Tag Archives: Featured

Bitcoin and ICO Mania: How to decipher it

ICO (Initial coin offerings) wave has truly caught up in 2017 — more than $1.7 billion in cryptocurrency has been raised through ICOs so far in 2017.

If you have not heard about the term let me give a simple primer. ICO is essentially an unregulated way to bypass the standard fund raising procedure used by some of the cryptocurrency startups. Coin essentially then becomes a vehicle to own some kind of stake in the venture. Coins were essentially designed to be an integral part of the product or protocol offering, but have been abused by many startups to raise quick money.

As an entrepreneur or businessman should I be investing in the Crypto wave?

Cryptocurrencies or the crypto wave has taken the world by storm. There has been a slew of ICOs (Initial coin offerings) accompanied by astronomical increase in prices of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and other cryptocurrencies. It seems like we are creating a new world everything built on top of a blockchain.

Prices of Bitcoin has risen from 0.008 Dollars in 2010 to more than $7000 dollars today. In fact some of the Indian exchanges now quote prices in Satoshi where one Bitcoin = 10^8 Satoshis. You can track Satoshi to INR price 

So as a businessman and an entrepreneur if you are sitting on the side-line and wondering if there is a revolution happening or it is all just one big bubble please keep reading in on. In this post I am outlining a few key indicators you can use to assess an ICO or for that matter any crypto asset.

Team (Founders and early developers)

For any Open Source crypto project expertise of the team is most critical. So if you are looking for investing in ICO the first thing is to look at the team. Check their expertise. Go beyond LinkedIn profile, look at their publications and other credentials. Look at their code contributions in the past and the peer review of the protocol they are proposing. Check up the advisory board and early backers of the ICO.

Utility of the Coin (token) to the Product or Protocol

Whenever a new Initial Coin offering is announced first thing that you should look up is does the proposed product or protocol require coin (token) sale or not. If coin (token) is not native or intrinsic to the new product or protocol proposed then it is not a great sign. Ideally such products/ offerings should to go through normal venture capital route to raise funds. ICO in such cases is nothing but a shortcut to raise quick money. If you look up any of the successful Altcoins in the market like Siacoin or Filecoin , they are intrinsic to the protocol they are enabling .

Review code or at least check reviews of code from experts 

For any new protocol ultimately what matters is great code backing it up. While all of us are not experts at reviewing codes, what we can definitely do is check what other experts are talking about the code. Please go to relevant forums like bitcoin talk threads to look up what other people are saying about the code / scalability and security issues. Read up their whitepaper or look for a review / feedback on the whitepaper.

Are developers enthused by the protocol/ICO?

For any protocol to develop and flourish, early adopters are the key. And in most cases, early adopters can be developers or other folks on the online communities. So do look out for developer interest – are lot of developers enthused by the project are they contributing to the project?

Early Backers 

Quality of early backers can also help you understand the quality of ICO. For e.g. Blockstack whose ICO is open now is backed by YCombinator, Naval Ravikant and a bunch of really smart people in the valley. This can be a good way to look at the quality of ICO.

Transparency of the core team

For any open source project to succeed, a key factor is how transparent and forthcoming the team is. Are they open to hard questions? Do they communicate openly with the community and other stakeholders? Do they publicly share progress? Are they open to be grilled on choices they are making?

Block chain and distributed systems present tremendous opportunities to build a new kind of technological landscape. But as it is with every boom there are too many fakes around. For every bitcoin or ethereum, there will be a bunch of worthless tokens. So before you jump in, do your research and you can use some of the suggestions we discussed in this post.

About me: I am Sarabdeep Co-founder of Sipacoin.com – a service which helps you set up price alerts for your favourite cryptocurrency.

 

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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

Get Clear

How does an entrepreneur GET CLEAR?  Really clear about business, customers, profits and the entire spectrum that makes up an entrepreneur’s life.

