Life, Change & Startup Service

For many of us, life happens in the background while we strive to live through our dreams of achievement and accumulation. For some of us, there is a pause in our lives and we suddenly start observing our life and living it.

I have been on this journey of observation the past couple of years. But recently, there was a major shift. As I’ve been watching my actions and simplifying my thoughts. In October 2014, along with Amit, I found myself at an startup event that was no less than ‘magic’.

Startup service for me was like a dream-reality sequence, unable to decipher what was real and what was a dream. But, philosophically I knew both were as valid as they come. The weekend was about ideas no doubt, but the spirit of cooperative participation and the intention to ‘give’ dominated. Each person who participated in the process was there for a reason, all with a personal journey story to share. Happiness, humility, love, gratitude, empathy, positivity, productivity, giving & accepting – all people at this 3 day event were about these things. Amidst all the love teams worked on their ideas with care, to convert them into actionable concepts / products.

There were folks with who the idea originated, there were other folks who were supporting them as a team, there were some other folks who were there as mentors. In all, everyone was happy to help each other with the goal of building something that could help each other by the end of the weekend. All of us worked on ideas ranging from Activity Kits for kids, workshops on mindful food preparations, education framework for kids, participative art installation activities, to products made of sustainable material like sugarcane fibre, and many more.  The people there were special with their own uniqueness and it was sheer joy to see each of them adding to the energy of that place.

All of them touched my life and something inside has changed forever. This was the first time I’ve been introduced to a concept like Service Space. Personally, with Morpheus Gang’s shift of focus from being a commercial accelerator to a community of entrepreneurs who participate by giving first. Interacting with folks of Service Space and first hand witnessing people living the ‘giftivism’ way of life; has reinforced my confidence in the path we have chosen at Morpheus Gang.

The event in itself was surreal, for me as i mentioned earlier. But the final few hours of the event were extra-ordinarily magical from what I perceived. It was endless exchange of energies, creating more and many more hugs. I am sure, it gave everyone an eternal hangover of love, like it did to me. And, my journey back home from Ahmedabad to Chandigarh via Delhi is what I call “my journey of realisations”! (More on that later!)

Here are some relevant links to know more about Startup Service: http://www.movedbylove.org/blog/view.php?id=349; Moved By Love: http://www.movedbylove.org/

Here’s a gem by Kanti Patel, that sums up the spirit of life!

 

Emotional dependencies with products you like

(Narrative tone)

All of us are consumers of innumerable products online and offline, every day of our lives. As humans, we naturally associate ourselves with these products and attach emotions to them. I am sure each of us have a certain usage pattern of the products we consume. All of these products evoke a certain emotion in us. Thus creating dependencies. I have been thinking about the dependencies we create for ourselves while using these products or otherwise. I have also been wondering about the impact these products have on us to change our behaviour patterns.

There have been many products that have impacted my life. I have over-indulged in some of them. Some have been sheer conveniences in my life.

When i had to fly with my infant child the first time ever, i was particular about flying a certain airline, as i trusted them. I thought they cared. It was their offering and the way they conducted themselves that made me have that dependency that my infant will fly safe with them!

I feel wanted, special and cared for when i hold an apple product in my hand or interact with one. It’s the sheer design and finess that its products exude that makes me trust it. The belief is that irrespective, the brand cares & will have built something special for my benefit. I am a blind apple products user for ages now.

For a long time i wore a certain Nike sandals which were near to bearfoot stuff you get these days, but the most comfortable pair of footwear anyone could wear. I have not found sandals that suit me as much till date. But slip into unhappiness even till date when i remember that product and dislike the fact that they dont make them anymore! Sigh.

Google Apps is another product that i am dependent on. Love the convenience that it offers for startups. Simple, yet life changing additions. It is more like people building these features were watching my expressions and experiences to tailor made simple additions for me. Be it the undo sent mail feature or the did you mean Sean instead of Shaun feature.

Twitter of course is a huge emotional punch bag for many of us, including me. Its a one way broadcast many a times for me to vent my anger, frustrations, etc. besides that other informative things it offers and i give back.

Inboxwhiz is a browser plugin for google mail that helps me stay in control emotionally. I am an compulsive email checker. More like, who the hell will mail me earth shattering information at 3 am? I am compulsive! So inboxwhiz helps me here. Its like a floodgate. I can determine when i’d like inboxwhiz to push mails to my inbox. Till such time it’ll withhold my mails from reaching my inbox. Initially, i was an emotional wreck almost, but now i am getting used to the fact that inboxwhiz holds my mails to show them to me thrice a day.

