Business, Culture and Entrepreneurship

Friday, March 20, 2009

Talent, training and trust - building culture person at a time

This evening I read Peter Bregman’s blog post about his experience at the Four Seasons in Dallas. It brought to mind my own experience at the ITC Windsor Manor in Bangalore.  The family and I had been visiting some friends in the northern part of town. It was late in the afternoon, when we headed back. Of course the kids waited till we were a fair bit down one of Bangalore’s interminable one-way roads, before clamouring to use the restroom. Usually, the chorus of “I’m hungry” or “I need to use the bathroom” from the backseat would result in much heated discussion between my lovely wife and myself. Luckily we were right in front  of the Windsor Manor, so no discussion was needed. We pulled in, parked the car and dashed to the front door.

The liveried doorman, the one with the enormous moustache, held the door open. “Which way to the rest rooms?” I asked as my eight-year old wiggled in front of me. The wife was still walking from the car, dragging our reluctant ten-year old behind her.  “Straight ahead sir, through the arch and turn left. You will find the restrooms in the first corridor on your right.” We made it safely with time to spare. As the girls and their mom, took their time powdering their noses or discussing Dad’s driving – I hung around the corridor, admiring the Raj era landscapes on the wall.

“Can I help you sir? Were you not able to find the restrooms?” I looked up to see the liveried doorman, who was clearly headed for his break. I assured him that I had already availed of their fine facilities, was merely waiting for the family and thanked him for his concern. After ensuring I had everything I needed he finally headed out the staff door. It was only then that I noticed the discretely designed staff door down the corridor, through which another staffer had just passed.

I was just blown away – there must have been 15-20 people at the front portico, as the family and I had passed through the front door. It was a good ten minutes or so later, when the doorman and I met in front of the restrooms. We were not guests at the hotel and I am sure that his job required him to manage matters primarily near the front porch. Yet, the care and sincerity with which stopped to inquire after my needs and the way he tried to address the matter of my possibly not having found the restrooms clearly reflected the sense of ownership he took over helping visitors and guests. Elsewhere at the Windsor Manor, at their incredible “Jolly Nabob” restaurant, I have seen the same excellent sense of ownership and pride with the maitre d’.

As anyone who’s been in the hospitality business knows, finding good help – the talent – is hard. Training them and inculcating in them the sense of ownership and service mindset is even harder. And institutionalizing it requires trust! This is a lesson all of us could use and Windsor Manor and the Four Seasons teach us well to use in our own business and lives.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The ONE thing you need to succeed as an entrepreneur

Last week one of the first tweets I came across, as I started my day, was a re-tweet by @CharlieCurve — a poetical summary of Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) earlier tweet.

“Stop worrying about who's President, what the market did and FOCUS on your business & brand.”

Yep, focus – say it again – FOCUS is the one thing you need to succeed as an entrepreneur. If you thought you needed it before, the recession has made it a burning need as the economy totters, markets tumble and Cassandras abound. You’d think it would be easy to keep this one word in mind and hence stay focused.

Entire books have been written on the subject – most notably the eponymously titled one by Al Ries. The history of business is littered with not merely individuals or departments but entire companies losing focus. So this is harder than it appears.

It’s easy to understand why we lose focus, particularly in entrepreneurial setups. The passion and dynamism of being entrepreneurial is the first cause for the loss of focus. There’s always some new problems to be solved, a new customer to be served or more cash to be brought in. This makes it hard to say NO to a lot of things.  So one YES at at a time, you get another ball in the air, and soon there’s no time to do things as well as they need to be done. Worse yet, you keep falling behind and losing ground.

Staying focused requires us to master just one word and that is “No” Doesn’t have to be NO, screamed at the top of your voice, or even a “Hell no!” hissed out the corner of your mouth. Just a plain and polite no would suffice. Everything else that lead you to be an entrepreneur in the first place will kick in, once you focus. So take Gary’s advice and quit worrying about anything other than staying focused on your business goals!

For the two of you who may have not heard of Gary Vaynerchuk – here’s a quick blurb. Gary, who by age 30 had grown his family’s small wine business into a $50M dollar business, knows a thing or two about building successful businesses. And that was before before he started “Wine Library TV” that has nearly 100,000 daily viewers.  Gary has become a much sought after speaker on the matter of personal branding — patience and passion, he exhorts are critical elements to building your brand and business. But that’s matter for a whole another post.