FQ: Musings on Founder Mentality

Naval’s tweet on Founder Mentality got me to deep dive & reflect.

 

Having run a company for 10 years, I have seen this as the most crucial element on why some companies

  • continue to thrive against all the odds
  • continue to excel due to team members with super founder mentality and
  • how companies struggle to retain team members with super founder mentality.

Saar Gur has a fantastic post on Techcrunch on this, what he calls FQ: The Founder Quotient is an assessment of founder strength and founder/company fit. Similar to an EQ or IQ test, but for founder strength (hence FQ).

Here are his key points to assess founder strength:

  1. Original product thought: Most founders copy
  2. Psychological factors: What drives this person?
  3. Authenticity: Does this company align with the founder’s beliefs and values?
  4. Unique market insight: Do they have a unique insight
  5. Intelligence: IQ, EQ, self-awareness, ability to hold convictions loosely, etc
  6. Values: Are they honest?
  7. Judgment: Product judgment, people and hiring judgment, etc.
  8. Experience: Are they uniquely capable of executing?
  9. Ability to recruit:

Another interesting book to read: The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth: Book by Chris Zook and James Allen

Book excerpts: That’s why a founder’s mentality isn’t just a nice to have, but a must-have. A founder’s mentality consists of three elements:
1. The insurgent mission.
2. The front-line obsession.
3. The owner’s mindset.

While it is undervalued, the incentive to have one is strong. New research by Bain shows that companies able to maintain a founder’s mentality as they grow large and complex—companies like AB Inbev, LBrands, IKEA, Haier, Google, or Nike—achieve three times the economic returns of companies that let these attributes erode. And more than 80% of top performing companies adhere to the traits of a founder’s mentality.

Founder Mentality is Not Just Founder(s)
Before you assume founder mentality is all about the founder alone, it is not! If you can recruit, build and grow team members with founder mentality, your endeavor makes a powerful impact.

However, retaining team members with founder mentality is equally challenging. You succeed, you can build an impactful company. You fail to retain founder mentality team members; it is a daunting task to growth.

Founder mentality is what makes a company thrive much beyond the founder’s departure and one /some of those ‘founder mentality’ team members taking the company to greater heights.

3 names that come to my mind:

Andy Grove did that for Intel.
Jack Welch did that for GE.
S Ramadorai did that for TCS.

 

I found a fantastic Q&A on AmCham Netherland site: https://amcham.nl/sites/default/files/tfm_press.pdf

How does a founder’s mentality motivate and retain talent in the era of Millennials and the gig economy?

Companies with the founder’s mentality at a high level like Google, Facebook, Nike, can appeal to the millennial generation for three reasons relative to other companies.
– These companies have a clear and special purpose for existing whose cause liberates energy –they are not just another job in another company. An example would be Google’s mission to organize all of the world’s information. They are simply more inspiring.
– These companies tend to have fewer layers and a shorter distance between senior management and the front line employees. Thus younger employees feel more connected to leadership and to the company, and they are typically given a bigger voice and more responsibility like with
Haier in China which is built around thousands of small teams with the CEO’s stated goal to reduce the distance from him to the front line employees.
– These companies tend to be more meritocratic, like AB Inbev. They give new employees more hope of promotion and getting ahead in their careers.

The result of these three things is a company that is more inspiring, offers better and fairer career prospects, and where young people are listened to early in their career and can have an impact.

How do you adopt a founder’s mentality if your company no longer is run by its founder?
The founder’s mentality is not about individual founders per se, but about the attitudes and behaviors that are common across the most sustainably successful companies with the most loyal and energized employees. While these practices (a clear mission, long-term perspective, or total intellectual curiosity about frontline details) are most strongly expressed by the greatest founder-run companies, they are traits that can be learned and fostered when the founder is no longer there as we still see at Apple
after Steve Jobs, or as we saw renewed at Home Depot even after the founders.
The truth is that most founders fail. For instance, the United States has averaged 500,000 new incorporations every year, of these, only about 10,000 reach venture capital quality and get formal funding. Of these 10,000 only 1,000 ever succeed to grow to $100 MM in revenues, and only 30 grow to $500 million. The Founder’s Mentality is an examination of how the top founders built companies that did survive and achieve sustained success in the first place and the lessons that hold for how all companies should think about how they are built on the inside to succeed on the outside.

clark-tibbs-367075-unsplash.jpg

 

Let’s make it or break it but don’t fake it

Whoever said ‘fake it till you make it’, (s)he must have used fake as a synonyms of imitate/impression.

As a startup, you should be careful on how far you are taking this faking impression. While building startup, there is one constant false-expectation to become ’superman’ instantly, now that means as an entrepreneur you have to either 1. consistently improve and grow or 2. give impression of growth but grow or 3. fake growth and dead! In a real world, when you fake you get Enron, also Satyam!

