5 ways to Humanise your brand

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With the advent of social media, a new era has opened up for brands and with it a plethora of challenges. Brands are now directly in touch with their consumers interacting one on one. This is both an opportunity and complex at step he same time. Today companies have to step down from their ivory towers and don a much more human face to engage with their consumers. Today, humanising your brand isn’t a marketing strategy or a unique idea, its a basic requirement for your brand. Here are some simple steps to get you going.

1.Have a brand DNA and persona in place

The first step to humanising a brand is to imagine your brand as a human. Imagine your brand as a person and define his or her personality. What  is your DNA? IS your brand serious? Fun? Responsible? How old is your brand? Whats the tone of voice and style off voice? How does it react to various situations? What are the values? The clearer this is defined and educated across the company, the more cohesive and integrated the voice becomes. If the DNA is set in stone, then everything else follows easily. Remember consumers don’t buy products, they buy aspirations.

2. Create a content bucket

Instead of reacting on the fly on social media and across platforms, define what information defines your brand. What do you want to say? Avoid bombarding consumers with offers and discounts but information that is engaging. Define what your brand is speaking each quarter, what you will share, what you want to say. What does your brand believe in? What are you championing? Do you have a CSR program?  Whats happening behind the scenes? What trends will interest the consumer? Set goals and targets and measure results and effectiveness regularly and recalibrate.

3.Know your consumer

If you don’t know your consumer, you can never speak  their language. Who are they? What do they do in their spare time? What media do they use? What engages them? Do your homework and study the trends, gather user research and keep your eyes and ears open. Without an intuitive understanding of the user, the brand will never speak their language. If you are a brand attracting teenagers, you better know your demographic and their language and mindset before you connect  them and come across like a granddad at a beach party!

4.Be authentic and unique

A big no no for brands is sounding rehearsed and like a robot. Well rehearsed cold communication which sounds fake will backfire. Its alright to make mistakes and owning up and sharing your weaknesses authentically connects well with consumers. Apologise and make amends with complaints immediately, Share stories, little victories and milestones so the audience can grow with you and take ownership. Avoid automated messages and ready birthday wishes. A brand thats humanised will sound unique and connect and engage allowing the consumer to become evangelists.

5.Connect emotionally 

Brands that tug at your heart, make you smile, get inspired, laugh, think, act, cry or get goosebumps will install a deep ingrained sense of long term loyalty. Vitality is linked to emotional connects and people love to share what they liked and connected emotionally with. Humour always connects and engages. Stay politically correct unless your brand persona is otherwise. Finding common interests with your consumers based on your product category works. Continue this connection offline too as your brand supports causes, sponsors relevant events.

Remember emotional connectivity and engagement across every consumer touchpoint and deliver a humanised brand experience and watch your brand equity sky rocket.

10 Innovative marketing  techniques for todays business landscape

This article appeared in Arabian Business-Start Up Magazine in Dubai May issue. Here is the article in text form.

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The current business landscape calls for a rethink of your marketing strategy. As CFOs tighten budgets and question marketing spends, CMOs have to still meet targets and ensure the organisation is continuing to grow. Marketeers are faced with the quandary of continuing efforts in increasing the visibility of their brand and staying top of mind with their consumers while working with reduced marketing budgets. Reduce your marketing efforts and you face the threat of losing market share or helplessly watch a new entrant capture mind share of your consumers immediately.

Given this scenario, marketing today requires a blend of innovation and imagination. The key is to take on the challenge and find new ways to create demand and interest in your product or service. Here are 10 innovative methods that can help businesses market their business, connect with prospects without increasing marketing spend.

1.Word of mouth

“Do what you do so well, that people cant resist telling others about you”

-Walt Disney

Word of mouth is one of most powerful mediums of marketing because it comes from happy customers. Creating evangelists for your business needs to be engineered right across every department of the company. If the goal of the organisation is to deliver a customer experience thats so spectacular that it surpasses the client expectation by a mile. A delighted customer will shout your name from rooftops. Mapping the customer experience step by step of the buying process and studying ways to wow them at every interaction ensures this. Do the unexpected and don’t just meet their expectations- shock and awe them with delight. Apple has customers who are evangelists converting everyone they know into the fold and will never ever move brands regardless of whatever option comes their way.

2.Increase conversion rate

“If content is king, then conversion is queen”

-Jon Munsell

Time needs to be invested to relook at the complete process of client acquisition. What steps can be put in place to double the current conversion? If you are at 25%, can your big hairy audacious goal be 50%? Its a good time to relook at your website, what you say, your SEO, first meeting, marketing presentations, quotes, pricing, negotiation strategy and even what rituals can help build trust. Mapping the clients decision process in detail and juxtaposing what you can do the influence the decision your way can help. Think out of the box, think funny, think values, think persuasion and go ahead and implement it immediately!

3.Social media

“Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like baseball cards “

-Jay Baer

Social media today has democratised marketing and client engagement. It means that the person with the best ideas and client engagement wins and not the one with the biggest ad spend. Even the smallest companies can easily create compelling viral content that can interact and emotionally attract a consumer. Its not about the number of fans and paid followers, its about the engagement and building brand loyalty and eventually converting to a sale. Social media is the most cost effective way to reach out and seek to your consumers on a one to one basis. Once the brand DNA is established, the brand needs to be humanised to connect. Based on your demographic and target there is a right medium or a combination of social media platforms that reach out and build bridges with consumers. Social media is also a double edged sword where customers will shout from the rooftops if they are unhappy and a company needs to have a clear and authentic method to combat and resolve issues immediately.

4.Existing and Past Clients

“Customer service should not be a department, it should be the entire company”

-Tony Hsieh

Acquiring a new client is 7 times more expensive than retaining an existing client. It’s even more important today to ensure that your existing clients stay forever. Calculating the lifetime value of a client to the company and then focussing all efforts to retaining them. Every department should know the importance of an existing client and alarm bells should sound if you lose even one. Reconnecting with clients who have done business with you in the past is another way to focus on a target segment and win business with someone who already knows you. Make those phone calls, dust that rolodex and reconnect. Ensure you have a drip marketing system in place to inform your past clients or your current achievements and activities without reaching them spam or junk mail.

