The year round up post! #2014

I know I am late on this, but I thought it’s better than not posting at all. So here we go!

A hell lot of stuff planned, lots accomplished, some pending, little dropped off the list, a few postponed, yet, the most eventful year of my life. It started with travel and ended with that, well, almost. TL;DR, three important talking pointers that sum the year up for me:

  1. I had decided to travel the previous year and I succeeded in traveling 3 new places (not for work reasons) this year, including my first ever trip abroad
  2. Started the year with my status as “single”, ended with “happily married”
  3. Started the year as a loss making company, ended in profits

In a nutshell, a f-a-n-tastic year!

It all started with my solo trip to Dalhousie. Actually I left on 30 Dec 2013 itself and the travel continued till 2nd Jan. So the year started with travel and with snow. Wrote about the experience of traveling alone and about getting out of my comfort zone. I do these solo trips once in a while to get my mojo back. It allows me to be with my being and reenergize the body for the battles ahead!

The inspiration behind the post was Bootstrappers 2014 – A Year in Review section on a Startup blog. Being a bootstrapped entrepreneur, I felt I should pen down my experience too, however, small they may be. While I was still contemplating writing this, Suma (my partner) wrote the 2014 round up post for Niswey. It got me thinking, yes, we shared what we did as a company but what about us as individuals? And hence, I thought to recollect everything. Went through all my notes, for the first nine months which were on OhLife! and since it shutdown, the remaining were on Little Memory. {Thanks to Ivan for putting up an OhLife import feature overnight.}

Recollecting, here are some notable things that happened this year.

Professional First:
Going Flat. I had been contemplating on this idea since sometime but it was during my Dalhousie break that I took a call, this HAS to be the way forward. That is what would allow us to grow, both as individuals and as a company. I came back from the trip, met Suma on a Saturday and explained everything. It all made sense to her and we thought to roll this out ASAP. Obviously we couldn’t do this the next very day but in a month’s time we were good to go. We organized a discussion for all of us, which ran for about half a day. Initially, there was a lot of mental resistance but as we discussed the concept more and more and as more questions got answered, it started making sense to everyone. Thus, it was put into action immediately. That’s the beauty of a startup, you can get things moving so quickly that you’ll love it!

This is a kickass session on flat #organization @niswey Got to love this place!

A photo posted by Anubhav Tiwari (@tiwarianubhav22) on

We also started a new practice of discussing individual Goals. What do all of us want to do and achieve. Small things as visiting 10 new places within the city to larger goals like building a community portal, it had all. Since it was a successful initiative, we continued the activity this year too! In April, we had another discussion where we discussed professional objectives for the organization. It had 2 major things:

  1. 5X growth (in terms of revenue)
  2. A Product (to be in alpha phase)

Where are we on that, well, that we will figure out in April. But I can share already that we are in good shape. No, we are not about to be 5X but surely will be about 2.5X, which, is a good number in itself and I am glad about it. Somewhere during the year we’d lost track of that but thanks to our people, we could bounce back! For this, I’ll always be grateful. We haven’t moved much on the product side. Somewhere in September it looked all set to take off but it never happened actually. Thankfully, we, finally are restarting this very soon. This time for sure 🙂 I also started working on a couple of more things in parallel. One is an idea that’s floating since mid-2013. It’s called “Good 2 Fail“. I managed to get an interesting domain, do a small launch and reached out to a few entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, none of them was willing to share their learnings/experiences. Some said they did not have time, some just declined and a few never bothered to respond, even after multiple attempts. If you are one of those whom I approached, you need not be guilty, you can still respond 🙂 Another initiative on which I started working was in the education sector. This is a long term project (might take a lifetime) and I started doing my homework for this. During one of interactions with someone in the industry, I realized it is too early for me to get into this and has to be pushed back. Which is fine with me, at least I now know that I need to be older, wiser and more resourceful (in terms of time and money) to get into this and the occasional guilt of not working towards that is gone now. Believe me, taking it off your head is equally important. Let’s move to some personal stuff now The most important event on the personal front was my getting married. After a blockbuster post about how flat, family and marriage are the reasons why youngsters don’t turn entrepreneurs, I myself gave in 😛 While I am still an entrepreneur, let’s see if both of them survive 😉 

 

The second most important thing was my promise to myself. It was mid-2013 when I realized I hadn’t taken an off since 18 months (apart from falling ill that is) and had then decided two things. 1. Take frequent breaks and 2. Travel. I am happy that this year I could keep up both promises. And importantly, will continue to do so.