I have been testing a to-do app code named ‘Tyler’. Its stupid simple to use and i have figured out that any thing i need to do, if i tell tyler he’ll get it done! Thats more like blind faith. Thats a huge dependency i have, as i have begun to believe that Tyler App is the best way to handle to-dos and act on them.

Now, as i indulge in all these products happily. There is one thought that shakes me off my skin – what if they decide to shut shop? Wrap up? Change it completely? What if? (I have goosebumps typing this line out, imagine if they actually said – thanks for being a great user, but its bye-bye time!)
More recently we have seen a few good products bite the dust. TunglePosterous, Summly and Google Reader. Imagine, if facebook sent you that bye-bye mail? What’ll happen to all those people who you think you are in touch with coz they are on facebook? What’ll people who use it 12 times a day on their phones do? It’ll be chaos, mayhem almost!

Though I am emotionally charged and anxious as i write about this. It intrigues me to know the impact such incidents have on the user’s mind, emotions, behaviour? I am assuming its like waking up one day to realize that the imaginary friend you played with most of your childhood was not there any more. Happens when you grow-up suddenly! It’s like how the narrator realized that Tyler Durden was his imagination in Fight Club. I am sure, its like losing a close friend, a relative or a pet.

Living in a voraciously consumerist society, we are breeding many abnormalities through the products we build for all of us to consume. I am sure we are getting more and more emotionally dependent on gadgets, web products and other physical products that give us the emotional satisfaction whilst we use them.  As, it will break our hearts, make us more insecure, push us to depression and perhaps product separation rehabilitation – who knows?

So, have you had a product heartbreak yet? What’s it like? OR do you think i am over-reacting? Your thoughts would be great to have as inputs.

Super Important: High Quality & Constant Innovation

I ended my Sunday evening with filling in a mystery audit report for a retail chain via RedQuanta. It was not the best of experiences i had as an end customer – it showed that the brand did not care about its customers; not in product quality, experience or even builing a rapport with its end customers. If it were not for the mystery assignment i’d accepted, i’d not and will never go and shop with that brand again!

And so, I started my Monday morning with a question that was bothering me: As a consumer, I interact with multiple brands, products, services, solutions each day. What is it that makes me remember and stick to a particular product or brand over another?

There are theories a-plenty about brand recognition, recall, loyalty and its relation to how the brand is packaged and how much is spent to make end users remember it. I really dont believe in those. 

When brands spend thousands of $$ on advertisements of all sorts and on decorative things that are perceptional; and NOT focus on delivering an unmatched experience to its end users – it upsets me. They ignore the quality of the product, they compromise on honesty in what they do, they fail to constantly connect with its end users – this for me is disasterous.

Irrespective of a company, business, product’s size and age. It is super important for them to focus on TWO things and that’s “High Quality & Constant Innovation”, and both go hand-in-hand.

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Image courtesy: Sharp Brains. This is a visual perception brain teaser where you need to determine if the inner shape is a perfect circle or not. Sometime extraneous information around your target can distort your view. Which can be a common illusionary effect for startups and companies on growth path. 

Many companies start focusing only on increasing their sales, once they are in their growth path, i.e., when they have figured out their product / service offering & are seemingly confident of delivering high quality experience. Some others dont even think / realize that delivering value, quality, experience is important; they focus on selling only too soon. 

Sadly, both the above categories forget that high quality standards are not a ONE TIME thing. It is a process of constantly innovating, meeting & raising expectations of your end customer, replicating that high-quality experience over and over again, and all the time.

Easier said than done! But then, this is something that HAS to be done, no two questions about it. I can list a dozen and plenty brands/companies/products which got us customers excited for a brief period of time, but failed badly as they could not keep their focus on high-quality and constant innovation (all the time).

Such companies fail to identify that it is the high quality experience that’s important for them to sustain. They lie to themselves, pour all the money into marketing budgets which will bring them a one-time customer and they lie again to themselves that he’s a customer for life! (sigh!)

The only way a business can benefit, prosper & grow in the long-term is when all key decision-makers across the company have a singular goal – “Delivering Super Good Quality Experience to my end customers”. (or as guglanisam would put it “hit the ball out of the park”)

That unanimous thought is a tough thing to achieve.  Hence, programming of humans, I think!

