Saturday, September 15, 2012

"It's all About the People" - The Truism that Stays True

From a Mixergy podcast interview with Dr.Rajiv Kumar of US-based corporate wellness service ShapeUp. (Emphasis mine)
What’s the one takeaway that you have? One thing that you say, hey you know, I am better because I have this one understanding after having built this business.
Rajiv: Yeah, I think it would probably sound very obvious and maybe somewhat cliché, but at the end of the day, every single thing that a business does, successes and failures, are all about people, and can’t underestimate that. I think we know it, but we forget it sometimes. But it is the people that makes everything happen or makes thing not happen. There’s a huge opportunity cost to having a wrong person in a position, and you don’t realize that opportunity cost until that person leaves, and because either there’s a void and you realize that this person was actually dragging the company down, or someone who comes in that’s much better and you realize how much more quickly you’re accelerating. And when you have that right person in place, magical things start to happen and it really has an amazing effect on the company.
And so, at the end of the day it’s all about the people and you can’t invest enough in people and culture. I think in early parts of start-up companies, often you just focus on the product or the vision or whatever it is. You don’t focus as much on people and culture. But it’s true. It’s not just smoke and mirrors or just something that people are paying lip service to. It is all about people and we need to optimize our companies around investing in people and finding the right people and keeping the people that we have happy and motivated.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Avoid Mind Blocks & Artificial Boundaries" - K. Pandia Rajan & Latha Rajan of Ma Foi

Latha Rajan & K. Pandia Rajan of Ma Foi ( B i o s)

In conversation with K. Satyanarayan, Co-founder of regional language publishing firm New Horizon Media. (Recorded on August 15, 2012 in Chennai.)


Takeaways for Other Entrepreneurs: (Click on the links for the video segments)

  • Don't add artificial constraints when it comes to entrepreneurship
KPR: Separating home and work, politics & business - we tend to have many boundaries where none need to exist. These are  Western notions and mind blocks that we can revisit.

Being a Husband-Wife Entrepreneur Combination was never a major hassle for us. In fact, as Latha says often, we would have probably fallen apart but for Ma Foi!

Latha Rajan: In the early days, he used to travel 25 days a month and I used to travel 10 days a month. But since I was there within the system, I could understand (the pressures and issues). Both of us knew what we were working towards.

Entrepreneurship has given me a lot of flexibility mentally. I used to take my daughter and son to office if it was required. In fact, the 30th day after my son was born, I was in the office and I took him along.
  • Employees as Members: Everyone who joins Ma Foi is referred to as a "member" (as against an employee). 
Latha Rajan: "Employee sounds so transient".

Even if someone leaves the organization (as an employee), he/she still remains a Ma Foi member (and hence an ambassador for the firm).
  • Innovation in funding: Converted the company into a public limited one very early and raised small amounts from over 275 well wishers, employees & ex-employees and clients. Made sure to pay the shareholders a decent dividend each year. (Ma Foi paid 20% "religiously".)
Growth, Diversity, Transparency and Integrity
Everyone knew how much everyone else was producing
Management through "Operating Board, Management Council and Institutional Member" meetings
Other Highlights (The Journey & Lighter Moments)
The Full Length Interview Video

Video Of The Q&A Session 

Click Here to Download The Full Interview Audio Podcast - 69 minutes, 32 MB
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Click Here to Download the Audio of the Q&A session - 8.54 minutes, 4 MB
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For more pictures from the recording event, Click Here

Friday, July 27, 2012

What Steve Jobs Did Not Want You to Know about Apple

(Pic from Betanews)

Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner series has another great podcast featuring Adam Lashinsky, Senior Editor-at-large, Fortune Magazine.

Here's Stanford's summary for this podcast:

Adam Lashinsky, Fortune senior editor-at-large, shares an insider look at Apple, one of the world's most iconic and secretive companies. Based on his research into the technology giant's internal processes and approaches to leadership and building products, Lashinsky offers insights and surprises from his book, Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired--and Secretive--Company Really Works.

Highlights (in our view):

* "Your Business is None of My Business"

- Even employees who worked on one part of the product get to see the final product only when it's released to the world.

- Results in effectively NO Politics in the company - after all, if you don't know what I'm doing, how can you politic about me?
- Very unlike Google (which offers free food so that employees can mingle in the cafeteria).

* The Benefits of being Secretive (with consumers before launching a new product or a new version) or
Why Apple will say NO to rumours about New Product Launches (like the Apple TV) "until it is ready to say Yes"

- Provides the opportunity to Delight Customers
- Consumers will stop buying the current product/version if they know a new version is coming out soon
- The Story about a company should be about its products

* Say NO to New Projects - Take Big Bets, But Few Bets

- Apple has launched 5-6 products in the last 15 years (Very unlike Google again)

* Spend Right

- For a 30 Second Movie Ad Clip for a product, the company spent millions to get the commercial Just Right

* Culture of Work (Not Play)

- People crave to work for Apple not for the pay and perks, but to do better work and feel privileged for it.
- It's not clear if Google's success is correlated to its being so employee friendly (in terms of free food and other perks).

* Headquarters Centric Company

- Everyone Important in the Company is based in Cupertino - so that they can have Face to face meetings!

* No fiefdoms - 1 P&L, 1 Ad Budget

* Working in small teams preserves startup culture

* Obsession over details leads to excellence
Jobs is famous for checking the screws on the INSIDE of the mac.

* Ignore Customer Research - Before a Product is Launched 
- Because "They don't know what's possible"

Listen to the audio from here (mp3) - 57:31 Minutes, 26.5 MB.
(Use Right Click > Save As to download to your desktop)

PS: In his Death Certificate, Steve Jobs's family entered "Entrepreneur" for Occupation. Wow!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Startups, by definition, should disrupt" - Ashok Soota of Happiest Minds

At a time when IT Services is hardly the flavour of the season among Venture Capital firms, that Happiest Minds was able to attract brand name investors within a months of its founding is testament to the credibility and experience of its primary founder & Chairman, Ashok Soota. This "seasoned manager" feel is also something that comes across right through this interaction. - The Venture Intelligence Team

Ashok Soota, Executive Chairman, Happiest Minds (Bio)

Interview by Sanjay Anandaram, Founder of Jumpstartup, followed by interaction with students and other entrepreneurs at IIT-Madras on January 5, 2012. Event Co-Hosted by C-Tides, the entrepreneurship cell at IIT-Madras. More photos from the event.

Highlights (click on the links for individual audio snippets):

As a Late Stage Entrepreneur, you need to plan on a larger scale since you don't have the luxury of time

Attracting and Inspiring People: Having a Mission & Higher Purpose

- "Have a (company) name that you have to live up to"

A startup should, by definition be disruptive

- How Happiest Minds is taking on the incumbents by leveraging the emergence of cloud technologies, mobility and social media

Winning the first customers

Decision Making should be through "Head, Heart and Gut"

Don't take "bet the company" type risks

Services and Products are Different

- They Operate to Different Rhythms, Different Risks & Rewards

Click Here to Download the full length audio
- 1 hr 33 mins; 43 MB
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