Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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

Please hold your call is important to us

“The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer.” Peter Drucker 

Those are 8 words I really do not  enjoy hearing from a machine, especially when I am not having the best of days. In this day and age when customer service is a deciding factor in whether a company is successful or not I am continually surprised by the lack of importance given to this function. This blog series was inspired by a nightmarish episode of customer support at one of the largest telco’s in the country. It took them approximately 30 hours to reconnect me with the world.

During this 30 hour period I went through a gamut of emotions ranging from diabolical anger, confusion, disappointment, curiosity, denial to euphoric happiness. I learnt about the intricacies of mammoth call centers, the lack of sufficient support systems, just how insignificant one complaint can be when you process thousands of such queries every hour and how destructive one such incident can be to a company’s reputation. (Lost Laptop = $54m , Bloggers reaction) The internet has transformed the voice of the customer and corporations must definitely factor this into their customer service strategy.

Over the course of this week I will be talking about how to put customer service into your startup strategy from the word go and other topics related to improving and focusing on the customer service department. We have to carefully balance technology with human element to ensure that customer issues are resolved promptly and efficiently. However contrary to common belief, that the customer is always right, this author & blogger has generated a lot of buzz promoting the fact that the customer is ‘not’ always right. What do you think?

What was the worst customer service experience you have been through? How do you think the company could have reacted differently to address your complaints? I look forward to hearing from all of you.

Filed under: Communication, Customer Service, Strategy, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 steps to a balanced life

“Life at any time can become difficult: life at any time can become easy. It all depends upon how one adjusts oneself to life.” Anonymous

During this series, several factors were discussed which are often taken for granted in the course of our chaotic lives today. A lot of the time we forget the simple things which, not only help us to get from one day to the next  but which keep us anchored, healthy and motivated to continue doing what we do. I hope some of the things discussed this week will help you enjoy a more balanced and healthy life;

1. Diets: Diets tend to be one of the first things which go out of whack when we enter very ‘busy’ periods in our life. The effect of this however is felt on all aspects of our life. It is unhealthy, productivity goes down and we just don’t feel that great about ourselves. We have to do all we can to keep this aspect in check at all times for a more balanced life. To read more tips and suggestions on keeping a balanced diet please click here.

2. Sleep: A lack of rest can impact severely on the quality of life. When you are working on complex deals which are extremely draining, having a set routine for sleep can dramatically increase your productivity, motivation and overall drive. To read more tips and suggestions on developing a balanced sleeping routine please click here.

3. Exercise Routine: Lethargy and restlessness can result from being pent up in an office all day long. The body needs a release outlet to get some fresh air into the system. Developing and sticking to an exercise routine can be a challenge, however, if you do set one for yourself you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome. To read more tips and suggestions on sticking to your exercise routine please click here.

4. Family and Friends: In life we need anchors to keep us rooted and prevent us from drifting too far off course. Family and friends are one of these anchors and help us do just that. Sometimes when we are caught up in our busy lives we forget how important they are to us. In order to have a balanced lifestyle we need to focus on stuff other than, bottom line results and material acquisitions, we need to focus on the things which really matter. To read more about keeping in touch please click here.

5. Inspirational Story: A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was….To read the entire story please click here.

In life , we are all intent on reaching our goals and acheiving our dreams. Along this journey, life…happens, and we tend to get busy with the details and the little things. Soon, if we haven’t paid too much attention to the bigger picture we may find ourselves in a place we do not want to be. Don’t let that happen. From time to time come up for air and see if you are moving in the right direction before it is too late to turn around. 

p.s stop along the way, periodically, to smell the roses and actually enjoy the ride . 

 

Filed under: Advice, Health, Inspiration, Stress, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Inspirational Story

“Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.” Norman Lear

I was told this story a long time ago and I realize that the factors which we have discussed in this series and this story, are intertwined. I hope you all enjoy it and learn from it as much as I have.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. So the professor then picked up a box of small pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.” The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now”, said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions – things that, if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car.

The sand is everything else – the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. There will always be time to clean the house, and fix the rubbish. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand”.