Be More: Focus on Customer Experience!

I’ve not written about a movie or a television commercial in a while, though they are one of my favorite topics of discussion. A recent advertisement i saw prompted this post. 

The latest (not sure if its latest, but the one that’s on air these days) Titan, Be More TVC with Aamir Khan has a simple context of a broken computer at a senior citizens house. Aamir is fixing it while the senior customer is complaining of time taken to respond by the company, responsibility, etc. Aamir fixes it and while he’s leaving the customer asks for a contact number in the future. That’s when the customer and we audience realize that Aamir is not a service guy, but the MD of the company. The spirit of customer service is summarized by Aamir in one sentence “No task is big or small”

See the TVC here: 

One main take away from that TVC is also the fact that for a company, customer service must be top priority. No customer is superior or inferior and anyone capable in the company should tend to serve the customer in need. All that i write here may seem idealistic to many of you who read it. I am sure people in the customer service departments of mobile operators and insurance companies will scorn at me! But, then again. Pause for a bit and think about it!

Definition of customer in this context is that person (individual or another business) who will buy something (product or service) from you.

A start-up must have customer service / customer experience as one of the top 3 things they will address as a company. The thought behind it is pretty simple and i practiced it as part of my first start-up Madhouse. 

You build your product or run a service for the end customer to use it. More number of customers who associate themselves with you translates into more revenues. If each customer who has ever interacted with you, refers at least one more customer to your company will only mean double the sales. In all, one happy customer is bound to refer more customers. Consistent customer service with focus on experience and delight will only lead to constant customer referrals – the most cost efficient marketing methods for any startup to practice!

In your initial days, as a start-up, its too soon to classify customers as – ideal customer, loss making customer, high-maintenance customer, etc. All customers when you start off are good customers. Treat them in the same manner, give each one of them the real experience of your product/service/brand. Create a sense of “wow” in them. Instill confidence in your company by being consistent in each interaction, by making the customer realize that they are special, by showing the customer that the company cares. 

A few ways you can deliver good customer service and impart a good experience are:

  • Have an internally agreed upon Service Level Agreement (SLA) that the company will respond to any existing customer complaint within X hours, it can be 12 or 24. Live upto it. You can also make this public to set customer expectation and to ensure you deliver what you commit to. 
  • Have an SLA for potential customer inquiry or prospective lead. Timely response helps in winning customers many-a-times. 
  • Its not a crime to slip-up on a commitment to your customer, but do not make it a habit. For any slip-ups ensure you say sorry and compensate with something little that leads to customer delight. At Madhouse, if we missed delivering a movie to a customer or we committed on a movie and it was not there, we’d send the next best option with a personalized sorry note and a plum cake. This experience stayed with our customers and led to lunch time pantry talks, strong customer references. As a matter of fact, this also won us loyalty points and was one of the influencing factors – for our third co-founder to approach us and discuss possibilities of him joining the team.
  • Be prepared to go all out to fulfilling a commitment to your customer, even if it means incurring some losses. That loss will be short-term for a long-term gain. 
  • As a company, everyone in the team must treat customer service / experience as super important and must be convinced about it. It must be imbibed in the culture of the company. That’s when naturally, customer related tasks will take precedence over other things that start-up teams will need to work on. 

The above list is not exhaustive, but only indicative of the importance customer service / experience should get in a start-up. 

One of the largest Retail Companies in India, a favorite of mine, Shoppers Stop from time immemorial have a simple designation attached that has made a difference in the way people have perceived that brand. Their MD is a Customer Care Associate first in designation and then MD. This small, but vital note – was a great move that has built trust among end customers towards the brand, specially in its initial days.

For a start-up if you are convinced that one of your prime tasks is to be there for the customer anytime, anywhere, anyhow – many things that you need to achieve as a start-up, your vision and the reason to exist – will all fall into perspective: the one that has a customer perspective! 

 

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What does it take to get started?

What does it take to get started?  This question is often asked in a tone and mood that’s sacred, as if there will be a moment of nirvana by my pronunciation of truth – something that will enlighten them!  As if I’ll give them the mantra to life’s secrets and life will be happy and sunshine henceforth! (sigh, if only!)

 I typically list a set of things. The list contains roughly the same items for everyone but I customize the narrative to suit the guy on the other side. My first reaction is – Nothing. You just need to makeup you mind! J (Yeah! Simply said than done, right?)

