Business success tip: Learn from an Uber driver how to adjust and adapt

Technically, chauffeurs or Uber drivers are both drivers. They drive cars for someone.

But they are different. The difference is in their attitudes.

Chauffeurs are used to a predictable job. Same passengers. Almost always familiar routes. Predictable working hours. Their jobs are mostly covered by certainty.

Against that, Uber drivers’ job is highly unpredictable. They have to go anywhere from anywhere at a very short notice. No familiar routes.

They encounter passengers of all varieties, temperaments and moods. An Uber driver operates amidst a reality of uncertainty.

This develops in them a habit of being always ready for anything. An Uber driver gets used to charting his way by reading maps all the time. He befriends unfamiliarity of terrain. He can correct course on the way. He adjusts to changing situation rapidly. He develops an attitude of positivity cheerfully welcoming new passengers every hour every day. He learns setting and achieving daily goals of completing a certain number of rides or collecting certain amount of fare.

But in today’s times, an Uber driver has a huge advantage as compared to a traditional chauffeur. If the chauffeur does not prepare himself for being flexible to embrace changes of different types, he may face extinction. He may lose relevance. Even though both the drivers have same technical skills, an Uber driver is more equipped to embrace the uncertain future and thrive. He is able to adjust and adapt.

In business also, regardless of whether we are an employee or an employer, having “ready for anything” attitude is more helpful in today’s uncertain times. The terrain is changing fast. We can’t be sure competition may come from where or when. We may have to slow down somewhere or suddenly increase speed. Next turn may come anytime. We may also have to take a U-turn. We must constantly watch the map.

Develop an Uber driver’s attitude. It will help a smoother drive into future.

Business growth tip: Handle employees with care

To build and grow a strong business, we must remember this simple fact: A business is run by people. People are human beings. Human beings are emotional beings. They work most efficiently when they are happy. When they are motivated. When they enjoy their work.
We should help them to work efficiently, to be happy at work.
About motivation, it is believed that money is the only motivator for employees. This is not entirely true. Money motivates, but temporarily. Not always. To be motivated, many other things are required in addition to money. Here are some:
Respect
Everyone expects to be respected. Employees who are respected by their bosses and colleagues work confidently. Create a culture of mutual respect in your company. We should not insult anybody. If we need to give some feedback, we must give in private. Don’t fire people in front of others. Being rude to employees is bad. Maintain dignity of labor.
Concern and care
We must remember that employees are as human as we are. They, too, have their own life, own problems, dreams, challenges, limitations and frustrations. We must take care of them and be concerned about them.
Facilities
Employees prefer to work where they enjoy working. Good facilities are a need. We must provide good working conditions and facilities as prevailing in our industry.
Proper salary
Yes. Salary is important. It should match with the industry standard. It should be paid on time and must be revised from time to time. Remember the old saying: if we give peanuts, we will only get monkeys. Generally, monkeys can’t help in growing a business.
Timely appraisals and increments
It is necessary to review the work of the employees periodically and give them feedback about what is good and what needs improvement. Appraisals must be done at least once a year or more. Based on the appraisal, salaries of the employees must be revised and promotions affected, if  appropriate. Most businesses ignore appraisals. They delay increments as much as possible. This is demotivating for the employees.
Remember. In today’s times, employees may be available in abundance, but good employees are scarce. Good employees are in high demand. We can grow our business only if we have good employees working in our business.
We must care for them to retain them. Losing good employees will be a loss to the business.

How hard should an entrepreneur work?

We have heard that entrepreneur must work hard.

How hard?
First, how many hours of work should an entrepreneur put in?
The simple answer is: Entrepreneurs must work more hours than any of their employees. If your office hours are, say, 9 to 5, and every employee is expected to work for at least 8 hours a day. Now, if you are also looking for an 8-hour work day for yourself, entrepreneurship is not for you. You should give up business and take up a job with fixed hours.
If you feel that you pay your employees so they should come early to work for you you can come late or leave early everyday, it is a very bad idea. You have a liberty to do that, but such businesses, where the owner does not put in much work generally don’t do much.
A business owner must work equal or more hours than his employees. Undoubtedly. Remember, a general can’t relax when his soldiers are battling on the field.
Secondly, an entrepreneur must be available for his/her business 24×7.
See, it is not about working 24×7. You must ensure balance between work and other areas of life for yourself and for your team. It is about being available when your business needs you. You can’t shut yourself down.
If everyday you wait for evening so that you can “have some time for yourself after a hard day’s work”, you should not be an entrepreneur. For a true entrepreneur, there is no “hard” day of work.
Yes, you can party. But, you must be available and accessible to your troops if they are fighting it out.
Some entrepreneurs are victims of maxims like “We should do smart work and not hard work”.
Or
As a boss, we should give tension to others and not take tension on ourselves.
Such dialogues can’t help us build businesses.
You can’t build a business by proxy.
Entrepreneurship is not a fixed time job. It is a full-time job.