So called instant success takes several years of failure, trouble, mild success, heavy failure before being declared as success! That’s not easy! Without sounding too critical, as an entrepreneur you will meet several people in the eco-system, some are real fighters, some fake-fighters and some fully fake too. Its so easy to get influenced by those who claim instant success. But only in due course of time, the realization will be

  • “Faking doesn’t build passion & doesn’t give longevity to your endeavor”
  • “Faking may give an impression but doesn’t build credibility in eco-system”
  • “Faking doesn’t make you grounded”
  • “Lot of people knows how to differentiate real doers vs. fakers”

There is also a danger of online vs. real world when it comes to measuring effectiveness of ‘what an entrepreneur is making’. The online world gives chance to show different persona, hide facts, create an aura around personality & achievements. As an entrepreneur, you will hit severe roadblocks, slow growth, bad phases and unless you have maintained & show-cased the ‘real you and real about your startup’, there is likely chance, both of that going to go down.

Faking also take several wannabe real souls go down. Rather than faking, if your endeavor is not working, being the brave and break it and it will save several lives, & aspire you to make things real way!

Breaking things that doesn’t work gives you courage, hope, learning and brings back more chances of success next time.

I can be dead any day even if I don’t want to, so I gave up the fear-factor of death in Startup

Only after 18 months post-starting up, I realised that there is a game here, the game is : you as an entrepreneur is watched closely, just like in a cricket game  where as a batsman you score run steadily or you score too fast, you are expected to  loose your wicket soon!
 
During 2009, I first felt that I can be dead any day even if I don’t want to, so I gave up the fear-factor of death in Startup. We were told, there is  this XYZ[don’t want to name] and you guys are going to be dead.  Were I scared, honestly NOT.
 
During 2010, I was almost told by my parents to shut down and take that CTO offer I was getting in a Startup in London.
 
During 2011, some of my best friends and entrepreneurs thought this time sure shot dead. As another renowned XYZ  had just ventured into ticketing.
 
During 2012, many wannabe investors thought, this time once the  friend-family round money gets over, this chap is dead. Also another XYZ  has raised so much of money, who  can compete with it. But the truth is that,  the market is huge; what they are doing we won’t do, what we are doing, we always welcome others to do! No fear factor, you see!!!
 
During 2013, hmmm (will tell some other time) as expected we should be dead but why not yet! Btw growth is happening hugely.
 
All this while the best event ticketing/registration companies in USA were growing at 5x to 10x speed and inching towards billion sale,  my team had to prove that there is a market in India even though our  growth rate was 450% to 600%. 
 
The moral of the story is:
1. Entrepreneurship is serious life changing game
2. You can compete with anybody, there is a market (Ask, how on the earth, an one time fledgling telecom company could get so much of market share that was once dominated by bellwether!)
3. Entrepreneurship is not theory but complicated practical and any wrong step can take you downhill
4. Forget what your competitor does, do what your customer will like and in a meaningful way
 
Start and and keep driving. There are ways out there, people have money and if your team can execute well, there is heaven loads of money.

The crucial connectors in this entrepreneurial journey

Taking the opportunity to thanks to few more who are the connectors of this journey  during the crucial 2011-2012 : This journey got mentioned/featured in Economic Times : http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/emerging-businesses/startups/santosh-pandas-explara-com-hopes-to-be-a-market-leader-in-indias-rs-5000-crore-online-ticketing-industry/articleshow/20920703.cms

Thanks to Ashish Sinha for being an early client of Ayojak.com during UnPluggd 2010, I came to attend and get to know few people in Indian startup scene. There I met Pratyush Prasanna.

Thanks to Ramdas, my childhood friends for the support during 2011.

Thanks to Pratyush who went on helping in several connections and one of them was precious : Kishore Warrier during 2012

Thanks to Kishore Warrier who always stood for this journey & subsequent funding during crucial stage. During the same time when I had just met Rajan Anandan during 2012

Thanks to Avlesh Singh for doing an intro Rajan Anandan, also Ashish Sinha did connect during 2012

Thanks to Shivakumar Ganesan (@Shivku) for connecting to Karthik @Blume Ventures during 2012

Thanks to Ashok Kumar, my friends from engineering college who joined during 2012 to co-run this organisation 2012

Thanks to several rockstar team members who have more faith in this journey than I could wish for! The journey with  www.explara.com continues.