5.Get out of the office!

“The magic to a great meeting is all of the work thats done beforehand”

-Bill Rusell

The best way to increase conversion is to meet more clients. Increasing the number of clients you meet is directly proportional to the number of new client acquisitions. Plan meetings closer to each other so you can do more in a day. Create systems to reach out and meet prospects. All your marketing efforts should be engineered to connecting with your target clientele.

6.Public Relation

“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on Public relation”

-Bill Gates

PR tells your story and instead of you professing your strengths, this allows other people to speak about you. Having a clear strategy on what strengths and stories you want your consumer to hear is the first step. Listing which mediums you want to be heard in and what stories can enhance your expertise is the next. Engaging with a specialist company ensures a clear strategy and a consistent effort which is long term. Many companies make the mistake of expecting immediate results. PR is brand building over a long term and will not result in an immediate sale.

7.New geographies

“If Opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”

-Milton Berle

When the going gets tough, looking at markets which still have demand and a growing consumer base is a great idea. This is a tougher and a more expensive prospect but it balances your risks. Investing in new and emerging markets bears fruit in the future. New markets which don’t have long flying hours, that don’t have much competition, have low set up costs and have potential demand for your product or service are good parameters for selection.

8.Networking

“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing”

-Tom Fishburne

Connecting with potential customers and partners on an ongoing basis is critical to grow your influence as an entrepreneur. Join business networks, industry associations and conferences to grow your bandwidth of contacts.

9.Showcase industry expertise

“You must become an expert on a product, service or anything you write about to really be effective”

-Joseph Sugarman

Speak at conferences, write articles, blog, lecture and position yourself and your organisation as an expert in your field. Assume expertise in your subject and ensure you are one too. Educate yourself, keep track of trends and devour information on your subject field. Become and influencer and a voice for your industry and this will convert to business eventually.

10.Reposition the brand

“Its time to reset, rethink, reposition…”

-Hunter Hayes

A challenging business scenario is a good time to relook and rethink what your company is, what your weaknesses and strengths are, questioning if you really have a USP or an edge over your competition. This is the time to get better at what you do, improve and look within. This is a good time to rebrand, redo your image and express your differentiated strength clearly to your consumer and target clientele.

“Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs”

-Peter Drucker

The author Sajith Ansar, is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped 1000s of brands innovate and market themselves internationally.

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5 ideas to make a life changing vision board 

  

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. 

Jonathan Swift

A vision board is a tool that has time and again helped me create a road map and clarify my own picture of where I want to be in the future and become a catalyst to achieve the dreams. I have scoured articles and books to know more about the effectiveness of a vision board. I have changed and tinkered with my goals and pictures over and over and what I want with my vision has organically evolved each time I created a new board. 

When I look back at all the road maps I set out for myself it’s amazing how different each one is and how easily I have floated towards achieving them soon after I made them. My initial vision boards were skewed towards material aspects and studded with manifestation of only wealth. Eventually there’s been a journey towards balance, health, family, happiness, work excellence, laurels and charity. Balance of work life and everyday happiness became the primary goal of achievement eventually. 

I have made and remade many vision maps and boards and found some that worked and many more that didn’t. Here’s 5 secrets on making a vision board that’s transformational. 

1. Know what you want

  

It is so important to know what you want for yourself. Close your eyes, project to the future and ask yourself what you really want. Then ask yourself what do I want this for? What will this give me? Why  is that goal is part of your dream? 

Make a list of your asks and categorize them once they pass your questions. Ensure every aspect of your vision resonates deep down within. 
This is an opportunity to truly introspect your ideal life 5 and 10 years later and have a crystal clear idea of what it looks like. 
2.Transport yourself to the future and live the moment 

  

What I learnt over the years and through discussions and reading is that the more clear you are of your vision the higher the possibility of achieving it. It’s important to be able to close your eyes and see yourself in an already achieved state. 

Be able to see the surrounding, smell the ambience, feel the textures, hear the sounds and play the movie in your head of yourself being there. For example if you are visualizing your dream home, every detail should be accessible in your mind. The walls, the furniture, the sounds, smell and the moments. See your emotions when you have achieved your vision, interact with the dream and it will increase the confidence in arriving at the destination. 

Even writing your dreams from an already achieved state  and with specifics helps accentuate the clarity of the vision. For example instead of saying “I want to publish a book by 2018” write down “By June 31st 2018, I have published my book titled ‘start up failures’ and 100,000 copies have been sold in the first year”. 

3.Create detailed visual boards across sections

 
Make vision boards for each category of your life and populate them with pictures of your dream. I have a few sections which I have evolved over time. 

Health, family time, travel, office and work, awards and accolades, hobbies, friends, dream home, dream office, dream clients and team, money, investments, friends and mentors, spirituality, toys and gadgets (car, brands, clothes, electronics etc). 

Creating vision boards across these categories have helped getting clarity under each section and makes sure the vision is complete. Involving the family and getting their buy in also helps cement these visions and enlist them as catalysts. 

It helps further to get yourself in as many pictures of the vision board. For example, if it’s a dream home or a car, go to the house and get a picture in front of the porch or seated inside your dream car doing a test drive. 
To make these vision boards, varied tools can be used. The easiest is to do the old scrap book method of cutting pictures and pasting on a board. Otherwise, Pinterest can be an amazing tool, PowerPoint or keynote your vision board. Once they are done, make them into a poster you can place somewhere that you can see every day is the best method to help actualising the dreams. Maybe on your bathroom mirror or as a poster in your office or bedroom. 

4.Make action steps for each board to achieve the same 

  

Often we make the mistake of making a vision board and expecting it to work magically for us. Detailing action steps to achieving some of these hairy audacious goals goes a long way in making them come true and giving it steps to reality. 

For example, if your vision is to write a book, your action steps would be:

a.finalise subjects in the next 3 months

b.start writing and keep aside an hour every weekend towards this from December 

c.Find an editor to work with

d. Attend the literary festival and find a mentor 
This should be applied across as many categories with tangible steps to achieve your 5 or 10 year vision board in bite size chunks. The trick is to dream without boundaries and make them big hairy audacious goals and then to break them down into practical steps to get there. 

