Thursday, March 15, 2007

I dont know who wrote this ......

“GOOD morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are delighted to welcome you aboard Veritas Airways, the airline that tells it like it is. Please ensure that your seat belt is fastened, your seat back is upright and your tray-table is stowed. At Veritas Airways, your safety is our first priority. Actually, that is not quite true: if it were, our seats would be rear-facing, like those in military aircraft, since they are safer in the event of an emergency landing. But then hardly anybody would buy our tickets and we would go bust.


Your life-jacket can be found under your seat, but please do not remove it now. In fact, do not bother to look for it at all. In the event of a landing on water, an unprecedented miracle will have occurred, because in the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero. This aircraft is equipped with inflatable slides that detach to form life rafts, not that it makes any difference. Please remove high-heeled shoes before using the slides. We might as well add that space helmets and anti-gravity belts should also be removed, since even to mention the use of the slides as rafts is to enter the realm of science fiction.

Please switch off all mobile phones, since they can interfere with the aircraft’s navigation systems. At least, that’s what you’ve always been told. The real reason to switch them off is because they interfere with mobile networks on the ground, but somehow that doesn’t sound quite so good. On most flights a few mobile phones are left on by mistake, so if they were really dangerous we would not allow them on board at all, if you think about it..."

The list is endless (plastic forks, etc.) but the lesson is subtle: every business does this. From the standardized layout of a doctor's waiting room to the forms you fill out at the bank, we subject our clients and prospects to a little show that is not directly related to what we're doing for them. We're all doing theatre. We want our waiter to be better dressed than us, and the stockbroker's office to be as far away from an off track betting facility (or a laundromat) as possible.

Of course, the show is related to what we're selling. It's related for the same reason that the price of a cup of coffee varies by a factor of 120 depending on who made it and where you consume it. You don't have to like the fact that a show is going on, but you're part of it. The most successful organizations understand this and work hard to put on a show that works. One that doesn't get in the way of what we set out to purchase in the first place.

We won't be undersold

If you have a won't be undersold motto, the very best thing that you can do is find customers who find a better price somewhere else... and then give them the discount. Why? Because it proves you're not lying, and it spreads the word. Those customers are heroes.

Compare that approach to this one from Jason found at It appears as though Best Buy had a secret Intranet site that looked just like their regular site... except with higher prices on it. So, if you came in claiming that the store was being undersold by the website, it's alleged that employees would show you a site that sure looked like their site...exept you were 'wrong.'


I dont know who wrote this ......

The more you think about business as being a community service, the more successful you become. What I've told newspapers -- when they've asked -- is that newspapers used to be in the community service business. Now they've been positioned as cash cows."

I dont know who wrote this ......

Dynamic content creation is a necessary part of your overall web strategy. Blogs and RSS feeds are being used by small businesses everywhere. Unfortunately, this has caused a bit of stagnation on the static portions of the site, namely the home page. If your home page never changes, the search engines will grow tired of visiting your site.

From a search engine standpoint, not to mention most users, the home page is still the first look. You can't simply blog and call content creation done. If your home page has been indexed by the search engines, you can dramatically improve the search results for your home page and thus your entire site, by adding or changing that content every two weeks or so.

You don't need to mess with the page design, titles, headlines or meta tags, just change out some portion of the body text content with new relevant, keyword rich content. This little practice tells the search engines that this page had something new, this page changes often, - this alone will improve your search results.

Duct Tape

In this digital age we live in it's entirely possible to run a business, get through a day, or complete many a project without actually interacting with human beings. While the efficiencies of this are incredible, I'm not so sure it's always so good for the perspective.

I think it is a good practice, no matter what your business, to make it a habit to force yourself out on a real sales call, have lunch with a client, or drop in on a vendor - just to stay in touch with what your business really does.

Take it a step farther and pick out a networking type event, local lunch workshop or seminar each month and get yourself out of the office.

Finally, once or twice a year, go to a really big industry conference and meet face to face with as many industry thought leaders as you can, get fired up about what's happening in your industry, learn a new skill and even stretch yourself a bit by attending a panel or two that covers something unrelated to your core business.

I find that these types of relationship and mind building practices can immediately add to the bottom line by opening doors to new valuable partnerships and connections, can bring you renewed perspective about your business and industry, and can aid in forming your fully developed vision for your organization.

Sometimes, you've got to look up from the work you do day to day and see what's really going on in the world to better understand your place and your client's place in it.

From seth godin

More Reading from All Marketers Are Liars

Seth Godin ends All Marketers Are Liars with a list of other books worth reading:

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffery Moore
Positioning by Trout and Ries
In Pursuit of Wow! and The Tom Peters Seminar by Tom Peters
Blink by Malcolm Galdwell
Selling the Dream by Guy Kawasaki
The Republic of Tea by Bill Rosenzweig and Mel Ziegler (out of print)
Don't Think Of An Elephant!/How Democrats And Progressives Can Win by George Lakoff
Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar
Why We Buy by Paco Underhill
Creating Customer Evangelists by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba
Emotional Design by Donald Norman
The Moral Economy of the Peasant by James Scott
Creative Company: How St. Luke's Became "the Ad Agency to End All Ad Agencies" by Andy Law

Ramki' dreamt big and won from

Ramki' dreamt big and won

Shamni Pande

Irrespective of whether you think marketing is a science or an art, data is critical to the debate. Think about it, data is necessary to build case for either situation. But using it is easier said than done; pick up any market research report and see what you make of those figures laid out with vision-blurring, precision.

Sensibly, companies have now started outsourcing this data-crunching exercise to specialists. This is where 34-year-old S Ramakrishnan - 'Ramki, as he likes to be called - CEO Marketics Technologies, comes in. His venture is to get sense out of data, and it's an interesting story, read on:

The late Nineties is a good start, just around when the Internet and dotcom buzz started. Ramakrishnan - by then well entrenched at P&G India's brand management team, did something that was not so unusual for many raring young individuals at that time - turned a 'Net' entrepreneur.