Why you should like your tough competitor

I read 2 awesome article last week, here are the snippets

[Outlook Business]
Many business experts use “war” as a metaphor for the strategies needed to compete in a global economy. The evidence is clear that the world is tired of war. When the purpose of competition is understood: to bring out the best, to produce excellence, to create better products and services, it brings to light a distinction worthy of our deepest reflection — the desire to win versus the desire to destroy. We begin to understand that without our competitors we would have no incentive to raise our standards and reach our potential.

Full article http://business.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?285121

[Richard Branson’s Virgin Blog]
When I made a bet two and a half years ago with Tony Fernandes about which of our Formula One teams would finish higher, we agreed whoever lost would dress as cabin crew on the other’s airline. Our first attempt was foiled by my skiing accident. The second was thwarted by the royal wedding. The third when our house burnt down on Necker. Well, a bet is a bet – so it was a pleasure to finally honour the bet and join the team in my beautiful new uniform on a flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur.



Tony used to work for Virgin and it’s brilliant to see how he has built a thriving brand of his own.

Full post : http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/lady-in-red

Can we disrupt India’s health care systems ??

Can we disrupt India’s health care systems ??

Recently my father was told by a Doctor in NIMHANS that he might have cancer! My sister and father were shocked hearing that. Somehow, I told them this is utter nonsense and this Doctor must be pissed off for some reason (I have my own reasons not to believe lot of rotten Indian systems). We went to NIMHANS to meet the regular doctor and she instantly said, there is no cancer and the other Doctor has a history of getting pissed off and not to read ‘patient history on handwritten notebooks’. I was proved right on how useless our system is (more than the Doctor who wished cancer), why such a large govt institution with backings of big corporate houses donating funds is so stuck in the past!

As an entrepreneur, I thought lot more can be done, hence sharing my rants ..
1. Patient history /record management solution : Could we ever centralise it ? Just one record per person ? Not a rocket science
2. Making use of technology to let patient communicate with Doctor (my father lives in Odisha and he has to travel to Bangalore every time to meet the Doctor) ..Can we get Narayana Hrudayalaya to help govt on how they use remote communication system with patients from far eastern states of India such as Assam etc.
3. The medicine that is prescribed are sometime not available in different cities. How about stock/variations info/data so that patient is not at the mercy of local medicine store
4. Open branches of popular medical institutions : go local rather than having everybody coming to Bangalore or Mumbai or New Delhi. I think few newer like Vaatsalya  are already solving this.
5. Why govt of India ignore betters infrastructure for health care !! No matter how many roti, kapada and makaan, those are not enough without a good health
6. Where is the grievance recording system in Healthcare ? Who handles it ? Why can’t it be made transparent?
7. Who is monitoring all these private health care practices ? Any report of who & how badly they are treating ?

The list goes on… on a positive note, there are lot of new tech startups also venturing(/ventured) to solve some of the above issues. Let’s hope our destiny will be better by few brave entrepreneurs out there.

My 2012 : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  • The year 2012 started with 2nd year away from family : wife & kids are away in Odisha. I am in Pune
  • Got childhood best friend backing the company with some fund
  • Along with my team, I did event ‘Gate entry’ management job for few events 🙂 Some people thought I am crazy! How can a CEO do gate entry management 🙂
  • Had a massive business growth during March 2012, we grew 600% @ayojak
  • Spent several days in NCR/Gurgaon with 2 cool chaps : Falak & Sunil. Had loads of fun,movies & party. Met Anandan, Daksha Sharma, Pankaj Jain for first time after several years of knowing them online
  • I went to Ahmedabad & Gujarat for the first time. Also went to Rajasthan with Falak and Sunil, had a fantastic trip.
  • Travelled Maharashtra to Odisha by bus : Mumbai-Pune-Hyderabad-Vizag-Berhampur
  • Father suffered health issues and it was a painful year. Father-in-law had a heart surgey. Both are doing better these days
  • My sister gave birth to her first baby. I am ‘The Uncle’ for 2 lovely babies
  • Slept one night without money and hence without food (for whatever reason it is, it was painful)
  • Called a friend to take me home as debit card got blocked & had no money for the lunch 🙂 I had a delicious lunch, Thanks Venki
  • First time conceptualized an event called ‘Clean Comedy Festival 2012’. It was not a successful event. Thanks, we did it our way
  • Could win back old colleague Sunil Singh to come back and travel the journey together
  • Could win best friend and engg classmate to join the company. I have been chasing him since 2007 to join. I hope this journey will give him the best
  • After 1.5 years, I spent 2 full months with my wife & sons
  • I was worried that my little second son may not recognize me as father 😀 
  • After 12 years, I was in home with parents for Diwali
  • Listened to little sister’s problem, also her suggestions for my life
  • Had a massive growth in business @ayojak, we broke our own record of 425+ events in 3 months whereas we had 381+ events in entire 2011
  • Decided to stay back in Pune to work with team directly