5.Rewire your deep rooted relation  with success and prepare for receiving 

  

The biggest stumbling block to achieving success and our dreams are our deep rooted relation with the concept of success and money. We are all brought up with phrases we hear in our youth from family and friends. “Rich people are corrupt”, “you can’t be successful without hard work”, “money is evil” and many more thoughts and advice that slow us down without us realizing them. 
It’s important to work on being ready internally for the success that will come and prepare ourselves to embrace the future.  Our self fulfilling prophecy is engineered deep in the mind and every preparation will fail if we don’t believe or desire success within. 

Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.

-Henry David Thoreau

One of my favourite poems: Come to the edge

This poem by Christopher Logue is one of my all time favourites.

Its speaks on so many layers and is a great analogy on getting out of our comfort zone, to do things we thought impossible before and to take wings. How often have we stood by on the edge and not taking action with the fear of failure. tumblr_lzp9drvi7B1qzivpmo1_500

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We’re comfortable back here,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We’re too busy,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“It’s too high,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We’re afraid,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We’ll fall,” they said.

“Come to the edge,” he said.
And they did.

And he pushed them.
And they flew.

Christopher Logue.

10 ways for SMEs to build their brand image

An article I wrote for a business publication recently:

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10 Ways for SMEs to build their brand image

A company’s brand is one of the single most valuable asset. Your brand image can grow faster than any number on your bank sheet and today it is the biggest asset for any fortune 500 company. For an SME, brand image usually takes a back seat, as day to day issues and operational aspects take precedence. This is one of the biggest follies that companies with myopic vision fall prey to.

 

The brand image is the beacon that lets a company stand apart in todays market space, allowing customers, employees and vendors alike to be attracted instantly. Its an emotional bond that instantly builds a bridge and grows consistently to loyalty. In today’s fast growing market place in emerging countries, with the influx of multiple global brands that seek the attention of your customer, its the brand image that binds them emotionally. Its the bond that ensures your clients ignore the seduction of better price, quality, packages or add ons.

 

Every SME dreams of one day evolving into a Coca Cola, a Starbucks, a Nike or Apple. Becoming household names over decades and being entrenched in the everyday lives of our customers. Even a B2B business needs a strong brand image to attract the right partners, suppliers and even financial institutions that understand effortlessly what the company stands for and its defining purpose for existence.

 

For an SME, the journey to build a brand image that connects and endures need not be an uphill task if you gets the basics right. Its not just the advertising budget that defines the brand image. Rather, it is the basic principles and foundation upon which the company itself is built. This holds true for a FMCG, a service company, an individual, a manufacturer, real estate company, a government or even a country.

 

Here are some simple rules to get started without spending big bucks. These 10 rules will help define and build a brand image for your company.

 

 

1. Be unique.

 

In every business, if you don’t have a differentiated advantage over the competitor, chances are you will shut down soon or you have hit a glass ceiling. If you are growing successfully, then you have a differentiation and a unique way of doing business, but haven’t defined it. It may be the integrity with which you do business, it may be the process you follow or even something as simple as the unique skills of the employees you have. Having a unique selling proposition immediately sets you apart and makes the connect with the customer so much easier.

 

 

2.Know the consumer

 

It’s paramount that you know exactly why your consumer wants to do business with you. On a continuing basis, conversations, observations, discussions or research will allow you to know whats going on inside your consumer’s mind. Without this knowledge, you will never know whats their trigger and what the emotion you possess within their mind. The best brands have always reinvented themselves with the mindset of their customers, and those that failed are the ones that chose not to listen. Basis this knowledge you are constantly positioning and then repositioning your brand in their mind.

 

 

3.Know your DNA

 

A brand is born when you know what you stand for. Every brand has a DNA like a living organism, it has a personality which you build and breathe life to. Your brand has an age and characteristics. You could be youthful, fun loving, hospitable, caring and an extrovert if you are a cafe for example. Then, every manifestation of the brand has to live this DNA. The music, smell, the way your employees answer the phone, the colors, website, tone of communication and a hundred other aspects all live this DNA.

 

4.Delight your customer

 

The most effective way to build brand image is to delight your customers so much that they become evangelists of your products or service. The simple old school business rule of “under promising and over delivering” is tweaked to “promising and delivering way beyond expectations”. If every department and function has the laser focus to delighting customers and the company is consistently wowing them and bowling them off their feet, ignore all other points in this article! The first step to delighting the customer is to be able to know their end objective and most important reason for buying your brand. Then, its mapping the consumer’s decision making process, concerns and issues and installing systems to exceed expectations incrementally such that the experience as a whole is a whopping delight! Only when the experience exceeds their functions requirements and borders on delight, will real brand loyalty be born. This experience has to manifest even within departments like accounts, finance, administration or human resource, not just marketing and sales.

 

 

5.Stay connected always

 

Create reasons to connect with your customers regularly. A brand needs to be on top of mind always. Inform customers about new activities, products, services and your victories. Many of them may not even know what all you are doing now. Build events and information sharing and invite them to celebrate in your successes. Newsletters need to be exciting and interesting enough so it doesn’t reach the junk box as fast as they arrive.

 

 

6.Embrace social media

 

With the advent and acceptance of social media across age groups and demographics, media has suddenly become democratic. With the smart use of the right mediums for the right business, one could exponentially grow their visibility at almost minimal costs. So many businesses that have grown at the speed of light today attribute much of their success to being to connect directly with their consumers directly. Its important to work out a strategy and the brand voice on social media before diving into it and sinking. Clear objectives need to be assigned and responsibilities. Social media can hurt a brand faster than any medium in the past because of the lack of control on whats said and spoken. Its as important to have in your ammo fire fighting tools and methods predefined to combat an attack on your brand. With the use of Facebook pages, an SME can connect and speak to their consumers, the specific demographics can be mapped and the business can monitor the visibility very closely. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs etc all give voice and a face to the brand and can be used as catalysts to help consumers fall in love with your brand. Linked In can assist building bridges for the brand with prospective employees and decision makers.