Catalyst for the atypical decision is S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, from where Ramakrishnan claims the bug got him: "It was a rather unorthodox MBA training that encouraged entrepreneurial abilities."

Part of the new-technology wave, where people across categories harboured sweeping visions of what the Net could do, Ramakrishnan egged on by his friends, also co-founders - Vinay Misra and Shankar Marwada - launched Intercept Technologies in 1999.

Prophetically christened, to say the least, we see Intercept Technologies being cut in its stride by the dotcom bust. All we hear from Ramakrishnan of the crash, is the furious effort to reboot.

The trio knocked around with some ideas, unwilling to call it quits: "After all, it were our clients - the dotcoms - that went bust, we still had a concept going," Ramakrishnan says - asserting all the reasons why things should have worked.

To cut it short, Marketics Technologies is what we now know of, of the trio's act of defiance - which is gearing up to be a Rs 100-crore (Rs 1 billion) entity. There appears a huge thrust on role definition, for instance, the company

March 10, 2007

works on latent marketing skill, initially concentrates all efforts on the US market and works on its belief in the Net and uses it as a core platform for interface. End product is well-analysed, marketing intelligence given to clients to draw decisions from.

Significantly, Marketics has eschewed from tapping the market for funds, "we started on a shoe-string budget, which involved some of us not taking our salary for sometime," says Ramakrishnan. He's game to various options in future, including short-time collaborations.

But most critical of all these decision has been the collective choice to stay focussed on the US market - initially: "It's easy to be lured and go tapping every 'expression of interest,' that comes along. But not all turn out to be solid business propositions. We decided to conserve our talent to make an impact in one area, before we could address other geographies," says Ramakrishnan.

Today, Marketics Technologies has made a foray in UK and is seeking to spread into Europe and is even looking at prising open the home turf here in India.

On board are some of the top-Fortune 100 companies in different industry segments. Non-disclosure agreement prevents Ramakrishnan from actually bandying client names, save a few such as Universal Studio and RCI (part of Windham Worldwide).

Finally, it's interesting to note that Marketics has managed to capture the US market with just 10 people servicing (including Ramakrishnan), and two back offices in India.

Interestingly, Coimbatore is chosen for its 'surprising' cost-effectiveness in comparison to other Metros, "we found excellent technical talent there," says Ramakrishnan. There is also a big office at Bangalore and all together the team is 250-strong, winning against all the odds.

From Duct tape

I f you're not using Firefox browser yet you're not going to understand why I'm giddy about something called extensions. Since Firefox is an open source software anyone smart enough to write a way to extend it's functionality can make my browsing experience better. Now, like a lot of things that can be done, you have to wade through what should be done and used to make your browsing experience better.

Here are my top 5 browser extensions in no particular order bookmark - lets me copy some text on any page and post it to my delicious account

SEO for Firefox - Aaron Wall's treasure chest of info on search results

Fleck - This one allows you to make notes and lists on web pages and then send the annotated page

Search Status - simply tool that sits in my dock on the browser and gives me page rank, alexa ranking, backward links and indexed pages for any site on visit on the fly

Roboform - fills in forms and keeps track of passwords and the like

And a bonus one that's kind of funny - BugMeNot - allows you to skip putting your info in to get an article on sites like the New York Times


I still remember an interaction I had with Jim at Activision in 1985.

And when I run into Ted once or twice a year, he reminds me of something I gave him eight years ago.

As Derren reminds us, your actions today could be tomorrow's anecdote. One that grows in the telling. In fact, every single interaction you have... every blog post, every customer service interaction, every shareholder conference call... could turn into an anecdote that lives on for years.

Almost everything that happens before you fly on a plane is not as it seems. In order to deal with anxiety, the airlines put on a show. They've been doing it for a long, long time, and it's starting to show signs of wear and tear. The show is getting old and the lies are starting to show. Here's some snips from an Economist article (hat tip to theFreaknomics blog)

Seth godinn blog

My best advice: Fire half your salesforce. Then, give the remainder, the top people, a big raise, and use the money left over to steal the best salespeole you can find from other industries or even from your competition. You'll end up with fewer salespeople. But all of them will be great.

And the good guys? Have them go work for the competition

From Sethgodin Blog

Two lessons for marketers, one small, the other bigger. First, it's interesting to note how much more excited and open the crowd is to songs they've heard before. Even some of the songs that ended up becoming classics got a tepid reaction because they were unknown at the time.

Second, on songs that aren't working so well, you will hear Neil try harder, play louder, raise his voice and strain to make an impact. It doesn't work. At all. It's what you say, most of the time, not how you say it. From Sethgoding Block

Friday, March 9, 2007

Entrepreneurship = 60 hours of work

What makes a great entrepreneur?

Subroto Bagchi, co-founder and chief operating officer of MindTree Consulting tries to answer this question in his book The High Performance Entrepreneur-Golden Rules For Success In Today's World.

He writes: 'Entrepreneurship requires the ability to read patterns on the wall, flexibility and an uncanny ability to seize the moment.' He also mentions that the minimum number of hours an entrepreneur must put in, a week, is 60 hours. In reality this figure is closer to 70.

An excerpt:

Entrepreneurs work hard and are extremely goal oriented

How do we quantify hard work? When I was working at Wipro, my last assignment was to work for chairman Azim Premji as corporate vice president, mission: quality. This was preceded by three other jobs in the organization. In the course of each, I had made a mark. I always used to think that I worked hard.

So, when I was being considered for the position, Premji asked me, how many hours a week do you put in? Not a superfluous question, this. The man measures and tracks the number of hours he works every week. He does not expect everyone in the organization to work as hard as himself. But he has figured out the minimum number of hours a person must be comfortable working in order to be part of his team. That number is a minimum of 60 hours a week, in reality closer to 70. Premji average 80 hours a week. That is hard work. But just so we know, Premji never asks someone to change holiday plans, once these have been approved, never recalls someone on vacation.

