Date archives "February 2010"

Cultures & Business

With the world becoming seemingly smaller, it is not uncommon to find ourselves  in business with multiple partners from all around the world. Although we all strive to work according to established norms of conducting business, we need to be well aware of the language, culture and history of the people we do business with, in order to find real success. For example let’s say two individuals find themselves in a situation where one has a service the other requires. The service provider will provide the service and be paid for it accordingly. At this point the transaction is completed, and each one of them goes their separate ways, coming together only when the service is required again. A lot of business is done in this transactional fashion in the world we live in today.

In a situation where the service provider acquires a better understanding of the prospect’s culture and language, the possibilities of expanding the relationship moves from being a purely transactional one, to one with a much greater human element attached to it. One of the immediate examples that comes to mind concerning a business conducted on a massive scale, is McDonalds worldwide operation. Having visited many different countries I have seen how the company adapts itself to the local culture from it’s advertising strategies to it’s menu items. By localizing their offerings they appear less alien, less of an outsider, and assimilation into the culture takes place at a faster pace. Startups naturally do not have the resources to go into such deep level of customization of their offerings. However, what we do have is the ability to pinpoint where our products or services are in greater demand, and expand our understanding of those sectors, businesses and countries.

Even though our world is being heavily globalized, there are many key characteristics and traits that are ingrained into each and everyone of us. These stem from our value and belief systems, and upbringing. No matter how far we may appear to be removed from them, they are heavily ingrained into our thinking, and the way we process our decisions. In the end the business that wins is the one that understands it’s customers needs, wants and desires. This takes time, effort and resources, that are often skipped by many individuals and companies, with the excuse that the world is much too globalized. In the hyper competitive space we all operate in these days, it is taking advantage of these small edges that will provide us with the ability and  knowledge to keep our sale pipelines full, with much higher conversion rates.

Big wins all started small

Twitter just crossed 50 million tweets a day! An historic day in the company’s history. Everyone is talking about it these days. This is definitely a position all startups aspire to be at one day. An important point to note is that back in July 07 upto Jun 08 it was not on too many people’s radar. It was just another web service, one that not too many people could understand. The journey from where it was, to where it is today, exemplifies an important factor, which is, that all big wins often do start small. Once upon a time, not too long ago twitter comprised of a handful of people, working hard day after day. The growth was incremental, and at times it may have felt that it was a good time to throw in the towel.

This is what separates the entrepreneurs who succeed from those who don’t. The ability to hang in there when everything may be going against you, against all that was planned, changing your business plan every 4-6 months when you are unable to find the right product to market fit, above all believing in your ability at the end of everyday, that is what it takes to succeed! It is not everyone’s cup of tea and those who have grand visions of hiring rapidly, leasing large office spaces and increasing overall expenditures without increasing revenue, usually find themselves out of money and choices very quickly.

Entrepreneurship is not an easy way to make a quick buck. In fact it is quite the opposite. It is actually a really challenging way to make that buck. What keeps the entrepreneur going day after day is the fact that he/she knows that they have the ability to do a lot more than what they would achieve at a 9-5 job. They believe in the system, and understand that they need to pay attention to their small wins and latch on to the ones that begin growing incrementally. Stories of how 2 entrepreneurs made it, working out of their garages and coffee shops, sound cliched, yet,  most of these are the same people who realized early on that all big wins have to start small.

80/20 Rule and Customers

The 80/20 rule is a powerful framework, one that helps us understand the dynamics between inputs and outputs. The rule asserts, that a minority of causes and inputs of effort, results for the majority of the output. When the rule is applied to a customer base, a skewed imbalance is often seen, where a small minority of customers contribute towards a majority of top line revenue. Many business owners overlook this fact and do not spend enough time and effort in ensuring to give exceptional service to their top 20% of customers. I was reading an article on techcrunch a few days ago regarding how Amazon is planning on giving free Kindles to its Prime customers. Prime customers are Amazon’s most frequent customers, they are the ones who apply for yearly memberships to get free shipping on the goods they buy.

This news clearly demonstrates how Amazon is focusing on ensuring that Prime customers get access to the very best products that they have to offer. By providing these customers a Kindle, not only will they be able to increase the amount these customers buy from Amazon, it was also boost loyalty, given that Kindles are not very cheap. The investment in this however should be recouped relatively quickly, and it would further help avoid defection to Apple’s upcoming iPad which poses a serious threat to Amazon’s Kindle.

This example goes to show how a company can successfully create a higher level of service for it’s best customers and focus more effort on them. For most smaller businesses, a similar analysis to customer base can be applied to determine which ones are actually contributing the most to the bottom line. These customers are essentially cash in the bank, and if any of them defects, short term losses will need to be faced,  the longer term impact will be far greater. If you have not taken stock of your top 20% customers, I strongly suggest you do so as soon as possible. Next, find ways to provide them with exceptional service and be in constant touch with them. They are the life blood of your business, and should be treated as such!

It is All About Your Attitude

Life as an entrepreneur is undoubtedly very challenging. One always seems to be on a roller coaster ride, with emotions yoyoing up and down on a regular basis. The other day I was forwarded the letter below, it really made me pause and think. The message is a simple one, yet…so many of us tend not to give it the attention it deserves. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

John is the kind of guy you love to hate. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, ‘If I were any better, I would be twins!’

He was a natural motivator.

If an employee was having a bad day, John was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.

Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up and asked him, ‘I don’t get it!’

‘You can’t be a positive person all of the time.. How do you do i t?’

He replied, ‘Each morning I wake up and say to myself, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or…you can choose to be in a bad mood

I choose to be in a good mood.’

Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or…I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.

Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or…I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.

‘Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,’ I protested.

‘Yes, it is,’ he said. ‘Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people affect your mood.

You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live your life.’

I reflected on what he said. Soon hereafter, I left the Tower Industry to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.

Several years later, I heard that he was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower.

After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, he was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back.

I saw him about six months after the accident.

When I asked him how he was, he replied, ‘If I were any better, I’d be twins…Wanna see my scars?’

I declined to see his wounds, but I did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place.

‘The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon-to-be born daughter,’ he replied. ‘Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or…I could choose to die. I chose to live.’

‘Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness? ‘ I asked.

He continued, ‘…the paramedics were great.

They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘he’s a dead man’. I knew I needed to take action.’

‘What did you do?’ I asked.

‘Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,’ said John. ‘She asked if I was allergic to anything ‘Yes, I replied.’ The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Gravity”

Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead.’

He lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude…I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.

Attitude, after all, is everything.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

After all today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.