A great business requires work.

Hard work.

A great business can’t be built looking at a clock.

Or a calendar.

Which business succeeds? Practical Tips to Grow Your Small Business

A business which can make its customers’ life better has a high chance of success.

Every business provides some product or service. The customer buys that product or service to satisfy some of her needs. By that, she expects some improvement in her life. Even if your business is B2B where your customer is another business, there also, the customer will continue buying only if your product or service solves some of its business problems or satisfies some of its needs.

Here are some examples:
If you have a restaurant and you customers love your food or service or the ambience, if they feel your charges are reasonable as per the value received by them, they will come again and again. They will also give good reviews about you. All this because you are giving them some moments of happiness. You are making their life better.

If you are a retail shop or showroom, and if customers love your range of goods, or you provide them a lot of choice or they feel confidence in your dealings and they trust the quality of your goods or service, if they can be assured of your fair prices. you are taking some worries related to shopping out of their lives. They love your business for making their life easier. They will make your shop a part of their life. They will continue buying from you regularly. Your retail business is making your customers’ life better.

If you are a doctor and you help patients get better faster, if you help them live a normal, healthy life, if they can trust you for giving them the right advice for their health, if you don’t take advantage of their vulnerability, if you don’t cheat them by prescribing unnecessary tests or medicines, then you fulfill a very important need in their lives. That is an example of making people’s life better.

If you are a builder of residential projects, and you deliver the same amenities, facilities and conveniences to the buyers of residences as you had promised, they will look at you with respect. You have made their life better through your work.

In B2B, suppose you supply some raw material, machinery, spare parts or services to your manufacturing customers. If your products are of reliable quality, your rates are reasonable and your service is prompt, the customer business can plan its own operations on the guarantee provided by your business. That is a sure step towards making your customers’ life better.

In every business or profession, if the product or service provided by you makes your customers’ life better, solves their problems and satisfies their needs, your business will surely succeed.

– Sanjay Shah (SME Business Coach, Author: “Business Management Simplified”)

This is how Airtel cheats its customers

As an Airtel subscriber, for any changes in your plan, you need to call their customer care number 121.

When you call that number, you have to pass through the illogical computerized IVR system, which takes time to register your input. Due to its sluggishness, if you type an option selection digit again, it takes it as your consent to activate some data plan and thanks you for subscribing to it. It promptly sends you a confirmation SMS saying that some “FREE 1GB 4G/3G data has been activated from today for Rs.100”. (Look at the deceptive language, something is FREE at Rs.100 !!!)

On realizing that you have inadvertently activated something, you call up 121 again to request deactivation. One request goes unattended.

You call again. This time, it is listened to. Deactivation request is taken. An SMS follows. Only to inform that the activation which was affected promptly, will be deactivated after 4 days.

For every other type of request, they ask you so many verification and confirmation questions, but for this thing, a simple error of pressing a wrong option is enough. If you can be charged Rs.100, no confirmation is needed. No question is asked.

This is not less that deceptive malpractice aimed at cheating customers.  It is only for such manipulative and customer unfriendly practices that customers decide to switch to other service providers.

It is high time Airtel wakes up to stop such cheating.

Branding lessons by example: Why spending big money can’t save a weak brand?

Snapdeal’s recent 200 Cr rebranding exercise “Unbox Zindagi” during 2016 Diwali and other festivals is yet another example of the marketing myth that spending huge money can make or remake a brand.

With a lot of fanfare, it was announced that Snapdeal’s co-founder Kunal Bahl and some other seniors personally visited a number of customers’ homes to get an insight into what is the customers’ experience when they shop with Snapdeal.

And…. they found out that the best moments occur when the customers open the box which brings the merchandize. And hence, a 200 crores brand repositioning exercise of “Unbox Zindagi” involving new box logo and new colors.

I think the copywriters and the creative directors at the agency must have patted their own backs for coming out with such a brilliant term “Unbox Zindagi”, and for their profound practical genius in using the word “Zindagi”. So Indian, you know?

Seedfund founder Mahesh Murthy, described this exercise as “Rs. 200 crores for a new paint job on the Titanic”. He said that this expensive exercise will not save the sinking ship called “Snapdeal”.

He was so right. The paint job has not worked. The ship continues to sink deeper.