Ashok Soota, chairman and managing director of MindTree, works as hard. He measures the number of days he is on travel every year. That number, when he was 62 was an average of 140 days a year. It does not mean that he is a workaholic with no life outside of work. He settles his vacation dates at the beginning of the year and these are non-negotiable. At least one vacation in the year involves a mountain trek or a snorkeling trip during which we do not contact him. Ashok's self-discipline and hard work rub off on every senior person in the organization. At the next level, a 70-hour workweek and an average 140 days of travel has been the way for all of us since MindTree was born.

Along with hard work, comes the ability to work unsupervised. It is a critical requirement of entrepreneurship. As a paid professional, often someone can blame the system for not providing either the direction or the resources. As an entrepreneur, you no longer have that latitude. You have to work hard, very hard.

That is why venture capitalists have coined the term 'sweat equity', the ownership that comes by the sweat of your brows.

Entrepreneurs are flexible, opportunistic and recognize the power of 'emergence'

I love this story about IBM and its founder Thomas Watson, Sr. that I heard Peter Drucker narrate. It was 1934 or '35. IBM had built the first accounting machines for banks but in the Depression years, no bank was buying anything. IBM was on the brink of bankruptcy. Watson's wife forced him to accompany her to a social event where he was seated next to a middle-aged lady.

While talking with her, Watson described to her the machine IBM had built. It turned out that the lady was in-charge of the library system in New York City. She told Watson that they were in complete disarray, unable to manage their books, and told him that she would need half a dozen of these! Next day, he sold her five of the machines.

Until that moment, Watson had never thought of his computing devices as machines for tracking books.

That one sale pulled IBM from the brink of bankruptcy.

Had it not been for Watson's capability to go with the emergent flow of events -- moving from accounting machines to the recognition that he could make general purpose computers -- IBM would not be what it is today. We all know that the essence of entrepreneurial ability is about building a future and living in it. Sometimes, it is about 'willing' a course for the enterprise. Yet, things do not always go the way you plan. Destiny tests you all the time, plays pranks and shows tiny openings in a moss-covered brick wall behind which often a whole new world awaits.

When we started MindTree and were a no-name entity in the US, a chance meeting took place with a man called Larry Kinder who had just moved in as CIO of Avis. We won an assignment to build consensus between two groups of Avis managers on the future of their on-line reservation system. A team from MindTree, led by Erik Mann, who is one of our best consultants, delivered well. Consequently, we moved on to win the technical design for re-architecting Avis.Com. Then we built the on-line reservation system. Today, the system handles $1 billion worth of transactions at Avis. In the course of following up on that small opening at Avis, we saw three CIOs come and go and then came a CEO who even wanted us out of the door. We survived all those changes and focused on building value, one day at a time.

Many analysts ask me how we won Avis. One morning Joe King -- an early member of the MindTree team and currently a senior vice president of our US operations -- called Larry Kinder's office at 7 in the morning. That is called the 'golden hour'. It is a direct marketer's dream time. The golden hour is when a senior executive has come in but his secretary has not -- someone who is paid to block unwanted callers. Larry picked up the phone that day, listened to Joe's pitch and agreed to see us. I am sure he was used to a hundred such unsolicited calls-this was the heyday of the Internet boom. I often ask myself, what would have happened if Larry had not been in office that day? Why did he have to pay attention to Joe? What if he had dismissed that one call?

Providence is very powerful in our journeys and entrepreneurs must take room for her. It is not always what you bring to the table. Sometimes, it is an unexplainable turn of events that changes your course. From a small assignment for Larry in 1999, in 2006 MindTree did $15 million worth of business for the whole of the Cendant Group that owns Avis and learnt enough about the travel industry to start a vertical focused on it.

After Larry Kinder moved to a larger role a Cendant, due to turbulence in the organization, things became difficult for us. At the Avis end, a turnaround CIO named Raj Rawal took over. As it often happens in times of corporate transition, Raj had received mixed messages about our capability, role and contributions. My first meeting with him was not in happy circumstances. Yet, the moment I met Raj something about him told me that I could bet everything for this man. We hit it off and under his leadership, the reorganization and our role in it got sorted out. Our relationship grew. In time, Raj moved on and eventually took over as CIO at Burger King. As he settled into his new job, the phone rang at my desk.

In 1999, we had started the company with the vision to be focused on two businesses: IT consulting and software services, and R&D services. The former was for building Internet-based applications and on the R&D side, we wanted to work on providing solutions in the telecom domain. In just about a year, there was a dotcom bust and the telecom domain just about vanished.

On the IT services side, we had to rapidly move into other areas like Supply Chain, Data-warehousing, Mainframe-based Application Management Services (AMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). None of these words existed in the original business plan we had written. On the R&D side, we created new verticals like Semiconductors, Appliances, Industrial Automation and Avionics, Storage Technologies and Computing Platforms. Again, these were things we never thought we would dabble in. All that had to be done without losing the original position of strength, all that had to be done in real time and by taking all our people along with us.

Nine out of ten companies born at the same thing as us, anywhere in the world, do not exist today. Entrepreneurship requires the ability to read patterns on the wall, flexibility and an uncanny ability to seize the moment.

18 ways to be a great boss



February 16, 2007

There are few career moments as exciting -- and these days, as perilous -- as taking over the top job at a company, business unit, or department. But what exactly do you do once you're in charge?

This online guide provides 18 tactics -- and case studies -- to help you take the reigns running.

1. Begin your transition before you start the job. Use the interview process to get an early jump on learning about the organization. Ask critical questions: How are decisions made? What are the key challenges? Which functions are strong, and which ones need to be overhauled? Use that information to build some initial hypotheses about how you would change things for the better.

