With Independence Day around the corner,strategist Sonia Jaspal takes a look at the corporate lessons history teaches us.

Going back in history, Indian freedom struggle lasted nearly a century. The last 25 years of the struggle was lead by Mahatma Gandhi on the concept of non-violence. India is one of the unique countries which gained freedom without much bloodshed. In this article, we explore Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership and management style, linking it to the current management practices.

Walk the talk

Mahatma Gandhi preached the concept of simple living and high thinking, although he came from an affluent Indian family. He came up with various austere living standards and requested his followers to adopt them. His kept his life open to public scrutiny. People may debate regarding his personal choices but no one would raise questions on his ethics and integrity. Irrespective of the difficulty involved, he always was able to take the high moral ground and never compromised on his personal values.

In the present corporate world, we too respect leaders who are able to walk the talk, demonstrate ethical and principled behavior, and lead by example.

Think out of the box

The strategy and tactics adopted during the Indian independence struggle were unlike any other country’s revolution. Some of the concepts were:

  • Non-violence: A war fought on the basis of principles without any bloodshed.
  • Civil disobedience: Court arrest if the British officials threaten imprisonment for demanding your rights.
  • Non-cooperation: The message given was maintain your jobs with the British Empire, however do not support it regarding its practices against Indian people.

Managements today are advocating ‘out of the box’ thinking and competing strategically. The organisation which implements a unique strategy generally wins the market.

Brand building

Mahatma Gandhi’s personal brand has lasted 60 years after his death without any investment. He created a brand of a simple moral man living life on the principle of Ahimsa (nonviolence). His home spun cotton clothes, wooden shaft, leather slippers, and vegetarian meals – everything embodied his personal brand. His character and communication depicted his core values to the masses. We must acknowledge that fact that very few leaders in history have as strong a brand image as Gandhi.

The corporate world is spending huge sums on advertising to build the corporate brand. We hear Tom Peters and other management gurus talking about building the “Brand You”. The focus now is on developing a personal brand.

Competitor’s size doesn’t matter

The Indian freedom struggle gained ground with the idea of a few committed individuals who wished to bring about a change. They envisaged taking on the might of British Empire which had the resources, funds,weapons and management capability. The Indian leadership team acknowledged the strengths of the British Empire and devised a strategy which minimized those strengths.They built a strategy on the following:

  • Non-violence which required no weapons;
  • Asked masses to contribute for the independence and live frugally, hence survived on minimal resources;
  • Developed local leadership across all regions under Congress banner.

Using a similar strategy, Barrack Obama won the American presidential elections when he had no funds and support. Recently, corporate world had witnessed small IT companies (e.g. hotmail) developing into big names just by pioneering a unique product and leveraging the market properly.

Build dream teams

Indian Congress Party besides Gandhi had a number of other accomplished leaders. Namely, C. Rajagopalachari, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and others. These leaders all had different personalities and ideologies, however worked for a common cause. Gandhi and Nehru complimented each other tremendously and mostly operated as two in a box. Senior leaders acted as mentors for the younger generation. The party had leaders at grassroot level, and people were encouraged to develop leadership traits.

Business world is focusing on building dream teams with leadership at all levels. The Human Resource Departments are focused on concepts of two in a box, alternate leaders, chief mentors and succession planning.

Engage and empower people

Mahatma Gandhi in his speech on the eve of Dandi March said -“Wherever there are local leaders, their orders should be obeyed by the people. Where there are no leaders and only a handful of men have faith in the programme, they may do what they can, if they have enough self-confidence”. He encouraged common man to show leadership and commitment under the overall umbrella of Congress. He united the people by specifying the mission, vision and code of conduct of Congress. The masses were committed to the cause and in all his symbolic protests he involved people participation.

The corporate world’s biggest challenge is of disengaged employees due to actual or perceived lack of empowerment. It is becoming apparent that success or failure of the organisation is increasingly dependent on a healthy organisation culture which encourages employee participation.

Accept and encourage diversity

The British are generally blamed for implementing “divide and rule policy” in India. On the contrary, India already was divided into various regions, religions and castes before the British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi in his struggle for independence attempted to unify the country. He encouraged the princely states to join hands, brought Hindus and Muslims on the same platform and removed caste barriers for joining the freedom moment. He supported gender equality and encouraged women to actively participate in the movement. His wife, Kasturba Gandhi played a pivotal role in getting women’s participation.

With less than 10% women in senior management positions in the corporate world, the mantra today is to bring more women on board. With globalization the concept of accepting and encouraging diversity has taken hold.

Don’t make it personal

In the Quit India speech in 1942, Mahatma Gandhi stated- “Then, there is the question of your attitude towards the British. I have noticed that there is hatred towards the British among the people. The people say they are disgusted with their behavior. The people make no distinction between British imperialism and the British people”. Deal with the issue and not the person; this is the corporate mandate today. Mahatma Gandhi pioneered this thought process. In all his communication and dealings he stood up against British Imperialism. He however had friendly relationships with Britishers and never made a personal attack in his speeches. On the other hand, he continuously advocated decent and humane behavior even towards one’s enemy. His thought process was- address the issue at hand and keep a positive attitude towards a person from the competing camp. In nut shell, there is a lot to learn from the Indian freedom struggle for the corporate world. It had unique dimensions which are now gaining hold as corporate best practices. History is the best teacher, if we are willing to learn from other people’s successes and failures. Wishing you all a very happy Independence Day.


“How to influence people to believe in your ideas – an analysis with the recent case-study of Anna Hazare”

I’ve been excited about writing this article ever since witnessing the Anna Hazare movement spearheading the nation in the recent past to fight against the epidemic of corruption. As I pored over the rather enormous amount of literature on influencers and the art of influencing, I realised that the ‘Hazare Effect’ had definitely some valuable lessons for everyone to get inspired from. The entire subject of influence is entrancing because it is prominent and exhilarating to learn how you can influence people to believe in your ideas. It is effortless to influence others but exigent to persuade while standing on both ethical and universal grounds. The principles I am sharing with you are effective techniques for influencing people to believe in your ideas and achieve success in what you want. Anna Hazare has proved to the world that the ‘The key to success today is influence and not authority’.

In his journey from a steadfast soldier to a social reformer, Anna Hazare’s expedition in terms of non-violence and his effectual idea of revivification of a barren village into an `ideal village’ model is a true inspiration to many. Thousands of fellow citizens from hundred cities across India joined his campaign. Online, Mr. Hazare received the support of lakhs of Indians in a span of 24 hours just through fasting and bhajans. How did this happen? Let’s view the Hazare’s conduit of how to influence and sow the idea in the minds of movers and shakers and decision makers – all within an ethical milieu.

  • Hit the bull’s eye: Visualise that you have a striking idea and you want to put it across; your boss walks in and you grab the occasion to share it with him and he responds, ‘I have exactly two minutes to spare, get started’. Your reaction would be, ‘come on, where I begin?’ A mediocre influencer would introduce an idea in a predictable fashion like WHAT is the idea, HOW does it work and WHY it’s important to believe in it. On doing that, your boss would react, ‘So? I know this; tell me something NEW!’ This was the reaction of many of us when we were told about the idea of building a corruptionfree nation through Gandhian strategy, but the man in white with plain language proved the practicality of what was mearly a distant dream. Hazare believed in the vision, hit the bull’s eye by answering WHY this idea, HOW does it work and finally WHAT the idea is. He struck the chord that instigated the drive to know what the whole idea was about and instilled pride in being a part of it. This is the power of communication.

