Summary of the case presented earlier this week:
Vikram starts his own Computer Hardware Service business after 20 years of employment. This business had been a long-cherished dream – but after 3 years he found himself at the crossroads:
- “Find a job or let me do one till your business stabilises.” said his wife.
- “Make a last-ditch effort to revive the business” he told himself.
- “Join my business as a partner!” said a friend, Ashok, who was in the same line.
Vikram’s head was in a whirl; he could not decide which way to go! I asked my readers to provide some answers.
Here is what they said:
Tijo Philip (an MBA student)
I bet doing a merger / acquisition with Vikram’s technically proficient organisation (Vs hiring Vikram) would help both Ashok’s need and Vikram’s dream stay true. After which it all melts down to ownership % and titles.
Tijo, a young MBA student who intends to be an entrepreneur, later went on to add this comment:
Brand name seems to be a sure concern. Maybe they can go a level higher and have a totally new brand name, satisfying both their egos, Ashok even though have an upper hand as you rightly said could agree to this if the new branding includes and caters to their newly added target market – Smart phones.
Estimating current value of both their brands may help to answer who gets what percentage and titles.
Ashok may be easily able to talk Vikram into giving him greater % and titles because of his brands obvious upper hand and also his superior negotiation skills.
Kutti Krishnan (Teaches at a B-School)
Three PLUS years is a good time to test yourself in a highly disruptive High tech industry. I think Vikram should go ahead with Ashok as this is a last mile chance for him to re-enter to his lost growth trajectory. He has a lot of bills to pay!! Bonus being that Ashok trusts Vikram’s execution capabilities having worked together.
Lesson is that entrepreneurship demands “simultaneous convergence of many different activities” to take off. Vikram might be technically competent, but he clearly shall get convinced about this fact.
Kailash Acharya (Worked as Project Head at a Telecom Company)
J, I believe he should have some overlap time while setting up business. He should have stayed working part-time like as a consultant or on freelancer. Then, he should have got into a partnership with a person with Sales / Marketing background and he co0lud have taken dealership of some IT products that would have added different flavour / track to his business.
Vishak (a young professional)
Everyone has a dream and to follow it, needs a lot of guts! Quitting a stable job, plunging into full time business was a risk that Vikram had to take to find out if he can do justice to his long cherished dream of running his own company. Now that he did and in the process found out what he lacked running his own company. I think with not much hope left, he should seriously consider Ashok’s offer, as it’s the best chance he would get to revive his career and life along with keeping a part of his dreams alive – by being an equity partner taking care of the technical side of the business.
Jamy Lateef (Service Head in the Hospitality Business / Regular Contributor)
Vikram should take up the offer to get the balance right between his family’s financial needs, but in order to pursue his dreams utilise the opportunity to have constructive and crucial discussions about how to capture the market, find some time to fine-tune his marketing and communication skills and then go after his long-cherished dream fully equipped. The wife would not complain because she would be secure and feel comfortable about the children’s future as well. He should have a short-term and a long-term plan and stick to his guns.
Umashankar Pandey (Banker and writer)
Looks like Vikram took a jump in the raging sea without much of a lifeguard to fall back on. I’d say Ashok’s offer is just the much needed saviour in the circumstances.
Sourav Das (A young management professional)
This is a brain teaser. A scenario I often faced in those interviews I have been into for the last month and a half.
Difficult answers to the question you had put up. If he wishes to go slow with his organisation for a while and accepts Ashok’s offer how will he able to maintain a sound operation of his own? Sticking to his own business for some more years would be the right way forward but then joining Ashok means he would be getting a lot more exposure in terms of contacts if nothing else. The biggest issue is that discontinuing would make the stakeholders vulnerable and insecure. He might be at a risk of not receiving adequate funds should he makes another attempt to start it in the future. So if then chooses to join Ashok he will have hardly any chance of reviving his own in the future. He should stick to his own project a little longer and think about a job if things don’t revive in that period.
Ronee Nath (A young professional)
Vikram should accept Ashok’s offer because networking is very important in the business world – without networking and communication skill ”a business will be a body without a soul”
Nommy Paul (A Business Manager)
If Vikram stick to the basics, he can make his venture successful. He should apply the ‘Ps’ & ‘Cs’ of marketing via consulting. He can always raise funds from Bank Loans or look out for Angel Investments.
Arvindh Shyam Sundar (A young professional)
He should work with Ashok in managing the unit and learn the marketing and networking techniques and then a few years down the line, start again.