How CLEAR are you about your business goals, most profitable market segments, long-term strategy, day-to-day business operations and the integration of all these with your life goals?

You may have an immediate sense of what you think you want. It could be one or more of the following:

  • Better Margins, More Profits, More Revenues
  • More Customers, High Ticket Customers, Customer Retention
  • New Market Segments, Products, Services
  • Get out of day-to-day Firefighting (Crisis Management)
  • Create more time for creating new avenues for your business instead of being stuck in day-to-day crisis handling
  • Find better employees (who own their work and are proactive)
  • Build Better Systems
  • Streamline your operations in such a way that your employees take ‘complete responsibility’ for their roles & solve problems proactively instead of making excuses

Whatever is on your list, it is often difficult to decide where to start.

Seth Godin has a riff titled “The Priority List”. He says, the ability to decide “what to do next” is an underrated skill. For example, he says:

Is it better to email an existing customer, send a brochure to a prospect or improve your product a bit? Should you tweet or post a new blog post? Should you have a meeting to coordinate your team or spend ten minutes returning phone calls instead?

His tip:

Do you have a list? Have you figured out which metric you’re trying to improve? Can you measure the impact of the choices you make all day?

I see this mistake in business development all the time. Assume for a moment that the goal of someone in this department is to maximize profit. Why then would this group spend most of its time tweaking existing deals (looking for a 3% improvement in yield) instead of spending the same time and effort doing new, game-changing deals?

If you already have your LIST along with corresponding MEASURES, and you are still struggling to “Get Clear”, then what could be missing is clarity regarding your goals.

When did you last review your Goals? What are you REALLY up to?

Stephen R. Covey said “Priority is a function of context.”

So, WHY are you doing whatever you are doing?

Is that CLEAR?

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Clarify Your Goals

First thing is to CLARIFY your goal. What do you exactly want out of your business?

Money for comfortable existence? Or, are you on your way to becoming a global tycoon?

Do you wish for a stable business? Or, a growing business? Or, an accelerating business which, perhaps, you can sell soon?

What is the most appropriate growth strategy for your business?

  • Higher Volumes? And/Or, Higher Margins?
  • More (any) Clients? And/Or, More Big Ticket Clients?
  • More Revenues? And/Or, More Profits?

Is organizational culture important to you? What kind of culture do you want?

For example, many small businesses in India find it cost-effective (often, inadvertently) to have low salary low retention employees, who may be damaging the internal culture and/or customer relations and business growth.  Would hiring the ‘Best’ make more sense for your business?

Should you allocate resources to enhance Business Processes & Systems?

Should you invest more in implementing Technology? Which Solutions? Why?

Whatever your questions, you don’t want to run around without CLEARLY articulated goals that are regularly communicated down to the last rung of frontline executives.

No fun in having all your people and resources run around in circles when they can actually deliver dramatic results with laser sharp focus.

Clarifying Your Goals is a recurring exercise because things change – business climate, technology, competitors, customer needs, your needs and so on.

One efficient way to do this is to categorize all your goals along TIME HORIZONS – from Immediate and near-term to long-term life goals.  In his book,  Getting Things Done, David Allen presented “The Six-Level Model for Reviewing Your Own Work”:

  • Runway : Current Actions
  • 10,000+ ft:  Current Projects
  • 20,000+ ft: Areas of Responsibility
  • 30,000+ ft: 1-2 year Goals
  • 40,000+ ft: 3-5 year Vision
  • 50,000+ ft: Life

This is a useful first step to start de-cluttering your life and business. Another complimentary tool is a “Mind Map”.

Mind Maps help in creating a WHOLE business picture which can be drilled down to the “Runaway” level.

Created intelligently, it can be a powerful first step in organizing your business to clarify, track, and monitor business goals and results.

With Open Source around, freemind and xmind are great free tools to create Mind Maps.

You can maximize the power of Mind Maps by sharing Mind Maps with your team and asking them to contribute. Xmind, The “Social Brainstorming and Mind Mapping” Tool, allows users to share Mind Maps for collaboration.