Apart from keeping up those promises, the most bizarre thing was the way in which one of those trips got arranged. Since this post is already long, I will leave that to another post. It’s the Bali trip I am talking about where I went with Matt and the team from Under30Experiences. If you are under 30 (or maybe just a little over but can coolly hang out with other under 30’s), I suggest you must go with them!

Towards the end of the year, in December, I went to another awesome place, Sikkim. Going there just reinstated my thought of traveling more of East India. Need to plan. In between getting married and travel, there are a few other things notable things:

  • A three day NLP Workshop – Made me realize the power of visualization
  • An acquisition offer – Not that were looking for buyers but the offer just does some ego boost, if nothing else
  • Book writing attempt – Participated in a book writing competition by FT & McK. Didn’t win but gave me an inroad towards my dream of writing a book
  • Turned 30 – And spent the birthday in an exquisite and relaxing location like Bali
  • Developed a new habit – Reading books. I read a lot, almost 3-4 articles (not news) a day but wasn’t into reading books much. Read 5 books last year, nothing compared to the global average of 17 but at least got into the habit! This year, my target is the global average. BTW, I am already on my 5th and it’s just the beginning of March 🙂

While we’ve had the first round of goals discussion this year, I am still finalizing my goals. A little delayed but with so much happening at Niswey in the last 2 months, I am not worried about the delay. Will share what I plan and at the end of the year, how did I fare.

In the end, I am grateful to friends, family, customers, well wishers (like you) and the universe, for making 2014 a successful year!

Your turn. Do you plan/create goals? How was 2014 for you?

Looking for intrapreneurs and ex-entrepreneurs

The question was, “that’s a pretty high growth rate and would be phenomenal if you can do that. But how will you do it?

By having great people around me

That’s what I answered when a few years ago I was asked this question by a seasoned entrepreneur. It’s for that very reason that I am writing this post. I am looking or rather ‘hunting’ for those ‘great’ people. In our quest to build an awesome workplace, it’s time to expand our ‘A Team’. So who am I looking for? Intrapreneurs and/or ex-entrepreneurs.

Intrapreneurship
Intrapreneurship

As Wikipedia says: “Intrapreneurship refers to employee initiatives in organizations to undertake something new, without being asked to do so.” Hence, the intrapreneur focuses on innovation and creativity, and transforms an idea into a profitable venture, while operating within the organizational environment. Thus, intrapreneurs are Inside entrepreneurs who follow the goal of the organization. Intrapreneurship is an example of motivation through job design, either formally or informally. 

Or in simple terms, people who:

  • Love to be on their own and not being questioned by anyone BUT at the same time are responsible enough to deliver their tasks
  • Take pride in their work, even if it’s cleaning a toilet
  • Take ownership for their stuff, work and personal, both. Thus, know how to do get stuff done AND at the same time can do it her/himself, if needed
  • Thinks “business”
  • Are not ready to take the entrepreneurship plunge yet but want to do it someday. If you are in this zone, believe me, this will be the perfect learning experience
  • Have already got hands dirty once and are looking to do it again, just for the sheer joy of it. Whether your company was successful or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is you tried!
  • Love what they do. Period.
  • Keep “learning” as one of the success parameters in whatever they do
  • Are willing to “mentally” invest in the company
  • Are fearless and have a risk taking appetite

What skill set?

I believe a skill set can be built, what matters is the intent.

What role?
Well, everything that a business owner has to do. Sales, marketing, client engagement, manage,  think (and not procrastinate), organize and most importantly, write.

Having said that, I must mention a few roles here

  • Web Analytics
  • Digital Marketing
  • Visual Designer
  • Copyeditor
  • Content Writer / Marketer (Enterprise writing)

All those roles are detailed out on Niswey’s careers page, so you may want to have a look and say:

  • You are good at one and are while willing to learn others
  • You are really good at one and are willing to build a practice (and team) for just that
  • Know bits and pieces of a few and are willing to be good at all or at least most of them
  • Don’t know any of that but can do something else really great AND want to learn them too

Although I have tried to elaborate who will fit this role, but still I would like you to go through some more pointers written on our careers page. If you still have questions, please feel free to write to me at abhinav [at] niswey [dot] com. I’ll be happy to talk/explain about things, in detail.

About Niswey: we’re into solving business problems using the digital medium. We work in a flat structure and our culture is pretty open, read more about Niswey’s Culture.