While responding to readers who sent in suggestions and analyses I had mentioned that there is no right answer – to each his own way of expression and livelihood. But there are a few factors we need to take into account while offering a solution.
- What would truly make Vikram happy?
- How important is his dream and it success?
- Does Vikram’s have the confidence to go through with his project?
- What is his priority – his family’s well-being or his own vision?
The answer to these questions would tell us which way Vikram would sway?
If he believes in his dream and won’t be happy without seeing it through then its best for him to stick on; or else he would join Ashok, put in a less than 100% effort and damage that relationship. Many would say that such a decision may be foolhardy and they would well be right in thinking so given his track record, but then the world is not made of people with one mindset.
It also pays to remember that the so called foolish people were the ones who changed the world – they simply could not accept the status quo.
So I wish to say this – I would accept the decision to push ahead with his own project with a few conditions.
- It would make sense for Vikram to join his friend for a while and learn those aspects of business that he is currently not good at. He can create a time-bound program with his friend and even help to develop a replacement. He would offer his technical expertise and in return gain marketing and sales skills. Maybe in the meantime his organisation can run on simmer and service the existing set of clients.
- The other option would be for him to go for external help to create a game-plan. He can get a consultant to help him put the house in order. Since, his pockets are not deep he can offer the consultant a small upfront fee and then a profit-share from the fresh business brought in. He can consider searching for external funding and new partners when the business reaches stability.
If he willing to give up his dream with the intent of providing stability and security to his family the second option would make more sense. Accept Ashok’s offer and go for it 100%. He has a lot to offer as a Technical Expert and Ashok could pay him handsomely for the support. He just has to make sure that the terms are clearly inked to avoid hiccups and disappointments.
There is also the option of returning to a fulltime job.
There is one other thing, as suggested by one respondent (Kutti Krishnan) there is a huge need for Vikram to take a reality check – he needs to assess his own strengths and weaknesses, accept the gaps in his skill portfolio and find ways to plug them. It would be foolish to put on a brave face and soldier on – he will reach nowhere.
Which way he would go and whom he would serve strongly depends on his vision, sagacity, self-belief and risking-taking ability.
What do you think?
Note: There is one other aspect of this discussion that fascinated me – among the respondents there are those who gave safe options and some who recommended riskier options. I wish to analyse this in detail in another article.
Recently, I was forced to spend couple of hours in the departure lounge, at Mumbai Airport, while the airline decided whether to fly that day or not! First they blamed the Civil Aviation at some other airport for keeping their aircraft on the ground and later they said that it was the weather en route, or some such thing.
Instead of getting worked up I decided to hunker down and work on the next article for my blog – lost in thought, creating a mental picture of what I was going to put down on the page, I felt a tap on my shoulder and a voice said: “Hi, Stranger!”
Looking up I found the smiling face of a former colleague from my telecom days – while I had made an exit from that industry some 5 years back he had stayed on and was heading business in one of the Northern Circles.
As usual when former colleagues meet, after courtesies and routine questions regarding family and common friends, the talk drifts towards work and business.
I asked him how things were going in the telecom game and the weary expression that appeared on his face said it all.
Even the man on the street is aware of the troubles faced by this one-time dream business. Now, there is a phone in every hand but the balance-sheet of most companies is awash in red ink – as if that wasn’t enough there are a few scams tainting the reputations of the already tottering business owners.
I asked how it has been for him.
He was returning home after a business meeting – the Business Heads had been working through the weekend to recast numbers and to prepare some strategies for revenue growth.
As a Consultant, I was an interested outsider, and eager to grab any information on business – it was grist for my mill.
He said no business plan would make much sense if the basics were not in place. I egged him on in order to hear more.
He asked – “What are the chances of your game-plan succeeding when you don’t have people on the ground to run them?” No much, I said.
Due to the stagnation in the business the manpower losses were not being made-up – the workload was being shared among the team-members who remained in the system and fearing further dip in business more were leaving.
He said that while his two main competitors had 35-40 people each to cover the market, he was asked to make do with 17-18 – there was no budget to take on more people this year.
Channel Partners either stopped stocking the products or were disillusioned due to lack of support – there weren’t enough Captains around to rally all the foot soldiers. Eventually, many distributors stopped dealing with the operator and took on other agencies. Retailers had to turn customers away because there was no supply of material.
A tired horse won’t run faster even when its whipped and with two riders astride – it would just give up.
