All posts by Amarendra Srivastava

Helping Individuals, Groups & Organizations EXECUTE their Highest Vision. Playing various roles: Executive Coach at MNCs, Mentor to Startups, Business Coach to small and medium enterprises and Management Consultant to various organizations including NGOs.

Welcome To Sociocracy – A Magic Wand For Ventures at Rapid Growth Stage!

Recently, I shared my opinion on problems faced by ventures @ growth stage @ Yourstory.com and how Sociocracy could well be the magic wand for organizations struggling to deal with rapid growth despite a great product line-up and overflowing funds.

Here are a few excerpts:

Let us look at a typical startup story. There is no doubt that to create a successful startup, one needs grit, determination and perseverance. Often, this is achieved by single-minded focus of usually one or sometimes more co-founders, with the support of a passionate and loyal team. This core group endures and transcends it all – long working days and nights, low salaries, deeply frustrating moments, multiple pivots and so on. Most of the members of this core group are superheroes who singlehandedly take on innumerable complex tasks and complete them with scarce resources. This persistent hustling leads to that first big moment of success – either a multi-million dollar purchase order or the first infusion of big funds or, simply, reaching the threshold revenue level that holds promise of no looking back.

Once celebrations are over, a new larger office space is taken and new hirings done, and a new reality starts dancing in the organisation. New features need to be designed, new products need to be launched, new customer segments need to be ‘acquired’, and, to achieve all this, new teams need to be built. The ‘new’ organisation needs new infrastructure, organisation structure, policies, and so on.

Despite these daunting tasks, there is excitement in the air, after all, with new deep pockets, everything will work out perfectly, and it often does. However, for most startups, it is not so smooth – rather, the beginning of a “rapid growth” period is often the beginning of a new “perplexing” reality. Perplexing, because, things start breaking randomly with nobody ever getting time to get to the root cause, customers complaining, employees leaving and a general sense of chaos that does not seem alarming, as it appears to be a natural side-effect of sudden growth.

This is a stage that almost every business faces when it rapidly moves from being a startup to a new formal organisation. Initially, it might simply appear to be a problem of team size.

However, my conclusion after closely observing a wide range of organisations is that most entrepreneurs and investors simply do not think about proactively building an organisational culture that is most suitable to the values of co-founders and the long-term vision of the organisation. What is often missed is an attempt to address this question: while building new infrastructure, policies and systems, should the venture try to retain its original culture, or, realising that the rapidly growing organisation is taking new shape, consciously consider new ways to work together and, perhaps, design an altogether new organisational culture?

In my opinion, the perplexing chaos happens because importance is not given to three fundamental issues:

  1. Defining the relationship between the employee and the organisation in an empowering and engaging way
  2. Defining how people communicate, share information, conduct meetings and take decisions
  3. Proactively providing forums to give opportunity to each and every employee to speak up

Now, this is the classic easier-said-than-done situation. In recent times, the software development industry has tried to deal with this problem by using agile and related methodologies like Scrum and Extreme (XP) – however, these have been found to be tricky to implement in large projects. Much earlier, during 1970s, Gerard Endenburg, after many years of experimentation and application, developed a dynamic governance system using consent decision-making and an organisational structure based on cybernetic principles (a closed loop system with a feedback mechanism). This resulted in a formal organisational method called the ‘Sociocratische Kringorganisatie Methode‘ (Sociocratic Circle Organising Method). By 1980s, Endenburg had founded the Sociocratisch Centrum (Sociocratic Center) in Rotterdam to help other organidations adopt the approach. Since then it has spread across the world with numerous success stories.

I am particularly finding sociocracy to be a near-perfect system for startups that are dealing with the ‘rapid growth’ phenomena. Sociocracy is just beginning to take roots in India. I have been part of sociocracy implementation at Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF), New Delhi. John Buck and Shammi Nanda, along with many sociocracy leaners and practitioners, have formed a ‘Sociocracy South Asia Network’ in India to support organisations interested in implementing sociocracy.

As I see, sociocracy allows everyone in the organisation to have a say in decision-making without slowing down implementation – rather, many processes start moving faster. Any member of the organisation, at any hierarchical level, can propose new initiatives in their respective circles. Eventually, the organisation benefits from more participation and creativity, higher energy levels and enthusiasm, deeper commitment and happiness, longer retention and overall a much more adaptive, agile and effective organisation.

If your organisation is growing, then sociocracy might well be the magic wand you are looking for to achieve sustainable growth of your venture.

Read full article at Yourstory.com.

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Should I walk-out of my startup (early stage, self-funded)? #Quit #Win

Winners Quit All The Time
Winners Quit All The Time

A variation of a famous quote goes like this:

“Winners never quit and Quitters never win. But those who never win and never quit are idiots”.