In my opinion, there were two big mistakes.

One: Lack of differentiation. 

The joy of opening the box of the newly shopped article is same regardless of whether it was purchased from Snapdeal, Flipkart, Amazon or some nearby shop. What is so unique about the joy of opening a Snapdeal box versus other boxes? Nothing really…

Two: Bad copy

If only the founders, senior managers and creative people had confirmed with the people whom they met about the meaning of the word “Unbox”, they must have realized that the majority of them really don’t understand it correctly. The English copywriters failed to understand that 95% of Indians don’t understand English as well as they themselves do.

Brand managers live in their own worlds. They think that their own vision of the world is the only true picture and they have figured it out so correctly.

High vocabulary, creative copywriting skills or linguistic abilities don’t compensate for lack of common sense. If it would have been, all the authors and poets could have been great brand building wizards.

Brand communication is a black hole. If used unwisely and without any strategic thought, it can suck a lot of money. Snapdeal’s failed, expensive English extravaganza has proved yet again that marketing and branding are majorly responsible for destroying many companies and people don’t learn.

Many brands fall prey to such wasteful and poorly thought-through branding initiatives and burn big money.

No wonder, in the sea of branding more ships sink than those which sail through smoothly.

Should you hire relatives or friends?

Do not hire friends/relatives

A business tip from the book “Business Management Simplified” Author: Sanjay Shah (SME Business Coach)

I think we should not hire friends/relatives

  • I call this “Ration card employment.” It is advisable to desist from this practice.
  • The main reason is that bringing some friend/relative or their children in the team skews the balance of the team in a very weird way.
  • It curtails our freedom to deal with the individual at par with others, which creates a lot of unrest among the other employees.
  • There is always a conflict between the relative importance to be attached to the relationship or the job.
  • It is also observed that in the end, such an assignment ends bitterly or in the end, either the work or the relationship suffers.
  • Hiring of any person must be done only on merit.
  • If some relative or friend asks us to “do a favor” by hiring somebody known to them, you should politely tell them that you can only arrange for an interview and the selection will be based on merit only. This may offend that relative or friend, but if you can’t say no, then you may have to hire an unsuitable or incompetent person and your business will suffer for a long time.
  • Remember, you should keep charity and business separate. Hoarding incompetent people only because they know you or some of your friend/relative, sends a signal about your own weakness and lack of clarity.
  • Also, if a person is good and competent, he/she will not need any recommendation only.

(Excerpt from “Business Management Simplified”)

​Run your race. Hit the finish line.

I just watched Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon.

The main marathon of 42.195 kilometers was won by an African participant, a regular. It was captured by a lot of cameras following or leading him.

But, at the same time, many other marathons were run and won, which may have gone unnoticed, because no camera was covering them. But still, the races were won. Triumphantly. Gloriously. Proudly. Silently.

For a physically challenged girl on a wheelchair, riding a few kilometers freely on a Mumbai road, was a personal race won.
For an 80 year old grandmother, walking a few kilometers with a group of similar age friends was more than a victory.
For a senior citizen who had just undergone a bypass surgery before few months, completing a dream run of few kilometers was a real dream come true.
For an HR manager of a company, successfully organizing a group participation of 70 employees in the dream run was a proud moment in her career as a new recruit in the company.
For a product manager who organized free promotion of their orange juice packaged drink, consumption of 5,000 units was a great thing because so many people could “experience” her brand firsthand.
For a newbie orchestra to perform live on the footpath of Marine Drive was a big thing. Similarly, a singer won her own marathon when she sang some songs for the first time in a live scenario like this.
For a large number of full or half marathon runners, just being able to complete the run successfully was a huge milestone in their own lives.
For a brand manager, organizing a “below the line” brand communication initiative in the form of a noisy dance booth on the marathon route was a big, bold resume bullet point.

For a shy employee in a company, being able to wake up and reach the venue on time and run along with the scores of his colleagues in the company’s dream run troupe was a big self esteem boost.
For traffic police heads, to successfully manage traffic bypassing the marathon route was a sigh of relief.
For Mumbai police, “uneventful” completion of the marathon is a big achievement.
Except the main winners who got the prize, others were not honored publicly. But each one of them ran and won their own private marathons.
It is a beautiful feeling running and winning a marathon, public or private.  We must set our sights on some race and proudly hit the finish line. There are very few joys which are more joyful.

