Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

Common Vision

“You need to surround yourself with quality human beings that are intelligent and have a vision.” Vince McMahon

When two companies come together to bring about greater value they need to be guided with a purpose. This purpose outlines exactly why it is that they are going into this partnership, what they hope to achieve through it and what changes will have to be made to their current business model if they were to embark on this venture. A common vision embodies all these factors.

To reach this common vision requires each of the partners to answer the three questions outlined above. Firstly “why are we wanting to embark on this partnership?”. If both sides have done their preliminary research and believe that they could add substantial value together, that becomes a strong case as to why they should partner. At this stage you need to put in some serious thought about common value systems and how integration would have an impact on operations in the future. Once both sides have agreed that there is value in them partnering they can move onto the next question.

This is ,”What do they hope to achieve through this partnership?”. This is the stage where both sides have to develop key performance indicators which would measure the effectiveness of this partnership. For example by partnering they would be able to reduce their cost of market by 10% annually which could be re-invested into R&D. In other situations one partner could leverage off the others distribution network to reduce inventory by 2x. The important aspect when developing such a proposition will be to see that the value created is not channeled to one beneficiary only. It needs to be mutually beneficial to foster trust and future growth. Once this question is answered you can move to the last question.

This is, “What changes need to be made to their current business models to execute this venture?”. At this stage we need to balance the cost of this partnership and weigh it against the benefits. This is a tricky aspect since with partnerships there are a host of intangible factors such as staff integration, communication barriers or even different value systems which may affect the partnership. Either way the two partners must do their best to evaluate the costs so as to arrive at a realistic figure.

Once we have all the key factors, a common vision for the partnership can be developed. This will help guide the partnership and provide it with KPI’s and costs which can be constantly measured and kept track of. Partnering is a commitment and one must ensure to only make those commitments which are maintainable .

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Value Creation

“The true mission of a business is to create value. Any business muddled enough to believe that its real purpose is producing profit is probably not long for this world. Profit is absolutely essential, to be sure, but it is a downstream outcome of creating value, and so it functions very poorly as an objective in itself.” Frederick F. Reichheld

Partnering is all about creating value. Organizations have begun to recognize the fact that by strategically partnering with companies who complement their core focus results in achieving greater sustainable competitive advantages and higher levels of productivity. For example Intel’s partnership with Microsoft shows how two very different firms strategically partnered together to push each other’s products and services more effectively.

When two companies make a conscious decision to adjust their strategies to complement the partnership that is when true value is created.Both companies must have the mindset when they go into this agreement it should be with a win-win attitude. If only one partner is adding most of the value the imbalance will result in a rapid deterioration in the relationship. When negotiating successful partnerships analyze how both companies can add substantial value to each other. You have to enter the agreement with an objective of increasing the overall market size that you are operating in. In this way both you and your partner will get a large piece of the pie.

Partnerships are all about focusing on your core competencies and leveraging off your partners competencies to make your product or service offering more attractive. We have to constantly strive to achieve a level of relationship where tasks will not be duplicated in either organization and the focus will be on creating new opportunities and value for your customers or clients.Next time you are looking at adding a strategic, start with a win-win point of view. Think a lot less traditionally and focus on the bigger picture to achieve maximum impact.

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Strategic Partnerships

“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.” Bill Gates

The world continues to become smaller as time goes by. As competition increases and products and services become commoditized, competing on price alone is a recipe for disaster. With the rampant use of the internet making an abundance of information available to customers and clients, competitive advantages become critical to a firms success. That is where strategic partnerships come into place, they enable you to create multiple barriers of entries which could be both, tangible and intangible. Usually they are developed outside your area of expertise to complement your current offerings.

However over the last 5 years of doing business I have discovered that creating these strategic partnerships succesfully is not an easy task. Having entered into such agreements without careful due diligence in the past has resulted in a fair share of frustration, brand and monetary loss. It has however now taught me some key lessons which I will share with you over the course of the next week. The process will show how to correctly identify, align and commence a successful strategic partnership.

A key factor to be kept in mind before entering into any such partnership should be, to look at the larger picture for your company or startup. Partnerships help you to scale your business effectively and efficiently if done correctly. They allow you to focus on your core expertise while you develop complementary assets around your service to give it competitive advantages. By not leveraging on them in this day and age is a mistake a lot of startup companies make. Keep your eyes peeled for any potential partners  in your segment or industry  and watch your business prosper.

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5 ways to get you and your team motivated

“People often say often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Zig Ziglar

Getting and staying motivated requires you to have the desire and faith to achieve remarkable things. It needs you to push yourself harder, test yourself, take risks and believe that impossible is nothing. We all have days which are far from being ideal. Such days test that intense desire to achieve what you have set out to get. The following lists methods to continuously sustain your motivational level and increase it when it begins to dip.