           Remember, people don’t buy what you do, but people buy why you do.

  • Strike with energy: People with energy energise others. Think about the whole episode – a man in his late 70s with apparent enthusiasm to make a difference to the status quo and energy to spearhead a people’s revolution is definitely the spark; it helped him put across his idea. Develop passion for the idea and the cause. Your idea to ignite the believer with the fire that is in your belly spells the difference between the delivery and demise of your idea. Articulating with zeal is the key. Energy and persistence conquer all things.

“The dream of India as a strong nation will not be realised without selfreliant, self-sufficient villages, this can be achieved only through social commitment and involvement of the common man.”- Anna Hazare

  • Slice the ‘M’: Avoid being Melodramatic. Don’t debate the niceties. If you spend time debating the minutiae of your idea, people will stop thinking about the idea. Create demand and watch the action. Practice the art of speaking the language of things; don’t talk to a man in the language that reaches his head but talk in a language that reaches his heart. It’s no dark substance or black magic but just an ethical crusade for attention and action. The takeaway from Mr. Hazare’s style is simple. Understand the ability to simplify the means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
  • Challenge the skeptics: Be a statesman, accept resentment with grace. The biggest challenge to any visionary is to break the cynicism of the people and prove the skeptics wrong; treating everyone with respect draws attention toward you. The more facts you can provide to strengthen your argument the less skeptical the other person will be and the easier it will be to persuade him. Present facts; people tend to believe you more if there are facts supporting the idea. Make enough connections and you will be able to cross from conversation spiced with I’s to We’s. Persuasion and evidence is a strong combination.
  • Set the stage with out conviction: One of the extreme sources of powerful influencers is conviction. One of the few characteristis universal to all visionaries is that they have firm views and stick to them. It is hard to influence someone when you don’t know where you are leading them to. Exhibit confidence, bring people aboard, excite them about the idea and earn support; they will in turn do that to all those around too. The takeaway from the Hazare effect – One person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who have only interest. The action demonstrated with personal humility by Anna Hazare showed his conviction to the goal and his capacity to make others see the value of the idea.

“When you choose to decode your idea from the monarchy of possibility to the dominion of actuality, you are exercising the drives within you. The two work in perfect agreement and help you to reach the goal..”

  • Leave the impact: There are ways to make yourself verbally impressive. The tip here is to attend to the style and substance of the idea with a pinch of simplicity and feasibility. It was surprising and funny to imagine the idea of voicing through ‘non-violence in violent times’. Initiating his day-long hunger strike at Rajghat to protest against corruption, this Gandhi devoteee commented that if the Lokpal Bill was not passed, he would fast unto death at Jantar Mantar. This proves the point that how you say determines more than what you say. This is not as paradoxical as it may seem in the beginning. Practice a result-driven approach. Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”.
  • Build support: Rather than waiting for a big opportunity to introduce your idea and see how things take off, be the change. Append idealism, imagination and valour to the whole exercise. The realistic challenge of a visionary is to fight against the darkness and the creation of a concrete altered state. It is worth the time. Build the power of judgement by being in the right place at the right time to say the right thing to the right person just once! By sheer commitment and simplicity, he has demonstrated that Gandhian principles are relevant even in 21st century India. His idea witnessed hundreds of thousands of supporters, and the waves of support grew into a barrage through candles lit across the globe.

A belief is a strongly anchored perception that has deep roots, and although attending a belief is exigent there are ways to bring about a change in the minds of people and influence them to believe in your idea. While one particular drive dominates, each of us possesses a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic drives. When you choose to decode your idea from the monarchy of possibility to the dominion of actuality, you are exercising the drives within you. The two work in perfect agreement and help you reach the goal. It is important to understand people’s beliefs. If you go about persuading anyone without even ascertaining the person’s actual belief, then you are not getting anywhere. Learning how to influence the belief of a person is tricky but not impossible. Move from abstract to concrete, and as you influence you will notice a small incremental success. Then, move the idea to the next success level.

No idea works unless you work on the idea. The journey begins with your excitement about doing things – better for you, for the others and for the world itself. Happy influencing!


“The P management model will help you lead your team to a greater performance level. Henrik Essen tells us how.”

As a manager in the 21st century, you can’t survive by using just one leadership style. You might be able to cope for some time, but the younger generation won’t accept anything less than a manager who understands their specific needs. What you need to do is to use different styles for different people in different situations. Most managers acknowledge this. The question is how to do it.

Once you take charge of a department, division or company, you would be lucky if you inherited an entire team of people who are already self-motivated top performers. That is not likely to happen. In fact, one of the most common areas I coach and help managers with is how to lead and manage people. With this as a background, we have developed a leadership tool called the P-Model. This article will give you a brief introduction to this unique tool. The P-Model will illustrate and clarify how you can effectively lead your staff towards greater performance. The P-Model provides three distinct performance levels of the staff with three corresponding leadership styles.

The starting point is to evaluate and analyze your staff ’s performance in order to choose the correct leadership style. It’s a different style for each task, depending on your staff ’s performance, commitment and ability. You need to divide your team members into three different P-levels (P1, P2 and P3) where P stands for the level of performance.

P1 – The Low Performer

The P1 staff doesn’t deliver significant work results. The reason for low performance is due to lack of commitment, responsibility, focus, motivation and drive and such people are unwilling to change. The P1 staff simply doesn’t perform as per your expectations. Having said this, the P1s can also be new to a task, job or the company. They lack the understanding for the job or specific task they are assigned. This will lead to low performance as well. However, with the right training and support, the P1s will grow and perform as P2s.

The leadership style for P1 staff is called Directing. What you need to do is to take charge and be clear about what needs to be done. You need to instruct the P1s on what, when, where, how and why they need to do certain tasks. You also need to supervise and follow up on their behaviour, progress and results. This can be perceived as micromanagement but it is necessary for managing the P1s.

If you don’t see any improvement in the P1’s behaviour, you need to take actions sooner rather than later. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking he/she will improve with time. It rarely happens. Take fast and firm actions now! You can’t afford to keep the P1s (low performers) in your team/company if they don’t perform.

Do you have any P1s in your team? Do they cause you headaches and worries? Do you avoid straightforward one-on-one discussions with them? Do you feel uncomfortable when you have to have these types of discussions? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you are not alone. However, as a manager, you must take charge and deal with the P1s even though it’s uncomfortable.

P2 – The Solid Performer

The P2s are the Solid Performers in the company. They deliver good results. The P2s understand the job and have the ability to complete the tasks assigned to them. The P2’s Performance varies throughout the year. They will usually do a good job, even excellent at times. However, the P2s will occasionally dip in their performance. The reason for this dip can be a temporary lack of self-confidence, low motivation, team problems, company politics or external issues.

