Enterprises’ wanting to be start-ups

There has been a panic attack amongst enterprise lately, trying to inculcate a start-up culture in their organizations. Has the dragon actually woken up? Or it’s just for fancy boardroom presentation.

Having spoken to business leaders in enterprise, two most worrying areas are innovation and new competition.

Competition, which they never thought existed or even, belonged to their vertical.

So why are they so unprepared? If you look back in history all evolved civilizations, were crushed by smaller groups like Viking, Mongols and the reason they lost was not because they were not prepared, the reason was they did not have a purpose and they were complacent.

The one big difference between a start-up and an enterprise is “Hunger”.

Hunger for success, for sustenance and for survival.

Changing the dress code and cool work place does not give you start up culture, its igniting passion, defining purpose.

The enterprises’ that are looking to change have to first starve and be hungry and that’s how they’ll build a culture that innovates, performs and strives for success.

Hungry KYA?

Communicate my fellow founder

As a founder and leader, you always and should be spending considerable time in communicating your vision and thoughts to your

  1. Co-founders ,
  2. Fellow team members and
  3. More importantly to your customers.

When I was leading my first startup, though I was talking to my customers , but I was not talking and giving required time to my co-founders and team members. I was talking on phone for few hours/minutes a day(we all were working from homes) and thought that all of us understood the vision and priorities. But I was wrong, we should have worked from same place alteast thrice a week to better understand each . And more then that I should have spent more time in listening to team member’s why they are not able to put 200% percent .Phones and emails are not right tools to communicate about vision, about understanding your team strengths and limitations. This has resulted in many  problems and misunderstanding for long period. And end result was dis-engagement between founders and team member’s.

 

Another bigger problem is when you start thinking that “Customers don’t know what they want”. And you day in and out keep putting in efforts to improve your platform based on your understanding. And you keep assuming that one fine day customers will click on that “Pay” button and you will get your first revenue. Sorry my fellow entrepreneur, that is not going to happen. Talk to them, understand what problems they face on your platform, what they will pay for, how they want to pay for your product/service, and then pivot your platform and pricing model accordingly.

So stop bothering about whether platform building is on track(as per your understanding) or and start bothering about what your co-founders, your team members  and your customers are saying.

How start-up winning team looks like

Team is one of the most important aspect and reason of start-up success and failure. Many founders fail to find right team members or start-up team parts away after working 3 to 6 months. At a same time many founders start their entrepreneurial journey by assuming that they can do everything and they don’t needs other people to succeed. This is a completely flawed assumption at your end. It’s a complete team game and not an individual show.

Per my experience working with-in start-ups, following are the attributes of a winning team:-

  • They have a clear leader: – Though 3 to 4 people have started working together, there should be one leader. Leader’s responsibility is to take all of them along in this long journey. He communicates with each team members continuously. Leader looks at points which can lead to conflicts within team and resolve them. Leader communicates and discuss long term vision to each founding team member day in and out and how possibility they will reach their.
  • They all respect and trust each other: – Building trust and respect with each other takes time. And special efforts are required from each of the founding team members to enhance the trust. Talking frequently, spending more and more time with each other helps in enhancing the trust.
  • They all have complementary skills: – When complementary skills are there in the team, each of the team member’s knows what they are responsible for. This leads to lesser conflicts within the team and brings in more focus.
  • Everyone willing to share the pie of wealth with others (if at all its generated down the line). Winning team members understand that sharing wealth will lead to creating a larger impact for themselves, for society and world.
  • There is no one who is bossy or dictator: – Many founders are inspired by Steve Jobs thinking that being bossy help in getting success. Understand that you are not Steve but you should be learning from Steve Jobs. Being bossy turn off people and creative negative work environment. Be humble and be yourself.
  • Every team member takes decision based on data rather than emotions or egos.
  • Team is focused on market need, customers and cash all the time:- Winning teams are always focused on what are the gaps in market, how they can fill that gap quickly , how they can reach out to early adopters/customers, how they can learn from customers what they want and how they can keep low cash outflow and can enhance revenue inflow.
  • Sense of urgency is missing is either of team members: – Start-up is all about executing and executing it fast enough. If any of the team member don’t understand this, your are best candidate to get listed in list of failed start-ups.

Technology platform for your start-up

Intended audience:- This blog post is for those non-technology founders and idetaors who want to understand which technology they can chose for their platform.

Many non-technology founders struggle to find the answer of this question “Which particular programming language or technology stack they should choose to build their application on”. And the answer is, there is no particular one programming language you can choose. And every programming language has few advantages over other and few dis-advantages. So there is nothing called best programming language. This article assumes that you are not developing a simple website, but a full-fledged web or mobile application.