Happy De-cluttering, Organizing and Creating What You Wish To in your business!

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BizVidya Guide: Create a Business Dashboard

A Business Dashboard is a single point, One-Integrated-View of the whole Business seen in Execution.

There are many Dashboard Solutions out there in the technology market and choosing among them is another discussion altogether.

At a fundamental level, what is more interesting is that a Business Dashboard can be used as a Tool to derive the Most Critical Measures that you MUST track in real-time to steer your business smoothly without any hiccups on a day-to-day basis.

Designing your Business Dashboard even on a piece of paper provokes a business owner to ask him/herself:

What do I need to know about my business, NOW, at this very moment?

For example:

  • Are all Pending Sales Enquiries being responded to proactively? Which enquiries are STUCK?
  • Have all Pending Sales Orders been scheduled to deliver across the entire supply chain (suppliers, transporters, warehouses, etc)? Where are the DELAYS?
  • Is my Accounts Departments taking care of all Legal Compliance Issues well in time? Is there a likelihood of penalty anywhere (especially, if it has already happened in the past)?
  • How effective is my Purchase Department? Are we taking all possible discounts? How much did we save in our purchases over the last month? Are we paying higher than the market rate? Are there new suppliers in the market who are offering the required quality at better rates?
  • Is my Production on Schedule? Are Raw Materials adequately stocked? Is regular Maintenance being for done for all machines (especially, if there is history of breakdowns)?
  • What is the percentage of Unplanned Absence (including unexpected ‘falling sick’) by staff? In which departments? How has such absence hampered work? During such absence, has the backup staff reported progress on all critical parameters?
  • Which customers are consistently paying late? Why? Is the follow-up adequate? Is the follow-up log being sent to you without your asking for it?

Each business owner will have his/her Pain & Gain Areas! Where do you want to focus now? How can Technology help you in this? Can a technology solution help you if you have not done your homework?

It is a great idea to start with a Pencil and Paper! List what all you would like to see on single A4-size sheet. You may have to fill many sheets before you get your “One-Integrated-View of the whole Business”.

Then, perhaps you may move on to spreadsheets before finally experimenting with state-of-the-art tools.

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BizVidya Guide: Reduce your Days Sales Outstandings

accounts-receivables2

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) is your company’s average collection period.

The smaller this number, the faster you are in collecting money from clients.

[For the mathematically inclined, a more accurate measure of your Collection Department’s performance is the Percentage of Overdue Amount (monies beyond due date) to Total Due Amount (Total uncollected amount including fresh sales) – also, known as Days Delinquent Sales Outstanding (DDSO). See Advantage of using DDSO to measure the effectiveness of the credit department (http://www.encyclopediaofcredit.com/WebHelp/articles/risk_analysis/art730.htm )].

Depending on the nature of your business (for example, number of transactions, customer profiles, and competition), you may choose from a variety of strategies and tactics to reduce your Accounts Receivables Average.

Tip #1: Re-evaluate your Credit Sales Policy

 

Why are you selling on Credit? Why not Sell ‘Cash’?

Sell ‘Cash’! On Zero Days Credit! Even better, see how you can collect advance before delivering a product or a service.

Yes, you heard it right!

Question your product/service/marketing strategy – why are you selling on credit, at all?

Take a fresh look at your product/service basket and market segments.

Perhaps, you can identify products/geographical regions where customer will willingly/happily pay cash. This could be because your product or service is tightly coupled with (and/or is essential to) the customer’s workflow and you can create an edge over competitors due to stock availability, location, price, etc.

Create a marketing/selling strategy on how you can channel adequate energies and resources on finding and selling in those areas (Location/Features/Price) where customers will easily pay cash.

Tip #2: Create/Modify/Implement a New Credit Policy which helps you plug cash flow leaks

If you do not have a Credit Policy, create it to achieve clarity and consistency in giving credit to your customers.

