Archive for January, 2010

 

 

This
was a long settled thought, which resurfaced after reading a blog post ‘It pays
to be unemployed’.
‘To Give
or Not To Give’ (donate money for charity) is the case in point. The thought
first struck when I was discussing the issue of charity with one of my close
friend Prasoon. Both of us started up with entirely opposing stands. Prasoon at
that time was looking out for charities where he could contribute some money
and was a proponent of ‘Giving’. And with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged still fresh
in my mind, I stood as a proponent of ‘Not Giving’ and a non believer in
charity.
This
was a long discussion but briefly the arguments somewhat followed like this:
Arguments
in favor of ‘To Give’
·
We should help (financially) who are under
privileged.
·
We should help (financially) who are not born
lucky.
Arguments
in favor of ‘Not to Give’
·
People should first earn and then eat.
·
People should not be living on alms without producing/contributing
anything.
Arguments
against ‘To Give’
·
Will it not be injustice to people who are born
with under privileged conditions but work hard to earn a living?
·
Will it not be injustice to people (poor,
physically challenged, etc.) who follow their dreams with grit and perseverance
against all odds?
·
Will it not encourage idling and non working
environment?
Arguments
against ‘Not to Give’
·
What is their fault if they are born in a poor
family which cannot provide a decent two time meals to them?
Amidst
all these arguments, agreements and disagreements, we realized that there is a
middle way and which came out to be the best alternative on which both of us
principally agreed.
‘Give
to Facilitate’
We
realized that purpose of ‘Giving’ should be ‘To Facilitate’ under privileged to
produce, earn and then eat. The charity contributions should be towards creating
an environment and ecosystem to help the under privileged learn required skills
and become more productive.
If
an individual decides to contribute for the sake of social responsibility, the
responsibility should not end with giving money alone. As a matter of fact, responsibility
of individual should start with giving money. He should ensure that the money
or effort which he is contributing should be to facilitate people to produce
and earn, and should not encourage spoon feeding.
In
Buddhism alms are not considered as simple charity – “In Theravada
Buddhism, monks (Pāli: bhikkhus)
and nuns go on a daily almsround (or pindacara) to collect food. Alms are given
by lay people to monks and nuns to nurture virtue, merit and blessings and to
ensure monastic continuity”. Alms are given to monks to facilitate them
to continue their spiritual quest. Isn’t it elementary!
So, towards
the end, we concluded that there are two efficient ways of contributing that
would make real difference:
1.
Imparting skills and knowledge to make under privileged
self-sufficient.
2.
Money and Voluntary contributions to those NGOs
which facilitates the under-privileged and not to those who spoon feed them.
Ideally
speaking, even Non-profits and NGOs should work for ‘Facilitating’
under-privileged and not just for ‘Giving’ or ‘Channelizing’ money they arrange
from fund raising. There should be a single definitive purpose for which the
NGOs operate and that purpose should be ‘Facilitation’. What these people
really need out there is no pittance, no mercy… It’s just ‘facilitation’. ‘Facilitation’
to stand on their own… to Earn their own living.
The
irony is that even today individuals, organizations and governments fail to
understand and appreciate the basic principles of ‘Giving’ Vs ‘Facilitating’.
Or, maybe we have not got them right yet!

Read
more on irony of such government policies in article ‘It pays to be
unemployed’ here.

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How can small businesses attract good talent?

Small businesses have always struggled to attract good talent.

Thoughts on this started with a writeup by Raj Shankar on his blog. Raj says in his blog that “Small
businesses need to stress on the importance of the role, job, person to the
institution and impress on the best graduates to join them.”  Read Raj’s blog “Small Business and Talent: An Irony!” here
.