Architecture of any technology platform is usually divided into three layers. Let me explain this to you in very simple terms:-

First layers is called database layer. This is the layer where your data will be stored. There are primarily two types of database now days which are widely used.

  1. RDBMS systems, example of these are MYSQL /Postgress etc.
  2. NoSQL database systems, example of these software includes MongoDB /Casandra etc

Second layer is called backend layer. This is the layer where your code related to how data should be stored in your database, how it should be read and how it should be sent to your client layer. Languages like PHP, Java or NodeJs is used here. Current trend involves writing your backend logic and code in such a way that it’s exposed as web services to the layers above it.

Third layer is called client layer. This is the layer where your code related to User Interface will go. User usually talks to this layer only and is not at all aware of database and backend layer. For web application, there are many programming languages/frameworks which can be used here. Personally, now days JavaScript based UI framework work are used more. Check this link to get the list of JavaScript frameworks available to us.

But now many people ask , this is fine Vikram. Can you pls give us quick recipe at a same time. So my criteria of choosing a programming language or technology are that it should enhance the productivity of team at a same time give required performance.

For Web applications:- If you are developing a B2C or SaaS application which doesn’t involve much mathematical calculations, chose AngularJs for client layer. Choose NodeJs for backend layer. And choose RDBMS such as MYSQL.  AngularJs and NodeJs are both Javascript based frameworks. So if your developers know JavaScript, they can work on backend and front end coding at a same time. If you are not comfortable with NodeJs or your backend coding involves mathematical calculation, choose either Java or PHP.

For Mobile applications:- There are three type of mobile application which you can develop. Application which will run inside mobile browser. Hybrid application, which is developed using Javascript framework and we use software like PhoenGap to deploy it on Android and iOS platforms. And the third type of application is Native application developed using SDK(Software development toolkit) of Android and iOS respectively. Again at server end you can use either NodeJS or Java or PHP and exposing all server side code as web services. RESTFUl web services(a type of web service) are most widely used these days. MySQL or NoSQL can again act as DBMS. For client side, to develop Hybrid application, we can use AngularJs/Ionic(type of frameworks). To develop native application in Android, you have to use respective SDK’s. For Android you primarily do coding in Java and XML. To develop iOS application, you write code in Objective-C.

At last, this article must have given you a high level overview of the complexity involved in choosing and working with various technologies when you want to develop your technology platform. Thus its very important to find a technology co-founder for your idea. Just hiring technical guys will not solve your problem.

Consumer Brand V/s Employer Brand

Consumer brand and the employer brand are two sides of the same coin. They have to complement each other. A great consumer brand will help in attracting talent, but the moment of truth happens at the employer brand level and that’s where we need to be the strongest in.

A well-defined EVP along with living the brand are the core to building a passionate talent force. An employee who is engaged is the one who feels committed to his organization and its goals and delivers business results.

The investment made in the consumer brand is always far larger and becomes the face of the organization. Its imperative to leverage its strengths and get the talent aligned to it, by defining a clear EVP and living by it makes an unbeatable combination. Convergence of brand, business and people.

And by the way, the father-in-law test – is not relevant any more.. (For those, who are not aware of this, it’s the test if your employer brand is known by your prospective father-in – law … you know the result)

Irrespective how many marketing dollars you put in the brand, it will not impact your employer brand, if your organization culture and employee engagement strategies are not in place.

Building your employer brand

In today’s business environment it’s imperative for businesses to build a high performance based work culture. To do so, you need a powerful EVP – a free-flowing connector between the brand, the business and people. A powerful EVP enables organisations to attract the right people to deliver the right values in the right way.

Everything starts with the brand.

The idea is to create a performance based culture that not only asks of but allows people to ‘live the brand’.This is done through attracting the right talent, constantly engaging with them and eventually making them the evangelists for the brand.

Attraction: Signaling the change, creating awareness and drawing attention and interest for the brand. Building on the motivators and differentiators

Engagement: Forming an emotional or rational attachment between talent and brand.

Advocacy: Ensuring an experience, which builds positive cognitive and emotional affirmation that in turn encourages word of mouth advocacy.

Measurement of an engaged talent force, has to be on a continuous basis. A robust and scientific Culture Audit is one of the key tools , to evaluate employee engagement levels with brand. Employer Brand Perception is also a great way to measure how engaged the current talent is and how potential talent perceives the brand.

Fostering an engaged culture in the workplace is not a one-time effort. Companies whose engagement statistics improve after a particular effort aren’t done with the task. Rather, it’s important to measure engagement periodically.