The leadership style for P2 staff is called Coaching. You need to encourage, support, coach, and gently push the P2s forward. Help the P2s grow via interaction and joint problem solving. Let them do their job (because they can). Avoid micro-managing them, do follow up regularly and keep the lines of communication open. While you give them the freedom to do their job, monitor them so you can spot any de-motivational issues. When you take a look at your team, you will realise that majority of your staff falls into the P2 category – as much as 70% of your employees. They are important because they are the main core of your team/company. You need to ensure they are motivated in order to produce the results they can. They are the proverbial oil that makes the engine run.

Some of your P2s will one day be ready, willing and able to grow into P3s. Some may become P1s. Therefore, always keep your eyes and ears open and take necessary action. Some of your P2s don’t want additional responsibilities. They prefer to keep doing what they are doing. That’s OK as long as they perform according to your expectations. However, make sure they don’t slip into P1 behaviour. When they show signs of becoming a P3, (even if it’s only for one particular task), encourage them to push forward and reward them accordingly.

P3 – The Top Performer

The P3s are the Top Performers in the company. They have excellent understanding and ability of what needs to be done. They achieve superior results on a regular basis and tend to surpass goals and expectations.

Project management

P3s’ motivation and drive is always high and they thrive on new challenges. They will do whatever it takes to perform at peak. The P3s are the people who want to climb the corporate ladder or pursue a specialist role. They have managed to find a job that matches their strengths and talents. They have good careers that will usually reward them financially. They are self-starters, doers and need little direction and supervision. They work best with a manager who is more of a colleague and mentor than a boss. The leadership style for P3s is called Collaborating. You should fine-tune and utilise the P3s’ unique talents and strengths. Challenge them to take new and additional responsibilities. Make sure you fully delegate responsibility and authority to decide. Give them the freedom to move forwards, pursue opportunities and create and explore new ideas. Ask them to train and coach P1s and P2s. Give them specific projects and make sure you acknowledge and reward their contribution.

Summary

Being a manager in the 21st century is definitely a challenge. However, if you use the P-Model you will have the right tool to build a team of peak performers. Please note that your staff members can be a mix of P1, P2 and P3. It all depends on how well they perform at different tasks. They can have difficulties with some tasks, which make them a P1 in those areas. Yet, most of their performance falls into the P2 category even though they have one or two areas where they prosper and behave as P3s. You, therefore, need to adjust your leadership style according to their various P-Levels.

The P-Model is a unique, practical and effective leadership tool. Remember the following:

  • Evaluate and analyze your staff ’s performance levels (P1–P3), their motivation and general needs.
  • Apply correct leadership style accordingly.
  • You will always have a combination of P1s, P2s and P3s in your team. Direct and quickly solve any issues with the P1s, Coach the P2s in order to move them forward and collaborate with the P3s to achieve even greater performance.
  • Introduce the P-Model to your staff. You can then agree on how you will work together by referring to the P-Model.
  • Use the P-Model as a communication tool when interacting with your staff.

“A look into how capital inflows impact a developing economy like ours.”

 BI raised its policy rates by 25 bps each at its review of monetary policy in November. If you compare this to Fed and other advanced economy central banks which are expected to pass further monetary policy stimulus, we can find that the US economy (in a way other advanced economies as well) and the Indian economy have a nearly opposite list of concerns.

While the US economy is facing severe headwinds with much lower than potential GDP growth, the Indian economy is nearing the previous highs of 9% plus growth. the US economy is facing low inflation with deflation fears, whereas the Indian inflation remains very high. US policy rates are at zero percent because of economic conditions and Indian policy rates are positive with the difference widening with each policy rate. And the list goes on….

Given this divergence in economic conditions, the two economies remain interconnected because of capital inflows. Fed eases policies to stimulate its economy and RBI tries to manage the deluge of capital inflows in the Indian economy. In this context, this article reviews this issue of capital inflows with an Indian perspective.

Why have capital inflows surged in developing countries?

In 2007, capital inflows in EMEs reached a high of USD 1284.5 bn. After the Lehman fallout in September 2008, foreign capital inflows dried and reached USD 594.5 bn in 2008 and USD 581.4 bn in 2009. This has been termed as sudden-stop and procyclicality problem of capital inflows.

Economies which relied on dollar funds faced severe pressures. This led to policymakers intervening in innovative ways like tying swap lines with Fed, ECB etc. to provide foreign funds. As the crisis eased around June 2009, the problem again reversed. The capital inflows in emerging economies again resumed and are expected to touch USD 825 bn in 2010 and USD 833.5 bn in 2011. This is a sharp rise given the global economic situation which is highly uncertain.

The policy rates in developed economies are expected to remain near zero for some more time. Now with zero percent interest rates and substantial global liquidity, capital is flowing to places offering higher return. Emerging economies become the natural destination as both growth rates and interest rates are higher in these economies. Further, inflation is expected to move higher as economic activity is picking up and prices of oil and other commodities are increasing (some commodities have already increased sharply). Hence, both higher growth rates and expected higher interest rates have led to a surge in capital inflows into developing economies.

Economists have debated whether capital inflows have risen because of interest rate or growth differentials? José De Gregorio, Chile Central Bank Governor recently argued in a speech that it is because of growth prospects. He plots both interest rate differentials and growth differentials of a group of developed and developing economies. He finds that between 2006 and 2008 average interest rate differential was 440 bps and now it is 390 bps. However, growth differential has remained same at 5.5% from 2007 onwards. As capital inflows remain robust despite lower interest rate differential, one can say large part of capital inflows is because of growth differential.

India faces a bigger challenge in managing the capital inflows compared to other emerging economies. Apart from favourable growth and interest rate differential it also has robust financial market infrastructure.

RBI and the capital inflow bubble

RBI Governor Dr. D. Subbarao has been  speaking about the risks of capital inflows in several speeches and monetary policy statements. He highlights that capital inflows are a problem if they are higher than the absorptive capacity of an economy. As India has a developing economy which is growing rapidly, its investments are higher than the savings. We need foreign capital to finance the deficit. The deficit is the a b s o r p t i v e capacity. If capital inflows are equal to the deficit, then there are no problems. H o w e v e r , real world is different from a c c o u n t i n g identity and inflows are either higher or lower than the deficit. The inflows were higher than the deficit before the crisis, lower during the crisis and have again become higher than the deficit. This in turn has put upward pressure on exchange rates and various asset prices – equity, real estate and gold. In the second quarter review of monetary policy, the RBI noted that asset prices have risen quickly.

For the RBI, managing capital inflows leads to managing the impossible trinity. The trinity means you can choose two of the three options – capital mobility, price stability and fixed exchange rates. Now most economies have capital mobility and central banks aggressively manage inflation, hence exchange rates have been left to markets. As exchange rates are highly volatile most emerging economies intervene to keep exchange rates at stable levels.

But intervention leads to violation of the trinity as it says only two options can be used. Now all three options are being managed. Here is how the event cycle flows. First, foreign flows come leading to appreciation pressure on the rupee. To prevent the rupee from appreciation, the RBI intervenes and supplies rupees in the market. Higher money supply could lead to inflation. To suck the excess liquidity from the system, Government issues Market Stabilization Bonds (MSS). This way, managing the trinity becomes possible. Issuing MSS bonds has its own set of interest costs. Also as stabilization is never perfect, some amount of excess liquidity remains in the system. Then Forex reserves also increase and the RBI has to invest it prudently. So as a policymaker, one has to understand the trade-offs clearly.

