10 steps to rebrand your successful business

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In today’s dynamic global market space, competing on price and quality will never be a game changer. Businesses today are looking to create a brand that speaks their story, that packages their USP and expounds to  the world why they are so good. They need a visual depiction of their offering that emotionally connects their business to the consumers, sets them apart from the competition clearly and helps them stand head to head with large multi national firms that are coming into the economy at an alarming pace.

These simple 10 steps are important to know when you embark on the journey of rebranding your successful business.

1.Know your USP and differentiate clearly

The first step in a branding process is to know your strengths and understand what sets you apart. To look inside and see what attributes have lent themselves to your success. Basis this a clear DNA for your company will evolve and this is what has to be communicated in your brand and visual language to your prospective consumers.

2.Involve the full team

Rebranding is also an immense opportunity to install change management within the organisation. Communicating to your team that the company has ambitious goals and expect the team to also be involved in the facelift. The process is a catalyst to gear the entire team for the next innings of the organisation. It helps to involve the team in the initial briefing, brainstorming and presentations and be part of the rejuvenation of the organisation.

3.Speak to customers

During the rebranding, it always helps to speak to your consumers and key clients and see what they think of you. To ask them what keywords come to mind when they describe you, why they do business with you and what they feel is the DNA of your organisation.

4.Branding is not just about a logo

Most companies make the mistake of thinking that a brand is a logo. Its not. A brand is your voice and soul and its the emotional connect with your key stakeholders. A brand is a sum total of all the interactions with your business. Besides the visual aspects, your customer service, tone of voice, product or service and even small elements all add up to reinforce your brand values.

5.Think 10 years ahead

While doing a rebranding, its paramount to project the company 10 years ahead and think of expansion plans, diversification, acquisitions, geographies and even your exit strategy so the new brand stays relevant. If a firm currently manufactures food packaging and creates a brand that reflects that and later diversifies into logistics for example, the new brand will again be irrelevant.

 

6.Work with professionals

Many companies make the mistake of working with a freelancer, a relative or even the printer to save costs. They usually turn out as a disaster and the exercise is never strategic in nature but purely a visual depiction. An experienced branding expert will bring years of experience and will play a large role as a strategist and spend time understanding your vision, competition, benchmarks, limitations and marketing plan before they go to the drawing board.

7.Celebrate and announce your new avatar

When the rebranding is done and ready for a roll out, its a great marketing opportunity to connect with old customers, prospects and other stakeholders. Inform them proudly with your new look and share your new vision for the future. It builds new found confidence and respect and translates into business in the near future.

8.Follow the guidelines

After the branding is done and the initial roll out is achieved, many companies make the mess of tinkering and changing the look. Leaving it open for interpretations and short cuts will diffuse the impact of the brand. Make sure the DNA is respected and visual guidelines are adhered to.

9.Remember it’s an investment

The brand value is the largest asset in the balance sheer for almost all the the largest companies in the world today. A well brand that redefines your image will over the years convert into closed orders, goodwill,  set you apart form your competitors and help rapidly grow the organisation. Don’t see it as an expense but an investment for the future of the business.

10.Be ambitious 

A rebranding process is a great opportunity to think big and envision the future with lofty goals and aspirations. Its a time for the organisation to think big and see that the business will be able to compete and outrun large multinationals and competitors. Ensure your brand embraces this ambition and represents the image accordingly.

Sajith is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm that has helped create over 1200 brands around the world.

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.

Yet another inspiring book on entrepreneurship !

Chanced upon a life changing book in Kinokuniya yesterday. “The Startup Playbook” by David S.Kidder is a sum of stories and secrets from some of the fastest growing start ups. Their CEOs share their wealth of knowledge in these pages. The book simplifies the process of business and will inspire fence-sitting-want-to-take-the-plunge entrepreneurs, it will share nuggets of wisdom to CEOs in business already.

The format is great. A few pages for each entrepreneur and their story, the company story, their advice from their mistakes, what they do for fun and their vision for the future. The end of the book has a best advice section across all aspects of business, from hiring to culture, to customers and marketing.

This is a must read. Personally I am loving the format, the ease of reading, how every page is reeking of inspiration, the publication design itself.