Your plans may be brilliant, they may have been the result of days of thinking and strategising – you probably called every member of the leadership team and picked their brains too. The estimates you made and the timelines drawn up could be realistic and do-able. Trust me, nothing will come off it if you don’t have the necessary infrastructure in place to run those schemes or plans.
Your infrastructure plan has to be a component of you planning document – it should say who should do what and how many people are needed to ensure successful rollout.
Imagine having a carefully thought out Channel Incentive Program and your channel appointment is way behind schedule – how do you expect to get the necessary business results if there is no one available to run the program?
The Operations of the airline I was using that day was clearly messed up and instead of facing the issue squarely, they palmed the blame off on the air-traffic controllers and Civil Aviation authorities. Blame others and making customers wait are easier than working on a corrective action program.
And then the airline decided to take us home – I wished my friend well and walked to the aircraft with this thought running in my head:
“I hope the telecom companies play it differently get their wires untangled real soon.”
Vikram has been running his new venture for the last 3 years – business has been up and down; he has not seen a single quarter in which the unit achieved operational break-even. He has been dipping into the savings that had been saved up for a rainy day when he quit a steady job to start this Computer Service business.
23 years back Vikram had completed a Diploma Course in Hardware Technology and added an Advanced Certification in Networking. He first two jobs were with small-time computer service centres, but within 2 years he had been appointed as Service Technician in a leading IT Service Unit with national footprint. He spent 5 years there and then became Manager in the IT Department of a leading organisation. Along the way he got trained in some of the modern methods in hardware service and networking. By the time he left the job with 20 years of rich experience, to launch his own venture, Vikram was Regional Head- IT and had built up a reputation in his chosen field.
Around 5 years before he quit Vikram had lost interest in the job because it was not adding any value to him professionally – work was just routine stuff and he seemed to have reached some sort of plateau. With Indians buying IT products like never before he knew there was a large market out there to be tapped – his idea was to start his own Service Unit. He had spoken to a few friends and they told him to take the plunge – they even promised to chip in with some investment. The other factors that would impact his decision were the following:
- His wife was not employed and so there was no second income to support the family
- Their two children were in high-school – that meant more years of education to fund
- They have a home loan that needed to be serviced for another 10 years
- Vikram was adequately insured and his savings that would see them through 2 years
Vikram felt it was a safe bet and had spoken with his wife about it; she agreed reluctantly because it was a long cherished dream of his.
He started small; he hired 2 technicians and did the marketing on his own. He developed a small website to make himself available to the consumers who searched online for service providers and used his own circle of friends who worked with various organisations in the city. Over a period of time they developed some walk-in clientele too and there were few customers who were unhappy with the work done.
Business came in trickles – Vikram got just enough to pay the staff and for the office expenses. He rarely found enough money in the bank to draw for his own use.
Vikram did not have a grip on marketing – he had never done so in 20 years of employment, not even to market himself to potential employers. During the years he was employed many plum assignments were lost due his lack of influencing and communication skills.
The friends who promised to help with funds and projects went missing when he called for help; a few offered friendly advice on how things can be done. He wanted to appoint a Business Development Executive but had not funds to do so.
There was already a running battle at home because Vikram’s wife had been pushing him to consider returning to a steady job; she even offered to find a job to keep the family going while his business got established. Vikram strongly rejected both suggestions saying that the pain would pass in a few more months.
He strongly believed that his technical skill would see them through. What he did not realise was that the clients had no clue about it because no one spoke with them about his achievements.
Vikram had been in regular touch with Ashok, who was his counterpart at Mumbai in the last organisation he had worked for. This man had quit couple of years before he did and had started a Service Unit there. Ashok worked in a much larger market and was able to achieve stability in 3 years and was now making decent profits too. Recently, Vikram had executed a contract on Ashok’s behalf at Bangalore.
Ashok called him after that project and made an offer. He asked Vikram to move to Bangalore and manage the new unit he was opening there to cater to clients in the South. In the last 5 years he had acquired many large clients who had offices all over India and they felt safe giving the service business to a known entity. Ashok had a good track record as a service provider – he was not as good as Vikram technically but had built a large circle of friends and associates through his networking skills. He had employed employees with good technical skills and they ensured that the work done was of acceptable quality. Ashok paid them well and kept them happy and hence the team was quite stable.
Ashok wanted to take his own dreams to the next level – he wanted to build an organisation that would be known nationally in the IT Service field. With smartphone usage exploding he wanted to tap that market too, but in order to do that he needed someone to take charge of a significant portion of the job he was currently doing.