The above equation of capital inflows also leads to an interesting difference of opinion between government and the RBI. Government prefers to get more foreign inflows as it shows growth of Indian economy. However excessive and short-term inflows pose monetary management problems for the RBI. In October, 2010, media pointed out to differences of opinion in the interviews of the Finance Minister and the RBI officials.

Graph

Apart from managing the trinity, there are other tools as well.

  • Macro prudential tools: This is an indirect measure as it tries to prevent asset bubbles in financial markets. This involves imposing restrictions on bank loans, asking banks to maintain higher provisions on its loans to certain sectors like real estate to avoid bubbles in that asset class. The RBI increased the provisions on home loans in the recent policy. In the last few months, China, Hong Kong and Singapore have taken similar steps to curb the rise in housing prices.
  • Capital controls: Controls can be imposed on both inflows and outflows. Capital controls also help governments raise revenues that can be earmarked to mitigate future crises or meet certain exigencies. In October 2009, Brazil imposed a 2% tax on foreign investments flowing into its equity and bond markets. Brazil doubled the tax on foreign investments in bond markets. There are speculations that it might double it for equity markets as well. Taiwan followed Brazil in 2009 by banning foreigners from investing in time deposits. Policymakers from Indonesia, South Korea etc. are also looking to manage foreign capital inflows.

This crisis has led to a sea change in thinking with respect to capital controls. Prior to this crisis, capital controls have been criticised by most economists as inefficient tools. After the crisis, capital controls have suddenly come into fashion. IMF economists in a research paper have said that under certain circumstances, capital controls can be a legitimate component of the policy response to surges in capital flows. This came as a major surprise to most economists.

Balancing ArtThere are various kinds of capital controls – outright ban on inflows, mandatory reserve requirement, Tax on exit before desired period, Ceiling on inflows, Tobin tax etc. We have just looked at a broader angle for this time.

Given all the above options, what is the current state of capital inflows and the preferred options for the RBI/Government? First, capital inflows have surged in recent months and RBI has been raising the risks from these flows. But so far, both the RBI and the government have desisted from taking any measures to control the flows. But there are reasons why Government/ the RBI has not intervened. One: India’s current account deficit has widened and capital inflows are needed to manage the deficit. Two: Rupee has appreciated but not as sharply as South East Asian peers.

Having said this, capital inflows are likely to continue and put more pressure on rupee and asset markets. In such a scenario, RBI has following options:

  • Manage the trinity: Finance Ministry has kept aside Rs 47,263 cr of MSS bonds which could be issued in 2010-11.
  • Macro-prudential tools: RBI Deputy Governor Ms. Gopinath has listed several options under this in her speech (August 4, 2010). Similar measures like increasing risk weights and provisions could be used. Measures have already been taken in housing loan sector.
  • Imposing capital controls is a complex issue as there could be knee jerk reactions from the markets as we saw earlier. Hence, Indian policymakers will avoid using capital controls unless the situation becomes really adverse.

Overall, Finance Ministry/RBI has not relied on a single measure. It has been a combination of several measures. So, again, from a long-term policy perspective, Finance Ministry/RBI are expected to go slow on the opening up to capital inflows. It is best summed up by RBI Governor in his speech:

“So, what does all this rethinking suggest? It suggests that wisdom lies in festina lente, as the Romans used to say — ‘make haste slowly’. Open up your capital accounts but calibrate the opening to your domestic and external circumstances.” In the context of this lecture, the answer to the question is, “are capital controls an appropriate mechanism for managing the capital account?” has shifted from a qualified ‘no’ pre-crisis to a qualified ‘yes’ post-crisis.’


 

The minute we enter Armstong International premises, we know this company is going to be a story worth sharing with you. The receptionist who is called the CEO of first impressions welcomes us with a warm smile and a box of chocolates. We walk into the board room and find a stash of five hundred rupees left in an open jar. Mr. Mishra smiles at our surprised faces and explains, “As you may have noticed, ours is a factory without gates. From the shop floor to the stores department, nothing is kept under lock and key. This is because we see no difference between your personal life and work.” He adds, “At home, the daughter/son knows where the father keeps his wallet and this is because there is mutual love and trust. Similarly, our moms work with utmost passion without being told about six sigma practices. Why should we be any different between 9-6?” Armstrong has made it a point align work and life as close as possible.

Banning isms

“In India, we have many divisions based on casteism, religions, regionalism etc. Here at Amstrong, we make sure there are no isms top-down. Everyone from the security guard to auditor is treated equally. And everyone is personally interviewed by me at some stage. Because I believe any product/ process/system can be copied but it is the people who will make a difference to a company.

Every evening, I see security guards in different premises frisking their employees, what signal are they sending to their employees? ‘ I trust the security guard more than you’ and as a employee of such a company, why would they produce 100 %? It is when I don’t trust that I sow the seeds of union. Here, we treat them as a family.

For example, I saw the women who water our plants suffering under the scorching sun, we immediately got them cricket hats. When you feel for your employees and take care of their basic needs, they will never demand more. “

Storytelling strategy

 We see a couple of books authored by Mr. David Armstrong, CEO, Armstrong group of companies lying around and he is fondly remembered as the Story-telling CEO. Mr. Mishra explains why:

“Do you know that we don’t have any huge book of policies, instead all our morales are communicated through story-telling. Our late CEO believed in the power of communicating through stories. It is pretty simple, when you get a mail that has some ten pointers on what’s good, you read and delete but when you read a story elucidating the same, it is embedded in your memory forever. Here in India, my team writes different stories from their day-to-day experience and share it with us. Recently, there was this story on Raju’s honesty and how it saved 50% cost to the company. We publish such stories in our notice board for others to follow suit.”

Surprise works for us

Mr. Mishra queries us, “Do you like surprises?” as we smile he adds, “Who doesn’t? One of our other core strategies is to bring in surprise to our clients and employees. I will share with you a story on this. We have our energy auditor Shiva who is a bike enthusiast. We had an audit scheduled in Calcutta, he lost his face when I told him so. Apparently, he had planned a bike rally on the same date. I queried him on where he was planning to hit and luckily, it was to Kolkatta. So, I told him to take part in his bike rally while we postponed the client meet by a day. He went happily on his road trip with our costly equipment packed tight behind. I knew he would deliver well, which he did and got us an additional deal.” He continues, “Here at Armstong, we make it a policy to work towards bringing such smiles.”Choosing the right team.

 With such an easy-going environment, not many can adapt to such freedom. Mr. Mishra tells us how he recruits his talent, “I spend close to two to three hours on an interview. I do not care about what the resume says, I just look at understanding the person. I look for people who can handle responsibility and do things without being told or monitored. One of our guys had applied for sales but he was interested in a technical job. We gave him what he wanted and sent him out an international audit just 15 days after he joined. He turned out to be one of our most successful auditors. Our trust in employees has never failed us till date. We just get the right person for the right job and then make sure he tunes in to the organisation. I meet new joinees every fortnight to help them open up.”

Learning from mistakes

“Also, we tell them there is no penalty for mistakes but for hiding the same, you will be penalized. So, even new joinees share every blunder with me. It is a learning experience for all. I do not look for extraordinary talent but just for men who work towards getting a solution. “

He tells us another amazing anecdote, “One of our new joiners Rajkumar did not have work for few days, so I asked what his passion was. He said painting and there, he was left to paint in a canvas for a week till he got his project.”

