Monday, March 30, 2009

Getting serious about your meeting problem


Friday, March 6, 2009

Three kinds of meetings


Meetings are marketing in real time with real people. (A conference is not a meeting. A conference is a chance for a circle of people to interact).

There are only three kinds of classic meetings:

  1. Information. This is a meeting where attendees are informed about what is happening (with or without their blessing). While there may be a facade of conversation, it's primarily designed to inform.
  2. Discussion. This is a meeting where the leader actually wants feedback or direction or connections. You can use this meeting to come up with an action plan, or develop a new idea, for example.
  3. Permission. This is a meeting where the other side is supposed to say yes but has the power to say no.

PLEASE don't confuse them. Confused meeting types are the number one source of meeting ennui. One source of confusion is that a meeting starts as one sort of meeting and then magically morphs into another kind. The reason this is frightening is that one side or the other might not realize that's actually occurring. If it does, stop and say, "Thanks for the discussion. Let me state what we've just agreed on and then we can go ahead and approve it, okay?"

While I'm at it, let me remind you that there are two kinds of questions.

  1. Questions designed to honestly elicit more information.
  2. Questions designed to demonstrate how much you know or your position on an issue and to put the answerer on the defensive.

There's room for both types of questions, particularly in a team preparing for a presentation or a pitch. Again, don't confuse them. I like to be sure that there's time for the first type, then, once everyone acknowledges that they know what's on the table, open it up for the second, more debate-oriented type of question.

When should a startup pull the plug?

from Trakin' the india business buzz by 

Started in 1981 Infosys was on the verge of collapse after 8 years when a joint venture with Kurt Salmon Associates (KSA) has collapsed. The Infosys-KSA joint venture was Infosys’s attempt to break into American market. If Mr. Murthy has accepted that as a failure and moved on, there wouldn’t be any Infosys. Murthy along with his co-founders decided to stay on. The rest is history which everyone is part of.

The story of Infosys is an inspirational one. But, the times have changed since then. The gestation period for a startup has come down drastically. 8 years is not a long time then, but anything more than 3 years is a long time now.

A startup which is 3 years old and doesn’t have a profits or break-even will go down unless its Twitter.

Pulling the plug though looks and sounds fashionable, is really difficult to do. There is a lot of emotional attachment. But, sound logic should overcome that attachment and say these three words - This is it. pull_the_plugIf you fail, it is not the first time someone has failed. If your startup fails, again this is not the first time a startup has failed. Besides, there is no such thing as a failure until you stop learning from these things. There are always learning’s.

The startups mentioned here have done just that. They have pulled the plug on a specific idea but not on the entrepreneurial an online travel deal aggregator went was sold on ebay fro 112,000.

Reason is the aggregator is not cut for Indian markets as there weren’t many hotels offering deals.Rohit Agarwal’s Tech Tribe a networking startup which received VC funding shut shop after 3 years of operations. Reason again is the changing business conditions and bigger players with more capital at their disposal. Rohit moved onto to online education space.

Kesava Reddy’s MyDuniya offers  email-via-SMS service. The concentration on individual users instead of corporates did not work very well and instead found a new start-up called Numo Solutions. It offers customized SMS solutions for corporate’ a movie ticketing service was doing good but the founders pulled the plug on it as it is taking too much of their time. They came up with Lipikaar a translation and transliteration product.

In all these startups there is a trend :

  1. You pull the plug, Accept failure and go into oblivion or a day job.
  2. You pull the plug on this idea, go on to a different idea and succeed. It is statistically proven that entrepreneurs get second time lucky.
  3. You start something up, you start something else along with it, work on them in parallel and then you decide to pull the plug on one of the things which isn’t working.

The first option does not seem likely as I believe in this saying - Once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur.

I still have some questions left. What if a startup stays on the course to become the next Infosys? Should a startup have a  contingency plan or an exit strategy?  When do you think startups should pull the plug?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Malaysia bucks the banking trend

Malaysia bucked the trend by showing a continuing demand for banking professionals. Robert Walters related Global Salary Survey 2009, now in its 10th year, also released today, said that banking is still hiring in Malaysia and there is more demand for professionals in shared services and outsourced operations, especially in IT and finance.

The report noted that: “Strong demand remains for sales and business development professionals with specific product, technical or industry knowledge in IT, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and the oil and gas sectors.”

Robert Walters related Global Salary Survey 2009, also released today, stated that: “Another notable trend that has emerged from the economic downturn is the increased demand for contractors, particularly within the banking and IT sectors, where many permanent roles are now offered on a contract basis as employers, unable to increase permanent headcount, look to flexible solutions to fulfill resourcing needs,” the report said.

“Demand for IT contractors increased as organisations utilised flexible headcount on projects whilst waiting for permanent headcount approval. Permanent hires are, however, still being made for business critical projects,” the Global Salary Survey stated.

In IT commerce, as outsourcing becomes more prevalent, employers are looking for mid to senior level IT candidates with experience in vendor, contract and relationship management. IT services and outsourcing providers are expanding, driven by an increasing volume of government contracts.