  1. Everything starts with you: Whether you are leading a team or are a part of it, it is your responsibility to bring your A game to work everyday. Identifying what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning is essential. Once you have identified these factors you will become a source of motivation for the rest of your team. To learn more about how you can identify your motivations please click here.
  2. Challenging goals: Creating smart goals for yourself and your company is critical to keep motivation at a high level. When you do not challenge yourself hard enough you tend to stand still. That is about the worst thing you could possibly do for yourself. To read more about setting challenging goals please click here.
  3. Progress motivates: Momentum has the ability to inject life into any project or venture. It is this remarkable energy which infuses teams with the ability to achieve the impossible. Motivational levels hit the roof when a venture has momentum on its side making it a key metric to be monitored continuously. To read more about generating momentum please click here.
  4. Motivational environment: Surrounding yourself with highly motivated individuals in an environment which caters to open communication and creativity is a sure way to keep the motivational levels in check. The environment and the people you work with have a direct impact on your productivity levels. Making sure you carefully monitor this metric will result in higher productivity teams, to learn more please click here.
  5. Rewards and recognition: A well planned rewards and recognition program can do wonders for the motivational level for yourself and your team. You first need to recognize what it is that motivates your team members and tailor a rewards and recognition program likewise. To read more about how to develop a rewards and recognition program please click here.

These are a few ways which have helped me keep track of the motivational level within myself and the teams I have worked with. I hope it helps others develop a framework for their own ventures and companies. Even though the ways outlined are very straight forward we need to continuously monitor them and see where we are lagging behind. I look forward to others adding to this list of ways they keep themselves and their teams motivated.

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Rewards and Recognition

“No man, who continues to add something to the material, intellectual and moral well-being of the place in which he lives, is left long without proper rewards.” Booker T Washington

Rewards and recognitions are key motivational factors for teams. In the past, I thought rewards were primarily financial rewards. As I explored this topic more I discovered that different individuals required different types of rewards to keep them motivated. All that some needed was recognition by their boss for their contribution, others needed some affirmation from their team mates while others felt satisfied with their year end bonus. Your job as a team or project leader should be to find out what sort of rewards and recognition your team mates are looking for.

The tricky part with a rewards and recognition (R&R) program is to formulate it in such a way that is both fair and balanced. A badly constructed program could work against the organization and foster complacency and unhealthy competition among team members. When constructing an R&R program I usually involve all the individuals who will be affected by it to contribute their ideas and suggestions. Rather than constructing a standard bonus ladder you should aim to have a more dynamic program which keep things interesting while keeping the goals clearly in focus.

At a startup company, especially at the beginning ,when finances may be tight it becomes essential to structure an R&R program which gives team members necessary rewards and recognition and keeps the motivational level high. Some of the techniques which I have used have been providing training and development budgets, recognition awards and stock options, these have been helpful when working on tight budgets. If budgets are tight you should focus on developing a lot more creative non-monetary rewards. Tailor them according to the personalitiesand motivations of your team members . Learn what motivates your team members today and tailor an R&R program accordingly.

Related article: Rewards and Recognition for teams

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Motivational Environments

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.”     Earl Nightangale

Going to work everyday should be far from a chore, it should be the reason for you to jump out of bed in the morning. (Flash back) Seven years ago I finished high school and like quite a few of my classmates at that time, investment banking was on everyones mind. So when everyone was applying to B school programs I decided that I would take some time off before university and get a glimpse into what investment banking would be like. I interned at one of the larger investment banking firms and it didn’t take me very long to figure out that we were not a very good fit. Thats when I changed my majors and decided I needed to find something else. I am in no way downplaying careers in finance, its just that each one of us are unique and are motivated by different factors and environments, finding one that suits your personality is essential.

As startups grow larger we have to make sure we maintain similar environments that sparked the creativity in the first place. Two companies come to mind which have done a great job of keeping the balance in check, they are, Google and IDEO. Both highly creative companies which focus on the environment for their most important asset…their people. Creating and focusing on an environment which fosters creativity and inspires, enables people to think out of the box without fear and builds loyalty. It becomes easier to work as a team when you can communicate and help each other reach his/her goals. There is nothing worse in my opinion than having a ton of ideas on how to improve a service or product and not being given a platform to express them.

I am an advocate of keeping communication among the teams I work with as candid as possible. Knowing each others goals and roles enables us to do whatever it takes to help our group mates to succeed in reaching their targets. Make the motivational environment of your organization a key metric to be constantly measured. What is the morale level of your team?