Hence the proposal to Vikram – he wanted the former colleague to handle the technical aspects and service delivery while he focused on Business Development and new business forays. He knew that Vikram was reliable and competent too.
Vikram was in a quandary – this offer sounded just right. He did not have to make any investment, but would be offered sweat equity for his participation and in addition a monthly salary too was offered for his services. But he would have to end his own dream of growing an organisation- he would have to operate under Vikram brand-name.
- What do you think are the avenues open to Vikram?
- Can Vikram keep his own dream while accepting Ashok’s offer?
September 30 is halfway mark of the business year for most companies in India.
Many Business Managers across the nation would soon be sitting with their team-members for formal or informal reviews of performance in the six months that have gone by.
Thought I should share some thoughts on the subject with them.
Reviews are good times to value-add and to look to the future. That sounds contrarian, doesn’t it?
One would think that a review is the right time to look back and to tell people where they stand, based on the findings. But living in the past will get us nowhere!
The review you conduct should be forward-thinking – treat your team as live resources who would continue producing good results for the organisation; if you treat them like dead-meat, cattle ready for the slaughter, there would be a lot of blood on your hands and a bunch of lifeless people to work with.
The meeting should be fact-based, your expectations realistic and the mood positive.
It’s best to ask the person first to give her/his impression on the half-year’s performance. If they have done well be effusive while offering congratulations and ask how they can maintain or exceed the pace – push them to exceed expectations by a large margin – but try not to reset budgets (unless market conditions or any other factor has necessitated the change), because that can be counter-productive. If you have a proper reason to change the budget it needs to be stated upfront and the person should stay charged for the period ahead.
While increasing targets you also need to confirm what additional inputs and incentives are being provided for achieving the bigger number.
If there is a shortfall in results against the target set you need to take into cognizance the reasons for such performance and how that can be avoided going forward. While discussing variances with a team-member, who has not been up to scratch, confirm that it was not a case of slackness or lack of effort. If there has been undue delay or spillover of some orders into the next half-year period you should consider giving the person the benefit of the doubt – probably the shortfall is on account of the non-availability of inputs and support from you or the organisation.
But there is no place for the slacker in your team – this message has to go across in unequivocal terms.
Remember, these days jobs are hard to come by, but so are competent people. You should not be afraid of delivering bad news; however, do so only when you are sure the person is incapable of giving you the expected results. Removing or replacing people should happen only after all other methods have been explored. It is not easy to recruit a new person and bring him up to speed in a short time.
Conduct the conversation in a cordial atmosphere and ensure all decisions are based on facts – discuss events and outcomes and how repeats of disasters can be avoided. Don’t blame the person, but focus on the actions and behaviours – work on the elements that can be corrected.
Ensure that the discussions are recorded and all parties concerned have clarity on what is to be achieved – the documents should outline who will do what, by when, and what support is to be provided.
The meeting should end on a high and the team-members should return to work feeling totally charged.
When you sit with your team for the review early next month use facts to motivate better performance in the six month period. Think business wins, not personal wins!
A friend posted this message on Facebook:
“Am attending a program conducted by xxxxxx.org this weekend. If you have a great idea about a business and want to test the same from concept to market do join!”
I have kept the name of the website mentioned in the update anonymous on purpose.
A little later his update gets a query from an “eager & enthusiastic” party:
- Is there any entry fees? Can you provide further details?
We live in the Information Age – there is more stuff out there than can be consumed in multiple lifetimes, let one one! It’s the age of Information Overload.
And then we have people like the one who posted the query quoted above. What is it about them? Do they wish to have everything delivered on a plate or are they genuinely missing the big picture?
I don’t want to express the third question that is quivering at my fingertips!
The website is clearly mentioned in the Update and the query posted on Facebook indicates that the person is online – what stops him/her from clicking on the hyperlink to visit the website indicated?
Someone narrated this little parable to me:
Friend 1 – How I wish that I win the Jackpot and become extremely rich?
Friend2 – Have you purchased a raffle ticket?
Friend1- No! Not yet.
Life’s like that for many of us.
Many of my students at a local B-School say they wish to start a business after the course (which means a time-frame of a few months or 2 years at the most).
My first question in response to that statement would be: What business is it going to be?
85-90% of them don’t know what they wish to do – they just shrug when I ask.
Are they waiting for a stroke of inspiration or do they hope that someone will an up and running business as a gift?
