewhat mitigating risk.  It’s not a stretch to believe that if we offer different products across different price points in different markets, net effect will be less disruption to our business model and better risk management.  But we ourselves forget this rule many times and have seen many businesses falter because they were too concentrated to the vagaries of one market or few clients.  We don’t want to be everything to everybody, but at the same time, we need to diversify outside the core wisely.
  3. World is Our Oyster:  Because of technology revolution, we can now connect with new, like minded people across the globe on Linked-In, post jobs on Craigslist, raise funds on Kickstarter, sell music on I-Tunes, charge credit cards on our smart phones, sell hand-made product on Etsy, write blogs on WordPress. We’re truly in a global era where there’s massive convergence in tastes and desires, and many wonderful things can happen to those who “Dare to Dream and Dream to Achieve”.
  4. Focus on Logistics:  We may’ve the best concept, product or service in the market, but it’ll never get anywhere without fantastic logistics and customer experience.  Many of the Daily Deal Sites and their Sponsor VC’s are burning through massive cash in short period of time and still are not profitable because developing logistics and marketing infrastructure is expensive and challenging. So unless our business model has something so unique that no one can live without, we better focus on logistics and delivery regardless whether it’s a product or service that we’re offering. 
  5. Be and Stay Relevant:  I recently saw a video of Ethan Allen CEO Farooq Kathwari on CNBC. His three points primarily struck a chord with me: 1. Embrace Change; 2. Restructure and Manage Chaos; and 3. Stay Relevant.  No earth shattering management theory here, but clear, concise blue print for us to navigate the choppy waters of Entrepreneurship.

So let’s tune out the noisy politicians, and do what we can to survive and make this a more productive, inclusive and dynamic marketplace.  What do you think?

What I Am Thankful For

Article by Ashish Rajadhyaksha at  Entreprenuership Central

This being a Thanksgiving weekend in the United States, we all should be thankful for being alive, for given an opportunity to be put on this earth by God and our parents to do something meaningful with our time here, and to our friends and families who support us and give us strength to forge ahead in our often confusing and turbulent journey.

But I’m also thankful for the following reasons:

 

  1. Have Freedom to think, create things and start a business:  People may agree or disagree with U.S. Politics and Foreign Policies, but no one can question the freedom, opportunities and ease of doing business and making a life for yourself and your family here.  No wonder people have been coming to the United States in search of better life for themselves!  This system is certainly not perfect as we’ve seen with the Real Estate Collapse and resulting Occupy Wall Street protests.  But despite the hardships we’ve had to overcome as first generation immigrants and entrepreneurs here, I and many of my fellow immigrants can personally vouch for all the wonderful opportunities this country has given us including scholarships, loans and other assistance to get a wonderful education and start a business of our own, in addition to making us feel welcome here, and build great personal and business relationships.
  2. Being in a world where people, ideas and success are accessible:  During these difficult political and economic times, it becomes natural for people and economies to become insular and blame others for problems and issues that plague us.  But we also need to remember the progress we’ve made over the past 60 years since WWII because of more open markets for land, labor, capital and enterprise.  It certainly has caused disruption and upheaval for some, but most of us have benefited from the global access and will continue to do so if political leaders globally get their act together as they did in the more hopeful 1990’s.
  3. Technology and Connectivity:  Because of technology and great connectivity, we can connect with new, like minded people across the globe on Linked-In, post jobs on Craigslist, raise funds on Kickstarter, download songs on I-Tunes, charge credit cards on our smart phones, watch thrilling 3D movies in theaters, write blogs on topics we’re passionate about, and so many other wonderful things have started happening around us.4.  Our Curious Mind:  We’re so fortunate to have a complex mechanism inside our bodies called the brain.  It helps us, actually forces us in some ways to reach out and absorb new information every day from the things we read, images we see, plots we uncover.  Although having a human brain has made the Darwinian theory of “Survival of the Fittest” come true, it has also unleashed creativity and imagination in us.  When you watch movies like Avatar, Hugo, Tin Tin in 3D, you realize how powerful human mind actually is, and how we’ve progressed from the early days of silent films to really cutting edge cinema now.

    5. Young People with New Ideas:  Progress will not happen without customary pushes and pulls that come with it naturally.  As new ideas come into being, they cause displacement and disruption; they always have and they always will.  So those who don’t adapt will get left behind, but those who change and embrace new concepts, skills and talents will enjoy longevity of their careers and general happiness.  We cannot take anything for granted, so we need to take charge of our careers, retirement planning and asset planning, and need young people around us to keep us motivated and constantly learning new ideas and tools

    6.     Time:  Nothing in our life is constant, but passage of time.  Either we think of it as us losing time (this is sad!) or gaining time to make a bucket list and do things that we really want to accomplish before our time is up.  Neither good days last forever nor do bad days, but in a way that gives us hope that all of our problems will work themselves out at some point if we apply ourselves and go about our business systematically with courage, knowledge, solid relationships, and an open mind.