 

Filed under: Inspiration, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friends and Family

“There are the families that we are born into, and there are the families that we choose; our circle of friends. While their faces may change over the course of our lives, the joy they bring us remains constant.” Anonymous

Anchors are used to stabilize ships during choppy times, control speed and even provide directional control. When a ship loses its anchor, it tends to drift into unchartered territories without being aware of the direction the ship is taking. If the anchor is not restored, you may move so much off track that finding your way back sometimes take a lifetime. 

In life, family and friends provide your ship with a similar kind of anchor. They help keep you grounded, provide support and allow you to remember where you come from and the value system you represent. This is a critical aspect of our identity, I am however often surprised how life has this uncanny ability to make us forget our true anchors and drift unknowingly wherever the wind takes us. We get so busy and caught up in our lives, we forget to pay attention to the little things in life that matter and find ourselves having lost our way to what really matters the most . 

During periods where we are working 16-18 hour a day for extended periods of time this bond between family and friends gets strained. What I have come to realize is that we do not need to do much to keep this relationship alive. A phone call or an email goes a long way in just letting the people you care about know that you are well and thinking of them . Facebook now allows us to stay in touch and has made it very easy to do so. With all these convenience which are only a click away we still make excuses and do not make that phone call or send that email or even leave a message. I know I have been guilty of this in the past and looking back, I don’t know why it was so hard.

We all work really hard at achieving the goals we set out for ourselves. What I am learning is, that along the way we have to pay much closer attention to the world around us today. There will be very little satisfaction in getting everything you want if you then find that when you get there, no one is around to celebrate your success with. 

 

Filed under: Inspiration, Stress, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Exercise Routines

“Exercise is the chief source of improvement in our faculties.” Hugh Blair

Its been a really long week, you are sitting at your workstation with a ton of work, but you just cannot get started. The words to describe this, more often than not, is “Lethargy” and “Restlessness”. In my case this state occurs when, coupled with my eating and sleeping habits, my exercising routines also get affected by ‘busy’ periods. There is a definite and drastic drop in my energy levels, productivity and most significantly creative output. Exercise , the total routine, allows me to focus better on the bigger picture.

Breaking the exercise routine is probably one of the easiest habits to get out of, as also the most difficult to get back into, once you have left it for an extended period of time. It starts innocently enough when I miss a couple of squash games in a row. One missed day leads to another and pretty soon before I have even realized what has happened I am standing on the outside, wondering how I got there. Thats pretty much how life is, if we do not pay attention to the small changes occurring on a daily basis, very often we do not see the big hits coming. It can be difficult and confusing to undertsand how such a drastic change could come about so quickly.

To help me keep up regularly with my exercise routines I have taken some steps which have helped me stick with it during the busier times.

1. Probably one of the best things I have done is, to get a gym buddy and a regular squash partner . 

2. A commitment to myself, to keep myself in good shape, and my health, in constant check.

3. Set SMART goals, and once I achieve them, I have promised myself rewards when I hit those benchmarks. For example when I started with my squash routine I told myself if I could make it to 30 games without a break in the middle I would buy myself the really fancy racquet I wanted. The feeling of achievement after my 30th consecutive game was much more fulfilling than buying that racquet.

Apart from all the health benefits of exercise it has greatly increased my energy levels throughout the day, I feel a whole lot better about myself, it gives you a great feeling of being alive and, being fiercely competitive myself , the thrill of winning just makes my day.

Related Posts:

- SMART Goals

- The Gym

Filed under: Health, Stress, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sleep

“Life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep.” Fran Lebowitz

The world starts to blur a little, you reach a semi conscious state where you can barely see the word document open on your screen. The proposal still needs a lot of work, but you convince yourself to just close your eyes for minute, and you drift away ………for those of you who have had to pull continuous all nighters, this is a familiar state. Sleep pattern is the next point in my case which tends to go out of whack when the pressure is on. Initially it feels pretty good cutting down your usual 6 hours of sleep down to something like 4-5 hours, getting away with an extra hour or two is do-able for a short time. However extended periods of sleep deprivation can have serious side effects. 

