Looking Back at 2012

As I sit down to write this post I really can’t believe that 2012 is over. These last couple of years, time seems to be accelerating at a quantum pace where it is becoming difficult to keep track of all the things which again seem to be taking place almost all at once! I remember quite vividly this year starting off with us closing one of our biggest deals with British American Tobacco, we have been fortunate to have just built our pace from there. For this review I am going to take a different approach and document all that went well and the areas which need improvement in the coming year.

The Things That Worked out Well:

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Launching Discover Match

Connecting the right person with a job opportunity I am convinced would be suitable for them, is amongst the things that drives and motivates me! At IDENTIFI we are building a suite of services that helps us scale the rate at which we can make these connections happen. The statistic that more than 77% of people go home daily unfulfilled with the work they do, is a fact that gets me out of bed every morning with a yearning and drive to reverse this statistic!

Generation Y is the major segment of society that we assist and work with. Our research has shown that company culture, people and the workspace are critical components in decisions to take up particular opportunities. In light of this, we are in the initial phases of launching a new service called Discover Match. It provides companies with an attractive platform to display their company culture, people and workspace. This space helps companies attract talent to apply directly as well as follow the company for future updates.

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When I Turn 30….

Today, I turn 30! It feels strange and familiar all at the same time. Being a goal oriented person, there were a great many things I used to motivate myself with, most of them started with “When I turn 30….” Today, as I look back at many of the goals I had set for myself I am grateful to be able to say that I have achieved far more than I imagined in some areas as also less in others! However, achievements and goals being one aspect, the one, most important goal I did not set for myself was…

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Charting the Course

“Controlling your direction is better than being controlled by it.” Jack Welch

An entrepreneurs’ journey is riddled with potholes and unexpected events at every turn. Controlling your direction is not as easy as charting a plan and then sticking to it irrespective of what happens along the path. However, having a clear idea about the direction you are going in and why, is mandatory.

It is critical on this path that the entrepreneur is adept and adaptable enough to be able to maneuver the direction of this ship. The word “pivot”  is fast becoming a word with over usage in startups. Many of them seem to be controlled by events, the reason for this is, I believe, that they are not certain about why they are on the journey in the first place.

There are two factors entrepreneurs need to be aware of, understand and have down pat before they head out on this journey:

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Culture & Performance

A recent article in Fortune by Jack and Suzy Welch in which they say:

“Soft culture matters as much as hard numbers. And if your company’s culture is to mean anything, you have to hang — publicly — those in your midst who would destroy it. It’s a grim image, we know. But the fact is, creating a healthy, high-integrity organizational culture is not puppies and rainbows. And yet, for some reason, too many leaders think a company’s values can be relegated to a five-minute conversation between HR and a new employee. Or they think culture is about picking which words — do we “honor” our customers or “respect” them? — to engrave on a plaque in the lobby. What nonsense.

“An organization’s culture is not about words at all. It’s about behavior — and consequences. It’s about every single individual who manages people knowing that his or her key role is that of chief values officer, with Sarbanes-Oxley-like enforcement powers to match. It’s about knowing that at every performance review, employees are evaluated for both their numbers and their values.”

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Performance Optimization

Great leaders have an inherent ability to distill complexity into simplicity. A great story which reflects this talent is attributed to steel magnate Charles M. Schwab. One day one of his floor managers came to him complaining about varied schemes he had attempted in order to increase the average output per shift, without any luck. After having listened to his strategies Mr. Schwab simply asked him one question “How many heats has the day shift completed?”. When he got “6” as the answer he simply took a piece of chalk and wrote a big “6” on the entrance door!

When the night shift workers came in and enquired about the significance of the number “6”, they were told that the boss had enquired about the output of the earlier shift and had written that on the wall. That night, the night shift beat the day shift and demonstrated this by erasing the number “6” and writing “7” there instead. Over the next couple of weeks output from each shift surged.

Stimulating competition has a powerful effect in getting individuals to push themselves harder. To get optimal results, it is important that performance tracking is not only tracked on an individual basis, but also done in relative terms to others in the group. By using relative performance gauges we are able to push ourselves further or then simply acknowledge another’s edge by bowing out when we think we are out of a given league.

The Importance of Core Values

Understanding the importance of core values is something that I have been fascinated with ever since I read Jim Collins book, Good to Great. Core values form the foundation for businesses that persevere through time and major changes. An apt analogy is that of the growth of a tree; some trees have a quick growth spurts and on the surface seem majestic and beautiful. However, these trees have roots which do not support their level of growth and this impacts their ability to persevere over extended periods of time.

Core values act as roots for companies, laying the foundation as it were. In an ever changing world where the word ‘pivot’ has become synonymous with most startup companies, it has become of even greater importance that these core values are established as early in the growth cycle as possible. Without this, companies and people tend to drift. Their choices are then governed by external factors rather than an internal compass.

Discovering your Core Values

Core values are not a result of an afternoon brainstorming session. They originate from who you are as a person and a team. In your company right now, there will be a way of how things get done, how you communicate with one another and what factors are ‘non-negotiable’ deal breakers. They may not seem clearly apparent at first, however, with continuous searching they will always manifest themselves.

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