If you already have a Credit Policy, revamp it to take advantage of changing market conditions.

Once you have an up-to-date Credit Policy, implement it with rigor and discipline. Make someone accountable to track Credit Policy deviations.

Tip #3: Have a New Customer Policy, Customer Retention Policy & Customer Firing Policy

Don’t do business with any and everyone. Do background checks before committing transaction with a new customer. Identify and give higher priority to faster paying customers. Fire your low-value slow paying customers.

Tip #3: Streamline Your Collections Process

 

  • Insist on having your collection follow-up process move with clock work precision.
  • Based on Due Date of Outstanding, schedule the escalation process – Emails, SMS, Calls, Visits and Legal Recourse.
  • Ensure that the monitoring team regular sends New Customer Verification Reports, Credit Policy Deviation Alerts, and alerts on payment variations and disputes.

Tip #4: Update Your Customer Contact Details

 

Over a period of time, customers change their contact persons, phone numbers (including landline), email-ids and even physical locations. Having an updated customer contact database facilitates the collections process and this could be critical in following up on delayed payments and/or taking legal recourse.

Tip #5: Train Your Team to Follow up with rigor and discipline

 

A well trained tele-calling follow-up team knows when to use appropriate tricks of the trade – like calling on odd-hours, when to insist on cheque number, follow-up based on customer’s cash flow cycle, and so on.

Watch this space for more on each (and many more) of the above.

BizVidya Guide: Set-up Error Free Accounting Systems

 

'Because it's more efficient this way.'

The deadline for filing Corporate Tax Returns for FY 2008-9 in India, September 30, 2009, just passed by. This date was known a year back.

Many businesses did not file the returns on time, and would be paying late/penalty fees!

Accountants and Business Owners “know” about this deadline much in advance. But, the balance sheet is finalized on the last day, after days of frenetic late night error fixing by the accounting team and auditors. If you have a relatively large-volume business, the COST of such an approach could be HUGE, for example:

  • Loss of productive business hours during those error-rectification days.
  • Money bled away in delayed identification of missed payment discounts, unaccounted material returns and other disputes in supplier accounts (Large companies outsource “bill and payment checking” work to ensure benefits like payment discounts are recovered before it is too late).
  • Similar losses in non-resolution of disputed amounts in customers’ ledgers.
  • Similar ‘bleed’ in expense accounts, bank/institutional charges, overcharging/errors in overheads like electricity bills, etc.

So, why do businesses indulge in such last minute rush to reconcile accounts? Why the Student Syndrome? Why study the night before the day of your exam?

Standard “excuse” is that the handling day-to-day emergencies or crises rarely leaves time for setting up and improving systems!

You do need a huge amount of self-discipline to take out time to move towards streamlined operations.

Therefore, it is necessary to make someone accountable for setting-up error free accounting systems and commit one or more dedicated resource for that. This is much cheaper than losing money in ledger errors and wasting resources in last minute adjustments.

To have error-free Accounting Systems, you need to break the student syndrome. Stop studying the night before the day of your exam (which might work for solopreneurs or a low-volume business, but a disaster for a business having significant number of transactions every day)!

Start by creating an Accounting Operations Manual – begin with simple checklists to ensure accounts are tallied every month, for example:

  • Synchronize Bank Account Statements with your ledger balances every month. Make the necessary journal entries to book/resolve bank charges and other deviations.
  • Compare & reconcile Ledgers with suppliers and customers every month and file-off synchronized ledgers – so that you do not start all over again. (If you are using digital formats like spreadsheets, convert them to PDF to avoid tampering).
  • Ensure that there is a well-defined Petty Cash & Expense Policy that published to all concerned and clear instructions on penalty for non-adherence (for example, deadlines for submitting travel vouchers)

Last, but not the least, analyze the SOURCE of accounting errors and deviations specific to your business – that will tell where you MUST have well-documented processes.