He asks us, “Do you not feel happy when you give/work for your loved ones, why do you have to change when you are at work? Why do people think they’ll be happy when they demand more and more from the company? Isn’t giving without expecting that makes us truly happy. It stands true for both the employer and the employee.”

Going that extra step

“When it comes to dealing with customers, we believe honesty is the only policy. There have been cases where we had called our customer and given additional maintenance for service terms that have been extended without their knowledge. We as a company strive to go that extra mile to bring a genuine smile.” Concludes Mr. Mishra with a warm smile. And from what we have heard of them, theirs is a genuinely honest venture that brings thousands of smiles across the globe.

Armstrong International has solved virtually every imaginable problem in steam, humidification, compressed air, hot water, severe service industrial valves, heat transfer and electronic contract manufacturing services. They are truly a diversified enterprise.


 

“In an exclusive interview with The Business Enterprise, Neeraj Chadha, Regional GM India, Hilton Worldwide and Rajesh Punjabi, VP Development share with us the plans Brand Hilton has for India and how they woo the Indian market.”

  1. How has the Indian market received Hilton – the global leader in hospitality?

Rajesh: The Hilton brand enjoys great brand recall. It offers over 90 years of hotel management expertise with a portfolio of globally renowned, award winning brands to cater to all customer segments from luxury, full-service to mid-market. Hilton Worldwide is one of the fastest growing hotel companies in terms of deals signed globally, and we have a pipeline which will triple our presence in India.

We are amongst the first to launch in the focused service mid-market through our brand- ‘Hampton by Hilton’ which is due to open this year and the second one is slated for next year.

We understand the dynamics of the Indian market and have adapted our accommodation and service offerings to meet the needs of the Indian market for both local and foreign travelers.We foresee a phenomenal growth in the hospitality sector and are poised to tap into the growth opportunities in India.

  1. Being a late entrant in this country, what were the challenges that Hilton faced and how did you go about breaking the ice?

Rajesh: Given that hospitality development is at an early stage of the growth cycle (evidenced by the low hotel supply), Hilton Worldwide does not see its entry into India as a ‘late’ entry.

The potential of the market is enormous. India has a powerful combination of a substantial population, a growing middle class and a huge capacity for business and leisure travel both domestically and internationally. There is a huge demand for rooms here and relatively low hotel supply – there are more hotels in Manhattan than India – across all segments.

With our award winning services and portfolio of best in class brands, we are well placed to meet the needs of travelers across the different

segments.

  1. What are the best practices that you endorse in customer experience management?

Neeraj: Hilton Worldwide has always been recognized as the stylish, forward thinking global leader of hospitality. Today Hilton Worldwide, with ten brands across segments, welcomes guests in more countries than any other full-service hotel brand, with more than 3,600 properties worldwide. In the APAC region, we have 68 hotels in 17 countries. Hilton remains synonymous with hotel because of its innovative approach to products, amenities and service.

We ensure that the services delivered are of global standards and consistent across each of our properties, both in India and internationally. We consistently strive to deliver world class service at each of our properties so that our guests’ experiences are consistent, no matter which property they stay at.

  1. How do you go about building brand loyalty in the Indian market?

Neeraj: With our world class brands across several portfolios, we have the bandwidth to meet the needs of travelers across different segments.

All our properties in India are at a traveler friendly location and provide easy accessibility to all prime destinations within the city. Also, all our Hilton Worldwide Hotels in India and abroad offer the Hilton HHonorsR program that provides points and MilesR and no blackout dates on reward stays. Members of HHonors guest reward program can double dipR to earn both points and miles for every stay at more than 3600 Hilton family hotels worldwide.

Honors rewards include free hotel nights, experience getaways, dream vacations and premium merchandise. Members can also convert HHonors points to airline miles or vice versa. Irrespective of the location of the hotel, Hilton Worldwide strives to provide standardised services across each of our ten properties, globally.

  1. How do you train the local talent here to align with your global strategies in CRM?

Neeraj: Hilton understands the uniqueness of India and adapts our accommodation and service offerings to meet the needs of the Indian market for both local and foreign travelers.

We work with developers and owners in the local market who are leaders in their respective fields. Through the combined strengths and expertise of Hilton Worldwide and our partners, we deliver world class accommodation offerings and award winning service that fuses international standards with a local Indian touch.

We conduct internal workshops to align the local teams with the ethos of each brand. Our India team is equipped with deep local domain and industry knowledge and technical knowhow, as well as strong connections with reputable developers.

Also, we put in significant investment in understanding the local market requirements. For example, the F&B outlet at Hilton Garden Inn New Delhi/ Saket, India Grill is designed to cater to the taste buds of the domestic clients.

We also facilitate cross pollination of resources within the various brands of hotels we operate in India, to enhance their understanding and skill set. Hilton Worldwide as a group has always strived for true customer centricity services – putting the customer at the center of our decision-making process through personalization, customization and relevance.

The centralized proprietary technology implemented has allowed Hilton to get closer to its customers and build stronger relationships with guests at any of its ten hotel brands.

  1. How does your ‘Lightstay’ concept make way for a practical, greener world?

Neeraj: LightStay is Hilton Worlwide’s proprietary system of measurement. It calculates sustainability performance impact across their global portfolio of hotels and delivers value to hotel owners without any additional cost. The system’s data is used to improve the guest experience and drive economic returns.

The LightStay system measures indicators across 200 operational practices including housekeeping, paper product use, food waste, chemical storage, air quality and transportation.

LightStay helped Hilton Worldwide properties using the system reduce energy use by 5 percent, carbon output by 6 percent and water use by 2.4 percent. Hilton has put in efforts to reduce waste output, resulting in a 10 percent reduction in 2009 versus 2008.

These results have been independently audited and are adjusted for any differences in occupancy levels and major weather events year over year.

In the first full-year of findings, the energy conserved was enough to power 5,700 homes for a year, the water saved was enough to fill more than 650 Olympic-size pools and the carbon emission reduced was equivalent to taking 34,865 cars off the road.

Reductions in water and energy use translated into dollars-saved for hotel owners with estimated savings of more than $29 million in 2009 utility costs.

LightStay also includes a ‘meeting impact calculator’ that measures the environmental impact of any meeting or conference held at a Hilton Worldwide property. This enables meeting planners and corporate travel managers to consider the environmental impact of hotel stays and meetings when making purchasing decisions. In addition, it provides corporate customers with the opportunity to include meeting impact data in their own sustainability reporting.

We aim to have all the properties within Hilton Worldwide’s global portfolio of brands on LightStay by end of 2011.

  1. Brief us about your geographic presence in India and expansion plans for the future?

Rajesh: Currently we have the Hilton Garden Inn New Delhi/Saket in the focused service segment, Hilton Janakpuri/ New Delhi, Hilton Mumbai International Airport Hotel, Hilton Chennai and DoubleTree by Hilton New Delhi Mayur Vihar in the upscale, full service segment.

With Hilton New Delhi Mayur Vihar, which is scheduled to open in a few months’ time, we will have approximately 20 properties in various stages of development. We will also be introducing Conrad, DoubleTree by Hilton and Hampton by Hilton brands in India, delivering a mix of offerings across various market segments.