Image Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tutuwon/

So here I am trying to put down the most important things you need to figure out in your life before you get started!

  1. Belief:  Most important ingredient is to have belief in yourself. As an entrepreneur you will encounter times when you’ll be made to question yourself and keeping that confidence intact is super important. Closely related is the belief you have in the problem you are trying to solve – there are many (and unfortunately, near and dear ones) who will dismiss your idea!
  2. Undying Passion: You need to have a crazy passion that keeps the “never say die” attitude in you alive, even at the lowest point in your life! You need to be passionate about doing just about anything to keep that idea of yours alive. The passion that ensures you are focusing on the right things each day, a passion that will push you to solving the right problems, answering the right question, to go on when it seems all doors have closed themselves upon you!
  3. Stoic-ism (to an extent): Stoic is a dispassionate attitude, something that allows us to detach ourselves from something and not show feelings about it. I think its important to have or cultivate this trait as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur you are trying to solve a problem that seems critical and many times that problem may not be all that critical, its important for you to move from that idea to something else that makes sense. Being excessively obsessed with the idea or be stuck to it will not help here. Hence, the stoic-ism helps. Being stoic also helps in moving on with what you are doing and not take all the critics too seriously J
  4. Discipline: This is something that we can consciously develop. Working as an employee is something else – you perform everyday or you perform when required; it’s a choice you make. But as an entrepreneur, of course you don’t have appraisals at the end of the quarter to evaluate you, but it is self induced discipline that sees you through many quarters. You must impose a schedule, have short-term goals, a to-do-list of what you need to achieve for the day, evaluate what got done and what did not on a daily basis, and follow all of this with a supreme sense of discipline and devotion. We need to be our own watch dog, follow a self induced gate-keepers role and ensure we achieve / learn something daily and move forward.
  5. Patience & Perseverance: As an entrepreneur, the task you’ll embark upon is no less than building Rome. It will take time to build a solution to the problem at hand. Sometimes months, many-a-times a few years. If you are someone who wants fast success – this is not your play! You need to exercise immense patience, keep going at it, as well as keep others you work with interested in the project.
  6. Sense of selflessness: Having personal ambitions and goals are important, but if you want to be the one appreciated for the efforts – then you’d want to think again. As an entrepreneur, start-up founder you are the leader, content and appreciative of your teammates performances. Even if you have done half the work, do not expect people to acknowledge you for it, instead appreciate the efforts of the others in the team. This may not bring you short-term glory, but will bring you long-term success. You have to be a team person and lead from the front.

Wondering why this post does not cover things like: Be an expert in the problem you are trying to solve, connections & networking, experience, money, etc. etc?  That’s ‘coz I wanted to deal with some psychological, attitude & qualities based traits that are required for an entrepreneur. And most of it, as against the common belief, can be consciously cultivated for self-growth.

I think it’s important for an entrepreneur to be like a cockroach. Yea a roach! It can survive anywhere & it can pretend to be dead and come back up alive!

And Oh! I don’t think you need money to get started, nor do I think you need experience (generically understood as work experience) – you can be a fresher out of college or even a school kid to realize a pain-point to solve it. 

So, have you got what it takes to get started? Yes? Then, we’re looking for you! Read more.

Naming a name!

Juliet:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art myself…
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Romeo:

I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Shakespeare in his classic love tragedy Romeo & Juliet gives out a message that names of things do not really matter, but what things are is what matters. In the context of the play and in many other contexts of life it makes complete sense.

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But, when it comes to naming your venture or your product it needs prudence, relevance & wit!

Why a good name?

From the brand perspective, a good name is vital for a venture. It’s like that sexily clad, most attractive hooker by the window that invites customers into that particular brothel. It’s the one thing your customers will identify you and your venture with for time immemorial. It is that name which reflects you and your company’s attitude & what you stand for.

Think – Pepsi, Coke, Google, Adidas, Amazon, Apple – all these names not just remind you of the company & its products, but the also evoke a particular emotion which we relate with each of these brands. That emotion is what makes us recall / remember these brands. And that is the importance of a “name”.

Why this post?

Recently, I’ve been in half a dozen discussions where we have been brainstorming a good name for a venture or a product being rolled by a startup. That inspired me to writing this post. This has a direction in which we thought while thinking up a name, a few personal experiences – my philosophy to deriving names – if you please 🙂

Empty Names?