 

7.Create brand ambassadors

 

The best way to build a brand image is to create brand ambassadors who will expound the virtues of your product and service. Every individual that a company connects with have the potential of becoming a brand ambassador. Happy employees who won’t devalue the brand no matter what. Even employees who leave the company should leave happily and remain ambassadors. Vendors, suppliers, bankers and competition can all be brand ambassadors. If other people can speak about your brand and its values its a million times the effect of you shouting it from the rooftops.

 

8.Staying focussed

 

One of the biggest pitfalls for an SME is to deviate from their core competency and strength. The more SMEs have a chief definitive aim and chase excellence in getting better at that, helps evolve a brand image of success. If the effort of an organization is to excel and have a mindset to continually improve with the focus of becoming the best at their industry, their brand will automatically sky rocket. Diversification and forward integration should emerge after conquering excellence and having a system to repeat that on an ongoing basis. Excellence is the biggest catalyst of brand success.

 

9.Adopt a cause and be a thought leader

 

Every brand should stand up for something and then become the voice for that which they hold most dearly. When the core team introspects they will find one or more key messages or words that springs up in multiple discussions. Innovation, empowerment, emerging markets, logistics, cloud computing or even employee welfare. Find these and use every opportunity to talk about it and associate your brand with them. Seminars, lectures, events and workshops all allow the company to build their image by what they say and do and become thought leaders in the field of their choice. Give interviews with your opinion on the cause, write articles, debate, research and implement innovations on your key cause.

 

I am writing this article because our company has adopted branding for SMEs and growing home grown brands as our cause. We help local companies compete with MNCs and put everything behind this cause. For us, this is passion and our ongoing quest. We speak at seminars, conduct workshops and have created 100s of brands that have gone on to hold their own against global established ones.

 

 

10.Innovate

 

Point number 10 is yours to innovate and evolve because the most effective ideas are born from your own knowledge and capabilities. Branding is a continuos process of innovation, so commit from here on to innovating for your brand and instilling in the organization a culture of innovating in each and every department.

 

Get ready for a brand that will soon be worth more than you have ever imagined!

 

About the author

Sajith Ansar is the CEO and founder of Idea Spice. Idea Spice is a branding firm that specialises in helping creating and evolving home grown brands around the world. The company has created and reinvented over 1500 brands including startups, SMEs and countries.

15 simple manifestos that will surely ignite a need for one

“A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.

Manifesto is derived from the Italian word manifesto, itself derived from the Latin manifestum, meaning clear or conspicuous

Here are examples of manifestos visualized graphically that I found on Pinterest.

These inspire me to look inward and assimilate everything I hold dear and that which resonates with me, pen them down as my very own manifesto for living, working and being.

Coming real soon to a blog near you! 🙂

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One of the most inspiring manifestos ever! The magic of Bruce Mau’s words

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A friend of mine handed me a copy of Bruce Mau’s incomplete manifesto for growth 15 years ago. These words have probably had the biggest influence on how I built the organisation and its philosophy.

I wanted to share this with anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

An incomplete manifesto for growth

1. Allow events to change you.You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you.You produce it.You live it.The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.

2. Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

3. Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors.Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.

5. Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.

6. Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.

7. Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.

8. Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.

9. Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.

10. Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.

11. Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.

12. Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success.Resist it.Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.

13. Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.

14. Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.

15. Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

17. ——————————. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.

18. Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.

19. Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent.Work on what it stands for.

20. Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic.Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow.The work you produce today will create your future.

21. Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.

22. Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.

23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.

24. Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

25. Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.

26. Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not good for you.

27. Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”

28. Make new words. Expand the lexicon.The new conditions demand a new way of thinking.The thinking demands new forms of expression.The expression generates new conditions.

29. Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.

30. Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context.That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget.The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’

31. Don’t borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.

32. Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.

33. Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic– simulated environment.

34. Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.

35. Imitate. Don’t be shy about it.Try to get as close as you can.You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable.
We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.

36. Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.

37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.

38. Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack.We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot.Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference.Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.

40. Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.

41. Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.

42. Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event.That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.

43. Power to the people. Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives.We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.

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4 mentors who changed my life

 

“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.”

Bob Proctor

When I look back today, the biggest catalysts in my life have been the mentors I had the opportunity to be influenced and inspired by along the way. At every important milestone, I have been blessed with individuals who have left their mark and navigated the journey for me.

I strongly feel each of us need to seek out people who become catalysts in our lives and bring out the best in us.

Who are mentors?

A classic mentor is an individual who will be straight with you, wish the best for you and also be able to see within us that which we can’t see ourselves and uncork that inner magnificence.

Mentors usually carry upon their shoulders wisdom, experience, integrity, warmth, a unique gift of listening, vision and a generous nature of giving and enabling. Seek out people who have inspired you and are a benchmark of the values you desire.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin

This is an ode to my mentors and the life lessons they gifted me.

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“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”
Galileo Galilei

My grandfather, A A Rahim

My late grandfather will always be a towering personality in my memories.

I have grow up seeing him in the epicenter of people and adulation and being a role model for excellence and ambition. From a small town in kerala, he went on to work with three generations of the Gandhi family. He became a cabinet minister with the foreign ministry portfolio and then a governor. His philanthropic work included being involved in building hospitals, educational institutions and mosques in the town and he is still remembered as one of the greatest political leaders years after he is no more.

I always remember our joint family house with the front door always open buzzing with a constant stream of well wishers and positive energy. He was a man known as an astute leader, an individual with the highest integrity and values, a politician with immense diplomatic skills and someone even his enemies respected. He was larger than life and still is.

He lived his life with the highest of ideals and scaled heights nobody ever dreamt about. Yet he did this on his terms and conditions and with no regrets or compromises.

As a child, I would cherish the alone time with him in the middle of his busy schedule. I would hop in whenever in I could on drives or sit in his room and seek advise and counsel or just watch how he conducted himself.

His words of encouragement and life lessons built the earliest seeds of leadership in my mind. He would expound on having an aim in life, about thinking big, the importance of fitness, knowing what true friendship is and about growing with your principles and values intact.

He walked the talk in enacting the principles of giving and sharing wealth with the needy. Even today, years after he’s no more, I always bump into someone who will share a story about how his actions touched their lives.

A story involving him that left the biggest mark in my life is regarding a race. When I was 15, I had a math tutor, who would come home in the holidays for tuition. In one conversation, the tutor learnt that I was a runner and he shared that he was also a coach for a local school. He invited me to race against his best runners and I confidently took up the challenge and reached the neighborhood school to prove my mettle.