Can the person who asked that question ever become an entrepreneur without interest, awareness and curiosity? Can the youngsters who “boldly” state that they wish to become businessmen ever become that without a vision or an idea?
Are such people capable of pushing their own case with confidence? Will they be able to tide over tough times without wavering? Are they convinced about the statements they make?
What do you think?
How about the next-best instead?
Robert Burns said that “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley”
In spite of careful planning something can mess things up; in short, expect the unexpected.
I am sure poet Burns was speaking about poor Execution.
More often than not we are tripped up by our own Inertia. We have visions, create strategies to fulfill them and convert those into detailed plans and then wait for the right day to dawn.
A half-finished plan executed promptly and diligently will yield better results than one that is created with a lot of thought and then not acted upon.
Recently, I met this young entrepreneur who desperately wished to reach the “next level“.
“I have running this venture for the last 4 years and seen some success. Money is coming in. I have a team for Business Development – they are being paid excellent salaries but the results are poor. I still have to go with them to close the deal. They don’t seem capable.”
The obvious question would be, “Why pay so much for resources who can’t deliver?” But, there are bigger issues here.
I asked, “Do you have Business Objectives for the year? Does your team know what is expected off them? Have you set targets for each team-member and asked them to create a Sales Plan? How often do you review their work?”
He said, “I have a rough idea where I want to reach by the end of the year and I do ask them regularly when they would bring in business. But unless I go and meet the prospect the deal cannot be closed.”
This man is not lacking in enthusiasm. He turns up at the office bright and early and spends the day there, going out only when there are client meetings and for lunch.
The problem is that he is doing everything on his own – the Sales team just generates lead. They are not being tested.
He wished to streamline operations and train his team too. As an exploratory step a meeting was proposed for the week following the date of the chat. A few weeks have gone by now and there has been no further interaction.
It is obvious that the pain isn’t excruciating yet.
We humans usually take action only when things are on the verge of collapse – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” seems to be the favourite maxim for most of us. After all, we have forever to fix it!
Proactive isn’t a popular word. We expect Surgeons, Dentists, Pilots, Engineers, Lawyers and Chartered Accountant to be proactive, but not us.
And when trouble hits us SMACK between the eyes we wonder why!
This enthusiastic young man wasn’t playing it smart. It is likely that his team is not empowered to take decisions. He probably feels that they aren’t ready for it yet or would end up giving away too much to the clients – trust could be the issue. So the team stopped thinking and came to him for everything.
He cannot move to the “next level” without getting his house in order. If he can’t trust the team with big decisions he needs to start with limited empowerments and test them on those. Gradually, as the team matures and his confidence grows, they can be given more powers.
Only when the team is empowered to take decisions will they stop rushing to him for support. Then he won’t have to meet all clients to close deals. He still needs to get involved in the major deals and regularly work along with the team to observe them in action – the findings can be used to coach and develop skills.
My young friend needs to get started somewhere. Even if he does not bring in external help to improve operations the least he can do are the following:
- Create a Business Plan
- Get the team to develop Sales Plans
- Review regularly and take corrective action
- Coach and train, so that they do more & reduce his workload
- Empower the team to take decisions
To avoid getting stuck at the present level he needs to put at least a second-best plan into action.
I have to present one more article based on the Olympics – news and pictures from this quadrennial global event are being beamed to our homes every day and like me many of you have been enthralled by the drama evolving at venues across London.
Why are we discussing this on Sales Coach blog? Sports is a reflection of life and these messages are as relevant to Sales Professionals as they are to people in other walks of life.
I am fully aware that this article is being posted on the day India celebrates it’s best performance at any Olympics – a harvest of 6 medals, 2 Silvers and 4 Bronzes. That’s better than 3 or none, but far less than what we are capable off – just going by the law of averages we represent 1/6 of the global population and so 6 medals is an insignificant share. I am waiting to hear rebukes and cries of “Spoil Sport!”
The Indian hockey team sank to it’s worst showing at the Olympics by not winning a single match and ending up with the wooden spoon. Deepika Kumari the World No.1 archer and a Gold Medal hopeful did not even get past the qualification stage.
Open www.google.com, enter the words “”What ails …. “ and the first option provided by the auto-prompt of the Search Engine is “ …. Indian Sports”. Yes, with the Olympics holding No.1 position in mindspace of most Netizens in India this is the question wrapped around every keyboard-bound fingertip.
To prove my Internet savvy let me deploy the term “Trending”! “What ails Indian Sports?” is the currently trending topic; and when the curtains come down on London 2012 it will slip out off the minds of sports lovers and sports authorities.