Seth Godin explained this in his book “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)” where he stated:

“Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time”.

This morning, I had to deal with this question when I met an earnest hard-working young entrepreneur who is in the process of leaving a start-up after investing about two and a half years.

One of his queries was should he release his stake to other co-founders, most likely at suppressed valuations? This was making sense to him since he is no longer excited by the idea and one of the core reasons for quitting is his own evaluation about the startup’s “bleak” future.

I have done similar things – quitting a startup at book value as soon as my judgment showed that the startup at that stage of its life was entering a stage of hara-kiri and I was no longer interested in wasting more “opportunity cost”. Last when I quit a startup in similar fashion, I joked with the co-founders that I might be added to annals of startup history about being another Ron Wayne, who was one of the original founders of Apple, but sold his shares for paltry $ 800 which would be worth $ 35 billion today as estimated here.

However, in this case, I suggested that he should consider not releasing his stake cheaply. The startup is in futuristic technology and the issues are more about the classical dilemmas of Project versus Product, Focus versus Diversification, Cash Flow Management, etc. These things could be resolved as they have already built some intellectual property with an excellent development team and generated a revenue stream as well (though extremely slow, unpredictable and with very low margins). Prima facie, the startup seems to have reasonably good potential. However, it is not easy to have this “realization”, especially if you are an insider and can “clearly” see the mess! Hence, this gentleman is still inclined to release his stake at book value or lesser as emotions seem to be the over-riding factor.

Here are some more takeaways from the discussion:

  1. If you are leaving a startup because of strategic differences with the other co-founders, make sure you have done all possible communication with the co-founders with clarity and “agreed to disagree” on various issues. This would help you leaving on a note of “completion” rather than leaving on a note of “frustration” because you feel your views are not being listened to or not being understood. Another strongly recommended option is to schedule a meeting with a mentor or a Business Coach to get an objective view on the differences, and, perhaps, come to an agreement on new strategic direction for the venture.
  2. Do not get in the trap of a biased undervaluation (leading to exit on book value) or overvaluation (to negotiate hard unnecessarily). Get the venture valuation done by a third party (we could help with this).
  3. As far as possible, continue to have a relationship with the startup as an advisor or play a structured part-time role. This usually leads to more constructive long-term relationships and you always have a chance to come back. In one of the ventures, where I quit, I was continually invited, long after quitting, to join back as a co-founder. Finally, a continued relationship could help you start-up again in the same sector with a synergistic business relationship with the startup you are exiting.

To end the conversation, we moved on to brainstorming on his next startup, though he really wanted a cooling period of 2-3 years before he starts up again. Here again, considering the emotional space he was in, I suggested starting at least some “fun” project immediately to keep the creative juices flowing before he finally zeroes-in on the next startup.

Are in you in a similar dilemma? Wondering whether to stick, pivot or quit? We could help – email at coach@bizvidya.com to schedule a meeting with us.

BizVidya Guide: How Effective is your Lead Generation Process?

Often I see entrepreneurs or small business owners moaning about lack of “enough business”. Some are more crude – Can you get me a customer? Or, can you email our brochure to all your contacts? I try to be as polite as possible on such requests, but many are offended as to why I am not helping them! The thing is that if I am not convinced about their work, I have no choice but to gently decline. Interestingly, when I quiz them back on their sales or lead generation plan or process, their answers run on these lines:

  • Attending random events (some of which have same visitors coming repeatedly or the percentage of target customers is very low)
  • Calling up random people found on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or elsewhere on the internet
  • Participated in an exhibition many months ago

Dig further and you will find that there is no specific process or periodic targets (although, boldly they show revenue targets on business plans and pitches to investors).

When I suggest the word ‘process’, it lands on them as something that is needed by large organizations. Most startups and small businesses do not use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool – perhaps they do not need a CRM tool yet. However, that does not mean that they are excused from having an effective lead generation process.

If they are still around, I invite them to convert their revenue targets into a daily plan. Here is one way to do some basic calculations that are required to set-up a simple lead generation process that can be easily tracked on a spreadsheet:

[A] State your revenue target. For illustration, let us take a figure of INR 5 crores for next twelve months.

[B] Estimate the average size of an order. Say, INR 25,000.

[C] Thus, you need 200 orders to achieve your revenue targets. Taking a year as 50 weeks, this translates to 4 orders per week.

[D] In your experience, what percentage of your customer meetings or interactions lead to a confirmed order? Begin with an estimate and change as per experience. Say, 25 percent. So, for our example, you need to arrange 16 sales meetings / interactions / demos per week.

