Date: Sunday , June 02, 2013
This month's article features an amazing human being and entrepreneur with a down to earth common sense approach to managing business and successfully growing it. As TiECon 2013 Content Chair – the largest conference for entrepreneurs held this year on May 17-18, 2013 at Santa Clara Convention Center, I had the distinct honor of inviting him for a grand closing keynote for the conference. I have distilled the wisdom from Manoj Bhargava, Founder and CEO of 5 hour Energy, a philanthropist, and a hugely successful entrepreneur, who has already pledged giving away 90 percent of his wealth to charitable causes to benefit the disadvantaged and poor in rural areas in India. Manoj is also currently involved with few projects, if successful, could be world-changing and help the society at large. One of the largest projects involves development of technology that will clean ocean water, 80 percent cheaper than current techniques for agriculture. Similarly, another company is working on fuel technology, which reduces diesel consumption by 20 percent and another one on the technology for coal, which will take 98 percent of mercury out of coal and 6 percent of sulphur dioxide. These are really innovative and beneficial projects that would help everyone around the globe. With special gratitude to him for spending time with me for this article, here are four key take away (4KTA) points from his amazing and exciting entrepreneurial journey based on my discussions with him recently.
1. Common sense
Business building is about using common sense. The schools really do not teach you what you require in real life. Do not let this get in the way of using common sense. According to him, "The problem with kids who come out of those fancy institutions is that they think they know everything." Education comes with experience. For instance, the difference between an experienced army sergeant and one who never has been to war. Working with the sergeant, who has dodged bullets before, is the safe bet. Further, a large part of success comes with understanding human nature, something that cannot be taught in a classroom. It can be learned partly through social interaction and life experience. So deep understanding of human nature helps you navigate your customers as well as competitors. Similarly, by reading a book, you think that you know everything. Not really! There is a favorite quote by Mark Twain that needs to be always kept in mind, "I have never let schooling get in the way of education". Use simple ideas such as buy low and sell high, whether it's products or services or whatever you are providing to your customer. The whole idea is to keep it as simple as possible.
2. Avoid Jargons
Jargons and buzz words like "strategic initiatives" have a tendency to blur common sense. Once you start using it, you stop using your brain. There is nothing new under the sun. Jargons destroy common sense. Your business philosophy needs to center around simplicity and clarity as a core principle and not hiding behind jargons. If you do not tell the truth, you have much higher risk than otherwise. The work environment needs to be harmonious. Stay away from micromanagement. Basically, just get the work done. It does not matter what else you do. Just get the work done. Do not depend on consultants and so called experts. The only things that these consultants and experts know is what was done before, not what is going to happen. It may be prudent to use consultants to learn more on the subject that you could have missed and they could point it out, so you do not have to spend time learning about it on your own. If you come across experts or scientists telling you that it cannot be done, that probably means that you can do it.
3. Godfather Offer
A Godfather offer is an offer that simply cannot be refused. You must have a product that others want to buy. Remember the customers are as smart as you. If you are not using what you are trying to sell to them, they are not going to use it. Going even further on it, if your family does not use it, then do not try to sell it. For instance, when someone at his company comes up with an idea, he asks, "Is it slam dunk?" If they cannot answer that question or are unsure about market acceptance, they should not be pursuing it. The job of an entrepreneur is to manage risk by reducing it as much as possible.
People should not be hired just on talent. Some of the things to watch out for; If they negotiate unreasonably and continue to negotiate, do not hire them. For example, once you have offered a job to someone, they let their guards down, and do dumb stuff such as start negotiating unreasonably. They do not realize that once you have made an offer of giving job to them, this is just the start of your hiring process. You should watch for all the signs of how they manage themselves during this process. Hunger makes you smarter. It's important to focus on the practical experience rather than just theoretical learning that MBAs receive at school. For instance, similar to example earlier about army sergeant, if you want to hire a plumber, you want someone who has actually fixed pipes, not someone who has read about plumbing, done research on plumbing and written papers on plumbing. Another most important aspect of building a nice company culture is to avoid aggravation. If anyone aggravates, you have got to let that person go. Same must apply to suppliers or even customers. If you create a harmonious culture, then people love to work for you and your company thus leading to little turn over.
In summary, the four key take away points in managing your business are using common sense, creating products and services like Godfather offer, having clarity in hiring people and creating a harmonious culture.
Naveen Bisht is Co-Founder of Auriss Technologies, Inc, a serial entrepreneur and Board Member, Chair- Programs, The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE) organization, based in Silicon Valley, California.