Take your cue from Steve Bennett who took over the CEO spot at Intuit Corp. "The interview process is where you start," he says. "That's where you ask all of the questions about what it takes to be successful."

. Travel widely within your organization, listen carefully, and look for patterns in everything you see and hear. Bruce Patton, co-author of Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most and a partner with Vantage Partners, a Boston-based relationship management consulting firm, advises new leaders to spend a lot of time listening and asking questions. Talk to employees up and down the hierarchy. "Soon you'll start to see a pattern about what's going on," he says.

Within his first month on the job, Steve Bennett hit the road and tested the hypotheses that he had formed during his interviews. In 30 days, he visited dozens of locations and talked to hundreds of people, gathering feedback and insight on what was right - and wrong - with the firm's operations.

3. As you ask questions, look for the rising stars whom you want as part of your team. Your listening tour may help you identify the key players whose skills you need as part of your management team. "If you're engaging in high quality inquiry, you'll want to keep people who had good answers," Patton says.

Asking tough questions is a critical skill, but not necessarily a pleasant experience.

4. Identify the kind of people who will flourish in the environment you want to establish. Even before interviewing people to assemble your team, take the time to identify the challenges ahead -- and the kind of people who are motivated by those situations.

When Scott Lutz was tapped to lead 8th Continent, a soy-milk company borne of a 50-50 joint venture between two corporate giants, DuPont and General Mills, he knew he needed to assemble a team of renegades - people with "the right mix of passion and courage," Lutz describes. "They had to be willing to do things that hadn't been done before."

5. After you've identified the ideal individual, identify the ideal group. Don't stop at finding the type of person you need. Envision how this person will interact with others to get the goals accomplished. Assemble the ideal team. In some cases, literally.

When Pat Gillick took over a mediocre Seattle Mariners club in 1999, he was keenly aware of the kind of group it would take to win a World Series. "Chemistry is unbelievably critical," Gillick says.

"If you come into a workplace, and there is inconsistency, there are disruptive employees, or you don't know what to expect, then you won't be a motivated employee." The Mariners' quest for a happy clubhouse includes paying close attention to the wives and kids of the players. Gillick meets with wives early in the season to work out everything from ticketing to security to the potentially inflammatory problem of who sits where.

6. Acknowledge what you don't know. Identify those around you are the experts and don't be afraid to lean on them. No one expects an incoming leader to know everything. And perhaps there is nothing more off-putting to a future team than someone who mistakenly thinks he or she does.

After 15 years as a manufacturing engineer at Boeing, Bruce Moravec had mastered his technical discipline. But when he was promoted to run the 757 Stretch Program, an ambitious mandate to stretch the plane by 24 feet, add functionality, and do it in less than two years, he understood he'd have to gain the confidence of people who worked in areas he knew little about.

"I had lots of credibility as a manufacturing engineer and second-level manager. But suddenly I was responsible for tool design, fuselage definition, all kinds of areas that weren't in my background."

7. Don't be afraid to listen to people who disagree. Listen, actively, to the people around you, especially those who challenge your assumptions.

Take it from Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's president and CEO and the engineer of the company's dramatic turnaround. "When I came to Nissan, I engaged in what I call 'active listening' with as many people as I could. I also got a lot of advice from outside the company, most of which was very conservative. People told me, 'You can't go fast in Japan. You can't close plants in Japan. You can't reduce head count.' I listened carefully, even to the opinions that totally contradicted my own beliefs, to make sure that when I made my decisions, I hadn't missed anything."

8. But clean house if you have to. Depending on the situation you step into, no matter how clear your vision is, and how evangelical you are, acknowledge that there may be people - some of whom may have already seen your predecessors come and go -- who are too jaded to follow.

Take Dale Fuller's experience. When he took over an ailing Borland Software, which at one time was a pioneer in developing developer tools, five different CEOs had already come and go in the preceding three years.

Skeptics assumed that Fuller was the latest in a series of short-term custodians. Rather than embrace the new direction, they figured that they'd just wait Fuller out. Fuller had other ideas. Within six months, he fired about 400 people, including 60 of his top managers.

9. Establish a way to communicate with -- and listen to -- your entire team. Your strategic course of action is only as effective as your ability to communicate it. Have the pipeline and protocol set up to get your message out there, and don't forget that communication goes both ways.

Dick Brown took over EDS in 1999 and moved swiftly to change old beliefs and behaviors, unleashing a set of practices -- dubbed "operating mechanisms" -- that were designed to create a company-wide culture based on instant feedback and direct, unfiltered communication. One of these practices is the "monthly performance call."

At the beginning of each month, 125 of the company's top worldwide executives punch into a conference call that begins promptly at 7 AM central daylight time. Participation is not optional.

10. Don't trash your predecessor, but don't be shy about promoting your own agenda. Do not assume that the prior administration screwed up or lost sight of the big picture. There's probably an element of truth in that.

But it's almost certainly true that they had a different disaster that they were working to avoid, Patton says. If you've got a clear vision of what needs to be fixed, by all means, implement it. Then ask yourself what led those really smart people to do what they did in such a way that it made sense to them?

Talk about a predecessor: when Melvin Wearing took over the role of chief of police for New Haven, Connecticut, he filled the controversial shoes of someone who resigned after fathering an illegitimate child with a convicted prostitute. On February 24, 1997, his first day on the job, Wearing moved quickly to telegraph the changing of the guard. First up: a visit to each of the day's four lineups (the roll call of officers that begins each shift) -- a practice that his predecessor had shunned.

11. Settle on a few major priorities. You can't fix everything at once. "Typically, you can't do everything you want to do, so you need to make some strategic choices," Patton says. "This is where you begin to align the organization around a common vision for the future."