Our expansion plans include all key cities in India across tiers and strong tourist destinations.In 2011, we expect to open five additional hotels, representing an additional 700 rooms. By 2012, we expect to open a total of 10 additional hotels representing an additional 1,984 rooms inclusive of these five in 2011. This will triple our presence in India and take the number of operating hotels to 15.


You may be an IIM or even a Harvard graduate but if you lack interpersonal skills, you sure are going to land in the hall of infamous managers. Here are a few lessons that your B school might have skipped…

Although this is a beaten out of shape word, for the purpose Of this article let us define interpersonal skills again…. Interpersonal Skills, in other words called ‘people skills’ is the skill that we put to use when we interact or deal with others. It also includes being able to support and encourage others while dealing with them.

As a Manager, in whatever discipline one belongs to, one has no choice other than dealing with people – those who report into him, those to whom he reports into, peers, vendors, customers, and the list goes on and on.

 

Now let me ask you a question?

At a conscious level, is there anyone who needs to remind you that for you to become a successful manager, you need to be interpersonally effective?

Given the premise that we all love to improve our interpersonal skills, let me not teach you anything that you already know. Instead let me tell you some of the reasons as to why we are not as interpersonally effective as we would like to be.

In my experience of being a manager for over 15 years and in my current role as a Consultant and Coach for over 8 years, let me give you my perspective…

Number pressure

Think of those month ends… Two more days to go and you have a lot to catch up with on numbers. While you very well know that you are behind your targets, here comes a reminder from your boss, on the hour, every hour, on how far you are on your monthly numbers. Unfortunately, one of your team members who has been a consistent performer, who is not up to the mark this month, comes up to share his thoughts, how would you deal with him? While it is unfortunate, it is a simple truth that some managers treat their team members as one more ‘resource’ like a computer or a photocopier in their office to get ‘output’.

I don’t like these guys!

As humans we cannot avoid having perceptions about people! We make perceptions almost instantaneously as we meet people. Unfortunately, this includes some of our team members. While we cannot say why, we simply don’t like some of our team members and either consciously or unconsciously treats them the way we perceive them to be.

Inability to resolve conflicts

 While conflicts are unavoidable, we sometimes do not know as to how we can resolve them. Think of this situation… Two of your star performers who consistently contribute nearly 45% of your monthly target are in an argument in a team meeting. It is the month end and how do you plan to handle this situation?

Why do I need to be interpersonally effective?

 Although this might sound strange, I have come across a few instances when I have had managers seriously asking me this question. Logic! As long as I am able to effectively complete my job and achieve the targets, why do I need to build relationships?

I am an introvert!

Sometimes you would wonder how these guys grew to a manager’s position. They don’t like to interact with others and are proud to proclaim that they are introverts.

Inherent negativity

Some managers are inherently negative and even when they are not asked, will jump with something like this, “Let me tell you why this won’t work…” While in the first instance they may sound as someone who is helpful, thoughtful, etc., over time team members will realise the true colour of the manager. The irony is that the manager himself will never realise that his team members never come up to him for suggestions.

Inability to give constructive feedback

 As a manager, we are supposed to give feedback to our team members on their performance. For many of us, feedback means telling something negative about the team member’s performance. While you still would like to tolerate this, excusing him on his lack of understanding of the word ‘feedback’, they are either given belatedly or it is too generic which directly affects the self-respect of the team member.

Failing to recognise

Many managers take their team members for granted. “He anyway was supposed to do this,” is a usual comment that you will hear from them. While we all know that need for recognition is what differentiates us from animals, we many times fail to give it to our team members because we are either currently or in the past deprived of it.

No guts to say “sorry”

Think of this situation. You are supposed to join one of your team members for an important meeting. While he has been waiting for the last 10 minutes, you just got over with the previous meeting with your senior management. Now you are meeting your team member who is waiting for you. Would you 10 out of 10 occasions, when it occurs like this, genuinely apologise to your team member for having made him wait for you? We either take our team member for granted or have got such XXL size ego that prevents us from saying a simple “sorry”.

Mr. Original!

Over time, because of our success story, we have either consciously or unconsciously developed some habits, behaviours, traits, etc. One fine morning, we wake up and start saying, “This is me”. On the pretext of being candid, we sometimes give such comments to our team members that even those who used to voluntarily seek feedback, quit coming to us because of our ‘Mr. Original’ status.

Inability to Listen

 Some managers tend to think that they have been promoted to give sermons. I was witness to a team meeting of one of my clients, who had called for a meeting to seek inputs on how the team was going to implement the new process from the following week. While the meeting went on for over an hour, as you guessed it right, he spoke for over 45 minutes. While many of us think listening is a skill, here is my definition, “Listening is 95% attitude and 5% skill”. I have heard many managers tell me that they would like to express their ideas before their team members because they think they will otherwise lose their importance.

While I can go on and on, let me share with you some simple tips on how we can enhance our interpersonal skills.

Self awareness

Ability to know who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, inhibitions, reaction to routine situations, etc. is the first step to enhance our interpersonal skills. The more we know about ourselves, the more we can relate with others (team members).

Empathize

Putting ourselves in the situation of others and thinking about how we would respond/react to the situation is also an important aspect.

Consciously give credit

Get conscious about giving credit to team members even on small things. Be genuine in doing so.

Remain consciously ‘unbiased’

Everyone in your team is there to win! None of them would like to fail in their life. Give them a chance; look at them with a fresh pair of eyes.

Finally, remember, “People do not like people who disagree with them”. While you do not want to totally agree to their suggestions, as you have your own limitations, agree to their views.


Raj Ganesan, Founder, Business Labs, who has transformed many a business with his strategic solutions, shares his vision with The Business Enterprise. In a professional career spanning over 21 years, he has primarily focused on deciphering business performance and creating value based organisations. Tenure includes top-notch strategy consulting firms, Big Four professional services organisation, and venture backed $100 million professional services companies. We could say that there are few business consultants in the world who know International business the way he does. In a free-wheeling chat with TBE, Biz Guru Raj Ganesan dispels a few myths and gives us some hard facts.

What was the reason behind the inception of your company ‘The Business Labs’?

We grow companies for our clients. That is the real intent of starting The Business Labs – to help SME clients grow and help larger institutions acquire high-quality companies. Our services improve the intangible aspects of financial valuation, beyond the brand-value. We wanted to help companies double and triple their exit value. Till now, we have advised about 300 odd companies at different levels and we are able to consistently demonstrate results as desired by stakeholders. And yes, along the way we have our fair share of failures too.

After engaging with our clients, we deploy a wide array of world-class marketing techniques and lead sources necessary for sustainable growth, many times within a few cycles of implementation. For a marginal cost, clients get high returns, typically several times greater than their current metrics. Our pool of talent helps them with revenue creation models, market expansion techniques, technology solutions, strategic improvements and effectively closing 60-95% of the deals. When we find that the leadership lacks strength, we help them with CEO coaching and provide them advisory support too.

What were the initial challenges you faced?

As such a professional service is nothing more than an expensive casual labour force, where people get paid for hours spent. Instead, our business model is designed to create exponential revenue streams by focusing on intellectual value and result, not time or effort. Client acceptance of this new business model was initially a challenge until early clients were able to see greater returns for a much smaller investment. Today, we have demonstrated the benefits and more clients insist on this profit sharing model than traditional consulting models.