And that is the root cause of the problem!
Winning at the Olympics is about what the athletes do before they line up to march on the opening day of the event. All the stories of sacrifice and dedication, unending hours of practice, giving up many of the good things life has to offer, shutting out all the distractions and keeping just one objective in the mind. That last word; keep that in your mind. We have to discuss it some more.
The difference between Gowda’s throw at the Men’s Discus Throw event and that made by the eventual winner was just 3 metres, or should I say THEREE METRES. That is a little over 12 feet or the length of a Sedan. But, when someone throws the discus to a distance of 65 m with the mightiest heave asking him to gain another foot of distance is like asking for a kilometer. It means being able to go beyond oneself and for that physical strength alone isn’t enough; it has to synchronise with something else.
Haven’t we heard stories where individuals performed impossible feats when faced with danger or to save a loved one? So, it is possible for all of us to dig deep and go way beyond expectation, if we want to. It’s in us!
Maybe, my fellows Indians will say that Deepika Kumari Kumari is just 18 and should be given more time. I will counter with names of Chinese swimmers and divers who are just 16 & 17 and they would respond this way – “The Chinese are like machines – they torture their athletes and force them to perform”. How about a 15 year old Lithuanian school girl or teenagers from other countries who won medals. How did they win? It’s in the mind.
The Indian Tennis Contingent showed us how mind games shouldn’t be played. The players and officials were involved in a destructive game that fractured the entire team; if there was one group that had little support of their countrymen at London 2012 it was the Indian tennis team.
I left the worst for last – the performance of our Hockey team. With the tournament over and team slated to return home in couple of days the searching for scapegoats should have started – Nobbs, the team coach who is from Australia, will be at the receiving end; we have to find someone to blame and an outsider is a convenient target. But he isn’t the reason, the problem is elsewhere – Indians have not realized that the rest of the world plays hockey differently. So, while we play a brand that is pre-70s, the Europeans play fast and indulge in passes rather than focusing on stick-work and possession. To complicate things further hockey in India is managed by 2 associations who don’t see eye-to-eye on anything; add to that the lack of corporate support and poor infrastructure and you get the picture of a complete disaster. How can players focus on the game in such a messy situation?
Saina Nehwal knew well that she had to work at a different level if she was to counter the Chinese shuttlers – but unafraid of the opposition she took on their might and got the world rallying around her with a Saina vs. China slogan. She knows that the battle has to be won in the mind.
The winners in the Shooting events either hail from affluent families or are serving the Armed Forces – so the talents had the backing of their family or employer. They did not have to wait for support from the Government and could get on with the practice at the planned pace; but even in their case the winners were the ones who were really focused and hungry for success. Abhinav Bindra is an athlete who lost his hunger. From Beijing he had brought home the only Gold Medal won by an Indian athlete, but this time he didn’t get past the prelims. He just didn’t have the motivation to win. Again, it’s the mind that decided the result.
Watching the intensity of many of the athletes in victory and in defeat leads me to believe that champion are made as much in their mind as in their muscle and sinew.
Many of our athletes seemed to give up too fast or they lacked focus. They were not thinking on their feet and changing tactics with the demands of the situation. They did not increase concentration or will themselves to work at a higher level when expected – when one posture was not working they did not try another, when one attack was unsuccessful it was not replaced with another. They seem to be just going through the motions and when they lost there wasn’t the least bit of concern and pain.
Mery Kom was the only exception – she took it to heart and felt she had not done enough. She apologized to the entire country when there was no need to – she had given it her everything. Now, that is what champions are made off. They care! They feel dejected when they fall short of the standard set for themselves.
Our athletes need to care much more. They need feel hurt, dejected, disappointed and ashamed for the right reasons – that they failed themselves, that they did not work hard enough, that they lost an opportunity. They need to be aware that an entire nation is waiting to celebrate with them – if that is not motivation enough, what can be?
They say that the spirit of the Olympics is to participate, but I don’t believe that. I think it is about winning; it’s about doing our best and going beyond that. It’s about pushing the envelope. It’s as much about personal pride as it is about national pride – when one is served the other automatically follows. Being a journeyman gets you nowhere other than the venue of the event.
You may say that just qualifying for the Games is creditable because the cut-off is quite high – but is that what excellence is about? I think every athlete should try to be the best or at the very least deliver performance that is at one’s personal best. Many Indians athletes failed to do that, not because they lacked talent but because they did not try hard enough.
