Monthly Archives: July 2011

How to get our employees 100% involved?

Many business owners have this complaint that their employees waste a lot of time and they are not able to get 100% out of their people. They say “Somehow, they don’t have the vision as big as my vision. They are completely clueless about their work and I have to guide them about each and every thing. How to get them fully involved?”

A small story from daily life, but very much relevant, illustrates the solution of this business problem clearly….

Kalindi was a manager with a company. She was visited by one of her old friends, Shama at her home. Both friends were chatting up and the topic was Kalindi’s work team. She was leading a team of five executives and was somehow finding it difficult to get things done through them. “They just don’t understand the bigger picture. They waste a lot of time. They disappoint me everyday. Because of their inefficiency, I miss many of my deadlines and I can’t achieve my departmental goals. It is so frustrating…! How can I get them involved 100%?” This was her concern.

Kalindi had a visiting cook and a full-time maid servant at home. During the above talk, Kalindi inquired with her cook to ask her about the stock of vegetables at home. The cook checked the fridge and told her what was there. Kalindi sent her back and called for the maid. She instructed the maid  “Please to go to the market and bring Shimla Mirch, Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Pizza bases.”. The maid bought the things and gave it to the cook. The cook understood that she had to prepare Pizza, but found that there was no cheese at home. She went to Kalindi to inform this. Kalindi got angry, “Why you did not tell me earlier?”. The cook also got upset, as she never knew about Pizza plan. Then Kalindi sent the maid again to the market buy cheese. The maid also grumbled because she had to go all over again to the market.

Shama understood the entire problem, both at Kalindi’s office and also at home. She told Kalindi “Did your cook know you wanted to make Pizza? Then how can you expect her to give you specific requirements? Similarly, do your team members know what your goals are? If they do not, and you keep assigning them daily tasks and when they don’t find you to guide them, they just wait and waste time. No wonder, you miss deadlines and all are frustrated in the end.” Kalindi got the solution to her problem.

Ask yourself. Do your employees know what are your goals? What is your vision? If not, you may have to make pizza without cheese, which won’t be very appetizing…!

Tell your people what you all are trying to do. Simple, but very practical. Implement it.

Future trends in Indian education

Today’s world is flat. Opportunity is available to everybody. Geography has become history, i.e. the constraints posed by distance have disappeared or rendered irrelevant in the connected world. In this scenario, how will be the future of education in India? Following are some of the possibilities :

Dominance of technology : With the emergence of fast and affordable technological solutions and broadband connectivity, more and more dispensing of education will happen through Internet and mobile technologies. Unfortunately, the availability of good teachers has not kept pace with the rapid pace of technology. This real scarcity of talented teachers will also enforce usage of technology to impart education, which can enhance the availability of one teacher to many students across the globe.

Increased Specialization : With the increased complexity in the world, education, too, will become more and more specialized. This will lead to a lot of degrees becoming fragmented, giving rise to focused studies in specific areas. So, one graduation will not suffice and students will have to go for more specialized courses post graduation.

Scarcity of skilled workmen : Day by day, the availability of skilled manpower is reducing in traditional vocations and crafts. E.g. less and less youngsters are going to their family vocations, which their parents followed. The new generation, empowered by education, prefers to venture into greener pastures, abandoning family’s traditional occupations. The impact of this is being visible in labor intensive industries like ready made garments. jewellery, manufacturing etc. Due to this, education will have to also cover few general skills to enable people to take care of their regular requirements. For example, people will be expected to know basic carpentry, sewing, painting, masonry, plumbing, electric work etc.

The reduction of EQ : Due to the two-dimensional world of e-Relationships and social networks today, people are always absorbed in the solitary world glued to their computer screens and mobiles and losing touch with actual human beings. This will reduce the benefits of emotional cushioning emerging out of sharing. People are going to become more and more lonely and will have less and less tolerance for intrusion to their privacy. This will lead to very serious deficit of Emotional Intelligence or EQ. The education will have to work towards filling this gap because otherwise people will find it difficult to deal with real people, because they have been used to deal with their ‘digital’ profiles only.

Globalization of education : Globalization and the blending of multiple cultures will encourage increased collaboration among the educational institutes across continents, leading to increased uniformity in education. Education will also undergo a lot of marketing, as branding of institutes will become very significant. Also, the demands of future will require students to be aware of variety of cultures, languages, challenges and opportunities of different parts the world.

Increased need of skills : In some recent surveys of graduate and post graduate Indians, some shocking facts have come up :

a) 74% of the engineers passed from Indian engineering colleges DO NOT possess skills required by the industry, i.e. they are not immediately employable without being trained by the company.

b) 90% of the graduates and post graduates from India, CANNOT write CORRECT English with reference to grammar and spellings.

In a haste to win in the race of global outsourcing business, India has compromised on the quality of education being imparted to increase quantity. The poor quality of India’s ‘educated’ manpower may pose very serious threat to the future of services industry which has become the dominant part of India’s GDP today, as competition from other emerging market countries is heating up, who have developed much superior education infrastructure.

There are lakhs of Engineers, MBAs and other degree holders coming out from hundreds of universities, without possessing the requisite basic skills to help India establish and maintain the sustainable competitive advantage in the fiercely competitive services industry. This means a lot of effort will have to be spent on skilling and re-skilling this university qualified manpower of India.

India’s population, which was a liability before a few decades has suddenly become an asset in the new global equation. But, this asset can erode or become a Non-Performing-Asset quickly if its quality is not polished through modern and relevant education and skills.

What damages the reputation of our business?

Suppliers or vendors are the lifeline of a business. They provide us with materials, parts, accessories, products and services which help the business in carrying out operations to manufacture our products and satisfy our customers’ needs. The success of the business depends a lot on them.

But, we must check : are these suppliers being treated well by our people? Are they considered as the lifeline of the business?

Often not. One sad and unpleasant aspect is the supplier payment process. I have seen some suppliers’ representatives repeatedly following up or visiting their customers’ business places for collecting their over due payments. And they are often told to come back after few days. Payment to suppliers, vendors or service providers is one thing some companies want to delay as much as possible on some flimsy reasons.

This is one ugly patch on the company’s reputation. Some may argue that paying always on time is only possible by the rich companies who have deep pockets. Actually, it is not a funds flow problem. It is more of an attitude and values related problem. If there is funds crunch and the company is passing through lean times, it is understandable that the payments may be delayed for some time. But, when the cash flow is not tight and the company has enough funds to make the payments, such treatment is detrimental to the health of the company’s reputation.

Some companies have very fair and excellent method of processing supplier payments. They send the properly due dated cheque to the supplier well before that due date and confirm that the cheque was received before it was due. Vendors love to work for such customer companies and give them best goods and services.

On the other hand, in some companies there are some characters in the company’s payment process, who enjoy the sadistic pleasure in making the suppliers’ life miserable while getting their due payments. These companies are hated by the suppliers and they look forward to getting rid of such customers as soon as possible. When they get a chance to supply to a competitor, they would not hesitate doing so and will switch loyalties immediately. No wonder, our people in charge of payments made them do so…!

If we have sustained support and cooperation from our suppliers, we can build a quality reputation on the foundation of this relationship. Suppliers can help us in achieving true competitive advantage. So, if we wish to build long term relationship with our customers, we must also focus on establishing long term relationship with our suppliers as well. For that, we should not make them beg for their dues. Nobody likes to beg for payment after giving us goods and services. Beggars may not have choices, but our suppliers do have choices. Our competitors may welcome them with open arms.

How to win our competitor’s customers?

To get new customers, businesses spend a lot of money. But, they sometimes miss an opportunity to win a competitor’s customer when he walks in to their premises. The alert businessmen don’t let such opportunities go. They grab it and win this customer over. Here is a live experience…

There is a small optics shop ‘Bobby Opticians’ near our home. We don’t buy our spectacles or eye-wear from them. But, recently, my reading glasses got damaged due to a fall and I had to immediately get them repaired. I went to Bobby Opticians. The owner greeted me smilingly. I showed him my damaged spectacles. He checked them and said they needed some repairing and replacement of some small part. I requested him to do it. He started working on it, removed the damaged part and replaced it with a new one.

During that time, he asked me “Have you bought this from me?”. To which I said “No”. Then he asked me from where and for how much did I buy it. I gave him the details. He said “You have got a very good rate. I also had similar frames. In fact, I sold many of them.”

Once the job was done, he cleaned up my spectacles thoroughly and then handed them over to me, carefully and respectfully. Thanking him, I asked him about the charges for the repair job. He refused to take any money. He just smiled and said “Kuchh nahi, sahab… Agli baar theek lage to hamein seva ka mauka dijiye…”

This was unusual. I was pleasantly surprised. He knew that I was not his customer and he could have charged me some money for that urgent job. But, he did not resort to short cut. He invested in his long term image. I made up my mind to visit this shop next time when I need to buy any new eye-wear or accessories.

This taught me a very important lesson. A competitor’s customer walking in to our business for some favor is a very good opportunity to win him. Do not treat him as an enemy and try to extract some easy money from him. Extend a hand of friendship to him by helping him. May be it can be the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

When customer feels hurt the most?

When customers feel hurt the most is when they feel cheated by us while they are in a vulnerable condition, when they are helpless.

A person approaching a nursing home or a hospital for a surgery is one such vulnerable customer. A nursing home is a place where people arrive out of helplessness. Nobody likes to go there by choice, as it is hardly an enjoyable experience one may look forward to. Here if one is cheated or is taken for a ride, then it leaves a very bad taste with him who spreads the bad word outside, too. One such friend who had recently gone through one such unsavory experience narrated this with bitterness :

I had to admit my mother in emergency for a surgery at a private nursing home operated by a surgeon. When we checked in, we were given options of various rooms. When we asked for a separate, independent room, we were told that they have a Special Room with AC, attached wash-room and a bed for the patient’s companion. The room also has a refrigerator, we were told.

We checked in the Special Room. The room was average and disappointing, with the facilities mentioned were present only for the name sake.

a) The AC was there, but the switch was outside, under the control of the head nurse. She would switch on or off only during a specific time. Also, obviously there was no temperature control possible…!

b) The bed for companion was so small where nobody, except a child could sleep.

c) The funny thing was : the refrigerator was very much there, but it was locked…! When asked where was its key, we were told that it was being used for storing some medicines and the keys can’t be given. If we need cold water, they would provide from cooler outside, we were told, coldly.

d) Here comes the funnier part : The medicines belonged to the chemist shop downstairs. And, the chemist shop belonged to the nephew of the surgeon…! He would come occasionally, whenever he needed to take out some medicines… The most strategic arrangement was, the doctor prescribed medicines which were available only at the nephew’s shop. You won’t find them from any other shop nearby. How convenient?”

The friend was angry and hurt for being shortchanged, because in the name of Special Room, what was given was a set of hollow promises. And the compulsion for buying the medicines from a specific shop was also an irritant. The doctor also charged many things exorbitantly, much beyond the estimate given earlier.”

My friend had no choice but to comply, even though reluctantly. But, he vowed not to recommend this doctor or the nursing home to anybody else. In fact, he alarmed all those who listened to him about the unfair practices going on there.

If we treat our customers badly, particularly when they cannot take any objection, or if we take advantage of their helplessness, they may tolerate it then out of no choice, but they may feel terribly hurt and disappointed. And when their bitter experience is spread to others, it spoils our reputation badly. Our business suffers irreparably due to the poor mouth publicity.

We must not take advantage of the customers when it hurts them the most. The bitter experience they will neither forget nor forgive. Instead, at that time if we genuinely help them, that too, they will never forget and thank us a million times. Such grateful customers will remain with us forever.