When museum curators run a state, they hire stenos to dictate…

Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Service Selection (UPSSSC) is looking to recruit 352 stenographers and many more junior stenos. (Check here: http://upsssc.com/upsssc-stenographer-recruitment/ )
Now, how many in this time may be knowing stenography? If you search for stenography as an employee skill on any job portal like Naukri.com, a large majority of the candidates will come up of age beyond 50 years . That says that stenography is the skill of bygone era. It is outdated. It is not relevant today. Stenos, dictation, typing etc are the symbols of lethargic bureaucratic inefficiency of the past. In today’s times of speed, steno is an article fit for museum. Today, if dictation is needed, it can speech recorded and possibly be coverted into text…!
In India, more and more progressive governments at the centre and the states, lead by progressive leadership, are using new technology to save time and to increase productivity. Such states and governments are on their path to progress.

Then, in the age of Siri and OK Google, voice commands and Artifical Intelligence, we get to see examples of such a regressive step. This shows how much we are still behind. This also reflects the poverty of thought leadership at the helm which allows such regression. When the government itself chooses to embrace antiquity, who can save our future from mediocrity?

Such mindless examples of extreme contrast create a picture of the not-so-beautiful incredible India. When a section of the nation is embracing future by moulding its own mindset and habits, there is another slow-moving elephantine attitude which takes time to understand the nature of the winds blowing around its ears.
As long as such ugly combination of progressive leadership and regressive bureaucracy coexists in the same country, it will keep pulling the country in two different directions, one towards a bright future another towards a dark, dead past. This tug of war will slow the speed of the country, as it has always done in the seven decades of our independence. The country must move in one direction, the one towards a bright future.
The Incredible India campaign may pride itself in the rich legacy of the country. But, past cannot be lived forever. Museum is a place to visit, to learn, not to stay there.
But, if museum curators sit to run the country, they will only turn the whole country into a museum, a glorified relic of the past.
Then, looking at the whole country as a living museum, not ready to grow up, the tourists may say, “This happens only in India. Really, Incredible India.”

Flipkart and Ola are proving that copycats lose….

Recently, at a panel discussion, the founders of Flipkart and Ola cried for help from Indian government asking it to “protect” them from their foreign competitors (Amazon and Uber respectively) playing the nationalist card.

In doing so, both the poster boys of Indian startup industry have proved that “Birds of a feather flock together”. I say, mediocrity finds itself.

Here are some points to show how hollow and greedy the demand is.

  1. Both have chosen to forget that they both are poor copies of some foreign firms. Just like any copycat, they have proved right from the beginning that they are second class, inferior, followers of a leader. There was nothing original about them, and it is coming out.
  2. Both the companies are funded by foreign investors. Both have said that they want foreign money, but don’t want foreign companies. How self-serving….!
  3. On its part, Flipkart has chosen to register itself in Singapore. Now what makes it an Indian company, which wants to take advantages from India but does not trust its system…?
  4. They claim that Flipkart and Ola generate employment in India. Ironically, they forget that right from CEOs to almost all employees of Amazon and drivers of Uber are Indians. Where is the difference in employment generation?
  5. The fact is, both have run out of tricks after initially copying the concept from their respective leading competitors. They can’t match the innovation abilities of those firms and hence now they are crying foul.
  6. The major difference between Flipkart-Ola and Amazon-Uber is not their country of origin, but their missions. Amazon-Uber, both lead by visionary founders, are the companies founded to change lives of the people. On the contrary, our copycat Indian founders have founded their companies solely for getting high valuations and selling out to some unsuspecting investors. Greed cannot match right intentions. Excel sheets may succeed in faking valuation, but can’t create real value.
  7. In business, companies which provide better service to the customers, win. Both Flipkart and Ola are finding it difficult to provide good service to their customers or partners and hence they are losing. I have been a customer and a seller on Flipkart and I have a first-hand experience of their poor quality of service. Same is with Ola. I have spoken to at least 50 Ola drivers in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities. Hardly any one of them is happy with Ola. On the other hand, most of the Uber drivers are very happy. Same is the observation with Amazon customers. Both Flipkart and Ola should focus on customers instead of wasting time on competition.
  8. Instead of grumbling to seek narrow minded protectionism, they must innovate and provide solutions what the country needs. Anjana Menon has rightly pointed out in Economic Times (here) that both these companies need to focus on providing solutions what the rural India needs, in order to earn the respect and value that they aspire to.

Flipkart and Ola are behaving like children playing in the compound going to their parents crying for help when they lose a game with the other kids. Both and their ilk need to grow up and put their own house in order first.

In failing to do so, as Anjana writes in the ET article above, “(they) risk writing their own obituary. They shouldn’t expect too many tears at the funeral.” There can’t be a more appropriate reply to the poor demand from the clueless copycats.