They lost the match in their mind. Yes, I think it happened mainly on account of poor mental preparation. They either did not believe in themselves or did not care enough. My suggestions to the sports authorities and to the coaches are the following:
- Start early – the preparation for the next Olympics and the one after that should start today.
- Focus on events that we can be good at – don’t participate just for the sake of being there, participate to win.
- Spend money and effort in the areas that can produce the best results.
- Streamline the administration of sports and remove roadblocks – focus on the athletes and not on power-mongering.
- Start with a large talent pool and keep whittling down as the date approaches.
- Give the athletes as much international exposure as possible.
- Have Goals, Objectives, Deadlines and Reviews – demand performance.
- Prepare the athletes mentally – make them strong and teach them to care about what they are doing.
- As a long-term initiative develop sports facilities across the country and get more people interested in sports.
India needs to change it’s attitude towards sports and it’s sportspersons too. More parents should permit their kids to take to sports. But above all that, more Indian athletes need to feel strongly about performing at the world stage and coming away winners or at least giving a bit more than their best.
Fortunately, they don’t have to make the supreme sacrifice, but surely their honour is at stake. May India come alive in Sports!
P.S. – I am a Sales / Management Trainer and Coach, but I am passionate about sports. The performance of the Indian athletes at the Olympics has always been way below expectation and it defies logic. Most games are played in the mind and the way we play the game speaks a lot about us. Going by that logic Indians haven’t given a good account of themselves on the World Stage.
Amar runs 3 businesses – he started the first one 25 years back using the savings from his job. He was in the early 20s back then, brimming with ideas and enthusiasm. He took on the dealership of the products he was selling, as an employee, for a few years. He knew the products inside out and the people who mattered; many of his organisation’s customers would be the ones he used to visit earlier and the Principal was after his old employer.
Amar worked with a lot of energy and all the ideas he had started out with began bearing fruit. When the dealership was on a firm footing Amar decided to take on one more line of activity. He promised the Principals that his maiden venture would not be neglected and business would continue like before. Since a significant portion of his time would have to be invested in the development of this new line, he decided to find a Manager for the first business – and just then his brother, Manu, quit his job and was in search of work. Amar felt that having someone from the family to run the affairs meant he could safely take his eyes off the old line and focus fully on the new one, which he was not so familiar with. But with Amar’s undivided attention and his Sales acumen the new business started growing too. Soon this new line was also achieving decent revenue and providing healthy profit.
But soon news started reaching him through customers that service in his old line was not up to the mark and former colleagues called up to tell him that fresh inventory requests have fallen in recent months – that clearly indicated a dip in Sales. Amar called Manu to find out what was wrong – he was assured that it was only a minor blip and things were under control. Amar also heard from competitors, with whom he was still in touch, that business was booming.
With the first venture still in the positive (albeit with Sales and Service showing downward trends) and the second business achieving stability Amar felt good and soon he experienced that old itch again – “Isn’t it time to start a new line of activity?”
It was then that an old friend of his appeared out of nowhere and asked him to join a venture that was being launched in another city – it meant that he would have to be away from his home-base for extended periods of time. But this seemed like a break into the big league and he was excited – the profit expected from the venture was too good to resist. The friend had also told Amar that he need not put in any cash, just his know-how and sweat equity were sufficient. Amar jumped in with eyes-closed. The reins of the second business were handed over to a second brother, Kumar, who had recently retired and returned to their home-town, after working for many years in another country.
Amar got totally involved with the newest baby and left the affairs of old businesses completely in the hands of his two brothers; they were family after all and things can’t go wrong. But, that wasn’t how it went – the first business had been slipping for quite a while and Sales was now in the red. And while Amar was still comfortably placed with decent returns coming from the new venture he had been pumping a lot of money to keep his old businesses afloat. His brother always seemed to be short of cash to run the business and he generously made good the shortfall.
Kumar, who ran the second business was unfamiliar with the market but wouldn’t take any inputs from the team and they in turn did not his style of operations. They were used to working with Amar, who was more accommodative and gave the team more freedom. The brother was more autocratic and wanted to call all the shots – while he did not know the situation on the ground and was unable to understand the demands of the customers, he wouldn’t permit the team to take decisions. Business stalled and many employees left the organisation.
While Amar’s third business provided returns it wasn’t at the levels predicted by his promoter friend and he was not able to call all the shots in the operations like he had hoped to. His own businesses were in the hands of Managers who were permitting thing to spin out of control – they clearly didn’t seem to have the answers.