[E] What percentage of your Qualified Leads (QL) translate into (as a result of initial interaction) prospects agreeing to explore specific purchasing via demos or product-trials. A Qualified Lead is an entity that is a potential customer on paper (in terms of pre-determined parameters like business size, segment, location, etc) for your products or services. Say, 50 percent. So, you need to generate at least 32 QLs per week.

[F] Now, what percentage of your Raw Leads (RL) get converted to Qualified Leads? A Raw Lead is any valid contact details of person or organization which may or may not be interested in your products or services. Say, 10 percent.  So, you need to have at least 320 fresh RLs per week or 64 RL per day (taking five working days). If you are using a tele-caller, then this is the minimum (s)he should be calling everyday. If you are using your web pages as a lead source, then this is the minimum number of users that need to submit their contact details on your landing page.

Many have liked this approach and created a spreadsheet to track this. However, soon I found out that inertia has set in and no sustained action was taken to make the process work. Some eager entrepreneurs took this discussion to next level in terms of choosing market segments, identifying ideal customers and so on. The enlightened business owners took our help to convert this into a small but robust lead generation process on lines of a state-of-the-art Balanced Scorecard framework with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) integrated with KRAs (Key Result Areas) of promoters and staff responsible for Sales Targets.

Since I am quite lazy to keep elaborating this repeatedly, I am sharing this here publicly with all, so that, next time, when an entrepreneur rues “no business”, I simply have to share the URL of this article!

You may request a free* initial Coaching or Consultation on your Lead Generation Process by sending an email to coach@bizvidya.com

*Conditions Apply

BizVidya Guide: The Ten Question Tool

Use this TEN QUESTION TOOL to Clarify Goals and Get Laser Sharp Focus in Achieving Timely Results

We had advised earlier to Clarify Your Goals in a previous post here. But then, temporary clarity using a few smart technology tools is not good enough in these “interesting times”.

Especially when you are in a critical business situation and decisions need to be made among a series of contradictions.

Often, we find ourselves overwhelmed with a large number of exciting options, immense possibilities, conflicting opinions, changing priorities, shifting bottlenecks, fluctuating market scenarios and unpredictable customers!

Test your situation with this TEN-QUESTION-TOOL to re-engineer and transform your situation into a workable strategy and a clear-cut plan!

1. What am I exactly doing?

List the tasks and intended results: List immediate desires, intentions and goals.

2. Why am I here?

My need or motivation: What is my intention? More revenues? More profits? More productivity? Better Lifestyle?

3. Where am I coming from?

Recent relevant past: What is my sponsoring thought for this? Am I launching this product because sales are declining? Or, because customers are complaining? Or, I need a higher margin product?

4. Why am I doing this?

Ask multiple nested Whys: Use the Five Why Tool recursively to break down answers to #1 , #2 and #3 above. Launching this product for more revenues or larger customer-base?  For new market segments? More customers in current market segments?

5. Where have I reached now?

What is working and what is not working: What are the good points, workable areas, benefits and strengths of the current situation? What are the threats and weaknesses?

6. Where do I wish to go from here?

Long-Term Results I would really like to create: Where would this ultimately lead too? Bigger Business? Best in the market? Most expensive in the market? Cheapest in the market? What is the long-term Brand Image desired?

7. How can I reach there?

Possible paths: What are the possible routes to success – Should I resort to cannibalizing? Should I explore a Blue Ocean? Should I spend on Research and Development? Should I use the Fail-Fast strategy on a series of products?

8. How would I know I have reached there?

Visualized Goal and Measurable Results: Convert goals into specific numbers and timelines.

9. What are the barriers?

What or Who is stopping me?: Put on the Black Hat and list all possible obstacles, barriers and whatever makes the project look difficult.

10. What is that One Thing that would make a dramatic impact on this area?

Who or What help can make a big difference?: Finally the juiciest part: What is that one big thing that can make this a big success – One Big Customer? Large Capital? Large Customer Base? Large User Base? Many Small Customers?

Decipher that (we are there to help) and Do That One Thing By Doing Which Everything Else Will Get Done!

 

Innovations on mobile platform take the next leap in empowering masses

mBillionth at Delhi

The mBillionth South Asia Award 2011 concluded last Saturday, 23rd July, 2011 at Hotel Eros, Nehru Place, New Delhi, with more than 600 delegates attending the marathon 12-hours long International Summit on the theme “Linking masses with 3G”.

It has been a great privilege to be part of the execution team of the entire mBillionth Award process for the second consecutive year. Six months of intense effort went in reaching out to innovators and implementers in the eight South Asian countries and engaging various stakeholders to ensure successful compilation of nominations, rigorous screening, research about the projects, execution of a high-powered Grand Jury (in Sri Lanka) and finally managing the logistics of inviting 2000+ fraternity to the final event.