Look around and think of popular brands that you can recall – all of them usually will have “empty” names that will relate to something the product stands for or the brand means. There are far few names which mean “literal things”. For example, Pepsi – in reality means nothing, except that it may be a derivative from “pepsin” the digestive enzyme used in that drink. But we associate it with “a refreshing fizzy drink” now, coz that’s our association.

Safe? Boring? Interesting? Innovative?

When thinking up names, you can either choose to be safe and boring. In other words, think up literal names for your venture or product. If you are selling books, you can call yourselves “The Book Sellers”; if your product is a pill that helps you maintain your weight and diet, it can be called “The Diet Pill”. Thanks to the bombardment during IPL, I remember Max mobile & fo a long time thought that Micro Max and Max were but the same, till I was proven wrong by a friend. This is the danger of a bad name – you will never make an identity for your brand / product / venture. Frankly, in today’s world where there is a million messages bombarded to the users; recall & recognition are huge challenges. These names don’t stand a chance.

So, you have no choice but to be a bit brave. Go all out and get innovative!

Pepsi, Coke, Google, Adidas – these are famous names now, but how easy was it to remember when they started out? They had a zing to it and the entire brand experience made the name stick for a long time! Pepsi was sold as “Brad’s Drink” first – imagine!!!

When you think up a name it’s a brand you are building based on the name. You do not want it restricting your growth after a while when you diversify and realize that your brand name doesn’t relate to what you do.

When I think up names I consider these, in no particular order though:

  1. Who is the initial audience I will cater to?
  2. Does my name sound “exciting” enough for them to try me out
  3. Does the name invoke interest for people to “know more” – frankly, does a name like “GoCarry” invoke interest in wanting to know more for an online shopping protal? For me, NO! It sounds like something I have heard of before, something stale.
  4. Does the name tease your audience? Google / Cisco – these names have a zing to it. It sounds unique and has freshness to it till date. Some company names I like which does bring a kind of newness on reading their names are – Lifemojo / Redbus / Xobni / Reditt / DeskAway / Twitter
  5. Will my name stand relevant 2 years from now and beyond?
  6. Does my name have an unique association that people can recall easily (of course, this also has to do with brand association, but some parts can be achieved in the name)
    1. For Example: Madhouse – we chose madhouse as we had read about this house of great fervor -where a lot of innovation, etc happen in One Hundred Years of Solitude by Grabiel Gracia Marquez and when were looking for a name – it came naturally to us. Also we thought the name is disruptive and will be remembered by people for its uniqueness as it’s a uncommon name.
    2. For Morpheus – we went to the top level of “What we were going to do” and somehow it was aligning ourselves with entrepreneurs’ dreams to achieve and make it a successful business. And so, we said okay we are dealing with dreams here. And since Madhouse was M and we did quite well as a business, we said lets look up names in M. Then we got an idea and said lets look up Greek God Names and we found Morpheus.

Look at something you can relate to. Something the entire team believes in. There is this now popular, then – a college rock band, I know of called – “Thermal and a Quarter” its called so coz 3 of them were pure Malayali’s and one was a quarter malayali. So Three Malayali’s and a Quarter Malayali – Thermal & a Quarter 🙂

You can also consider something that’s common among the founders, something that is near and dear to the founding team. Something that the team can associate with or are passionate about!

You may want to be a little conscious about “What is it that you are naming”. You do not want to call a doctor management system “Cookie”. But you also do not want to call it “EasyDr.”

Don’t be safe in choosing a name, experiment. If it does not work – you can always change it in the initial days of your company. But then, if you have a safe / neutral name – okay, its safe, but you will miss out on the excitement of experimenting. And most importantly, miss out on “Customer Recall and Recognition”. I mean, how many of us consume “Bhag Bakri Chai” – Really?! It may be the best chai in this world, but!

Where all to look:

Experiment with words, look for palindromes, seek “sounds-like” words, look up mythology, history of various cultures and countries. Look into science, math – google, red quanta are a couple of examples. Look at founder names – adidas, konika. Look at nature, wildlife, etc. The options are plenty, it only needs some innovative thought & a good sense of humor to arrive at a good name!

These are some of my personal experiences and tried tested methodology of arriving at a good name. Somehow, many a times its super instinctive too. So do not suppress your instinct. Happy Naming!

Interesting link to company names and how they originated here. So, what’s the story behind your company / product name?

What does it take to get started today?

Well, if you have an idea that you have been ruminating for a while now, then it just takes making up your mind to get started! That is the most important thing to get things rolling. As they say, the first step is the toughest but the largest.