It is a proven fact, that when the body experiences a continuous lack of sleep, the immune system starts to weaken, productivity dips and you enter a state of limbo where you just seem to be drifting along. Analyzing the situation from this angle clearly helps us realize that such a state is not desirable. Yet we continue to burn the midnight oil when the heat is on like there is no tomorrow. One of the factors it comes down to is, personality types. Some of us are pressure prompted and others just keeping plugging away day after day. If you are able to find the motivation and discipline to keep plugging away daily that is clearly the more desirable alternative.

Being a pressure prompted person myself, I have made a conscious effort to break tasks down over a longer period of time, to avoid the massive build up which occurs right before project delivery. It has helped boost my overall productivity and efficiency levels . However during extended crunch times my sleep is heavily compromised and this is another factor I am working on to bring under control. I am attempting this by putting structured routines into place and replacing some bad habits:

1. Going to sleep as soon as I cannot read a page of text without dozing off.

2. Setting my alarm clock to go off at specific time everyday. (I do no set it when I want to sleep in)

3. Taking 1 or 2 power naps of 15-20 minutes during the course of the day, depending on my level of fatigue.

4. Drastically decreasing caffeine intake during high pressure periods and switching to green tea.

Sleep is a critical component of our daily lives. I am going to make a conscious effort to stick to set routines even during turbulent periods to make sure that I am getting adequate amount of rest. This will in turn increase my overall level of productivity and efficiency while keeping my health in balance.

Related Articles:

Filed under: Health, Stress, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Diets

“Strength is the ability to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of those pieces” Judith Viorst

The mood in the office is one of pandemonium. Proposals need to be sent out, a customer wants a trial of the new software tomorrow and one of the key team members has called in sick. It is one of those crazy days. During the day you get hungry at random points and reach for the quickest snack to get an energy boost. This could be chips, chocolates, burgers or pizza as opposed to other healthier alternatives. The objective at this point is to get done with the meal as quickly as possible, and get back to work. Sometimes you realize you have missed lunch and all your timings are off the chart.

If this happens once a week it is acceptable as it is part of the entrepreneurial lifestyle, where there are no fixed lunch or dinner breaks. You are so consumed with the work at hand that time no longer registers in minutes or hours, rather in the amount of work that needs to be done by a given deadline. In this frame of mind your diet is not a priority, and it starts to show. Surviving on an unhealthy diet for an extended period of time can be severely detrimental to your health. If you have not seen Super Size Me , I recommend you do so to get an idea of how bad it can be. It is not only fast food, it may even be frequent and regular meals at restaurants. Getting your diet in control before it gets out of hand is essential.

Even though I have a pretty strict diet routine, it does go off track during these crazy periods. The last few such times I have attempted the following to keep my diet in check:

1. Keep a journal of my food intake when I am off my routine. Through this method I was actually able to see where I was overdoing it and I could then consciously tell myself to lay off the junk snacks.

2. Have a standard order when eating out. This one is a tough one, especially when you are at a fancy restaurant. However keeping the fried, creamy and desserts at a minimum certainly helps. This is not to say that you should avoid that stuff all together, induldge yourself once in a while, just do not make it a habit.

3. Instead of crisps stock the office up with granola bars, fruit, fat free yogurt and nuts. 

The next time I go into one of these intense periods I am going to make sure that I keep a healthy balance about what I eat and snack on. This will defintely help keep a better shape, prevent the constant after meals stupors and affect overall health positively in the long run.

Filed under: Health, Stress, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Feeling Overwhelmed?

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching.” Anonymous

I have just been through a crazy month at work. It felt like there were five hundred things to do on my list, everyday! The last couple of days I have been documenting all that was accomplished during the last month and even though we achieved a lot, I feel it came at a high price. I was reflecting about it this evening and I realized how often I go through cycles like this. I tell myself I will do more to balance my time in the future, and then it happens again. Maybe it is my nature to get everything done just right or an addiction to the adrenaline you feel when everything you are working on so hard starts to show potential. 

