Category: Training

Business owners in India and issues in scaling these businesses

I attended a business coaching workshop with my father and two employees from my father’s company last weekend. This 4 day workshop had about 40 attendees. All business owners or higher level employees in small and medium enterprises.

I was surprised how little all the business owners knew about their business. I guess that is why they were there. No one had answers to the following questions:

  1. How big is your market?
  2. What is your market share?
  3. What is your growth strategy and implementation plan?
  4. What should be in your sales kit
  5. For manufacturers, view what is your process flow
  6. How do you measure quality

Of course, diagnosis my father and I did not have any answers either.

But it was definitely surprising to see how clueless most business owners there were about their business. These were no small business either. The smallest business owner’s revenue was 2 crores or USD $320, sildenafil 000. The largest business owners were at 500crores or $80Million employees hundreds of people. All of us were having difficulty in scaling our business because we lacked processes and clear lines of responsibilities in our company.

Even though I have an MBA from IIM Lucknow, I felt that I learned more about operations in this 4 day courses than I did in my 3 year part time MBA. I also felt that I learnt more about sales and leadership here than I did in my class.

I now hope that I can work with my father and his leadership team to transform our business in the next 6 months.

–Anubhav

 

 

Your life’s narrative

My Life

Once again a great story from This American Life (TAL) inspired me to write a blog post.

As a product manager, nurse you are often dealing with anxiety. At a large company, ambulance you might also feel disenfranchised. You might also be feeling that you do not deserve to be a product manager, sales especially after making a bad decision or after meeting a much more experienced member of the product team that you recently joined. So, here’s how to deal with this. First, listen to the above podcast.

I’ve liked all books by Michael Lewis. He is able to curate great stories and write them in a very accessible way. His story on Emir Kamenica on TAL is a great example of the power of positive thinking and the power of exercising your choice on how to react to a given situation.

What could easily have been an “I’m a victim” story, Emir reframes his story as an “I’ve been so lucky” even when it’s not true in all its details. Yet, this has had a profound impact on his life. The power your life’s narrative has on you is staggering. So, its important to be aware of what story your mind is making up about yourself and then change it so that it empowers you instead of sucking away your energy.

Additionally, remember that Stories are what we make up to explain facts. An unlimited number of stories can explain a set of facts. I learnt this from “Crucial Conversations”. It’s a great book. Here is a summary of it.

So, first try to write down your life narrative. Who you are? And how you got where you are today? Then, do this exercise, as outlined in a simple blog post by Michael Hyatt

And, you may find that you are able to run in a different gear than today.

–Anubhav

Writing effective call to action messages in software

I recently had a to review an important call to action dialog. We had just finished an important feature and wanted to drive its usage. The call to action dialog came up automatically and urged the user to try this feature.  The team had taken two stabs at rewriting it but it was still too long & repetitive. Additionally, it was written from the point of view of the team and not the customer.

Since I have limited writing experience, I started searching for “Effective Software dialog messages” or  “Better messages in software” but did not get good results in both cases. This made me think about the problem differently. I then searched for “Writing effective call to action messages” and found a rich volume of work that helped me re-write this message.

Here are the blogs I found useful:

  • http://blog.crazyegg.com/2013/07/24/call-to-action-examples/
  • http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/31435/How-to-Write-Call-to-Action-Copy-That-Gets-Visitors-Clicking.aspx

I felt the following rules applied most to us, while these are obvious, they can be hard to do right:

  • Keep it consise
  • Focus on the user’s benefit
    • Designers saved 30 mins a day by using “feature x” instead of feature x is great, try now
  • Eliminate risk for the user in trying this new feature
    • Try it now, you can always disable it from the preferences menu
  • Use numbers, where possible. For example:
    • “Feature X” saved 15% of time spent in doing something in a recent user study. Click yes to try now
    • 11 tools have been revamped to make you more effecient in this release, click yes to try now

I now feel that I should take a class in writing or rhetoric. There are many available on coursera. Let me know if you’ve had a good experience with any of them.