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Progress motivates

“Don’t wait untill everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self confident and more and more successful.” Mark Victor Hansen 

Momentum is the force which everyone and every company is aiming to achieve. In my short span in the entrepreneurial space ,I have come to realise how strong a force it can be. It has the ability to inspire, excite and motivate. You discover your capabilities on a completely different level and at times surprise yourself as to what you can achieve. Without it you are like a ship set to sail with no wind to help it along the way. 

When starting any new venture, if there is one thing which should be aimed for, it is to get some momentum going. This can be any activity where visible and tangible results are being created. Initially it could be as simple as getting your business plan together. Later it could be closing that first deal or getting some marketing publicity. As you begin to see and be part of the progress it will give you, the motivation to push yourself further and harder emerges. You will have this surround energy which will attract others to help you along the way.

If you or your team is lacking motivation take a look at their spirit and morale. If it is not at its optimal see how you can generate some momentum into your current business model. If the approach you are taking isn’t working, brain storm other ways to approach it. You have to focus on building momentum as quickly as you can and most importantly making sure you maintain it once things have been set into motion. 

Few things in the entrepreneurial world compare to when you have momentum on your side and things are working out better than expected. How can you add momentum into your venture today?

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Challenging goals

“If you’re bored with life — you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things — you don’t have enough goals.” Lou Holtz

Checking your goals list is a very valid reference point when you or your team is not performing at its optimal. You may have set goals and steps for it, yet, not getting anywhere. This situation often arises when your goals or your teams are not ambitious enough. Knowing you have the capability of doing a $100k in sales in a quarter and setting yourself a target of $50k is not doing justice to your abilities. You have to balance your goal setting carefully using the SMART system which is an extremely effective one. 

 A lot of entrepreneurs become complacent very quickly when their startups pick up. In the dynamic and highly connected world we live in, no one can afford to become complacent. This applies across the board whether you are an entrepreneur, in a career or stay-home mother/father. Everyone needs to feel the urge to do more to remain connected to the world. It is when we break the connection that the trouble starts. 

In summary, evaluate goals on a regular basis and be thorough in this exercise. Bring balance to them using the smart goal setting system. If you do not have enough challenges at work talk to your team mates or your boss about the situation and work on ways to improve your product or service. Whatever you do, just don’t stand still because thats just about the worse thing you could do for yourself. Take up the challenge to do more today!

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Everything starts with you

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” George Bernard Shaw 

We all have days where nothing seems to be working out right. How we react to them is what makes all the difference. Do you tend to take your frustration out on other people, keep to yourself and avoid any sort of contact with others or do you take whatever comes in your stride and figure out how to get things back on track. You need to keep your motivational level in check all the time and it becomes even more important when you are leading a group.

At a startup company things do not always go as planned. You will have days where your level of commitment will be tested. When I am having one of these days I take some time out and bring focus to what it is that I am wanting to achieve. I have a goals list which I refer to which outlines all my goals and steps to get to them. I then compare it with the direction we are taking as a company and whether we are in sync with what we all set out to do. If they have been any changes I evaluate where they were made and how it has affected our progress. I then consult with the team and ask for feedback from them  as well.

This whole process ends up providing me with the focus that is required to move forward with our plans confidently. Being able to share my thoughts and opinions re-affirms certain thought processes and fuses that energy which goes missing when things are not moving in the right direction. So next time you are feeling a little low and things are not moving along as smoothly as you would have hoped for, take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture. Remember as a member or leader of a team it is your responsibility to bring your A game to work everyday.

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Are you or your team lacking motivation?

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot away from a winning touchdown.” – Ross Perot 

Motivation is an essential characteristic for an entrepreneur. Some people call it the “fire within” while others think of it as “jolts of adrenaline”. It is that feeling that gets you up ridiculously early in the morning with the feeling that today is going to be a great day. Sometimes it is the only thing that you have going your way when things are not coming together as planned. It is however natural that you will have some days when your energy levels are not where they usually are or a lack of progress has demoralized a teams drive. You need to take action to reverse this process as early as possible. I have witnessed first hand how lack of motivation begins to eat away at a person or team and completely changes them. You do not want to go down that lane. 

Everyone approaches the topic of motivation from a different angle. This is because each one of us is motivated by different factors. That is what makes this topic such an interesting one. I am going to take this week to talk about what I do to motivate myself and my team. I would really appreciate it if along the way everyone could pitch in with how they are motivating themselves or their teams. This will help us to get a diverse group of factors.

In the end all that matters is that you know what motivates you. What makes you tick? Identify these factors and keep close track of them. They will be the key to get you through those hard times and will propel you even higher during the good times.


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