Now, to dwelve further and to understand the reasons for this gap, we can borrow some concepts from some management principles. Broadly, I can see four guiding
principles on which most of these decisions about individual salaries and small
businesses are based.
i)                   
Demand and Supply – market
determines which talent to price how much.
ii)                 
Contribution i.e. value addition –
The more a person produce/contribute/value-add more he is rewarded (salaries,
incentives, recognition, etc.). So, it becomes difficult for a person to leave
a high paying job to take more responsibilities with low salary. However, when
other rewards (like recognition, achievement, etc.) are plenty to balance the
salary factor then people are sometimes willing to consider the change.
iii)               
High Risk, High Gain – For a job
with high risk i.e. small business (unpredictable sales, salaries, etc. in
initial phase) a person should get higher rewards. Again these rewards can be
monetary or motivational.
iv)               
Maslow’s hierarchy 🙂 – First
priority of a person is to get a decent income to sustain a decent living
(physiological and safety needs). Once this is achieved, people start thinking
of other things like esteem (achievement, recognition, etc.). However, there
are some rare exceptions.
So, person create/produce/contribute something based on his
talents. This contribution is priced based on demand and supply. The market
sets his price/salary for the contribution he is making. More talented attracts
higher price tag.
Now, he is getting a high market salary in a big established
brand/MNC for his contribution. Then going to small business means higher risk.
So, person will be willing to switch only if rewards (salary + incentives +
motivation) are higher. At this point if the person has already met his
physiological/safety needs then he is ready to switch for motivational purpose
otherwise he works for salary to meet his daily needs.
Also, when a graduate comes out of college he is struggling
to get his daily needs right (physiological/safety need), so they first look
for a job, any job and if options are available then a good salary package.
Once this is achieved, a job is secured, they start thinking of other things
like esteem, achievements, challenges etc.
So, what is the solution? 
Considering all these factors for small business we can
see that if a small business (mostly in growing phase and lesser stable than
stable brands/companies) wants some good talent they can get it by one of the
following:
A.   
Good
(higher) salary and incentives.
B.    
Attractive
opportunities for motivation (challenges, achievements, learning etc.)
Small businesses usually don’t have fat cash reserves. So,
the options to explore this alternative are limited.
Freshers, entry level employees – Still small businesses can manage
decent salaries as the baseline salary for entry level is low.
Mid management and senior management – Companies can offer them lower
fixed salaries + Motivational incentives like equity, ownership, commissions
(e.g. percentage of sales they bring to companies). However, here small
businesses have to also ensure that people they are hiring share similar
passion for the work and vision of the company. If they can find people who
share similar higher purpose (life’s purpose) then that is the best bet.
 For any of this to happen the bottom line is that small businesses need to highlight the opportunities to find
people with similar passion and purpose. They have to ensure that their
customers and employees are the evangelist of their company. 

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it livingsomeone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living withthe results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’sopinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have thecourage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already knowwhat you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

Using Twitter to sell ice-creams!!?
Recently I have come across many articles about the power of
Web 2.0 (social websites/Facebook/Orkut, microblogging/twitter, etc.).
Popularity and reach of these sites is well known. Many companies (even the
likes of Dell, Dominoes, etc.) are using them to their benefit. Predominantly
companies are using them for promotion and marketing activities to reach out
millions of users. This prompted me to think, in how many different ways can
these websites be used to get a business benefit? What different business and
delivery models exists at present around these websites and what new
possibilities can be explored? 

I am trying to understand the possibilities. I have listed down
couple of things based on my limited presence and knowledge on Twitter,
FaceBook. Please contribute with sharing anything you have come across – any
interesting model, any interesting website, your thoughts, anything.
I will keep adding them to the list, as they come.
To list few areas:
1.      Marketing
and Promotion
a.      
Travel Companies
2.      Brand
Building and Awareness – Companies are using them to update customers and
employees with latest news.
a.      
Mahindra Satyam 🙂
3.      Connect
and Network – Connecting like-minded
a.      
Sprouter.com – Connecting
Entrepreneurs
4.      Crowdsourcing
and Brainstorming – Yes, few companies have started using twitter for
crowdsourcing ideas overnight. Interesting.
a.      
Ideasculture.com
5.      Broadcasting
information
Some interesting websites and specific
ideas I came across:
1.      #Twitter
– Twitter powered icecream trucks/vendors to share there whereabouts
2.      #Twitter
– School lunch menu published via Twitter
3.      #Twitter
– Crowdsourcing ideas overnight through Twitter
4.      #FaceBook
– Gaming applications like Farmville, Restaurant city, some Pictionary type
game, etc.



Cheers.

Recently, I read the Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.  I found the book to be a must have Strategy book. What makes it different from some other books in the same genre is that you can put to use some actionable frameworks from it.
Concepts like strategy canvas and 4-action framework are worth exploring.
Strategy Canvas captures (competitive/investment) strategic focus of a company on a graph. We can plot different segments within the industry to see where the focus of each segment lies.
Once the competitive factors are identified and strategy canvas is plotted, next step is to apply the 4-action framework to the factors.
The 4-action framework asks us to consider the identified factors and further:
Eliminate – Remove some of the factors from your strategic focus.
Reduce – Reduce focus/investment on some of the factors.
Raise – Identify the factors of strategic importance to you and raise those factors.
Create – Identify the new factors and induce them into the competitive factors to create strategic shift.
Bingo! You will identify new strategic initiatives to set company on a high growth & profitability path and, which would make competition irrelevant. Simple…
Sounds to be simple, however, applying 4-action framework is not as straightforward as it seems.
To identify new factors and the factors which needs to be reduced, eliminated and raised is a bigger challenge.
To identify these factors you have to look across user needs, across different markets, across industries, across demand, across time, across channels, etc. A lot of brainstorming in these areas taking along the strategic intent/direction of the company is a must to strike the gold.
Even after strategic initiatives are identified, there are more important aspects to put strategy into action. Execution!
Book is a great attempt to cover this entire process and also to give a direction on how to go about this.
Enjoy the read.
Cheers.
P.S. Can we develop some more actionable frameworks around these concepts? Let’s see.