–Anubhav

 

Ben Horowitz – The hard thing about hard things

I read Ben Horowitz’s book on my flight from SFO-LHR and could not put it down. Here is why:

  • It was really well edited and uses an optimum amount of words
  • Clear and unambiguous writing, sale illness which is great in a business book
  • It talks about challenges and various approaches to problem solving instead of providing a panacea
  • It has the best description for a product manager role I’ve read ever. The contrasts between good and bad product managers are really well thought out and inspiring.
    • Even if this is 15 years old, pharmacy it is still very relevant.
    • Of course, order not everything applies and this is written for product managers in startups and not in large companies.
  • Ben’s take on analytics is refreshing in this time of “lean” shit. Analytics cannot dictate product vision. Most analytics provide lagging indicators. Product strategy comes from making time for it.

It’s a must read if you are in business or a product manager. I’m adding it to my Product Manager book list.

Transitioning to a Product Management role from a software developer

Ok. I’ve done it. Here is how I went about it.

When I was working in the US as a programmer, I realized that most of the coding I was doing did not require a lot of technical chops. For every DSP/Algorithm guy, there were 3 UI/general app developers. I also missed not being in front of customers or not representing a company. I also want to make more important decisions for a business than which data structure to use when coding a particular feature. So.. as you can see, I did not really care for the art of programming and hence I was not very good at it.

I was however, very good with people and in front of customers. So.. I decided to move into a applications engineering position, which put me in front of customers who wanted to license technology from the company I worked for. I did this by:

  • Finding people in this role already.
  • Doing any project I could do for them – in my spare time
  • Finding a hiring manager and impressing my skills on him.

While this put me in front of people, this was still not a real business role. I decided to move back to India and started as a project manager at my current company. I interviewed for a programming position but I was not hired as a programmer, they offered me a program management position instead – luckily they saw something in me that I did not. And, frankly, I was just looking for a job to keep me busy. Moving back to India from the US is hard, especially if you are unable to find a fulfilling job back home.

I spent a lot of time learning in this role and saying “yes” to new things. I socialized over lunch with different team members. I filed bugs and feature requests, which very few program/project managers did and I wrote utilities in java and Konfabulator to track bug stats and shared these with other teams and PM. I also wrote scripts to batch process bugs in our bug data base that saved other program managers a lot of time. I eventually started to manage a team of program managers and new responsibilities kept coming to me. And, I started a customer advocacy program where I set up customer visits for the engineering teams to acquaint them with customer issues.

So… the lessons here are:

  • Share freely
  • Always be learning
  • Default to “yes” than “no”
  • Build relationships across teams and geos.
  • Expand your role at every opportunity you get
  • Present often – stand up in front of a group and present ideas and status often.

Around this time, I felt I was peaking and there was no where else to go. I did not have an MBA from IIM or an engineering degree from IIT and felt that I needed atleast one of these to succeed in India. You know – educational qualifications are the new class system in India. So.. since I was doing well at work and wanted to move into the business side of things, I decided to pursue a part time MBA from IIM Lucknow’s Noida campus. My experiences there are in captured in this blog.

The MBA was great. I learned new skills and developed greater confidence in my ability to analyze data and dissect strategic mumbo jumbo. I also made new friends. Its hard to make friends as you grow older.

I continued in my existing job but was eager to move into product management. All the relationships I had build over the years with colleagues in India and in the US came in handy as when I applied for an internal opportunity in a product that I was project managing. The MBA helped. The connections helped. My experience on the product helped. My experience with the product team and their votes helped. The customer advocacy program helped. The hiring manager in India was supportive once  he saw everyone else’s support. The lessons here are:

  • Develop business acumen. You dont have to do an MBA but it helps
  • Do more than your job demands
  • Demonstrate great communication skills.

I’ve been doing this for a while now and I believe that this is the best role for my skillset. Write to me if you have questions.