I ask students in an MBA class, “I am standing at Zero Degree Longitude. Where could I possibly be?”
“What is the speed of light?” There is total silence in class!
“Name three Indian Nobel laureates” Somebody said Raman, but didn’t know what he received the award for. No more names after that.
The class was asked to come up to the board and draw a World Map – I said they need not draw it to scale or get the shapes right; only the names and relatives positions of the major land masses and water bodies were required.
Just one student dared to attempt and he got most of it right – while he drew the others stared, and then blinked when I asked one of them to point out the location of a country or a continent.
Is it a coincidence that the student who drew was the only one in class who had read a few books in the last one year?
I said Mr. N R Narayanamurthy had stated that only even in the best professional colleges only the top 20 or 25 % of the students are employable and they just smiled!
And then I went on to ask 2-3 students to explain what they intend to do post the course.
Student – 1
“I will do my own business. First I will work for 4-5 years, make some capital and then start a business or join my dad’s business.”
I – “What are you waiting for? Can’t you start right away?”
“No, Sir. My dad’ said I should work elsewhere first and then think about joining the business.”
That is one smart father. “Go mess up someone else’s business, not mine” was his message.
Student – 2
“I want to do Marketing!”; (not Sales, no one wishes to Sell – that’s infra dig.)
“What in marketing?” I ask.
“Anything, Sir” and when I asked him to be more specific, “Branding, Sir.”
So I ask him to pick a popular brand in the market and explain what it stood for. He had no answer. I asked “What is brand you? What do you stand for?” Still no answer!
Student – 3
“I want to work in the HR Department of a large company.”
I ask – “Why a large company?”
“I will get a lot of experience” I read that as “I will get a large salary!”
“Why do you think you are suited for H.R.?”
“Sir, I like to interact with people. I enjoy being with friends, so I think I will enjoy being with other people too.”
I – “What do you wish to do in the HR function?”
“I would like to do Performance Management and Manpower Planning.”
Lucky that she had spared HR Strategy for the HR Head.
I was too stunned to continue.
I would understand if a child in the 7th standard didn’t know what profession to pursue, but a B-School student who is 6 months away from a job should not be in doubt, he/she should be at least 75% there by now.
They do not have general awareness nor were they sure about the function they wished to work in; they only thing they were absolutely sure about was that wanted to be Managers (heads of functions, even CEOs.
The kids can turn around and ask me how geography, history and general awareness would help in their job. Well, these subjects may not be of use to them in the job, but can a person who lacks curiosity or awareness of the world around him/her be relied upon to take decisions that impact that world. Can any of us operate in a vacuum? Can any business decision be taken without understanding of local culture and sensitivities or knowledge of the market? I can go on ….
These children are totally lost and badly misguided too. The colleges do not advice them well, nor do they get any help from the parents.
When will these kids get the bare facts – if the answer is “After they get a job”, it will be too late.
The colleges paint a glorious picture of the job market because the fees they collect are fantastic and they can’t afford to disappoint the students, or their parents, with the truth. The teachers have little time to spare for the kids and the parents are either ill-equipped to deal with the situation or don’t have much to say beyond asking the grades.
These students need to receive a dose of reality and proper guidance to make the important choices they are faced with. Today the market is inundated with Assessments and Counselors, but there aren’t any available within reach. They are either overpriced or poorly marketed.
And teachers – Please stop lecturing; guide the kids to the answers. Spoon-feeding is destructive. Rouse their curiosity, challenge them to use their brains, put them on projects, tell them to create cases and plans, send them on fact finding missions, give them assignments on the campus. Activities, not monologues, are the need of the hour.
These should not be randomly done nor should they be limited to a few days of the year. There has to be a structured, round-the year activity and grade them for work done on these as well.
Parents stop oscillating between being good time guys and class monitors. Your job does not stop with paying college fees, providing pocket-money and asking for good grades; spend time to understand what the kids are doing in college and outside. Guide them to prepare a career plan or to choose a career. If you can’t do either at least pay ear while they explain, without ridiculing or being judgmental. Be assertive, say that you expect them to be more responsible – but don’t be condescending or threatening. Coax, don’t push. Being adversarial or nasty can push them away from you and they will look elsewhere for support; soon it will become difficult for you to start a conversation with them and when you do they will resort to subterfuge and lies.
Young adults are sensitive and keyed up – but under the right conditions they can be pliant and receptive too. It’s a tough phase of life, a time of transition.
Can we be their compass?
I am not suggesting even for a moment that the other partner in the pairs mentioned above was just an alter ego or sounding board – each of them had valuable contributions to make in the growth of the organisation they helped create – but being in pairs they were able to discuss, deliberate, rip-up and splice together each other’s ideas. That is a huge advantage for fledgling enterprises and entrepreneurs.
Yesterday, I met a young entrepreneur, Sunil Menon, regular reader of my blog (Good Man!) – He was in town and wanted to bounce some ideas off me! We have been exchanging emails ever since he read an article at the Sales Coach blog a few weeks back and wrote in to say that it sparked some new ideas.
Yesterday, it was the same thing again; my most recent article “rang a bell” and being in Cochin, on a business visit, decided to meet me to discuss the matter further.