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Image Courtesy: Hurdles Start. by Robert Voors

In a day and age like today, there are far too many things that favor the prepared mind to get started and at low costs. Consider a few things:

  • If yours’ is an internet venture, then your initial setup costs are almost zero
    • You can work from your bedroom (or anyplace you choose!)
    • You will incur basic internet costs
    • There is the cloud to host your website and park your data
    • There are very many productive tools online which offer you free + pay as you go options!
    • You can code as much as you want and achieve quite a bit & rope in like-minded friends to help you by offering pizza and some equity
    • You put your product out onto the relevant social media channels and get those early adaptors to use your product and spread it via word of mouth, thus reducing your marketing budgets to almost Zero!
    • There is a buzz about entrepreneurship in India today and so there are quite a few bright youngsters exploring to get started or join a startup, so that’s an opportunity to chance upon
    • If your venture requires offline presence too, then:
      • Lookup how much of money you can afford to invest yourself in the venture (it is important to have your skin in the game)
      • You can ask the Friends, Family, Fools pool also for some investments to get started!
      • Do a backward calculation of what all can you achieve with the money you have and how you can optimize it
      • All of us have a “Grand” plan, but that needs to Start someplace, so think of a minimal viable product (MVP) to start with or if yours is a multi-location idea, think of starting at one location that you can achieve with the initial money you have
      • Today there are multiple variations of shared workplaces to get you started on your physical presence, some that offer just space, some that offer an end-to-end space, connectivity, housekeeping, et al.
      • In all cases think “BootStrap”
      • Think “Innovative ways of making your money work hard for you”

In the end, this post may list things that sound easy. But, you will know what it takes only if you stop thinking about doing and ‘get started’! Nothing is as easy as it sounds, but luck favors the prepared mind. So, what are you waiting for? Get Started Now!

This is the Blog Post i wrote for L-Pad, as a Guest Writer, see original here.

Hiring for Startups: A few tips to note

There was a recent discussion on MVP gang about a particular “wrong-hire” which prompted me to write this longish experience-based note. For more on the discussion Robin of ReachTax has a blog post off it here.

  1. Do not sell or glorify your start-up to the candidate. Be matter of fact, undersell the growth opportunity to the candidate. It may sound a little crazy for a tip, but in my experience, initial employees for a start-up should join the team for the work the start-up does and believe in the concept and the founding team. Joining a start-up for its “The Thing To Do”; For a great salary package, to help their resumes’ or to make their application to MBA look better are all not the right reasons from the start-up’s perspective.
  2. Be Candid and Straight Forward in explaining the Job Description. List out the various things that the person will have to do when hired. Be explicit in listing out obvious things. When I hired for Madhouse in the initial days – we had a small 600 Sq Ft Basement Office – and we insisted that we interview candidates at our little basement office and explained to them what they had to do. “The What” had everything from – Major Responsibilities, Back-up functions and other things one would do as being a part of the team. If i were hiring a customer care person, for example – his/ her core responsibility was to answer request calls, make intelligent movie recommendations, confirm order and send it out for processing. Their back-up functions were – Doing sales calls, packing DVDs. The other things expected were – opening of the office if they were the first ones to come, closing the office if they were the last to leave (We had a solid iron shutter at the entrance), helping in promotions – if necessary – which meant participating in roadshows and interacting with potential customers at Malls and Promo stalls. We explained most of these and gave them real life examples of things to display we mean what we say. If you have to multi-task and do anything that’s required for the start-up or for the benefit of the customer, we all do it – that message was conveyed strongly.
  3. We’d have written Job Descriptions. These JDs not only helped us get clarity on what was expected from the position we were hiring but most importantly, “set expectations right” at the candidates end. The JD would have main responsibilities and secondary responsibilities – listed as one line items. It would also have the main purpose of the position which were usually linked to key items like – customer acquisition and customer service.
  4. Do a trial. In a start-up scenario, one wrong hire would cost us dearly. I’ve made a few wrong hiring decisions – this was not just a bad thing for my start-up, but was a bad  thing for the candidate too. There is no point trying to make the hire work to make it a good hire or convince yourself that its a good hire. Similarly, the candidate will be trying hard to ensure to himself and you that he’s a worthy candidate. This is a pain for the person as well as a loss for the start-up as each day does count and no point investing too much time in damage control or maintenance. As well invest that time in increasing value for customers and productively. And so, a trail period has always helped us. We infact follow it to this day @ MVP and “live-in” with companies before we official induct them as part of our portfolio. This trail period will help set expectations at both ends, get to know the candidate and him/her, the start-up culture better. So, at the end of the trial even if we have to let go of the candidate or the candidate chooses not to continue – it’s fair and not ugly. Only, ensure that the trial period test the candidates in various situations to find out how he performs. This helps evaluate not just his domain expertise and capability; but also his attitude, capacity to stretch & passion toward the start-up.
  5. Another key aspect is to identify a wrong hire quickly and made a fast decision to let go! The longer you postpone a firing decision, the more painful it will get. Be logical and make a fast decision – all of us are humans and we learn out of our mistakes – so acknowledge it and rectify it. By making a fast firing decision -you not only do you and your start-up a favor, you will also be doing the candidate a favor! And ya, the first firing act will be the most painful 🙂
  6. Once the person is in the team, treat them well, make them a part of the group and shower them with care, training and feedback helping him perform!
  7. Finally, lead by example! If you expect someone to do an odd job that is typically not expected from that position outside of this startup – then, to make them comfortable and get on to doing it – the best motivation is to exhibit acts that display the founding team, CXOs doing similar things with ease. At Madhouse, Sameer and I sat on the worst possible seats giving the new ones to new hires. Soon we found that, team mates were happily sitting on a not so good chair, if they had to and do work without complaining! Their funda was, if Nandini and Sameer can we will too.