Coming from a corporate consulting environment, working for some of the finest companies (KPMG, PwC) in the world, I was used to rubbing shoulders with executives in Fortune 500 companies and hardly knew anyone in the SME sector. Though our goal was to help the SME grow and offset a bigger company’s acquisition appetite, it took a lot more time and effort to build a relationship with business owners in the SME sector. I underestimated the effort, but quickly realised that our techniques had to change if we were to maximise the market opportunity.

Unlike larger firms, executives, especially in the family-owned businesses juggle roles and are often less business management savvy. Though they wanted the benefits from our service, they resisted change. We had to look for ways to make change conducive to their risk appetite and culture. In fact, this ‘secret recipe’ for transforming businesses, opened more doors and has become a hallmark of our success.

What is the first step in your business transformation process?

The initial phase of our business transformation engagement is focused on mind-shift, it helps executives open their mind’s eye to doing business differently. Though many accept the need for change, in reality people do not change, they simply provide lip service, denying themselves and the entire company the opportunity to grow.

Once we prepare the top executives for transformation, we co-develop strategic goals that need to be achieved in the next 3-8 months, consistently. We hand-hold executives from there on – provide revenue generation expertise, reach specific target markets at lowest possible costa and teach field staff to close more deals. We focus on the process discipline and metrics outcome. This forms the basis of predictable sales and revenue performance.

Speaking of business performance, how can we reduce information overload to help an organisation grow?

Human beings have found a way to fill-up time. If it takes five minutes to complete an activity, we stretch this effort until it is time for the next activity. We jeopardise any potential opportunity of ‘thinking’ of the time necessary in between tasks giving no opportunity to determine if these tasks need to be performed in the first place. For instance, when we have a few minutes, we reach out to our pockets to check the mobile phone, call someone or some even have the time to read junk SMS messages. By our design, we are overloaded. Here are my tips to avoid information overload.

  1. Eliminate reactive technologies – For instance, I pick incoming calls only at certain times and return all my calls in sequence once a day, a maximum of 45 minutes. By this time, most of the issues are either solved or addressed. The same is true for emails.
  1. Stick to core strategies –. You must account for 80% of your time aligned to core activities designed to produce predicable results.
  1. Move to a metrics driven organization – Top-down even the most complex companies can be managed with a handful of metrics. For instance, a Fortune 10 client of ours has only three metrics topdown through which we can predict the future of the company’s performance. Companies must take a tally on the number of meetings they have in a week and see for themselves the amount of wastage.
  1. Report size is a good indicator of efficiency – The larger the report, the complex the organisation, at least that is the hypothesis we initially start-off with. In most cases, we found this to be true. This does not take a lot of time to analyse; a quick walk around the office can reveal overload and wastage.

Even as companies expand to newer arenas, how can we align the employee’s mindset with the company’s strategy?

This is one of the most challenging aspects of the Indian business environment. Unfortunately, the problem lies with the executives also. As I said before, when executives manage business using older skills, old mind-set and techniques, at best, performance will be mediocre. Replacing employees, vendors, partners or even moving to adjacent sectors will not help in the growth. For employees to become productive, executives have to truly accept new ways of managing business necessary to simulate employees. They must walk their talk, not simply provide lip service. Leaders need tomorrow’s skills and abilities to move from yesterday to today to near future. With our clients, we spend a good portion of our time helping executives transform. When employees see the shift, and when done right, employee’s step-up to the opportunity without fearing changes. Then, we re-enforce the new foundation through a series of strategic activities for the change to stick and continue to improve employee performance over a period. We then bring employee’s activities and performance in line with company’s strategic goals whereby we are able to double and triple revenue targets.

What is Business Lab’s vision for the future?

Our vision is to help Indian SME clients double and triple their revenue. And, in this process make them world-class companies competing in local and global markets through our network of clients. We have helped companies in North America, other Western countries and Africa do the same. We are now working with a handful of Indian companies that are seriously committed to growth and once we get to a certain client capacity, we will entirely focus on helping them grow. This compelling model has virtually ensured great results for our clients.

Your India insight

Global recession and the desire for Western countries to reduce cost will not last for long and that’s a caution to our Indian businesses. The world right now has minimal options except to go with India or China, depending on the needs. We see this opportunity disappearing and in the next few years, America will come out of the recession and decide to source it within the country. We are seeing some of the global adjustments tilting back towards North America and Europe.

It is time now for the Indian companies to focus on the ‘intellect’ factor to grow; they should concentrate on global expansion, irrespective of the company size. We are helping two to three small companies expand across India and globally, without adding headcount or huge inventory. With countries such as Africa entering the market, price is no longer a delineating factor. Only companies that concentrate on the intellect factor of their product or services will dominate. We need to create premium brands and our SMEs need to sell intangibles.

The big secret

Employees must believe that the company’s products and services truly benefit the clients. This is the biggest secret in motivating a company towards growth. While every step we have discussed is important, the biggest secret in growing a company is when executives focus on changing the belief system. When they start believing, customers will. This has been my insight after working with hundreds of businesses around the world. Those who focused on changing the belief system have significantly grown faster with higher quality of customer and returns.


“Often, it is the simple mismanagement of information that leads to chaos in a corporate environment. And when it comes to client, it is always best to trust the expert!”

Do I need a CRM tool? Is the investment worth it? These are the questions that linger in any entrepreneur’s mind. Try answering the questions below:

  • Why did you lose that deal?
  • Just when did you promise to get back to your big prospect after their budget gets approved?
  • Exactly how much did you quote to your existing client?
  • Who last engaged with that client from your sales/service departments?
  • What is the value of those potential deals, forecast for the next y months?
  • You need to get a mailer out to your clients in a hurry, but how?
  • Who are your important customers? How do you rate or profile them?
  • You want to sell your business but you can’t show your prospective buyers a professional, current list of your pending deals or active clients, the act that gives real value for any business.

These are few questions that are commonly asked. If you have a honest positive answer to all of them you need not go for a CRM solution ( or you might have already implemented a CRM ). If you are clueless about most of the answer, you need a properly commissioned CRM solution.

How many times have you heard the following phrases as your mantra for a successful customer relationship management implementation?

“Work smarter, not harder”

“Create your customer segments”

“Keep your existing customers loyal”

“Get a greater share of pocket from your existing customers”

Knowing consumer behavior, buying patterns, the art of product differentiation becomes the key to success. You must know everything there is to know about your sales leads, customer’s feedback, and queries. Now how do you achieve this? ‘IT’ is the answer. With so much of information that has been collected ‘IT’ provides technological supply to the information systems need. All the questions that we have asked in this article till this point will be answered by a competent CRM

How do you go about implementing a CRM?

IT is not a solution in and by itself – it requires an effort from the management to define their challenges and objectives and determine how IT can be a part of the solution. If a CRM initiative is not approached from the standpoint of understanding your objectives, it is likely to be a disappointing implementation.