The race was against 3 of his finest runners and we lined up at the 100 meter track with crowds from the school cheering. I put in my finest performance and raced ahead of the pack with ease. When I turned back to the group, I witnessed the scary sight of a screaming tutor running at the boys in anger with a cane and beating his fastest athlete repeatedly. After a shocking caning marathon and a barrage of verbal abuse, he turned and challenged me to yet another race with the boys.

It was the worst experience of my life and in that moment I decided to lose and save the boys another hiding. I finished last and made sure it didn’t look like I lost purposely. The tutor raced over and patted the boys proudly and I said the fastest goodbye ever.

When I reached home, I scurried into my grandfathers room wanting to recount every part of the incident. I ended with the story of what a hero I was and how I lost purposely. I thought he would be glowing with pride at my emotional intelligence at such a young age. To my shock and surprise, he asked me if I realised what I did wrong in this situation. I scratched my head and couldn’t think of anything.

He waited, paused and softly said, “I am so proud of you but do you also realise that you have just reaffirmed to the strange tutor that the way of the stick works and now, he will never stop doing that ever again!”

That was a big life lesson in reading situations, seeing the grey shades, about deeper thinking and behavioral patterns and about never being superficial and naive again.

My grandfathers influence will always stay within me just as his goodwill and aura still shines bright generations on wherever I go and meet people who once knew him.

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“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward

My principal, Mary Roy

Mary Roy forged within me an ironclad set of values and virtues. She was a catalyst that ignited a fireball of energy and purpose into my life when I was just 16. I am still fueled and charged by this momentum from my high school years. Mrs.Roy taught me the unflinching support of truth and instilled in me an unwavering form of integrity. She handed me courage to stand for what I believed was right and taught me to hold my ground no matter what.

Mrs Roy empowered students with responsibility and treated us and spoke to us like young adults. She taught me the importance of a well rounded education and that its never only about marks and studies.

Every experience was a life lesson and the 2 years under her tutelage and mentorship, allowed me to grab responsibility and carry on my shoulders that which I never thought possible.

At such a young age, she was definitive and clear and clearly stated to me that I was a leader who would one day make the country proud. She told me that great things waited for me as life would unfold. She stood and announced it to the world and that became the self fulfilling prophecy I wanted to live my whole life by. She had set a benchmark for me to live my following years by.

My inner confidence was spurred by her belief in me and I set off from school armed with her vision for me. I left with a strong conscience and an overflowing sense of self confidence ready to take on any challenge in the world.

 

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.”
Robert Frost

My first Boss, Sunil Handa

When I was just 22, I started working with Mr.Sunil Handa. I had just finished design school and I had graduated with a gnawing need to understand management and business principles.

I had heard about the corporate legend that Mr.Handa was and he was reputed to be a very tough taskmaster. At the time, I thought this would be the perfect training ground to evolve from just a designer into a businessperson.

Sunilbhai (as everyone calls him with respect and love) was all that and more. He was tough, set high benchmarks and expectations for me and taught me every nuance of business. I met him for my interview and shared that I wanted to use the experience over 4 years to learn hands on every aspect of business. I explained what I seemed what an apprenticeship and not a job.

The experience was any young man’s dream. He showered responsibility on me and paced me like no one had ever before. He made me believe I could do colossal tasks with quarter the time and enjoy my work as a challenge.

He would push me to the limits where I blossomed. Nudge me across the cliff and taught me flight. Combined with responsibility, there was always an unsaid belief in my delivering to his expectations and I never failed. I would seek out work outside my comfort zone and he would throw them my way. Negotiating, finance, running machinery, traveling across the country on short notice, creating dealer network, buying tools and hands on selling – I did it all and I loved every moment.

Over the years, we formed a bond stronger than a parent and he always told me that he believed that great things would happen to me and he was just being a catalyst. He sent me to one of the best business schools in the world and ensured I translated everything I learnt to reality by launching a division for the company and growing it alone as a profit center.

By the time I was prepared to take wings myself, he left in me values and had instilled a navigation system for life. Without realizing, I carried away the ability to be focused, think long term, benchmark internationally, grow talent from the roots, value the joy of work and be meticulous and resolute in any endeavor.

In my mind, no challenge would be too large anymore. Sunilbhai is still my father figure and the one who reminds me of long term goals and nudges me to the next milestone and gets me thinking bigger each time we meet.

 

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
Aristotle

My coach, Rajesh Nagjee

Rajesh knocked on the front door of my life in a chance meeting at a training and the journey has never been the same since. When he met me, our organisation was like a hostel room, a group of friends doing our stuff not caring about the world. We lived in the office, workaholics, disorganised and caught up with our selfish motives and artistic expression. From there, waking us up and instilling a code of professionalism and finding for us a calling that more than just self expression. He taught us to look inside and pointed out our distinct strength-to use our creative abilities and marry business acumen to enable our clients businesses to grow.

Through repeated sessions both individual and with the company, we grew from strength to strength. Even as the organisation broke geographical boundaries and rapidly expanded while deeply serving our clients, I found an amazing work life balance and what is more important a clear command of my calling. Over our interactions, I found a chief definitive aim and a laser focus on my life purpose. I found a perfect zone which married my passion, my talent and automatically created a market need for my clients.

He nudged me to discover by myself that I was passionate beyond a cure to assist entrepreneurs to succeed. I realised that my strength was being a catalyst for the growth of home grown brands, to assist start ups and SMEs to rapidly grow. For this, I devoted myself and the organisation to the science of using innovation and help businesses differentiate themselves. To help clients emotionally connect with their customers and potential customers and to be able to deliver this on a consistent basis around the world. With the company and my team, he helped to evolve pillars that became my core and galvanise us into action. All this while ensuring, we spent the least time on work and strike a perfect balance. We learnt to have fun, be playful and make our clients our best friends.

An ongoing coaching and mentoring relation taught me the science of listening, of growth, of systems, cash flows, relationships, people skills and a million other lessons which permeated into parenting, life goals, vision board, self actualisation, goal setting, time management and endless other insights across all parameters.