If you’ve read so far and think that not you but a friend might be interested in such a role, please go ahead and share this with her/him right away, I’d really appreciate it, thanks!

This is what makes your day!

We were leaving office today, at around 8.30 PM and were waiting for one of the guys to join in. All of a sudden one of our colleague said,

Arre sala, sade aath ho gya! Pata hee nahi chala aaj ekdum time. Aisa lag rha hai abhi ek ghante pehle hi to aaya tha office! Abhi bhi ekdum fresh feel kar rha hu

If you are or have been a manager/leader/captain of your team or are an entrepreneur – this is something that will definitely give you a kick!

Excel and you will get a mentor

I have been a huge believer in mentorship and finding the ‘right’ mentor. For the same reason, I have always advised friends/colleagues and especially entrepreneurs to find themselves good mentors.

Today also, while I was mentoring or rather helping a startup entrepreneur, I mentioned how important my mentors have been to my startup and how they are helping me build a successful company. She said nobody in her family has ever started a business and hence she has no guidance there. I gave her my example and mentioned my scenario was no different. But, I added, “you need to develop a network”. She then mentioned that she even doesn’t have a network of such people who could provide her mentorship. I told her how I have grown my network and then eventually found some great people who provide me guidance as and when needed. You need to find such people is what I told her.

This reminded me of my last meeting with my mentor when I asked him what motivates him to come out in the Delhi heat on a Saturday afternoon and spend 3-4 hours just to guide me? He said, that’s 1 of his life goals and then he added “It’s also because I like you guys!” I just smiled and the discussion ended. Later on my friend said, we are lucky to have mentors like him. I kind of disagreed. I said its not about luck, probably we are doing something right which is why we have people supporting us.

Interestingly, while reading Lean In today I landed up at the chapter “Are you my mentor?” Sheryl in this chapter talks about how women (and even men) keep looking for mentors. The perception is “Get a mentor and you will succeed“. That’s the wrong approach, the approach should be, “Excel and you will find a mentor“. She’s bang on! That’s what I’ve realized, both as a mentor and as a mentee. Now go excel and let mentors find you!!!

Set expectations right to avoid a mess!

From what I’ve experienced in the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of business owners or the sales guys commit things which they are not able to deliver or fight really hard to get things done by the deadline that’s been mutually agreed upon. What happens is, in the process the stakeholders end up having not so good conversations/relations either with their own team or with the client. To share an example, I know of 2 companies working in the same domain. While 1 of them has declared an off for the entire Diwali week, the other has 2 alternative days as off. This year, Diwali being on a Tuesday, these 2 off days are Tuesday and Thursday. For obvious reasons, most employees in the company have taken 2 leaves, of course the days being Monday and Wednesday. That leaves it with just 1 day to work and we all know how much work is accomplished on a Friday, that too when the rest of the week was off. Not to mention, some of them would fall ill or maybe have already taken a Friday off as well by now. That eventually means, work gets delayed by a week or at least by 3 working days! Now if you’re the client facing person, you know that you’re gonna slip on the deadlines by at least 4-5 days and face the wrath. By the way, you wouldn’t want to imagine a scenario if you’ve set your deadline somewhere in *that* week.

By now you would have understood that this 2nd company is going to delay projects by a minimum of 3-5 days. In some cases, the client would be ‘just okay’ while the others might complain a bit. Either ways, whether the client complains or not, why would you want to deliver a wrong message for your company? Who knows, this small bit might result in you losing out to some good referrals. Word of Mouth still remains the best form of marketing, right!

We have a lot of festivals in India. While on most of those off days we might end up working, but, let’s be honest, there are some days when you want to keep work aside, even if you are an entrepreneur. These are the days when you just want to be with your family & friends. Most of us would agree here but some of them might just want to work. What is important to understand here is that whatever way you feel (taking an off or not) your employees would definitely want to take off for a day or two. In most cases, even your clients want to do that, right? So why shouldn’t you just declare that week off? Even the west completely shuts down during Christmas after all, with auto responders always set!

So I would believe this first company has done a great job – has kept employees happy by giving them a week off and at the same time communicated this to the clients that they would be shutting shop for the Diwali week and the deadlines set accordingly. To me this sets expectations clear on both the client’s and the employees’ point of view. And if both the sides are happy, I believe you as a sales guy, a project manager or an entrepreneur would never have to hear harsh things from anywhere!

Agree/ Disagree? Share your views in the comments or shout out to me @AbhinavSahai or on LinkedIn

Cross posted on Dare.