Can you help Amar work his way out of the sticky situation he seems to be in right now?
- What do you think is happening here? What went wrong?
- What would you suggest to Amar to help him get things back under control?
I really look forward to your thoughts and suggestions. Leave them in the Comments section of the Sales Coach Blog and I will read each and every one of them.
Part – 2 would discuss your responses and I will throw in some suggestion from my side too.
What questions pop up in your mind before any important business appointment?
I thought about this as a business associate and I prepared for an important visit on the morrow.
I have dealt with preparation for Sales visits earlier, but more as a process – grooming, items to be carried in the kit, fixing the appointment, calling to confirm, being on time and so on. But this time we shall delve into the content of the call itself.
We tried to get into the head of the officials who were to be met. On the card were discussions with members of the business team and with one from the Learning and Development side.
It is pretty much obvious that the business heads would like to discuss issues that impact top-line and bottom-line – Sales, cost of acquisition, coverage of market, sales productivity, range selling, profitability and so on; and the learning and development manager would obviously wish to discuss learning objectives, methodology, program content and program scheduling.
We tried to figure out, by reviewing all the data available on the company and the industry, as to what would be their pain points, where we can make the most impact and how in the least possible time we can tell them the ways in which our training can make a difference.
Remember, the higher the ranking of the official you are meeting the lower the time available to talk – if you are lucky (that’s if you managed to create the right impression) the meeting could get extended, but don’t factor this in while preparing. Keep the lowest duration in mind and ensure that within the time allotted you ask all the right questions and say the most relevant things.
But keep an additional set of questions and more useful information ready, just in case you get lucky!
It takes a bit of practice and awareness of the domain to know what makes the biggest impact with your client. It is good to get background information on the people and the business priorities of the organisation at that point in time – that will permit you to make a huge impression.
Don’t save the best questions or the juiciest details for last; there is a big possibility that you would miss the chance because something important came up and your man had to rush elsewhere – so get through the courtesies and the introductory phase as early as possible, without rushing your client, and get to the point.
Ensure that your questions are to the point, incisive and digs deep into the core of the issue; you should be seen as someone who knows their business well. That improves your chance of winning business.
Is this your drill before every major meeting with a prospect? If the answer is Yes! … you are all set to have a high-impact meeting … Go for it!
Yesterday I set aside time to make the pilgrimage to the library. Was looking forward to picking up the next book – in spite of wanting to finish Part-2 of the Nelson Mandela biography quickly work and other distractions made sure that it took longer and I was cross with myself for it. More time spent to read each book meant I got less bang for the buck! Book-1 had been finished at a frenzied pace. Both books are written like a racy novel and the language is uncomplicated – Mr.Mandela did not wish to add to his glory by giving a flowery account of his life, he just said it like it is.
The library is not located on my regular route and I have to visit that part of town for just this purpose. Yesterday I made time and went all the way there to find the gate closed – a neat sign on the gate announced “We are closed on Monday”!
I cursed loudly; fortunately no one was around to hear my Shakespearean usages.
Shouldn’t the customer know? I wasn’t informed when I joined and had assumed that their weekly-off would be on Sunday. There was no sign posted inside the library premises nor was it mentioned on the library card; the label pasted inside each book didn’t say so and it wasn’t on their cash receipt either.
I went there earlier today and spoke about this to the Service Executive. Without displaying any anger or annoyance I mentioned that they had wasted my time and that there were so many ways for them to convey this information to their customer. The young fellow said that I was not the first one to be sent back disappointed in this fashion. Damn!
The board at the gate is missed easily because it is parallel to the path when the gate is open and nobody usually notices it.
I had given them three different options to inform their customers – will they implement even one?
Most telecom operators complain about falling revenues but many still continue to disappoint customers who walk into their Service Centers with cash or cheque in hand. Either there is a power failure or the computer isn’t working. And instead of accepting the money they direct the customer to another centre that’s located far away.
Some of them still do not have tie-up with banks and credit card companies, nor do they have a user-friendly portal on the internet to receive payment. And strangely some don’t even use mobile-based payment platforms.
Even those who have convenient options aren’t promoting them actively.
Many organisations fail to inform customers about the basics and end up irritating them. Holidays, payment options, terms of service and product features are not stated with clarity.
They lose customers or irk them with such irritants but still fail to learn …. When will their portals be opened to accept, and address the genuine needs of their Customers?