Over the course of this week I am going document five areas that I want and need to work on, to find balance for such periods in my life in the future. They will be simple guiding lights, reminding me constantly of the bigger picture when I am so totally engrossed at a micro level. Luckily, being an entrepreneur gives me the freedom to take off when I think the extended period of stress level is running too high. For individuals who do not have this facility, a sharper focus to rectify this imbalance is vital. High levels of stress over extended periods of time leads to eventual ‘Burnout’. 

It is essential that we do our utmost to avoid reaching such stages because that tends to lead us to do and say things which we would not, ordinarily. We all tend to have times in our life when we are maddeningly busy , how we deal with ourselves and others during this period, affects us and all those around us as well. I would like really to hear from all of you what you do to overcome it all when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out for extended periods of time. 

Filed under: Inspiration, Stress, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Steps to Hiring Better

“Hiring good people is hard. Hiring great people is brutally hard.” Jack Welch

Hiring great people is very difficult, however we have to make sure that we do all that is possible to make the process as streamlined and efficient as possible. Once you achieve that, it will be much simpler for you to identify the good from the bad and more importantly the good from the great. Outlined below is a framework to help you get started:

1. Company Frameworks: Before setting out to hire someone to be part of the team you need to analyze the current environment of your organization. How is your workplace structured? Next identify the personality traits of the people who succeed at your organization? Lastly map out how this new resource is going to be integrated into the current environment. To learn more on how to setup a framework please click here.

2. Job Descriptions: Using a framework we need to put down a structured format about the position, responsibilities, experience and educational background. Job descriptions are very important to make clear to the candidate what is expected of them. It also helps the company to put in place certain benchmarks to measure performance in the future. To learn more on writing a job description please click here.

3. Sourcing for talent: Once a job description is created we need to source for candidates who fit the role. Depending on the budget allocated to this, there are a variety of options available. What is important is to select the options intelligently to target the kind of talent you are looking for. If you are looking for highly specialized skill sets, public job boards may not be the most effective method as compared to say head hunting or industry related networking sessions. To learn more about some of the sources available please click here.

4. Interviews and Psychometrics: In my opinion use structured interviews whenever possible. Compared to traditional interviews they provide the interviewer a host of advantages from keeping control of the dialogue to providing an objective measure to benchmark every candidate against. If you can use psychometrics to evaluate personality types, you will get a better understanding of the candidates work place preferences. To learn more please click here.

5. Final Selection: Before you make a selection make sure you run some reference checks on the candidate you are about to hire. This provides additional insight into the candidate and may even be the deciding factor when the decision between two candidates is very close. To learn more about the steps for the final selection please click here.

This is a basic framework which should provide your organization with a more structured approach when wanting to recruit. Over time the framework will get refined to incorporate steps and stages which you consider may be necessary in the selection of talent in your organization. What is important is that you put a process into place for recruitment as it is the most critical factor in any organization. Who you hire in your firm is a clear reflection of the type of organization you are wanting to build. Make sure you send a signal which communicates those objectives.

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Final Selection

“You’re only as good as the people you hire.” Ray Kroc

After setting up a framework and job description, conducting structured interviews and tests you arrive at a pool of short listed candidates . Before making any final decisions, there is just one last step which is almost always overlooked and that is, Reference Checking. This is a critical step which must be followed up on to get a better understanding of the candidate. In an ideal situation I usually request for references from superiors, colleagues and subordinates if any. This helps assess whether the deductions from the recruitment process are correct and gives deeper insights about the candidate. 

Once you have successfully carried out the reference checks you now have all the data required to make an informed decision. If you are recruiting someone who is going to be working with the rest of the team it is a good idea to have the candidate meet the team. Make everyone in the core team a part of the recruitment process and get their opinions about the decision to be made. In the past I have come across teams which ran into trouble when an autonomous decision was reached for hiring without a collective accord .

When the team reaches a collective decision about the candidate they want to hire, you need to get the paper work in place and make an offer to the candidate. Another round of negotiations usually ensues on the terms and conditions of the contract and I recommend getting help from a lawyer when you are drafting this agreement for the first time.

After the negotiations are complete and you have signed a contract, it is time to celebrate. Not only have you hired your first employee you have successfully created a process which will help streamline your hiring in the future into a more effective and efficient process.

 

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