I particularly found this review of the book perfect and apt

I love this book. It’s like having a virtual advisory board of some of the best entrepreneurs in the world. You will discover valuable insights or a good idea on every page to add to your own Playbook. -Brian O’Kelly. Founder, App Nexus

The book features CEOs and founders of companies like TED talks, Spanx, AOL, Flickr, Blurb, LinkedIn, PayPal, jawbone, mimeo etc so the information and inspiration is very relevant and current.

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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!

 

The coolest tool for thinking clearly- mind mapping

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One of the most powerful tools that has helped me think really fast and declutter my mind has been mind mapping.

I create simple and detailed mind maps for almost every aspect of my life. I have mind maps for goals, company vision, team planning, client briefs, holiday plans, health goals, web site maps, workflow planning and a 100 other things. Using mind maps have allowed me to accomplish in a fraction of the usual time that work would taken me ages, because it immediately structures my thoughts. It allows me to organise information and moreover my notes can almost keep up with my speed of thinking and unrelated chains of thought.

What are mind maps and what is mindmapping.

A term that was coined and then detailed by Tony Buzan in the 60s, mind mapping is a process of organizing your thoughts visually and organically as opposed to the linear manner of listing tasks and thoughts. Mind maps break down ideas and thoughts into graphical representation that allows for total clarity.
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I have had the good fortune thanks to Right Selection to attend his workshops and learn with him. Our team and also my daughter attended and it was an eye opener. He also subscribes that we use a lot of color and visuals that stimulate the mind. He has written 100s of books on the subject and many deal with the subject of thinking for kids.

Mind mapping is also a brilliant tool for children to use for learning and this ensures they never ever forget a lesson or learning. My daughter even uses it even to plan her holiday activities and she lists out tasks and goals to achieve.

There are quite a few apps that are available and softwares which are also downloadable from tony buzans site, however I personally found “mind node” the best and easiest among the ones I tried. The other apps are “simple node”, “imindmap” and “Ithoughts” which is a paid app for (approximately 9$ on iTunes).

I found some examples of mind maps from the web which show how they can be used for planning, brainstorming, note taking, education, strategy, research and basic thinking.

Try it, it will change your life!

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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.

Home grown brands

A short film about inspiring start ups and their story.

Our heroes and inspirations who have taken that plunge and converted their ideas into successful entrepreneurial stories. We asked them a few questions and here are their responses and stories in a bid to galvanise other entrepreneurs.

In this session, we cover Pantry Cafe by Mahesh Kalwani, M2M bespoke tailors by Kamlesh Ramchandani, Little Champions by Sabina Azizova, Fuego by Arjun and Adarsh Kumar and Farada by Ravi Menghani. From over 1000 home grown brands we have partnered with to create, here are a few in an ongoing series of stories.

At Idea Spice design and Spice works interiors, we work with ambitious, visionary and fun entrepreneurs who have a vision to create and grown home grown brands into international successes!

Directed by Umair Tareen and Camera by Asif Limbada

Shot in Epic Red.

The magical rule of “Also And” and why it can change your way of thinking

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All my life I have been making choices. Always coming to forks where I have been taught to choose between options. Either this or that, you can’t do both, which way will it be, flip a coin, how will you choose, what will you do now and a million other conversations which lead to choosing. Mostly choice means you have to let go of another option, sacrifice a possibility or eliminate one or the other.

A hundred internal conversations have ended with a clear choice where I had to take one road at a fork and wonder where the other may have taken me had I gone down that path. I have heard similar conversations like mine amongst peers, friends and relatives “I need to spend time with kids but I have to work hard”, “I want to go to the gym, but I need to relax more”, “Since I am a creative person, I cant understand business”, “I want to grow my business, but the quality of work will dip”, “If I read my email on a holiday, its not really a holiday”, “I have to choose whether I do fun projects or large projects”, “Should I stay employed and ruin my life or take a risk and do business”. I have engaged in these conversations and have heard this from everyone. Conversations where we need to go one way or the other, decide one versus the other and follow one path.