With all these ingredients in place, the world is our oyster for all those entrepreneurs and daring people with creativity, courage and wherewithal to withstand all the pressures and systemic issues that we all need to deal with to make it a better life for ourselves and our families.  We need to acknowledge that throughout history there have been challenges, problems, risks, wars, systematic oppression & suppression and all those factors that would typically hold us behind, but all those explorers, entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists, generals, leaders, artists have shown us the light that better days are yet to come!

So Happy Thanksgiving Everyone and Lets Keep The Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive!!!

Daily Deals or Daily Nightmares?

Article by Ashish Rajadhyaksha at  Entreprenuership Central

When I read the article on NY Times recently about the Deep Discount Daily Deal Sites phenomenon started by Groupon and then copied and recopied many times now in the U.S. and abroad, I realized I wasn’t alone in having bad experiences with these sites.

Being in business long enough to know that relationships and proper order fulfillments matter, I’ve always been wary of these new sites calling me every day wanting to promote my business through a new customer discount deal of at least 50% off the regular price.

While as a consumer, I don’t have any gripes against any of these deal sites, my issue with them is strictly as a merchant trying to survive in this tough economic environment.  How does one survive this deep-discount environment where you’ve to offer at least 50% off the retail price, do a revenue share of 50/50 or 60/40, plus not get paid for at least 30 days or longer from some sites, and also offer fulfillment of 6 months or longer for the vouchers purchased?  All of this with an illusory concept of up-selling, cross-selling, or any other kind of “selling” in the hope of converting the deep discounted vouchers to full-paying, happy customers!  Don’t get me wrong, there’ll be some businesses where this would succeed during their slow times, with some likely survivor deal sites that execute well, are focused on uniqueness or luxury items rather than just daily deals, and who work well with merchants.  But for others, I can’t wait for them to go public with sky high valuations, so I can short a little bit of their stock and recoup some of the money I’ve lost on these deals!

Recently, we offered a discount sale of pillows and throws on a high-end daily deal site to help provide us a new outlet to sell some quality merchandise to offset reduced orders from other customers.  Obviously no one expects perfect order conversion, but we got less than 10% sell through!!  What kind of projections are these buyers making and how do they expect to keep working with quality vendors with established, well-received product assortment?  The NY Times article above discusses this problem with many examples, and I can certainly add my example to this issue as a warning sign for new vendors thinking of signing up for discount deals.  It’s a basic issue of fairness, competence, supply chain management, payments, and relationships.  Luckily for us, we had relationships with a big discount store who happily agreed to take this good quality merchandise, even though at a steep loss to us.  But who will pay for the capital locked for almost 3 months, stress from your creditors knocking on your door, time spent on researching and meeting different fulfillment requirements, labor expense to pack and repack merchandise as per changed retailer needs?

All these experiences bring us to the age-old lessons taught in our business management textbooks on 4 P’s of marketing, and how they need to be updated by 2 more hard lessons learnt by all of us along the way (although they don’t relate to marketing per se):

1.       Product:  In this 24/7 and price sensitive market, product & service are still very much relevant.  We all need to focus on fine-tuning and continuously improving that.

2.       Price:  Management books discuss target price points for positioning purposes, but what’s really relevant are the cost points.  Either Retail or Wholesale Prices are those non-static points where demand equals supply at each relevant interval, but if the cost structure changes, prices will need to be adjusted to prevent someone from going out of business.

3.       Place: There’s a constant debate whether traditional meaning of “place” is still relevant when everything is online.  Yes it is if your business is local brick & mortar.  Your online presence is informational, but not a marketplace unless you sell online.  Handing out flyers and talking to residents at a local park maybe more effective for your local business than an online campaign.

4.       Promotion & Positioning: Since you need to define and segment what your “place” is, you need to promote and position your business accordingly.

5.       Partnerships/Relationships:  If we didn’t have relationships with buyers at large stores, we would be sitting with hundreds of pillows and throws as mentioned above.  Need I say more?

6.       Production and Logistics:  The product & marketing strategy could be wonderful resulting in lots of orders, but the real issues for many small businesses are managing efficient production, logistics, and fulfillment.

Conclusion:  From my personal experiences and those of my entrepreneurial circle with the daily deal sites so far, I honestly believe that this is a passing phenomenon, and the market has already started to rationalize towards providing more uniqueness, creativity, attentive customer service at affordable prices through innovative delivery mechanisms.  Nothing radical about that; good products and services and the brands that stand behind it will sustain over a long-term.  But there’s a great business opportunity for someone who wants to get into logistics and fulfillment.  Fedex and UPS need competition!!!