From my implementation experience, before choosing a CRM package for your organisation, you need to identify if there is an existing process in place for customer relationship management. When I say process, it means that

  • Is there a well-defined methodology to capture data at every stage of your sales process?
  • Is there a common customer database (excel sheets / Books / Register etc…)?
  • Are there customer allocations done to your sales man?
  • Are there sales reports that give you the performance of your product lines

Now if you get yes as an answer for all the questions above you can directly trigger your CRM Package implementation , If not it is always better for you to set up processes first. In a broad level, if you can set up systems (capturing information) which will answer all of the questions above your CRM process will be ready. The process for CRM will vary from industry to industry so be careful in not completely trusting information from the internet, talk to process experts either from your own organisation or external consultants and arrive at your process and document it. Once done, use it for a period of time, at least a month. At the end of the month, try looking at the reports coming out of the systems; if you are 70 % satisfied go ahead for the CRM package implementation; if not look, at reviewing and re-engineering the systems.

CRM Package Implementation most of the time can be done in the following phases:

Planning phase

  • Set up your CRM Steering Committee: Involvement of top management, business users, and technical team in synergy is very important for a successful CRM implementation. Get in all the stake holders in your organisation in Marketing and Sales department and then form a committee. This committee henceforth can take all decisions relating to CRM implementation.
  • Objective sign up: Chart out a clear unambiguous objective of the CRM implementation. Ensure that your steering committee plays a key role in identifying the success of their CRM implementation. Objectives can be commercially centric or process centric or usage centric based on the steering committee’s decision.

Vendor sign up 

  • Scope document sign off: – Document your sales and CRM process and prepare the final scope document through brain storming sessions in a steering committee. This Scope document henceforth remains the bible for your CRM implementation. Lesser the changes that happen in the process of implementation more will be your success in CRM Implementation.
  • Vendor sign up: The decision of your vendor sign up will be according to how much you can afford. If you feel that in initial stages of implementation you would like to invest less then you can go for open source CRM’s. V Tiger CRM is one such which even has mobile capabilities for free. Sugar CRM is another widely used open source CRM. All these CRM’s can be hosted on a web space and there are vendors who support and take care of your CRM at an affordable cost. You can always google for information on open source CRM’s which are in plenty. Another options for a low cost CRM is the hosted CRM (SAS model) , which will be charged per user per month model. The advantage here is that you don’t have to investment on hardware and other maintenance-based capex but the disadvantage is that it cannot be customised to your process whereas open sources are a better bet here ( personal recommendation). If you have a good budget for CRM’s you have plenty in market to go for. Also be careful when you go for a implementation vendor, check his credibility of delivery, his existence in market and his experience on the product before signing in. Give the vendors the scope and then short list them based on the timelines and the commercial they provide for your process.

Implementation 

Once you have tied up with your vendor, it’s the steering committee’s duty to provide quality time of the Subject Matter Experts to the implementation partner. Ensue that your implementation partner goes about implementing in the following steps:

  • Master creation: Ensure that your vendor creates all the masters (Customer / Product /Sales man / Vendor Etc) first.
  • CRM configuration: On completion of master copy, make sure your partner configures the CRM first.
  • Legacy data management: Provide your partner with all the data in the format he requests for. Make sure this happens before installation
  • Installation: Once your masters and configuration is through, your vendor will install the CRM package for you and initiate the test run.
  • Test Run: Test run is an important phase; you soften out any rough edges in your software by constantly working on it and escalating issues to your vendor, if any.

Closure 

  • User acceptance testing: User acceptance testing marks the end of implementation and getting into CRM Live phase. Ensure that the steering committee creates the test cases, and documents them. Take a signoff from the committee and also perform the testing. Once the testing is performed. Ensure that the testing is 100 % done and no errors are reported.
  • GO live: The CRM goes live here, all other old legacy systems are removed and ensure that your implementation partner handholds you for a period ( 1 month would be apt ).
  • Sign off: All deliverables are presented to steering committee and a satisfaction survey is performed on the implementation. If every stake holder in the committee is happy with the implementation and all the objectives that your steering committee had set is met then your implementation is complete.

“Mentoring is an art only few could claim to have mastered and here, a few practices that can help one gain this mastery.”

Do you think we are not mentoring our subordinates? What do you expect us to do differently? As the question that was posed by one of our senior managers at the end of a day-long programmer on mentoring. I felt that the efforts of the whole day were watered down by this simple question. As we grow into senior levels, one vital responsibility that gets added up, though it may not be slept out explicitly in your Job Description is ‘mentoring’ of the greenhorns. Mentoring calls for an earnest interest to groom the youngsters and it is more about attitude than about skills. It is quite a task to provide structured instructions as to what mentors should do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and any such regimented exercise would be devoid of the spirit of mentoring. However, when I recently happened to observe the way yoga masters taught their learners to learn some difficult postures (asanas), I felt quite a few things could apply to mentoring practice.

Drill the habit of ‘learning by doing’

You cannot simply learn the difficult postures of yoga just by listening to your yoga master. What masters do to teach them is to get you into doing it right away. You get to listen to instructions as you practice and now your listening is more intense because it matters to what you do.

Mentoring is not about giving monologues to your captive proteges but getting them into action. Assign them projects and assignments where they can learn from first hand experience. The best way to help them is to guide them by sharing from your experience the possible pitfalls they need to be wary of.

Give it when they need it the most

Masters were doing the rounds and giving us instructions, but were not intervening in every step. The mere feeling that they were around gave us the confidence to try out postures which we would dare not, left to ourselves. And help was at hand, when we faced difficulty.

It is but natural that a greenhorn would be twice careful about trying out anything new for the fear of making mistakes and would rather avoid the risk. But that does not mean that you spoon-feed. As a mentor, all you need to do is to give them the confidence that when you are around, they can’t go wrong and if at all they do, you are there to assure them ‘main hoon na’

Push for the little extra stretch

A maxim we have in our vernacular says, ‘what was not bent at five can not be bent at fifty’. After attending the yoga session, I don’t subscribe to this view anymore. You can, if you persevere to bend of course, under the guidance of a right trainer. Yes, there could be pain in trying to flex what has hardened up for years. But the gentle push the masters gave at the right point made us stretch beyond the normal, and the feeling that we were capable of doing it took the pain out of the extra-stretch.

Mentoring is no different. It is the onus of mentors to ensure that their proteges do not settle into a comfort zone that may mar their growth. Mentors need to give that extra push to stretch them beyond the comfort zone and take them to newer levels consistently.

Support when they tilt

Sometimes, when a beginner in an organisation is assigned to a difficult and challenging project that calls for coping with different pushes and pulls, demanding customers and tight deadlines, s/he may tend to lose emotional balance and might decide to call it quits.

All that is needed of mentors is to provide that emotional support to keep their Protagoras in balance like how our yoga masters did. They were right there and provided a kind of scaffolding support to prevent us from tilting and falling off while trying some difficult upside-down postures (Sirasasana).

Make them feel good even in awkward positions

A beginner, when trying to do a new thing, could get into an awkward situation until

s/he learns the ropes and becomes adept at it. You would agree with me if you could recall the time you made your first presentation to top management. Many a time, awkward situations thwart the youngsters from trying it out again in future and becoming better at it. If it is a crucial skill for success, then it could mar their growth. But a mentor can help a great deal in such situations by elevating their feelings and giving constructive feedback while stripping out the awkward feeling associated with the event.

So, if you have been doing all these already, then you don’t probably need to be sitting in a mentoring session.