 

Then something miraculous happened and I understood the Also And Rule. This is where you don’t choose, where you choose not to choose and become greedy and say I want both choices and they will coexist together. Its amazing how life changed after that. Suddenly I decided that I can work really hard, be a business man and choose also a great work life balance. I figured I could choose to be an enterprising business man and also be playful. I figured that I could choose to be healthy, have time for exercise and be a workaholic. I found out that I can look at creativity from a business aspect and yet be creative, that I could feel for the client and be his best friend and still do really creative work. It dawned on me that I could choose being boutique and creative and also attempt to become a multinational.

 

Suddenly, I could read, paint, draw, play, doodle, do gaming, day dream and also be a strategic entrepreneur. I could be an extrovert and an introvert, I could have a desire for wealth and yet be pure to my craft and my higher calling, I could embrace joy and pursue excellence together.  The possibilities were endless. I realised that choice and boundaries and stereotypes were self imposed by ourselves and as easily we could break down these walls.

 

As I shared this idea in discussions with friends and brainstormed on their choices and broke down the walls, the idea was infectious. It worked any where:  reactions streamed in one after the other “I can be trustful and when needed I can be wary”, “who said if I am an artist that I can’t be understanding finance”  “Thank you, I don’t need to choose between large scale projects and say no to smaller projects any more” and so on and so forth. It kept breaking and shattering shackles of rules we have built up over decades ever so easily!

 

If we choose not to choose and realise that many boundaries and stereotypes are set by ourselves. Instead if we say “I am also this, and I also am that” then a new world open up, a world of opportunities we have hitherto closed down. Engage in the Also And concept, choose not to choose and let opportunities and seeming contrasts coexist in harmony with each other!

 

I am loving what the Also And philosophy has showered into my world!

 

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Interview about marketing for SMEs

An interview of mine by SupportBiz. Sharing this here.

May 24, 2013
Spice Holding Group: New age advertising and marketing for SMEs

The digital age gave birth to a democratic business ecosystem. Now with smart marketing practices, smaller companies can also have the liberty to access their clients themselves. The web interface allows the SMEs and start-ups to make a strong impression through their web presence. The social media platform too enables these new brands to have a direct connect and initiate a dialogue with their consumers. It sounds very lucrative; however, it has certain criticalities which can only be managed or judged by experts.

Sajith Ansar, founder and CEO of Spice Holding Group is an expert in this domain. Through his company, he caters to the needs of the SMEs’ non-traditional marketing practices. In an exclusive interaction with SupportBiz, he highlighted some glimpse of cutting edge trends in the non-traditional marketing and advertising practices for Indian SMEs.

Edited excerpts:

What are the key trends in the area of marketing and advertising?

The trend for today’s organizations is to constantly innovate methods that engage them directly with the consumers. Companies now are interacting with their specific clientele by using non-traditional media like social media platforms and activation ideas to emotionally connect with their consumers.

What are the roadblocks or challenges for better penetration of innovative marketing practices?

Social media and digital marketing is a double edged sword and unless there is enough preparation, this may backfire. Companies should know how to respond to complaints and attack on their integrity which happens publicly and may fan rumors and doubts easily. There are so many instances of companies, who have lost credibility because of using social media without preparation.

Reaching out to the market and customer engagement are two important deliverables of any advertising agency.

What is the level of understanding of Indian advertisers on these points? You can provide a comparative feedback based on UAE and other countries.

Indian advertisers have a great understanding of customer engagement and today more and more ads are born with strong Indian sensibilities without aping the west. Ads that connect with consumers across states and demographics, purely because they speak to the very heart of India. Blending elements like humor or sentiments with strong visuals that are rooted in India, so many brands have reached out and leapt into the hearts of consumers.

The UAE has another challenge of having hundreds of nationalities and the need to connect across all these sensibilities. UAE does not have much manufacturing industry and many foreign brands have entered the market with their own guidelines and DNA. Advertisers need to evaluate these frameworks and local cultural sensibilities and create advertising pieces that stand apart. Other challenge like smaller population and target market that the advertisers appeal to, also cut down budgets and media mix. I feel that advertisers in India are lot bolder with their concepts and media platforms today.

What is your go-to-market plan of action for Indian market?

We offer branding solutions for home grown brands in India and the GCC. We bring our knowledge and expertise of working with hundreds of brands worldwide. We work with startups and SMEs and local companies and help them compete with the multi-nationals. We help them find their USP and differentiation and communicate that effectively in an integrated manner.