Sunil said that the biggest worry at present is not lack of customers or cash flow or invesors, it is the lack of a fellow wayfarer. Someone who would travel the path with him and be able to:
- Slice and dice ideas
- Be available for discussions,
- Provide support in decision making,
- Be willing to shoulder part of the load
- Provide fresh perspectives or
- Add an unthought of dimension
I have faced this problem on numerous occasions and have not been able to resolve it fully yet. It is tough being a solopreneur! Ones own ideas and decisions have to be looked at from different angles as if one were switching between Jekyll’s and Hyde’s roles – maybe having a split personality helps in business!
As an Entreperneur or even as a practicing professional it helps to have someone to talk to. The other person is able to look at your ideas with greater objectivity and even add a bit their perspective to it without changing it beyond recognition. If the person previous experience happens to be from the same business domain s/he can add their knowledge and improve the idea further.
Maybe even saying it out loudly to your pet dog or canary will help you to get a breakthrough or think up something new. But that should be the last resort.
Although a new entrant in the segment Sunil has been successful it breaking into the market and he is confident about the year ahead –he can hire a Consultant, but then it means two things – a fat fee and getting into too much detail and elboration. The expert knows best and has to prove it all the time! But the entrepreneur is usually looking for validation and value-addition to the basic premise he or she has created. He wants a regular sounding board – someone who would listen to his strategies, ideas and decisions and quiz him about it and guide him occasionally or maybe just be the catalyst!
What has been your experience … Is there someone to call Kemo Sabe? Get a Business Pardner with whom you can ride into a Glorious Sunset discussing new adventures!
Anand walks into the office at 4:30 p.m. after a hectic day in the field. He had visited 10 accounts and was quite kicked about the way the day went.
He had been able to speak with someone or the other – there was no call that had to be rescheduled to another day. He had met the decision makers in 4 accounts and they had promised to either look at his proposal or give him an update about it next week. Business prospects looked bright for the month.
Just as he started filing the report Mahesh, his boss, looked out of the cabin and said – “Anand, you are back? Let’s chat for a few minutes?” He nodded and happily walked across, notepad in hand.
“So, how was the day?” asked Mahesh.
“It went well, Boss. I could meet all the customers and the response has been pretty decent. I think the month is shaping up well.” Anand responded.
“What about that big one we are expecting from Abacus? Did you meet the Purchase Head to finalize terms? You need that one to reach the month’s target.”
“Boss, don’t worry about it. I went over to meet with the Head, but he was in a meeting. His Assistant was very helpful – said that I can leave all the information with him and he would get back sometime next week after discussion with the Head.”
Mahesh was clearly unhappy – not only had Anand missed the major appointment, but he had left critical information with a junior functionary with no clear deadline for a decision. In effect, he had made no progress.
“And the Prime Finance order? They expressed happy with our proposal when we visited last week? It only a matter of paper-work, the MD had said.”
“I met the MD, Mr. Thomas. He said that the Board wishes to take another look before finalizing – it’s routine, he felt. I have to call again in 4-5 days.”
Mahesh sensed that this prospect too was not ready to close. He reviewed the other visits made by Anand during the day and realized that the picture wasn’t as rosy as it seemed to his team-member.
Mahesh realized that Anand was making an error in considering the courtesy, kind words and promises (to respond) as elements of Call Success. His young team –member had to be coached to analyse and judge the quality of his Sales Calls.
Here is the summary of what Mahesh explained to Anand about A Successful Sales Call:
- Fix appointment for all the important calls; especially the ones closer to the Order
- Meet with the decision-maker and discuss terms only with him
- All Calls should have a clearly stated purpose – the result you expect from the call
- Prepare the questions to ask during the call
- A call that doesn’t fulfill the stated purpose isn’t a Successful Call
- A call that doesn’t take you closer to the final decision isn’t a Successful Call
Let me restate the obvious …
It’s not about the Calls; it only matters when calls turn into Sales. Let’s get our numbers right!
After reading my post on Sales Resolutions a friend wrote in to say – “One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: ‘To rise above the little things.’ ~John Burroughs”. (Unquote)
Isn’t that a wonderful thought? There is so much pettiness in this world and any effort to remove it is wise and praiseworthy!
But do you see the defect in the goal statement, that I found?
I wrote back immediately to say:
It’s a great thought! However, if you wish to make it happen you need to set a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Define what it means “to rise above little things”? How you are going to demonstrate it? How often you wish to do it in a day / week / month? Or at the very least make a note of the number of times you could achieve it. Only then it will become a reality.
Without metrics no resolution can be achieved. Best wishes. J
Many times during my training sessions on Goal Setting I hear participants saying, “Doesn’t it take away the fun and/or spontaneity? It would become very clinical and cold.”
Maybe my friend had just written in to say that it’s his constant endeavour to become a better human being – and it occurred to me that we ought to do a few things without counting, such as helping the needy or being courteous to everyone or sparing time for our family.
But then doing such things intentionally and even taking measurements helps you bring focus and keeps you pointed towards your goal. You stay committed and purposeful.
As far as business is concerned there is no discussion on the subject. If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed!
You need metrics, you need definitions and you need realism!
- Unless your goals and objectives are properly stated there would be ambiguity and doubt.
- Unless it is realistic and achievable nobody would go for it
- If there is no deadline you would drift and postpone.
So, when you accept a target, confirm that they are measurable and time-bound goals: I will do maximum sales this month is a poor objective. I will achieve 9% of my annual target this month is a better one.
Also remember that when you set the target analyse potential and capability of the target owner, market conditions, company’s objectives, inputs provided – all factors that can impact performance.
There is one other thing I wish to say about that resolution statement from my friend … but that’s for another day!
For now, let us just think SMART!