On our company’s 10 year anniversary Rajesh awarded me a title publicly which I today operate from and have made it my self fulfilling prophecy. He bestowed upon me the title “Zen monk in a suit” and that has today become me.

 

Besides my mentors, there are individuals who influence you in so many ways. My parents, my wife, my brother and sister and my children who teach me a new way of seeing the world each day, my friends and my core team at office, the books I read, my mastermind and idols whose lives I model.

I feel the universe conspires to ensure my success by sending people into my life at intervals and important milestones!

 

One of the most important tools in business- a mastermind

Napolean Hill in his book “Think and grow rich” talks about the Mastermind being critical for success and speaks about the subject in detail. He first defined the mastermind as a “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.”

Hill’s concept of the “Master Mind” was inspired by Andrew Carnegie, wealthy steel magnate. According to Hill:

“Mr. Carnegie’s Master Mind group consisted of a staff of approximately fifty men, with whom he surrounded himself, for the DEFINITE PURPOSE of manufacturing and marketing steel. He attributed his entire fortune to the POWER he accumulated through this ‘Master Mind.’”

I have a mastermind group and the strength it adds to my life is immeasurable. We meet at least once a month and follow an amazing structure that directly correlates to becoming a catalyst for clarity of thought, vision, ideas and brainstorming on millions of subjects. After each meeting, I walk away with purpose, armed with clarity and eager to implement the ideas.

I wanted to share this video of Napolean Hill speaking about what a mastermind is. I am also sharing a few links I found online on how to set up a mastermind, run it and get the best out of it.

 

http://christinekane.com/7-real-life-tips-for-creating-a-successful-mastermind-group/

4 books that every entrepreneur must read

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I love reading and devour books in search for knowledge, ideas and paradigm shifts in my thinking. As an entrepreneur, books become a hunting ground for feeding on new ideas and thoughts to push me out of my comfort zone.
From the 100s of books I have read and dissected, 4 stand out for their effectiveness and impact they have had.

Here’s a short review and summary of these books and the reason why you should get a copy, read it and gift it to every entrepreneur you know.


1. Think and grow rich- Napolean Hill

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This is the Bible for every entrepreneur and the great grandfather of all motivational books. The original was written in 1937 but the laws of success outlined are timeless. Think and grow rich is a culmination from a lifetime of research by Napolean Hill who dedicated his life unravelling the science of wealth. Andrew Carnegie, billionaire and philanthropist, inspired and initiated the idea and also opened doors for Napolean Hill to connect and study successful businessmen across America. This book is really the father to hundreds of modern day books on success that use the core idea from the findings of Napolean Hill as the core ingredient.
Think and grow rich explains every aspect and element that constitute success. From his conversations and observations of eminent billionaires of the time like Henry Ford and Thomas Alva Edison, he outlines and breaks down the science of wealth. The book touches upon every aspect that constitutes a mindset for wealth drawing constantly on examples and anecdotes.

Each of the chapters explains a principle and Hill peels away in detail every layer of success. The book delves into the softer aspects of the mind like your sixth sense, intuition, imagination and persistence. Hill throws light and inspires mindset shift, spurs you to understand the importance of a mastermind.
If one was to have a single motivational book in your library with the mindset for success and wealth this is it!

2. Unlimited Power- Anthony Robbins

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Anthony Robbins Unlimited Power is a workbook for life and a blueprint for excellence. He breaks down every aspect of excellence from mindset, language, relationships, food, health, vision and any other aspect that can spur one to excellence. He simplifies the laws of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming developed by Richard Bandler and John Ginder) into simple concepts and ideas with innumerable assignments and to dos. You can hear his voice through the book egging you on and pushing your limits.
Read the book with a notepad by your side and religiously do every assignment, reflect on the learnings, discuss it and share with friends and family and imbibe the same. This book can change your life in business, self awareness, relationships, health and mastery in excellence. I also advise buying the audio book and listening in the car or at the gym to deeper embody the philosophy of the book. At 421 pages it isnt intended to be a light read, but its difficult to put down.

The concepts explored and shared by Anthony Robbins is the new science of personal achievement. This is arguably his best book (his other book is ‘Awaken the giant within’) and its a culmination of his various experiments and studies. Interesting concepts to build rapport with people, methods of modeling excellence of successful people, conquering phobias and fears and exploding self limiting beliefs that hold you back.
This is a book I gift to friends, individuals who are starting out in business and people whose life I would love to touch and inspire for accelerated achievement

3.Rework -Jason fried and David Hansson

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Rework is a thought provoking book that turns many myths of business upside down. Its a manifesto for doing business with your heart and becomes even more relevant in the post recession model of entrepreneurship. This is an extremely enjoyable book written from the heart by the founders of 37signals. Its one of those rare business books that you will probably smile and grin while reading. Its a book that rolls a hand grenade gently into the board room and explodes the typical. Within its pages are nuggets of wisdom not written by academicians nor research specialists but sharing of learnings from entrepreneurs who have grown a start up into one of the fastest growing firms in the world and still run in with passion, humility and fun.
The concepts shared makes you stop and think and radical ideas are disseminated at every page. Chapters share ideas that challenge and implore you to stop planning, avoid getting caught in the quest for growth for the sake of growth, questions the need for workaholics, asks you to avoid investors and outside money, teaches you to stay lean always, tells you not to try and make the product perfect and settle for good enough and many more such compelling arguments.
Rework is one of those rare gems that you chance upon like a good friend who shakes you up from your daily grind and leaves you thinking. Seth Godin couldn’t have said it better with his quote on the cover of the paperback “Ignore this book at your own peril!”. I concur.

4.Outliers- Malcolm Gladwell

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Gladwell’s latest book is yet another stroke of genius from an author whose books blend research, date, history and facts to highlight his arguments with passion. The author of titles like “Blink” and “Tipping point” analyses success and argues that it is not the brightest who succeed nor is it the sum of the decisions and efforts we make. He says it is rather a gift. Outliers he says are those who have been given opportunities and have had the presence of mind to seize them when they came knocking.