Here’s the link to the article:

http://www.supportbiz.com/articles/top-story/spice-holding-group-new-age-advertising-and-marketing-smes.html

Learning to network from Ivan Misner

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I was at an event today Organised by Right selection in Dubai. The modern guru of networking, Ivan Misner was more than amazing. He shared such simple but effective methods of networking and the importance it has in modern business. He is truly the father of modern networking, he is also a best selling author and the founder of the world’s largest networking Organisation BNI.

He explained that our social capital is the single most effective marketing tool in business. He further shared that in surveys conducted amongst businesses, 91.4% attributed networking to playing a key role in their success. He spoke of how this then needs to be the cornerstone of management education and the essential tool for any business.

Misner explained the blend between emotional quotient and intelligence and how contacts have to be converted into connections. He made a clear distinction between mindset and skill set and the role your ‘soft skills’ really play as a success catalyst.

I particulalry loved the analogy of The Butterfly Effect. He explained a scientific phenomenon where the constant flapping of a butterflies wings leads to a series of chain reaction which are unconnected and causes weather change. How a simple act can precipitate as an unknown domino effect into greater things. It was the serendipity concept taken to the next level.

He highlighted the concept with a story starting with him on necker island and meeting Richard Branson, then taking us through a flashback of related incidents which led to him to that moment.

He explained this further by explaining that we need to know out life mission and constantly evaluate the things we do against that as a beacon. When an opportunity arises, to question “Is this my mission” and say a resounding yes to any opportunity that arises towards that. “Follow the ripple” was a great catch phrase that summed that philosophy. See where the ripple leads you and see if its closer to your mission. It’s about weighing events and seeing if they are a distraction or an opportunity.

The referral process and networking he broke into a formula called VCP which stood for Visibility, Credibility and Profitability. They are a 3 step formula to convert contacts to connections and onwards to business. Through visibility you get people to know you and be familiar with you, Credibility is built as your reputation and enhances your image and trust by walking the talk , profitability comes after that through an ongoing reciprocal referral. He explained how its not a sales process but building connections and how our mindset should be to not just sell when we meet people, but also learn about them and a desire to buy their services.

These simple distinctions and analogies cleared a lot of misconceptions on what Networking is. It’s a process of farming and not hunting is what he gently reminded the room which was bursting at the seams with over 600 business leaders.

He shared insights on how men and women networked in different styles. This helped us understand the difference of being transactional versus relationship oriented. He shared ideas and techniques of networking which encompassed even simple methods of how we stand at events and how to have an open stance to invite visitors into the discussion.

He then explained a 12x12x12 rule where you are aware of the impression you make from 12 feet away. This is the way you dress, how professional you come across. Then from 12 inches away, which is what you say, how positive you are and then the first 12 words you say. This is also your elevator pitch, your USP. I loved the eyebrow test for your USP. He said when you say what you do, does the other persons eyebrows arch in excitement and do they “oh” or do you frown and wonder what the hell you are saying.

He explained then the stream of your influence and how many networks you have. This covered your casual contacts, professional associations and knowledge groups, your strong contacts (like BNI) and your online networks. What was wonderful was he explained how important the online contacts were even though he is the founder of BNI.

He ended explaining again the givers gain which is the same as the law of reciprocity and also “what goes around, comes around”. He egged everyone to help people out, build friendships and constantly build emotional intelligence.

The session was an eye opener with its simple fundamentals and for business like mine where references and word of mouth is our single largest marketing tool, today was a lesson for life!

I strongly recommend all his books!

I tried to capture the complete session through sketches and doodles. Hope this will help highlight the concept further for those reading.

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Master of my fate, Captain of my soul

Invictus is a beautifully crafted poem by William Ernest Henley.

The film on Nelson Mandela uses the title and the poem is narrated by Morgan Freeman (who plays Mandela in the film). The poem and its thought are so inspiring in context of Nelson Mandela and his experience in prison.

It takes great willpower and resilience to be in jail for 27 years and to come out with your spirit intact, if not buoyed by the experience. Mandela was first on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison and left with his soul intact.

The way it is depicted in the film Invictus is so beautiful. It makes you sense the reality of the prison and what he has achieved against this backdrop.

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley