Monthly Archives: October 2012

Can you take responsibility of people’s dreams?

Every living human being has dreams. The size, scale, color, texture and details of these dreams vary. People have dreams of their career, lifestyle, relationships, family, wealth, health, quality of life, hobbies, retirement etc. Some dreams are driven by passion, some by fashion, by comparisons and others by an aspiration to belong to some group. Many dreams provide people pathways to make their life meaningful and give them a direction. Also, people strive to realize those dreams. People go to greater lengths in pursuit of their dreams. Dreams are a very powerful source of energy.

Entrepreneurs also have dreams. Mostly, their dreams are bigger than most other individuals. They paint their dreams on a larger canvas of life. Ordinary individuals play on their own strengths while dreaming and working for their realizations. Entrepreneurs don’t limit their dreams to their own strengths alone. They count on their ability to gather many people’s strengths and build upon them.

Entrepreneurs can realize his/her bigger dreams, if they can help others (with smaller dreams compared to entrepreneurs’ dreams) to realize their dreams.

For everybody, their dream is the most precious one. People hang on to places and people who can help them realize their dreams. If we want them to hang on to our company and contribute towards its progress for a long time, we must reassure them that their dreams are part of our larger dreams. If we can be the vaults where they can deposit their dreams, they will love to remain with us.

To ensure true participation from our people, we must take responsibility of their dreams. If we short-change our employees, they treat our organization as a parking zone and move out as soon as they find greener pastures where their dreams get nurturing and nourishment to bloom. No bargaining works in the marketplace of dreams.

How business consultants can affect your business?

Good, expert consultants are a need of any growing business. But not all consultants are good. And not everybody who shows up is an expert. There are many black sheep who spoil the reputation of the entire lot. Here is a case study about a businessman who fell prey to one such firebrand – business consultant and nearly destroyed his business. So, what went wrong? What to watch out for? Read on :

Pramod had a good, growing business, inherited from his father. After his father’s death, since around ten years, he was running the business. During these ten years, his friends had moved much faster in business and created their ‘corporates’. Pramod felt left behind. Not happy with the pace of growth and etching to move faster and into newer markets and industries, Pramod tried many things. To claim citizenship of the ‘Corporate World’, Pramod was advised to

  • Hire professionals
  • Learn new things, attend seminars, courses etc.
  • Appoint expert business consultants

He did everything of the above. But still, his business went down instead of moving up. In last three years, he reached a very difficult stage where survival of the business became uncertain. Pramod’s uncle noticed this and asked him what was wrong?

On his part, Pramod, too, was eager to find a solution to his problems. He wanted to share his frustration with somebody. He explained the situation to the uncle in detail. He made it clear to the uncle that :

  • I have learnt the new-age management practices.
  • I think BIG.
  • I think ‘out of the box’.
  • I think ‘different’.
  • I think ‘smart’.
  • I work smart, not hard.
  • I do ‘different things’.
  • I delegate. I don’t take tension, I give tension.
  • I have learnt to ‘be passionate’ about my business.
  • I innovate.
  • I focus on ‘creating value’.
  • I manage ‘work-life balance’.

But still, my business is going from bad to worse, instead of growing.

Uncle was pleasantly surprised by his nephew’s updated knowledge and the big words we was speaking. He found that Pramod had acquired this Corporate lingo through attending various courses, seminars, workshops etc.

Uncle could also relate that Pramod was always curious about getting an MBA or doing some ‘Management’ course. He was very impressed with MBAs. He thought that the solution to all his business problems was known to MBAs because they knew the dynamics of the ‘corporate’ world. He himself could not get an MBA degree. So, to make up for his management ignorance, he joined many courses. During one such course, he was so impressed by the passionate speech of the trainer, that he thought this trainer must have all the solutions of his business problems.  Next day he called the trainer and appointed him as his business consultant immediately for three years.

Examining the sequence of events carefully, uncle found out the reason for Pramod’s business debacle was closely related to the business consultant’s arrival on the business scene.

Later, the uncle also found that the other clients of the same consultant were also facing the similar situation. There was a striking similarity in the pattern of events. Every business consulted by that consultant was facing some very common, undesirable outcomes. Here are some of the effects wrong consultants had on its client businesses :

1) The old, trusted employees, who had helped establish the business found it difficult to work with the arrogant pseudo-boss, who visited every week and shot orders indiscriminately, sitting along the boss’s chair. The boss just nodded, as if approving the knowledgeable business consultant’s unquestionable authority. This made old people’s lives miserable. They either left or continued unproductively.

2) The professionals hired were insulted by the consultant, because they knew their job more than him. Feeling threatened by these professionals, the consultant repeatedly ridiculed them in front of the boss and others. Most of good, qualified people left or were contemplating moving.

3) The expenses rose suddenly. All that the consultant did, smelt, tasted, breathed, inhaled, exhaled was billed to the company, in addition to the agreed upon contractual fees.

4) All the new important appointment candidates were interviewed, evaluated and approved by the consultant, so good people were systematically kept away. The consultant watchfully safeguarded his territory. Only mediocrity was allowed in. Quality was kept out. With old good people going, and new mediocrity joining ranks, the consultant had an open ground to play his tricks freely.

5) The consultant controlled the boss’s life. He chose what the boss did. Whom to meet, which customers and suppliers to meet, which seminars to attend, which courses to join everything was decided by the consultant. In fact, the consultant recommended all the events to the boss, where he himself wanted to go. In this process, the boss did not get any new input or fresh opinion. It was all filtered by the consultant. The freedom of the boss was curtailed without his knowledge. The emperor’s mind was replaced by a consultant’s mind, without the emperor realizing it…!

6) The word of the consultant carried more authority than the boss himself. People contacted consultant, to get things done from the boss. This is a strange example of reverse management…! A lot of manipulations and misappropriations happened.

Uncle gave his analysis to Pramod and suggested to immediately terminate the services of the consultant. Pramod was feeling the same, but was confused so far. Now, he was clear. He realized that hiring such a business consultant who did not have any accountability was a big mistake. The consultant took credit for every good thing, and blamed Pramod’s team for each failure. The state of the affairs was due to the unwarranted importance Pramod gave to the consultant’s every whim, every silly idea and bookish themes which had no relevance to the situation on hand.

Pramod learnt his lessons the hard way. We should learn from Pramod’s mistakes. It is easy to brush aside MBA by saying “Mane Badhu Aavde Chhe” (I know everything) and then go ahead and hire some self-proclaimed Business Guru (or some even more verbally glorifying title). In that immature ignorance, we open doors to crooks who rampage our empire and then put our name on their “Client’s list.”

Life is short. We can’t make all the mistakes on our own. Learn from others’ mistakes. Wake up.

How to select a business consultant?

In Gujarati, there is one beautiful line written by Shri Gunvant Shah, which says something to the effect : “A boy fell in love with a girl’s beautiful eyes and then made a mistake to marry her whole body…!”.

In selecting business consultants, many businessmen make such mistakes just like that enamoured boy who could not see anything beyond the beautiful eyes. They go to a seminar, listen some passionate, well-rehearsed speech and they get so impressed by that speaker, that they bring him/her in as a consultant in the company, without really checking the credential or capability of that person as a consultant.

Good consultants are needed for any company. A good consultant can be a great source of guidance, expertise and advice. He/She can bring in an independent perspective, which the insiders cannot see perhaps because of the bias which comes along with being within the business. A consultant can provide a ‘third-eye’, an independent view of the business’ realities. But the selection of a business consultant requires careful examination.

Here are some guidelines to help entrepreneurs check in prospective consultants. I begin with some pitfalls to avoid :

No business experience:

Many consultants have no real business experience. They have been teachers, speakers or trainers during their whole career. They have learnt and taught many theories, but not really ‘run’ any business. They have not made any mistakes. They have not failed or succeeded in any business. They have only delivered passionate speeches and trained people in how to do business…!  They have got experience only in Doosre ke kandhe pe bandook rakh ke fodna…

What dependable advice can anybody give where he himself has not succeeded or failed doing anything? The distance between management colleges and corporate offices has to be walked on the path of real work experience, which does not come by simply reading Harvard Business Review or Tom Peters.

Name-Throwing :

A certain class of solo consultant have a habit of throwing big names. I have come across a big number of ‘name-throwing’ consultants who have

  • ‘Worked’ with Tata, Birla, Reliance etc. group companies.
  • ‘Guided’ so and so MNCs.
  • ‘Managed’ 80,000 crores of business of their consulting clients. (Whatever ‘managing’ means here…)
  • ‘Transformed’ the organizations.
  • ‘Built’ the brand ‘xyz’ of so-and-so company.
  • ‘Turned around’ the sick company.

Remember, One can also enlist ABC Tata Company as a ‘client’ by giving one hour lecture to their watchmen or drivers on how to open/close doors to visitors. This can be useful only if you need the consultant to train your watchmen/drivers.

Arrogance:

The business consultant as a breed is losing its respect due to some irresponsible elements who hide their ignorance and intellectual handicap behind a facade of rudeness and arrogance.These people operate from the safe cocoon of the boss client’s cabin. Once out of that shell, they stand vulnerable and exposed. They pretend that their arrogance is the manifestation of their supreme confidence. No businessperson should allow his employees being treated badly by any outsider while at work. If a consultant does that, he should be shown the door as his value system lacks individual respectability.

Management jargon :

A crop of wannabe consultants read latest management magazines and books and come to the clients’ office spitting out this valuable ‘gyaan’ to gullible, impressionable, unsuspecting entrepreneurs, who, in their enthusiasm to build big business, catch every word oozing out from the consultant’s mouth as sacred and give orders to their subordinates to implement the same immediately. Next time, when the consultant visits again, he has read some other article, so he gives some different gyaan, completely forgetting that previously his victims have been enlightened by his respectable self by some different management fad  (which was never tested for suitability to the client’s situation, nevertheless…).

Level of Honesty :

All that the consultant is going to charge must be clarified in black and white. If the consultant shows tendency to make some fast buck on unclarified or undecided matters, that shows his level of honesty.

Accountability:

The tenure and the expected outcome of the consultant’s assignment must be clearly spelled out in the beginning. The performance must be reviewed regularly.  The major part of the consultant’s remuneration must be linked with the outcome he is brought in for. He should be confident about his contribution and if it does not work, he must be ready to share the risk, by linking his remuneration to the results.

In a nutshell :

1) Hire a business consultant only if he can add value. Today it is fashionable to say “We have a consultant.” Don’t fall prey to fads.

2) Check out for the performance of the businesses the consultant has worked with. If possible, ask for the reference and check it sincerely. It is tempting to get carried away by ‘our reputed client lists’. How is the business doing now? Most importantly, what was his/her contribution in that business?

3) Don’t get carried away by big talk. The intellectual capacity to decipher business situations and gift of gab don’t always go hand in hand.

4) Remember, a consultant needs his client as much as the client needs him. The consultant is just another business associate. There is no need to treat consultants like God. Let that distinction remain for real Gods. No wannabes please.

5) The consultant must not be given any authority to directly give instructions to or seek report from any employee. It has to be routed through somebody inside the company. Do not compromise on the respect of your employees. Consultants may come and go, employees will remain longer.

6) The choice of consultants that you make, speaks volumes about your own value system. I have observed a striking resemblance among the values and results of the clients of certain consultants. They all have a lot of similarities. If you get associated with loud mouth Bol Bachchans, you will end up listening to a lot of hot air. And people will know what you stand for. Choose your consultants wisely. The loser doesn’t have much to lose, but you will end up wasting your time, money, reputation and maybe more…!

7) During your growth period, you will come across many people.  At this stage, whom do you listen to and believe in will make all the difference. Those who influence an entrepreneur’s mind can make or break any situation. Choose your advisors wisely.

8) Academic, theoretical knowledge has to be tested for its application. If every great Professor can become a great consultant, you won’t find so many PhDs filling university rosters at such meager paychecks. All theory is good, but business runs on practical applications.

Bottom line : In selecting consultants, you must learn to distinguish between noise and voice.