He narrates many success stories and weaves it with circumstances that led to their success. Gladwell introduces a concept of 10,000 hours and links that as the tipping point for success. He outlines the tale of Bill gates as a young programmer and how he evolved because he had access to a computer club that no other high schools had. How Gates had 10000 hours of programer experience by the time he was 20 which was almost impossible at the time. In the initial chapter, Gladwell explains success based on birth days and gives hockey as an example sharing how most of the payers were born in the first 3 months of the year. Like his earlier works, this book is a great read and Gladwell’s innovative method of looking at theories makes you ponder.

The book is a delight and will make you think about success and its parameters in a completely different light.

30 quotes for CEOs and budding entrepreneurs

A collection of inspiring quotes and ideas for CEOs and people wanting to take the plunge into the world of business.

Each thought has so much depth and can trigger ideas and directions. The common thread of inspiration is about passion in work, risk taking, being the best at what you do, embracing failure, hard work and staying focused .

Read on and be inspired!

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The wisdom of getting rich and 5 untold secrets

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I find it fascinating meeting successful people and understanding what makes them who they are, absorbing their secrets to success, seeking inspiration and lessons. Over my  interactions with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I see extremely intelligent and innovative people struggle financially, dropouts become billionaires and billionaires become unhappy and unfulfilled. Then there’s a rare species that gets it all perfectly balanced.

A few questions I have often asked myself are:

“How do some individuals become so rich? What do they do different? “

How come certain people suddenly rocket across the business stratosphere? What suddenly shifts?”

“Why do some people who come across as inspirations turn out to be a facade of optimism as you peel away the layers? ”

“Why do so many achievers speak of regretting that they didn’t stop and smell the coffee along the journey?”

It’s interesting that how much money you make, how much you retain with you, how smart you are, how rich you are and how happy you stay is not always linked nor proportional to each other.

Having read so many books, research documents and discussed with mentors and role models, I have begun to comprehend some interesting home truths. They are so simple and staring us in the face. As I tried experimenting and began to feel the impact of the wisdom and found paradigm shifts in business and life.

The 5 important secrets are:

1.Resetting the financial thermostat

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Each of us have a relation with success and money. This evolves as a mix of genetics, experiences, things we have heard, preconditioning and internal decisions we made along the way. We often hear phrases like “you can’t make money without losing your ethics”, “dirty money” “money only brings unhappiness” and many more phrases and notions that condition our minds against it.

Deep rooted inhibitions with finance often create a love hate relation with money. Our grandparents and parents have views that stay rooted after generations. This festers like an old wound and leaves a scar.

I ran my business for years without thinking of money and as a creative person feeling that money is not a good thing. I discovered that my expenses would get covered because that was my desire but the cup would never overflow.

The simple rule is that money comes to those who love and desire it without contempt. When money is not a dirty word and welcomed with a red carpet, she visits and stays. When you long to be with money without cringing and when it’s not desired just for the material benefits of money, she appears.

This is the one simple first secret of every book on success and money. The intense desire for it. It’s as simple as that. If you intensely desire money and welcome it with open arms, money comes.

The starting point of all achievement is desire.

-Napoleon Hill

2.knowing what you want and having a map

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Imagine you are on a road trip and you want to drive to a nearby town and decide to get there without a map. You then decide you won’t ask for directions or follow the signs and don’t even know what the town is called. You set off and make a journey and you do reach somewhere, but with no reference point how far away you are and where you are. You are never going to reach and needless to say you would never know how far you are from where you want to be.

It’s the same with visions and goals. You need to know where you are going. One of the simplest secrets successful people share is that they knew what they wanted and where they were going. Writing down your plans like you already achieved them triggers actions without you realizing. Making a vision board and seeing it every day increases the chances of fulfilling them even further.

When you know where you are going, every crisis and issue become deviations, you just need a side lane to get back to the main highway of your goals.

The same rule eluded me. My vision was to do great work, work with good people, have a chic office and a cool car. All the wishes were granted very soon and then growth stagnated because I hadn’t reset my map not broadened my vision.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
–Steve Jobs

3 . The magic of saving

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The simplest rule of money is to increase your income, reduce your expenses and make sure theres a lot in between both. Then you got to keep it that away and widen this gap year on year. Ideally the expense shouldn’t grow more than inflation and the income should grow exponentially.

Having the discipline to force yourself to save needs a mindset change. How often I have caught myself saying that I had less expenses when I had less money. The secret is to spend much lesser than we make.

The joy of seeing money as investments and not just a means to spend more needs a mindset change which creates paradigm shifts. Having your rental income cover your regular expenses and your investment interest pay your luxury EMIs is a big high.

The day it dawned on me that cash is the king in business and the oxygen that keeps it going, I sensed a remarkable turnaround in strategy and direction. There are so many nooks and corners and hidden recesses where unnecessary expenses stay hidden without realizing as I moved along. I call it the spring cleaning of unwanted expenses and this needs to be done every 3 months.

Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.
–Will Rogers

4.Learning to give

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One of the most important secrets of wealth sharing as I read, spoke and understood is the ability to give. To share our wealth knowing that it comes back to you even more. As we move to an abundance mentality away from scarcity, the mind programs itself to know that as we give, more will take its place.

Rockefeller, Carnegie, Gates, Buffet are all well known philanthropists. In a letter to his son, Rocketfeller wrote, “…in the beginning of getting money, away back in my childhood, I began giving it away, and continued increasing the gifts as the income increased…”

For it is in giving that we receive.
-St. Francis of Assisi

5 . Enjoying the ride

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When I converse with people who inspire me, I often ask them if there are any regrets along the way. The pattern of the answers is always the same “I wish I had watched my kids grow up” “I wish I had taken more holidays” “I wish I had more time for myself” “I didn’t spend enough time with my wife” “There’s a million things I didn’t do because I was busy making money”.

Everything you make becomes worth it when every day is lived like its your last day. What is money if you can’t enjoy it with the ones you love, if you don’t have time for yourself and for finding yourself too on the journey. I believe you get richer with experiences. As you get rich, your life needs to get richer too.

Early enough we need to decide that the pursuit of wealth doesn’t have to be devoid of soul, that the journey will be a celebration and not a struggle.