Perhaps Wearing's most far-reaching legacy will be his focus on quality-of-life crimes -- the so-called broken-windows approach to policing. Just as Rudy Giuliani cracked down on New York's squeegee men, Wearing declared war on New Haven's vagrants and hookers, street-corner dealers, and boom-box blasters. By nipping misdemeanors in the bud, Wearing argues, police may deter more-serious crimes. His approach seems to be working. In 1997, New Haven logged 13,950 major crimes; in 2001, the city had a total of 9,322.

12. Meet the customers. Balance the big picture vision with-front line views. There is no reconnaissance more important than scouting out the territory where your products and services meet their customers. Seeing the customers actually interact provides some invaluable information.

When Gary Kusin took over as CEO of Kinko's Inc., he went into every single one of its 24 markets in the United States, visited more than 200 stores, and met with more than 2,500 team members.

13. Target a few early wins. Momentum counts, and nothing succeeds like success. It's critical for a new leader to create momentum during the transition, say Dan Ciampa and Michael Watkins in their book, "Right from the Start: Taking Charge in a New Leadership Role." Pick some problems the organization has not been able to address and figure out a way to fix them quickly to establish a new direction.

When Jim Berra was promoted to head the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Guest program in July 2001, and like any newcomer to a job, Berra was keen to have a few big wins to energize his new team. "I didn't want to solve world hunger in the first three months, but I was looking for a couple of things that would pay immediate dividends," he says.

So he focused on three priorities: First, he had to build better awareness of the company's Preferred Guest program, which lagged behind Hilton and Marriott in visibility despite its unprecedented policies of having no blackout dates and no limit on free rooms. Second, he had to find a way to measure the program's performance. And finally, he had to research customer segmentation for future promotions.

14. Keep an eye on the clock. Faster is almost always better. "Make sure your time is used to its best advantage," says Patton. "When you're new to an organization, many people will want your attention. While it's pleasant to swap stories about each other's golf game, you're better off saving them for the fairway, and using the time in the office to engage in a learning-oriented conversation."

Here's a tip: Create a "Stop Doing" List. Take a look at your desk. If you're like most hard-charging leaders, you've got a well-articulated to-do list. Now take another look: Where's your stop-doing list? We've all been told that leaders make things happen -- and that's true. But it's also true that great leaders distinguish themselves by their unyielding discipline to stop doing anything and everything that doesn't fit.

15. Don't be afraid to make mistakes but be sure to fix them faster than you make them. Any new situation is fraught with hazards, but taking over a top job exposes a new leader to pitfalls ranging from the personal to the organizational.

Accept that you can't know everything in your first six months, and even an extensive professional background can't insulate you from making mistakes in an unfamiliar company and culture. The key is to assess yourself and your progress as rigorously as you do your new colleagues and workplace, and to be prepared to make your own course corrections as you go along.

Last year, Lydia Shire and Paul Licari took over Locke-Ober, a Boston restaurant and Brahmin institution founded in 1875. The entire city was watching, and everybody had an opinion. And the first 10 days were a disaster. "You could have put me in front of a firing squad and it would have felt better," Licari shares.

16. Be wary of reckless re-engineering. If you're assuming leadership of a large organization or department, take the time to understand its current trajectory. Making too drastic and immediate a change can derail both confidence and long-term strategy. Stanford Business School Professor, Jim Collins, warns leaders to be cautious. "Why do overhyped change programs ultimately fail? Because they lack accountability, they fail to achieve credibility, and they have no authenticity."

Consider the Warner-Lambert Co. in the early 1980s. In 1979, Warner-Lambert told Business Week that it aimed to be a leading consumer-products company. One year later, it did an abrupt about-face and turned its sights on health care. In 1981, the company reversed course again and returned to diversification and consumer goods.

Then in 1987, Warner-Lambert made another U-turn, away from consumer goods, and announced that it wanted to compete with Merck. Then in the early 1990s, the company responded to government announcements of pending health-care reform and re-embraced diversification and consumer brands. Between 1979 and 1998, Warner-Lambert underwent three major restructurings -- one per CEO. Each new CEO arrived with his own program; each CEO halted the momentum of his predecessor.

17. Don't be afraid to look for ideas in unusual places. Don't just read your own industry's trade journals. Cast a wide net for insights -- sometimes the breakthrough idea lies in the triumphs of a completely different industry.

When Rob McEwen, took over an underperforming gold mine in northwestern Ontario, he assumed a tough situation: The gold market was depressed, the mine's operating costs were high, and miners were on strike. His breakthrough - an unprecedented move to make his company's proprietary information public and launching a contest to develop the mine over the Internet - came from learning about the Linux operating system and the open-source revolution.

18. Finally, ask yourself who do you really want to prevail, you or your organization? You'd be surprised by the difference.

Consider this: Jim Collins and his team at Stanford Graduate School of Business and asked, what makes a good company great? They started with 1,435 good companies, examined their performance over 40 years, and then identified 11 companies that became great.

Here's one thing they found: The CEOs who took their companies from good to great were largely anonymous -- a far cry from the celebrity CEOs we read about. Collins believes this is more a matter of cause and effect than an accident. There is something directly related between the absence of celebrity and the presence of good-to-great results.

Why? First, when you have a celebrity, the company turns into "the one genius with 1,000 helpers." It creates a sense that the whole thing is really about the CEO. And that leads to all sorts of problems - especially if the person goes away or if the person turns out not to be a genius after all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Good listeners = Better managers?

The Journal of Business Communication published a recent study disclosing that good listeners hold higher-level positions and are promoted more often than those with less effective listening skills. Many executives believe listening skills are vital to the success of an organisation. Lee Iacocca, CEO of Chrysler, said that listening could make 'the difference between a mediocre company and a great company.'

Unfortunately, a number of experts note that managers and executives tend to become better talkers than listeners -- because they are used to 'being listened to'.

God gave us two ears so we could listen more and speak less. This is seldom followed and we end up spending more time speaking and much less actually learning from what was conveyed.