Longish thoughts, but hope it helps. Of course, these are based on my startup experiences in India, where i have seen unprofessional behavior exhibited by some experienced, top management guys; as well as experienced amazing professional behavior displayed by entry-level candidates!

LifeMojo – the real mojo of my life!

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Image via CrunchBase

Last year, on World Diabetes Day I wrote a post on LifeMojo and their test site. You can read that post here.

One year down the lane, i have more than one reason to be compelled to write about LifeMojo!

I started to track my diet and activities on the LifeMojo platform and soon i realized that i had started to watch what i eat unconsciously!

I have also got onto the habit of checking for calorie content of the food i consume on LifeMojo and these guys have made it really easy to access that information – all that i need to do is ping the “Calories” buddy on my gtalk, input the food i am consuming and voila it gives me the calorie content of the same and more!

I set goals, mainly weight reduction goals and i have lost 8 kgs in all till date. All this, with no crash diets or rigorous exercises, but a well planned diet and some simple activity goals on LifeMojo.

I also tried their Diet Consultation and was on one of their diet plans for a while, but my travel schedule often made it difficult for me to follow the diet plan. But, what i do like about their diet plans are, they do not make you change your food habits, they work around things you like to consume and plan a diet for you!

I subscribe to their daily tip, it comes to me via SMS exactly @ 8 am each day! I kinda look forward to it right now, coz its a new insight each day. Tips that helps me in my daily life.

Something else i like about LifeMojo is their articles section on the website. It’s a melting pot of knowledge related to health and fitness – and not the run of the mill sorts, but features that add real value with tips that are very possible 🙂

The LifeMojo guys have constantly kept their product alive by introducing interesting features and kept the interest of users like me alive! Most recently they’ve added a bunch of diet consultation packages to their offering. The diet consultation is not online only, its a great mix of over the phone and online which makes the whole consultation and getting results out of it all the more real. There is someone following up with you!

Just a couple of days back they have launched their Forums – a new feature that brings in more interactivity and exchange of knowledge among the users of LifeMojo and people interested in health and fitness.

What’s more, a little bird also tells me that these guys are almost on the verge of hitting that break-even point and perhaps even go cash flow positive. Looking forward to that LifeMojo guys!

Meanwhile, now that i have a 8 month old at home, i am looking forward for LifeMojo to introduce something to track diet of infants and kids, say JuniorMojo or ChildMojo? What say guys?!

When i wrote to Himanshu of LifeMojo asking him for a few recent updates @ their end for this post, he offered this to all reader of my blog:

One time FREE Diet consultation for Diabetes Diet Plan on LifeMojo. Exclusive for the readers of madhouse musings!

Here is what you need to do:

Call +91 9008 999 189 and mention the coupon code NH14
and you can avail a one time free consultation for this

So, here’s to good health & a diabetes controlled world!

Note: LifeMojo is MVP Batch 2 portfolio & I hold a small percentage of shares 0f this company.

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