The 3 A’s of awesome

Enjoy the TEDx talk by WEBBY award winner for the best blog – Neil Pasricha. Simple, but very important, to enjoy our life moment-by-moment.

Inspiring video! Enjoy and have fun !!!

Does Google really need Sex ?

Paul Krugman wrote a post titled “Google Needs Sex” which was interesting to read. Lately, Google bashing has become fashionable. Everyone is complaining about the issues that Google has and why it is in its decline. I am sure that this will increase in ferver and quantity.

Everyone has been complaining about the quality of results of search being the trouble at Google.

My personal opinion is that the actual culprit is Google’s business model based on the Adsense program. It is because of this business model that the entire SEO industry cropped up and created a mess of their search algorithm.

In one of my previous blogs (Google on its way downhill?), I did mention that anyone who has to beat Google will have to do so, not only by technological innovation (aka better search) but more so by business model innovation. 

Now, it is up to Google itself to innovate on their business model in order to come out trumps. So, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for Google to re-invent their business model and continue their dominance in the search category.  

Meanwhile, Google is also coping with a lot of other issues like

  1. Increase competition from the Facebook’s, Bing’s and other search engines in the market
  2. Loss of talent to competition
No matter, what happens, this will be an interesting space to watch out for. 

Lessons from a start-up which shut shop..

I started a small distribution business sometime back in a small town called Salem in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. I had a decent run with the business but had to close it down due to multiple reasons like the business was not able to scale, I started having cash flow issues as the receivables were spiraling out-of-control, etc.

I ran the business for about a year and a half and these years taught me more about running a business than any amount of reading or teaching could. Yesterday, I was asked by someone about my experience during this period and what did I learn from the experience. This got me thinking and the result is this article.

I sat down with a cup of hot and steaming coffee and thought about the lessons I learnt and tried to jot down the most important of them.

  1. Manage cash flow: One of the most important reasons why start-ups or even established businesses crash is due to cash flow issues. Cash flow is like the blood in our body. So, the first goal of any business is to generate positive cash flow. Profits and profitability can follow. Sustaining a business with a negative cash flow is not a viable strategy unless you are able to infuse funds every time you face a cash crunch.
  2. Plan: I have seen and experienced that in the hustle bustle of running a business, it becomes harder and harder to set time aside to plan. Your list of tasks is never ending and you are always running short of time. You always move from one situation to another and act as you go along. This ability to think on the feet is very crucial to keep running the business but is not enough to either grow the business beyond a certain level or even avoid an imminent crash.
So, it is very critical that you set aside specific time slots to planning almost every quarter, ideally one day at the start of every quarter.

First half of the day, you can look back at the quarter and see if you have achieved what you had planned, to see what worked and what did not.

In the second half, decide what you want to achieve in the next quarter, set yourself some SMART one minute goals.

  1. Create a team: One of the most important lessons I had learnt from my experience was the importance of building and nurturing a team. No one ever succeeded in business alone. It is absolutely critical that you build a great team. Teams can be a combination of employees, business partners, etc.
The most important thing to remember when forming a team if you are a start-up is to ensure that everyone in the team buys-in to your vision.

Let me repeat this.

“Ensure that everyone in the team buys-in to your vision”.

This is absolutely critical to take your business to the next level.

  1. Define and follow processes: When you are in the growth phase of your business, you easily fall in to the trap of getting busy in your day-to-day activities. It is absolutely critical that during this phase of your business, you define business processes. This one act will alone give you the capability to scale and take your business to the next level. Well-defined processes will enable your business to scale to higher levels. This also means that you will have to give up some control on the business. This is also required if you want your business to grow big.  
  2. Use technology: Identify the technologies that you can use to automate business processes and improve productivity.
One of the most important things that you need to do is to identify a good CRM system and implement the same. All businesses have customer interactions and a good CRM system can help you track your customers through their various phases and also help automate defined processes in the sales cycles.

So, go out and search for a good CRM system that can help you in managing your customers better. Do keep in mind that you need to decide on the best CRM system based on your current and future needs. So, it is very important that you know where you are heading (your plans).

Also, as you grow big, technology will start to play a big part in either enabling your businesses to grow or will emerge as a bottleneck. Do keep your eyes open for this stage and then course correct as required.

  1. Get out of the way: As your business grows, it becomes more and more important for the business leader to move away from the day-to-day activities and concentrate on planning and stock-taking activities. Well defined business processes and good use of technology can provide you the opportunity to do so. This is also one of the reasons, it is important to define processes and using the right technologies.
In hindsight, these look like common sense, but as someone said, common sense is not so common anymore.

When you are in the middle of running a business, it is very much possible that you miss out on these activities. But by being aware of these, will ensure that you have a good chance at succeeding at your business.

Please do remember that nothing can replace the importance of a good value proposition for your customers, good customer service and a big enough market for your product or service. If all these are in place, adding the above learning improves your chances of taking your business through an amazing growth period. 

Meetings, meetings and more meetings

We all have been through a lot of meetings and know that a lot of these meetings are

  1. Mis-managed
  2. Kill time
  3. Reduces organizational productivity
  4. Boring
Yet, we can’t do away with meetings completely as they are also required to do business.

There are many ideas to improve the effectiveness of these meetings. Seth Godin in his blog talks about Making meetings more expensive which will ensure that there are less of meetings and would be more productive.

Some un-conventional ideas to make meetings interesting and little more productive could be

  1. Have stand-up meetings. No place to sit down.
  2. No meeting room with space for more than 3 people. Any gathering of more than 3 people to happen in the open (cafeteria, someone’s desk, water cooler, etc)
  3. In big corporations, get people to pay (internal cross-charge) every time someone uses a meeting room and put an upper limit on the budget that can be utilized for this usage
Have you seen any un-conventional way that meetings can be made interesting or productive? 

WOW !!!

Imagine the following situation:

“You have just finished your meetings in a city and want to fly back home. You board a flight and just before the flight can take off, the flight attendants come out and enact the safety measures on-board the flight.”

Now let’s stop here and think about this.

       How many of the passengers do you think actually watch the flight attendants go through the routine? Not many, I am sure (including me).
       Is it important for the passengers to know this information? Definitely.  
       How many of the flight attendants do you think like doing this? Not many. I think they get bored of the routine.

This is a classic example of a customer interaction with your employees à an opportunity to delight your customers. How? Watch the video of how a less known Philippines airline (Cebu Pacific) did this.


Amazing!!!!!

They took a boring but an important task and made it into a wow! moment for all of their customers. I am sure no one on the flight would forget this for a long time.

Will they go out and talk to their friends about this? I bet they will.

Do you think the customers would want to come back to the airlines? Everything else being equal, I bet they will return to the airlines whenever possible.

Do you think the flight attendants enjoyed the performance and the accolades? I bet they did.

I am sure this did not cost the airline much but the returns for them are amazing.

Will other airlines copy this? Maybe. I am not sure because this is very un-conventional and knowing that most of the airlines are old and conventional, it will take a lot of convincing for any of them to do something similar.

Not just that. They have tried to make fun an integral part of their customer experience which is very difficult to 
replicate

All said, the airlines took a very simple, boring and an important task and interaction with their customers and turned it into a competitive advantage.

Kudos to them!

Can you think of any other such innovative ideas that someone has used to wow! their customers? Do let me know.