Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What are your success criteria?

Recently, I was interacting with a team of budding entrepreneurs as a mentor for the MentorEdge initiative.  I realized that most new entrepreneurs are passionate, enthusiastic and driven. At the same time, for most of them, the measure of success is how large you grow and how much money you make. Also, most seem to believe that you either earn quick money or raise quick money - ultimately, success is access to quick money. Well, quick money is like quicksand, it disappears faster than it comes!

Be it a 500-crore company, a 5-crore company or a 5-lac company, each can be an extremely successful venture depending on its criteria of success. I define success parameters differently.

1) Since I run a consulting company, we are very clear about things we WILL do and things we will NOT do as part of our consulting services. The success factor is to stand by this decision consistently. Often we realize that we are very clear about what NOT to do rather than what to do! But for me a successful business is one that is clear about what it wants to do and even more clear about what it does NOT want to do.

2) A consulting company's success depends on the success of its clients. If my clients are successful, I am successful. Am I adding value to my clients that makes them successful? What is my contribution to the success of my client? Every time a client comes back to say how our service was useful, we earn a success brownie.

3) A consulting company has to have the best people in the trade. For most start-ups, it is a challenge to attract the best talent. But every time good people come on board, it's a huge success for the company. When people "want" to work for you, it is a huge compliment for your brand. On the other hand, when internally people are highly motivated to work and continue to grow with the organization, it is a bigger compliment to the success of an organization.

4) Another success parameter is execution of dream projects. Every organization and every working professional should have its list of dream projects to work on. Each dream project accomplished is a tick on your success parameters. It is another matter that some of these dream projects have a very hard landing, but all the same - you at least have zero regrets about not working on those. And, all the better if you come out of them wiser than before!

5) Dream clients are next on my criteria of success. For a consulting company, it is the list of clients that makes a difference. If you have an enviable client's list, you have a blank check. Clients lead to more clients, and more clients lead to more business - simple equation. Well, on after thoughts - it is not that simple. A lot of hard work goes into earning client loyalty. And that by itself is a huge benchmark of success.

Size of the company and volume of business are just the visible outcome; they are poor determinants of success. So what are your success criteria?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Startup Saturday - Hyderabad July 10

I spent an interesting Saturday with the Hyderabad Startup Group. The theme was Mobile. Apart from Farhan Azhar and Shiva the guest speakers, there were a couple of lightning speeches as well. It was good to hear Farhan speak. Farhan is a successful serial entrepreneur from Hyderabad. It will be good if someone can update Farhan's entrepreneurship ventures.

Farhan's talk was interesting and insightful. He highlighted the key points about building products especially those that are self-funded. The key takeaways:
a. Simplicity: The product should be simple
b. Small team: Usually have a team size of less than 4 people. An ideal composition should be an usability expert, a programmer (and not a geek) who understands business and human need, a marketing person who can communicate in English and someone to have a tight control over the finances.

He rightly pointed out the 3 things that really work for mobile-based technology:
1. Voice
2. SMS
3. Mobile web
Out of these 1 & 2 are the most universal. Therefore, content should be delivered in either of these modes.

In response to queries and discussions around mobile phone apps, Farhan shared the research findings about what drives mobile phone apps. They should be:
- Bursty (like an sms or an alert that draws your attention)
- Obsessive (addictive - so that people have sufficient motivation to adopt the apps - eg twitter)
- Leisure (when people are relatively free to engage with their phones)

Shiva from shared his experience in growing Apalya and the future plans. Apalya are the pioneers of video technology on mobile phone and are now the leading providers of mobile television.

The lightening pitches by Abhishek Sinha and Chakri prompted interesting discussions among the group. Abhishek spoke about a topic that is close to my heart - education. He rightly pointed out some of the big concerns that parents today have about the 'right' kind of education for children. Abhishek is a consultant working is the area of improving the processes in schools as well as educating the parents about demanding quality education. He presented his ideas about how technological interventions in the educational processes of a school/institute can address concerns such as quality of teachers, feedback to teachers, quality of education, school environment and so on.

Chakri presented an interesting idea of how to use social networking for business. He has developed a site called It is a social networking site connecting like people with similarities. The unique feature of the site is a compatibility calculator!

While the organizers certainly have an unenviable task of organizing and promoting these meets. The quality of these meets could be certainly improved so as to inspire more participation. Compared to the startup meets in Bangalore and Mumbai, the meet in Hyd lacked structure, rigor, and seemed ad hoc. Certainly, participants have a big role to play in energizing these meets. My thoughts on how to make the meet more meaningful:

1) Invite participation at least 2 weeks in advance - give presenters time to plan and prepare well
2) Maintain strict time lines - lightening pitches or elevator pitches must be lightening - done in 2 mins
3) Many meets share some guidelines that work well - I can share a format with the group
4) Participants should register in advance, share their introductory details with the group online
5) If there are more participants/presenters, make it an unconference. Time is precious, esp a Saturday morning! Let people choose to attend any presentation they like, we all have laptops and datacards, should not be a big deal to present in small groups! Welcome your thoughts.