The process culminated in a mammoth full day event with 10 sessions, including parallel sessions of Mobile Application Developer’s Community (M@D), with about 100 speakers. A copy of the final agenda is here.

The winners include Babajob.com, which connects workers in the Bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) to potential employers; Intex V.Show – India’s first projector phone – literally a projector in your pocket; Pharmasecure – battling counterfeit medicine with an SMS; mPustak – creating an ecosystem of vernacular language applications and many more exciting winners.  See the complete list of winners and finalists at http://mbillionth.in/ and http://mobile.techsparks.com/.

It was an honor to meet and work with all the Jurors in Sri Lanka – see their profiles here. Some inspiring comments by Jurors’ are here.

It was exciting to work with all the Partners and Sponsors -complete list here. Vodafone supported in a big way and Vodafone India Foundation, its CSR arm, took a great leap of faith in the India Mobility ecosystem by constituting the Vodafone Mobiles For Good prize of Rupees ten lakhs each to two winners. NOKIA was generous in supporting five categories of the award, the entire Mobile Innovation Haat and the six parallel sessions of M@D – Mobile Application Developer’s community. OnMobile, One97, IAMAI, Mint and Govt. of India’s DIT continued to provide to their solid and consistent support.

See a compilation of tweets by Dr. Madanmohan Rao here: http://www.techsparks.com/mobile/?p=237.

Photograph links:

Media coverage links:

Some glimpses of the event:

mBillionth at Delhi

List of Winners and Finalists:

mBillionth at Delhi

Mobile & Telecom Innovators @ mBillionth Award Summit 2011

Just few days left for mBillionth Award 2011! The international summit with the theme ‘Linking Masses with 3G’ is scheduled on July 23rd in New Delhi at Intercontinental Eros. More than 500 delegates, 200 Mobile and App Developers, Telcos like Vodafone, leading mobile phone companies like NOKIA, and VAS leaders like OnMobile and One97, along with hundreds of other stakeholders are converging to see how the mBillionth movement is spearheading the convergence of ideas around mobility to directly impact mass inclusion to development and digitally equitable world.

Delegates will get to see more than 70 live demos of mobile ideas, 50 presentations, and 20 Socially Impactful Mobile initiatives under our “Mobiles for Good” presented by Vodafone India Foundation, where we will also announce a cash prize of INR 20,00,000 and One-Year Mentoring support. See http://mbillionth.in/mobilesforgood/.

See Jurors’ profiles here. The jurors shared their experiences of the Grand Jury held in Sri Lanka on 8th and 9th June here. More details at http://mbillionth.in . For registration, go to http://mbillionth.in/benefits/online-registration/.

VENUE:

  • Royal Ball Room, Inter-Continental Eros, Nehru Place (now known as Eros Hotel – Managed by Hilton)
  • See Map

For group discounts and passes, email to amar@defindia.net.

 

mBillionth at Delhi

Mentoring Clinics from Mentor Edge, CIIE

Mentor Edge is an initiaitive from CIIE (Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entreprenuership), which was set-up in IIM Ahemdabad and is supported by Government of Gujarat and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

Each participating city has a dedicated “City Coordinator”  to link Start-ups with a pre-selected groups of Mentors from a variety of domains and verticals.

So far, successful events have been conducted at Ahemdabad, Bangalore & Mumbai.  Upcoming events are listed below:

Earlier this month on May 15th, Aditi Gupta (in photo below) & Vineesh Kumar launched the Delhi Chapter by organizing a meeting of Mentors at IIT Delhi.

Mentors present included:

  • Amrish Sahgal [First Left in photo below]
  • Dr. CK Taneja
  • Kris Nair
  • Rahul Agarwal
  • Rahul Verghese
  • Ravi Kikan
  • Sanjay Gupta
  • Suhail Kassim [Centre in photo below]
  • Amarendra Srivastava
Mentor Edge Meeting at Delhi
Mentor Edge Meeting at Delhi

We had a good discussion on the ‘screening’ process for entrepreneurs: basic policy is “no rejections” but due diligence is taken in terms of helping applicant entrepreneurs to be well-prepared.

There was a longer discussion on ‘criteria & process’  to ‘match’ entrepreneurs & mentors. Ravi Kikan with a ‘backing’ of about 50,000 members in his Linkedin Group ‘Startup Specialists’ was keen to make it more democratic for entrepreneurs. The debate was too long to reproduce here. Suffice it to say that this initiative is from Mentors to empower entrepreneurs and facilitate an access to world class mentoring, long-term partnerships and ‘timely’ funds.

Last Day for applying for Delhi Clinic is June 5 2010. Apply Here: http://mentoredge.com/mentee/for-mentees.