I needed a major mindset shift from my 90 hour weeks I proudly practiced in the initial years of business. Waking up and deciding that I want to enjoy the ride and never regret a moment helped to change the way I enjoyed the journey. The trick was to focus on things I am best at and termed “play” and finding other people or outsourcing tasks which was “work”.

It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.

–George Lorimer

 

 

Try out these simple ideas and see the effect!

The 7 forces of business mastery

I read this insightful and inspiring article in the Entrepreneur magazine. It featured an interview with one of my favorite authors and thought leaders, Anthony Robbins. These simple pointers are home truths and there are so many nuggets at very nook and corner. I took away truckloads of ideas and I wanted to share the complete interview.

This is a must read:

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Robbins: They’re the seven parts of any business that have to be consistently managed to consistently grow and succeed. Most people know that 50 percent of all startups are gone within the first year and that 96 percent of all business fail after 10 years.

Why do so many business fail?
Because even a small business requires consistent improvement in many areas simultaneously in order to compete and win. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs have some core skill sets — perhaps they’re extraordinary at writing code or creating extraordinary products — but their marketing skills are low. Or, their marketing skills might be off the charts but their inability to make effective financial analysis in the end destroys all they’ve built. They make poor decisions, and decisions shape our business destiny.

So, for a quick review, it’s best to start with the end in mind.

The seventh force and ultimate outcome for any business is to create raving fan customers and culture. Satisfied customers leave you when somebody gives them a better deal. Raving fan customers are loyal, they know who you really are and they stick around even when you screw up because you’ve consistently added value to them in a way that nobody else can.

After that, the first force that will shape a business is knowing where you really are and creating an effective business map. The biggest challenge for business leaders is that they’re not honest about where the business really is. They often see it better than it is, which keeps them going but it causes them to have blind spots that inevitably undermine or even destroy the business.

Knowing what business you’re really in, or what business you need to be in long term is critical. Knowing why you’re in the business and ultimately what outcomes you want the business to serve is critical for a business owner. Then, you have to know who you are and who you need in order to have long-term success.

You also need to know where you are. Every business has a lifecycle, just like a human being. Is your business in the toddler stage? Is your business in its prime? Is it aging? What to do in your business is completely controlled by where you are. Then you can decide where you want to go.

The second force of business is strategic innovation — finding a way to meet your client’s needs better than anybody else. Some companies innovate so often that they put themselves out of business because they are not being strategic about it.

The third force of business is world-class, strategic marketing. That just means having a process that gets a mass number of people to want to do business with you. Or, more importantly, the ideal client you want, to seek you out. It’s something I call “value-added marketing.”

The fourth force is sales mastery systems. It’s great that your marketing strategy is attracting clients, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you produce continued growth and sales.

The fifth force that business leaders must understand is the power of both financial and legal analysis. If you aren’t able to understand and analyze the financial condition of your business on an ongoing basis, you’re like a pilot of a plane who doesn’t know how to read the gauges in front of him. It’s easy to fly when there are clear skies (i.e., a good economy), but when you find yourself surrounded by storms and fog, if you can’t read the gauges, you’re going to crash. It’s only a matter of time.

Finally the sixth force is where you can create explosive growth in your company. Most people think in order to have explosive growth they have to make giant changes. In reality, if you understand the force of optimization and maximization of your people and processes, you can grow your business consistently while others are taking wild risks that don’t always pay off.

Entrepreneur: How can a business owner grow his or her profits by 50 percent in the next 12 months?
Robbins: The key to making documented, explosive profit gains is optimization and maximization. The goal is to make small, incremental changes that all together make your entire business significantly more efficient and profitable. If you’re not doing this already, you’re working hard every single day and you’re still not at the level you deserve. The secret is, little things aren’t little — they’re everything. Those little details — every lead you generate, every margin you increase, every promotion you run, every transaction you make, every sales person you hire — if you don’t measure it, you’re not managing it. So you’re not managing the driving force of what comes into your business to get those profit levels you deserve.

We’re treasure hunters. We know there’s treasure in our business, no question, and we’re going to find it no matter what it takes. If we try something and it doesn’t work, we’re going to try something else, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll make another change, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll shift something else until we get the result we’re after.

Entrepreneur: You say that looking through “a new filter” can help entrepreneurs uncover solutions to business problems. What do you mean by that?
Robbins: There are basic keys that offer entrepreneurs solutions, keys like finding a way to get more clients, and finding ways to increase your average transaction value. But beyond those basic keys, you need fresh perspective, or what I would call a new filter.

Take pricing for example. I did my first seminars for free. I advertised, I marketed, I did everything. I showed up in this room, I expected 500 people. Seven people showed up. Guess what I did for them? I dumped everything I had on these seven people. Can you imagine us in a room for a day? It was like Shallow Hal stuck in the elevator. But then I changed my filter. I changed my pricing, and I changed the size and venue for my seminars. Instead of intimate sessions in my living room, we were doing events at Madison Square Garden and people could learn from everyone else sitting there, which added even more value and reshaped the entire experience of the service. In many ways, it’s the same core product, but a different filter can make massive difference.

Entrepreneur: How can an entrepreneur become a better person in order to become a better business owner?
Robbins: People may come to my events to change their business, but I’m also here to help them change their lives. We all want to take both our business and our lives to the next level, and your business is a beautiful vehicle for doing that — it gives immediate feedback whether you’re in the right state, whether you’re telling the right story, whether you’ve got the right strategies. And it can provide a vehicle for your economic freedom and an expression of what you value most.

It’s important to remember that most people spend more time in their business than they do with their children, or with their spouse. For most business owners, the business is just an extension of their identity. So when we can help people make a shift or a dramatic change in their own psychology, that spills over to impact their business and every other area of their life.

If you’re able to meet your top needs in a positive way, then your life will improve. Similarly, if your business is able to first identify, and then meet, your clients’ top needs in a unique way, then you will develop a raving fan culture. Whether you’re becoming a better person or a better business owner, it’s really all connected.

How we do what we do! How we added spice to over 1000 home grown brands!

A short animated film which explains the how, what and why of Idea Spice. This film explains in a fun manner who we are and what it takes for startups and SMEs to stand out from the clutter and connect emotionally with their consumer. We storyboarded this film and Ti22 animated the film. We had a blast making this film, hope you enjoy seeing it!