In our fast-moving world, it is easy to miss out on what people say. These six tips can help though.

One: Observe the listener

Psychologist Jerome Burner of New York University says that people only remember 10 per cent of what they hear, but the percentage is as high as 80 per cent if they can see the listener as well. When we are with a speaker, it important to be involved in the conversation. Concentrate on the listener's non-verbal signals, such as the body language and facial expression. When we are not with the speaker, other signals play an important role -- the speaker's pitch, intonation, tone, utterance groups and stressed words in sentences. This will help us understand the speaker's thoughts. If you are a manager, active listening is crucial. Ideally, managers should spend more than 50 per cent of their time listening to what is being said. Try not to broadcast your idea until you have heard everyone.

Two: Be attentive and avoid distractions

Most of the time, we miss out on things because we are either so pre-occupied with our thoughts or busy doing something that isn't as important as what the speaker has to say. While we are the target audience, it is discourteous not to pay attention to the speaker. Look at the speaker and keep aside everything else. Stop thinking about work, family, your partner, love life or promotions. These things happen when they have to. It might take some of us time to concentrate, but practice makes this easier. Believe that every speaker is equally important. Do not fake attention.

Three: Think, revise and stay interested

When you hear something, it's easy to revise the key words. Focus on 'content words' -- those that contain the main content of the sentence. If you have to pass on a message, make sure you understand it, personalise it and get it in action. Some messages need to be passed on verbatim. In such cases, avoid jumbling words; pass it on word for word. Demonstrate that you are interested in what a person is saying even if the delivery is monotonous or verbose. Don't let your mind wander; your focus should be your listener.

Four: Make notes

Some of us cannot afford to rely on memory, and are too lazy to pen down what we have heard. This leads to skipping important appointments, missing meetings, forgetting important date and ventures. Overall, it leads to loss. Write down what you need to communicate, to whom and by when. No reminder or note is complete without the date and time. If you have an assigned work area or cabin, use post-its with the required details. Focus on ideas, not just facts. Listening only for facts often impedes grasping the speaker's meaning.

Five: Paraphrase what the speaker says

Paraphrasing is your version of essential information or ideas uttered by the speaker and presented in a new form. This outline focuses on a single main idea. The process that is involved in paraphrasing helps us remember (what we hear) as well. It also creates trust and a speaker learns that you did grasp what he or she said. Reflecting what we hear, to each other, helps give each a chance to become aware of the different levels a speaker and listener may be at. This brings things into the open where they can be more readily resolved. Avoid rushing or interrupting the speaker. Changing the subject is often taken for lack of interest; don't change it until you are sure the conversation is over. Asking questions to clear the grey areas and to demonstrate interest could prove helpful.

Six: Do not assume

Nothing can be a bigger sin for a listener than to assume. We assume ideas, thoughts, and sometimes even facts and figures. We try to be correct all the time and that blocks learning and the influx of new ideas. Avoid jumping to conclusions and anticipate what a person is trying to say. Imagine yourself in the speaker's situation and then form a frame of mind. It shows that you welcome what the speaker has to say. Remember the old poem:

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard
Why can't we all be like that bird?

-- Prajjwal Rai is a Lead Training Consultant with WCH Training Solutions. He is a Cambridge CELTA certified Trainer and can be reached at

Duct Tape Marketing

I'll attribute the title of this post to the legendary Peter Drucker, although, that's not exactly what he said - it does capture the spirit though.

I find that small business owners aren't that hot at tracking and measuring important indicators of marketing success. In all my years of working with successful small businesses, I recall only a handful that measured what mattered. And, rarely did that include the one indicator that, if improved, could give a business the quickest jolt.

Measuring and tracking sound boring and complicated. Most of the books on the subject of marketing metrics are so full of academic speak they don't provide much in the way of simple and effective. Simple and effective are the two most important elements when it comes to getting the attention of a small business owner.

So, what to measure. Here's the simple list. Start today or you will never have a benchmark to set marketing goals around. I'm going to start with the assumption that you know how much revenue and how much profit your business makes and that you want more of both.

  1. Leads - where do they come from, how many, and what generated them - if you don't know this, it's likely you are wasting lots of money on things that are not generating leads, or potentially worse, not sticking with a great tactic.
  2. Average $ - What's average amount of business you do with a client - your existing clients want to do more business with you. It's easy to create an average dollar number and give your attention to creating more opportunities and more profitable clients - this way you can weed out clients that fall below the number eternally.
  3. Conversions - How many of those leads turn into clients - the biggest time killer of all for the small business is chasing leads that are not qualified, not educated (by you, not in life), not ready to appreciate your value. When you measure this, you have to fix it, it's too painful otherwise.

As you can see, no rocket surgery with this list, but tell me, are you really measuring these three little things? Without some knowledge of each, your marketing effort is little more than a passing hobby - "this sounds good, let's try it this week."

Here's the tip that will give your business a jolt.

Tripling or quadrupling your lead conversion number is usually the easiest thing to do once you start paying attention to it. It's much harder to triple the number of leads so focus on what you say and do on the phone and across the desk, prepare marketing materials that over educate and get everyone in your firm on the same page when it comes to telling the value proposition you have.

I'm not simply talking about getting some sales training or reading a Gitimer book, (although both might be good tactics) I'm talking about a fundamental, strategic shift around what prospects come to know about you and your unique benefits. Focus on that, measure the conversions, and pretty much everything else will start to fall in place.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Duct Tape

Let's get the list started - an entire list of web based only applications to run your business - please tell me about your favorites

Share your favorites!

From Sethgodin Blog

I love name tags.

I think doing name tags properly transforms a meeting. Here's why:
a. people don't really know everyone, even if they think they do.
b. if you don't know someone's name, you are hesitant to talk to them.
c. if you don't talk to them, you never get to know them and you both lose.
d. if you are wearing a name tag, it's an invitation to start a conversation.

