Business, Culture and Entrepreneurship

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Decisions - how do we make them effectively

One of the murkiest areas of being a successful entrepreneur is how to make effective decisions . There are times when we make major decisions without even being conscious of the fact  — and others when seemingly minor decisions bring us to a halt.  I discussed this as some length in my Start-up Logic column last week. 

Life has a nasty way of springing surprises on you. The only certainty, it would appear, is that you will encounter a lot of uncertainty. Being an entrepreneur is no different. If you are like me, you might have thought you made your hardest decision when you chose to become an entrepreneur. Wrong! Before you know it, the business, customers, employees and the world at large are bringing problems that require you to make decisions. There also seem to be few easy decisions. Why didn’t anyone tell you about this? Well, you heard it here first — much of your productive time as an entrepreneur will go to making, hopefully, good decisions.

“Effective executives do not make a great many decisions. They concentrate on the important ones,” says Peter Drucker in his book The Effective Executive. Simple as Drucker’s assertion sounds, it is hard in the fog of entrepreneurial battle to focus on the important few. So how do you identify the important from the merely urgent or routine problems? Having identified these, how can you make good or effective decisions?

Read the complete article here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

5 Things To Do While You Still Have a Job

Last week I had called a friend, with the idea of pitching our newsletter services. However the conversation rapidly turned to the unhappy state of affairs in my friend's company. Layoffs, spending cuts and a lock on the stationery cupboard (okay, I made that one up!) My friend was expecting the axe to fall again (& yet again, definitely on spending if not on people) and hoping that he'd survive. Of course having taken the job less than three months earlier, he was not keen to move — even if the job market were good — which it most definitely wasn't.

While I commiserated with my friend on the call, it set me thinking. A little bit of calling around made me realize that my friend was by no means alone. There seem to be hordes of folks, just hanging in there — some who actually like their companies but are caught in semi-stasis and yet others would like to get the heck outta there, but can't, till the market gets better. The shameless fellow I am, I urged all of them to quit and start their own business. Being good friends (at least one of them) they curbed their urge to lug something at me. For the rest of the folks that are hanging in there, here are five things to do, while you still have a job.

  1. Read - no, reading this blog does not count (not you mom!) - read stuff that you had intended to; whether the speeches of Cicero, The Artist's Way, Writing Down the Bones, RK Narayan or What Color is Your Parachute? The classics whether the Mahabharata, modern renditions of the Ramayana or Homer's Illiad will also do nicely. Or the first book that you come across next. Do this with a clear and committed goal (tell a friend to keep you honest) - one book a week or whatever turns you on. But treat this as you'd a project at work. Before you know it you'd be one well read person or at least on the road to becoming one.

  2. Share - the simplest is to write about the book you've just read. Or if that seems too heavy - write little things that others might find useful at work - first aid at home, How to get a PAN card, MS Excel tricks, FAQs, Employee Stock Options in plain English. Or if you are truly inspired convert the whole thing into a blog and share it with the world. Remember to teach is to learn! If you aren't ready, start with a journal - doesn't have to be a blog. Just a good old diary, of your thoughts, aspirations, desires and dreams and share with a friend to start with.

  3. Track your time - this is as good a time as any to see where your time goes - how much of it is spent Googling Daniel Craig or Sarah Palin, or just checking email or gossiping at the water cooler ("Can you believe what she wore to work today?") How much time do your kids, spouse or significant other get from you? How much of it could have been spent on a treadmill or a nice weekend hike? The sweetest thing about being in limbo, is you'd have all the time in the world — put it to good use.

  4. Network In the past, whenever someone gave me this advice, I always felt slimy — like one of those multi-level marketing guys approaching you at the grocery store or gas station (Don't ask!) But thanks to the Internet, you can now pass it off as learning about Web 2.0. So sign up on LinkedIn, Plaxo (they are getting better), get your family on to Geni and if that's not enough try Spock, FaceBook and MySpace. However keep point 3 in mind and track your time. Kidding apart, a slow business environment is the right time to re-connecting with all those folks from your past and meeting new folks. Of course with all your reading and writing you'd have much to share, yourself.

  5. Create three CVs It never hurts to keep your powder dry. At the least you will get a good blog post or maybe even a full fledged article on "How to write a killer CV" if you prepare three CVs. It can be a useful exercise to reflect on where you are professionally and where you'd like to head towards actively. So create a professional CV, much like you'd have in the past, create a personal CV, stripping the professional parts out or re-stating them as useful life-skills, as though you were going to run for political office and finally create one as you'd like it to look like five years from now. Of course the reading, 'riting and reflecting you'd have done would make this a piece of cake.
Once you are done with these five steps, still have job and time on your hands, start over at step one. Good luck!

The right time to start a business is NOW

The last two weeks, I have been working the phones trying to rustle up interest in our new startup's newsletter creation services. The sentiment out there, particularly in the Valley, is just horrendous. Folks have just battened down, not just with expenses. Nearly everyone I spoke with is trying to keep a low profile in an attempt to survive the tsunami of pink slips they perceive coming.

My own feeling is that this is probably the best time to do a startup - that thought led to another - that the best time to do a startup is always NOW! Hence my latest article in the Hindu Business Line.

"Timing the market” is a phrase I have come to dislike immensely. Much like telling a na├»ve friend how to do well in the stock market — “Simple, buy low and sell high” — there is a school of thought that timing is important in business. I’d be foolhardy to assert that timing doesn’t have a role to play, especially in these times of daily dire financial news and poor sentiment, but it is not nearly as important as you’d th ink at first. For entrepreneurs, especially those considering or just embarking on a business venture, the right timing is always NOW!

“As soon as I get enough experience, I will start my own business,” is a common refrain of many prospective, usually young, entrepreneurs. “I need to understand how the value chain in retail works,” or “I will work in a small/large firm to learn this, that or the other,” are all reasons that I hear soon-to-be entrepreneurs give to put off getting started. I would assert that there is never going to be a better time to start your business than now, particularly with the current financial troubles that are roiling global markets and making everyone in business antsy. Even if it gets worse before it gets better, a downturn such as this is the best time to start a business.
Read the full article here.