One summer, I led 90 people, some strangers to each other, through a three-day training. Every single person had to wear a hat with his or her name on it until every person in the group knew every other person's name and could prove it. It took two days. Worth it.

Doing a name tag right isn't easy. Here are my rules:
a. BIG first name
b. positioned in a place where you can see it
c. ideally two-sided, on a short lanyard (why on earth would you make a one-sided lanyard tag?)
d. a piece of information that is an ice breaker. Here's my latest example. Every single sticker had a different picture. No real logic behind it. But what if there was? What if attendees picked their favorite movie star, metaphor, state capital, political gaffe, Saturday Night Live skit... anything worth talking about?

Grand_brut Mormon evangelists all wear name tags. Great idea. Doctors used to. Too bad they don't. Now it's almost like a Prisoner thing, where the only purpose of the tag is to enable you to tattle on someone who doesn't give you good service. / Commentary by Michael Wade on Leadership, Ethics, Management, and Life

Note From Boss To Employees

  1. I am sometimes under enormous pressure from upper management; pressure that you seldom see. Anything that you can do to make my job easier will be greatly appreciated.
  2. Your interests are important, but please remember that I also have to juggle the concerns and feelings of a bunch of other people, including individuals outside of the department.

  3. I may not have been given a huge amount of training before being named to a supervisory position. As a result, I’ve had to learn through trial and error. That's not always bad. Many of my responsibilities can only be learned through practice.

  4. If you are a former co-worker of mine, please recognize that supervising former peers is one of the toughest jobs any supervisor faces. The support that you give me is crucial.

  5. I will make mistakes. Please give me the same understanding that you’d like me to give you when you blunder.

  6. If I do something dumb or am on the verge of doing so, please tell me. Don’t hint. Tell me.

  7. I don’t like unpleasant surprises. Let me in on bad news as soon as possible. (Things that you believe are obvious may not be that clear to me. On the other hand, you'd be surprised at how quickly the latest gossip reaches my ears.)

  8. I expect you to take initiative. If you keep bouncing things to me, I’m going to wonder why I have you around.

  9. You should ask questions if you don’t know what to do. On the other hand, you should not have to be taught the same thing over and over again.
  10. Let’s respect each other’s time. We each have a job to do and the more we can reduce unnecessary interruptions, the happier we'll each be.
  11. Don't let all of my talk about meeting goals and producing results lead you into unethical behavior. You always have my permission to be ethical.
  12. If either of us has a problem with the other's performance, let's talk about it.

From Sethgodin Blog

Is hiding a growth strategy?

Wendy's is using a legal loophole to avoid posting the calorie content of its food on the menus in their New York stores. Perhaps they're hoping that people won't realize that eating every meal there is going to make them fat.

Porsche ran a huge ad in today's New York Times for the Cayenne. It contains every imaginable stat, including the size of the brake rotors. Oh, they left one stat out: mileage. Perhaps they're hoping that people wealthy enough to buy a $60,000 SUV won't notice how much gas they're using...

The thing is: if you're going to work this hard to hide information that's likely to be quite important to some users, it's going to be very hard to grow. One way or the other, the market finds out.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Want to succeed? Fail first

Sunder Ramachandran

If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.'
Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, uttered these famous words.

As you try to leave an impressive mark at work, a failure can bring
unexpected twists and turns. How you deal with failure is what will
ultimately help you succeed.

The question is: are you smart enough to learn from your mistakes?

What is considered workplace failure

While there's no standard definition of workplace failure, you know
it's happening to you if you can associate with any of the following
examples at your workplace:

Not meeting deadlines consistently

If you get the stick from your boss repeatedly for not finishing tasks
on time, you seriously need to consider a course in time management.

If you have taken on too much workload and set yourself an unrealistic
timeframe, you may have just set yourself up for failure.

Tip: Trust your instincts. When you feel bothered, speak up. It may
take some guts initially, but it will save you face later. In case you
miss the chance, request for a private meeting with the boss to
explain your feelings about a short notice to meet a tight deadline.

Fighting with colleagues/ peers

In this age of teamwork, conflicts with people and petty fights with
your boss definitely get labeled as failure.

Tip: Find common ground and never take sides in case of a conflict. If
you are involving your supervisor, tell him/ her how the conflicts
within the team affect your productivity and morale -- that way, you
will not sound like a whiny complainer.

Not keeping promises

Your customer's product is not ready or has not been delivered. It's a
massive service failure and you have no clue how to salvage the

Tip: Be honest with your customer and tell them you will do whatever
it takes to fix the issue. Never hide behind policies or procedures.

Your clients are human and will appreciate your honest effort. The
next time they give you business, surprise them with super fast
delivery to gain the credibility back.

Making excuses

Constant excuses can label you as undependable; you could be
considered overly defensive and resistant. You may be strong
otherwise; however, if you're always covering up your shortcomings
with excuses, your negative reputation will make you succumb to

Tip: Face the facts and stop procrastinating. Take other people's help
to get things done.

If you still fail, apologise and fix the issue without hiding behind
fictitious explanations. If your boss says the report was late, you
can choose to ignore but it does not become any less true.

My great idea bombed

You creative pursuits got the better of you and you spent the
company's money designing a product so way ahead of it is time that
nobody bought it. While you were expecting laurels for your
creativity, your boss asks you for a report to justify the investment.

Tip: Acknowledge the failure but don't apologise; risk-taking is a
skill required to succeed. Tell your colleagues you know one more way
of 'How not to do it'. Analyse what went wrong and crack it the next
time around.

First, take time out

"The problem with many young professionals is that they aim for a
flawless career from the moment they enter the workforce. They have
high aspirations and want to be seen as credible professionals with a
100 percent track record of success. They don't realise that nobody
made it big without failing a few times and the ones who succeed are
the ones who bounce back from their failures," says Rohini Verma, a
Delhi based clinical psychologist.

Take time out to think about what's going wrong with your strategies.
Don't be in a rush to get into the disaster recovery mode. Take a
small break; go for a vacation or a long drive.

Try meditation or yoga to help you ease your mind and focus. The
objective is to take your mind off work so you can think about
workplace challenges from a new perspective.

Next, analyse your failure

There could be several reasons but, if you get to the bare bones,
there are two factors that stand out:

You are stuck in the wrong job

This is a no brainer. You need to have the aptitude for the work you
are doing. If you're in the wrong job, you tend burn out quickly and
get tired of your job, which leads to more failures.

However, figuring what you want to do for a living day in and day out
takes some consideration. Try to get diverse experience in many fields
and then decide what you would like to do for a career.

You are just plain careless

Maybe you failed because of your own sloppy work, or you just did not
spend enough time understanding what you were doing or you made some
hasty decisions or misunderstood your job profile.

If these happen to be the reason/s, you need to listen, accept the
facts and shape up for the job.

Now, take steps

Workplace failures are a part of life but, if dealt with well, can
turn out to be life changing events. Here are some smart strategies to
repair your workplace failures and mistakes:

Acknowledge your failure

Taking ownership for your mishap is the first and the most important
step. Blaming others rather than yourself for the new product nobody
seems to be buying will create tension at office and spoil your
working relationship with others as well. You are much better off
focusing on the actual sense of the issue and what went wrong.

Don't make it personal

Criticism of your work does not mean your colleagues/ customers are
targeting you as an individual. If you goofed up during an important
client presentation, it doesn't make you a bad employee nor does it
negate your prior accomplishments.

Learn from your failure

So what if your idea bombed? You should use this to your advantage in
preparation for your next big project. Analyse what went wrong or
could have been altered. Maybe you could have done some more research,
or could have tested your idea before you went public or perhaps taken
the advice of some senior members of the team.

"Treat work life like a game of chess. One bad move does not mean it's
the end of the game. If you take a grip of the situation, you'll
always get the opportunity to strike back," says Prabh Sharan,
training manager with Kingfisher Airlines, Mumbai.

Make genuine friends

Have people on whom you can bank in good as well as bad times. Take
their advice. Ask them for feedback on your ideas and let them play
the devil's advocate. In an already competitive world, any help you
can get should be welcomed. Don't run the solo race.

Don't get emotional

You are bound to feel frustrated and upset when you miss an important
deadline that impacts a client, but don't blow it by making it all

The angry young man title will not get you any rewards at the office.
Maintain your dignity and be quick with your apology in order to
salvage your reputation.

Never say die

'No guts, no glory' is a cliché worth repeating.

Failure can be one of the best teaching tools; the best part is it
doesn't have to be your own mistake in order for you to learn from it.

In the words of Michael D Eisner, chairman & CEO of Disney
Corporation, 'Recovering from failure is often easier than building
from success.'

Even if you fall flat on your face, you can always use the valuable
lesson you learnt on your way to the t

What every entrepreneur MUST know

What every entrepreneur MUST know
Sunder Ramachandran

After attending the summit for young entrepreneurs at IILM, Gurgaon,
last week, I caught up with venture capitalist Alok Mittal, a
chairperson at the event. Alok works as partner and executive director
with Cannan Partners, which invests in early stage technology

Alok was co-founder of and was instrumental in the
acquisition of JobsAhead by, the global leader in online
recruitment. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and
Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and a
Master's degree in Computer Science from the University of California,

After covering lessons shared among entrepreneurs at the summit in my
earlier article, I bring you Alok's views on entrepreneurship and his
advice to young entrepreneurs.

Have a question you want to ask?

How do you know when you are experienced enough to start your own
company? Are there any benchmarks or is it enough to go with your gut
feeling and overall confidence?

I think the origin of many large businesses is the ability to spot
gaps in the solutions that are currently in the market. You must focus
on the ability to build strong teams and your ability to understand
the market well. Given those two things, today is as good as any other
time to start a business for most entrepreneurs.

What, according to you, are the traits most successful entrepreneurs
have in common?

Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to take feedback from the
market. They also have a high degree of market understanding.

A good entrepreneur has conviction in his/ her plans and is open to
changing strategies based on the market dynamics. He/she also has the
ability to build well rounded teams.

Entrepreneurship: What it takes

What are some of the common mistakes that you have seen young Indian
entrepreneurs make?

I think India has a weaker ecosystem for entrepreneurs right now. One
of the gaps is the lack of advisory bandwidth. Sometimes,
entrepreneurs are internally focused and do not keep a close tab on
the customers' need.

Entrepreneurs tend to focus more on their solutions than the
customer's problems. Sometimes, they lack a broader perspective of the
market. That's where we, as venture capitalists, add value, but we
would rather that start-up teams have that kind of ability and
foresight within the team.

What would you advise existing or aspiring entrepreneurs who feel
stuck due to the lack of investors? How should they go about securing
capital for their business?

I think funding is only one part of building a successful business.
There are many entrepreneurs who did not get funding at the start-up
stage. One in a hundred ideas gets funded by venture capitalists.
Entrepreneurs should be prepared to find alternate ways of
bootstrapping their plans.

You can always get back to venture capitalists once you have
demonstrated that your business plan has value. You must prove to
venture capitalists that your concept is working or that your
execution of the idea is superior.

Which are the sectors in which you see maximum scope for entrepreneurship today?

Given that India is on an accelerated growth path, I see opportunities
widely in all the sectors. The Internet is fairly under-leveraged.
Mobile and telecom technology is a big area. I also see opportunities
in software for the small business segment. Other than technology, the
retails sector is an obvious high potential industry.

What is your advice to the student community who may be toying with
new business ideas? How should they approach entrepreneurship?

Students should go out, spend some time in the real world and explore
real problems and real solutions. Our academic framework does not
provide that to the students. I have seen students just theorising
stuff that may not work in the real market.