Home / IndUS Forum Blog / Economics / “Surviving and Succeeding as a Business Executive”

Nov 7th

2011

By Prabhu Guptara

Posted in Economics
Comments 0
Your Excellencies, Professor Dr Mrs Vijaya Katti, Professor Dr Ravi Shanker, Mr R K Mitra IFS, Dr Biswajit Nag, Honoured Representatives of Foreign Embassies and High Commissions, other Distinguished Guests, Respected Faculty, dear Participants in the IIFT programmes, and Comperes Mr Rajiv Mishra and Mrs Kanupriya Saigal:

 

My thanks to you, Kanupriya, for that kind introduction, and my thanks also to the Committee that has organized this event, especially to Mr Mukesh Kumar who has I guess led the team, for the invitation to speak here today. I am always delighted when I discover “initiatives for good” undertaken by anyone in our society, and especially if the initiative is taken by people such as you, who are already leaders in your fields and want to grow further as leaders.

 

My topic today is “Surviving and succeeding as a business executive”, which has certain similarities to surviving and succeeding as an entrepreneur (I know that some of you are executives and some are entrepreneurs – but I will leave you who are entrepreneurs to work out what applies and what does not apply to you, and the many additional aspects there are to being a successful entrepreneur).

 

May I start my talk by asking if you know what recruiters look for in possible employees? And what we should look for in employees?

 

You know of course that first comes technical or professional competence. If you have a Second Class degree from IIFT, you are unlikely be selected in preference to someone who has a First Class degree from IIFT.

 

The second thing that you look for is relational competence – is this applicant the sort of person who will fit into the team? Will they even contribute to the team? Between two candidates, both of whom have First Class degrees, the one who is perceived to have more relational competence will be more likely to be chosen.

 

The final, and most important consideration when selecting an employee at the managerial or executive level is this: is the candidate HUNGRY? DOES S/HE WANT TO GO PLACES? Is he/she a SELF-STARTER? Does he/she have INITIATIVE? Even LEADERSHIP? We want people with FIRE IN THEIR BELLY – there are various expressions that are used to indicate the quality that is looked for – but let’s settle for HUNGER.

 

SO, if you want to make an impact in the marketplace, you need to have:

- A HUNGER FOR DOING YOUR WORK AS WELL AS POSSIBLE

- A HUNGER FOR THE OVERALL GOOD OF THE COMPANY

- A HUNGER FOR PERSONAL EXCELLENCE – notice: NOT merely ambition for as much money as possible as quickly as possible…

 

Well, folks, I don’t know what you are like, but when I go to a conference, I am happy if there is one key thought that I can go away and think about and apply, if I have two such key thoughts that’s great, and if I have three that’s like a banquet – and I really can’t cope with more than that!

 

So, it may be that God has already given you the key thought that you need to hear – but that’s what you need to be listening out for, not how incredibly stupid or sensible, dull or entertaining I am….

 

On the other hand, it is possible that you haven’t yet got your key learning from this session, so let’s press on.

 

Let’s imagine that you have been able to convince the recruiters and the company executives that you are technically competent, that you are right for their team, and that you are keen, enthusiastic, hungry, with fire in your belly and the rest.

 

So you have been selected, and you have received the congratulations and blessings of family and friends, and celebrated, and so on.

 

Now you are just headed to your first day at work.

 

What should be your first goal?

 

It is to establish your credibility! How do you do that? Through reliability, being on time, performing to budget, to quality. And, if possible, OUTPERFORMING on timing, budget and quality. THE ABILITY TO LOOK AND SOUND GOOD MAY GET YOU INTO A JOB, or even into tasks within a company, but it is only your ability to keep delivering to time, budget and quality that will keep you in your job – and, if you want to have a career and grow in your company, focus on outperforming (not the others in the company) but outperforming on the criteria of time, budget and quality.

 

I guess that point quite simple: The first thing is to establish your credibility!

 

What’s the 2nd thing? RAISE YOUR VISIBILITY. Once you have established your credibility, if your company is any good, it will be looking for good workers, workers with potential, to train and use at higher levels in the organization. ASK QUESTIONS, RAISE CONCERNS, PROPOSE SOLUTIONS, TAKE LEADERSHIP WITH OTHERS IN ORDER TO DO WHATEVER NEEDS TO BE DONE, WHETHER IT IS ORGANISING A BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR A COLLEAGUE, OR A SPECIAL GIFT FOR SOMEONE WHO IS IN DIFFICULTY, OR CREATING A TEAM TO MANAGE AN OFFICE OR WORK CRISIS.

 

Raising your profile also has to do with ensuring that others in the company, and specially your boss, know what you are doing and what you are contributing to the company, including your thoughts and concerns and questions, AND that you always have an up to date CV so that you are ready to move departments or companies in case you are fired – yes, bad things do happen to good people, and the Scout Motto is: Be Prepared!

 

So what was the 1st point? ESTABLISH YOUR CREDIBILITY BY AT LEAST PERFORMING TO EXPECTATIONS, AND IF AT ALL POSSIBLEBY OUTPERFORMING THOSE EXPECTATIONS.

 

What was the 2nd point? RAISE YOUR VISIBILITY – ENSURE THAT PEOPLE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE YOUR COMPANY, BUT SPECIALLY YOUR BOSS, KNOW WHAT YOU ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE COMPANY.

 

Once you have established your credibility and are raising your visibility, your 3rd task is before you: ADDING VALUE TO THE COMPANY.

 

There are actually two main ways in which you can add value to a company, either CUTTING COSTS or CREATING REVENUES. Cutting costs is easier, not that any thing is easy, but it is relatively speaking easier in the current climate. Look around you to see how work could be more efficiently organized without compromising quality – actually, it might even enhance quality. Are there steps in the work flow that are redundant or could take place in parallel? Would reorgansing the workspace produce things in less time? Would having an ice machine or a coffee machine increase interaction and informal discussion and therefore improve teamwork, specially across divisions or department?

 

Of course you might retort that there’s been so much cost-cutting in my company that its easier to grow revenues! Well, so much the better – any company is always looking for new ideas to increase revenue. But there’s a bit of a catch here. You will always increase revenue most sustainably when you identify customer needs that are not met, and find a way of serving those needs. So don’t THINK “revenue” or you will go down the wrong road, as so many companies do. THINK “unmet customer needs” and you will then no doubt figure out a reasonably good way of increasing revenues with it.

 

So what is the first thing you have to do to be able to impact the marketplace? Establish Credibility.

 

The second? Raise Visibility.

 

The third? Add Value by cutting costs or serving unmet customer needs.

 

Now we come to what is nearly the most important thing you can do for a company: ENHANCING REPUTATION AND BRAND VALUE.

 

Brand value is the premium that is attracted to a brand from customers who are willing to pay extra for it.

• The Brand Finance plc. Global Intangible Financial Tracker League Table (GIFT) is a 10 year study of the intangible asset values of all public stock exchanges worldwide

• GIFT is released in January each year but due to the exceptional economic conditions it has been updated as of 24th August 2011

• Further panic in world stock markets has resulted in a 25% ($6.3 tn) reduction in intangible asset values.

• Despite the fall recorded in GIFT, this update of the Brand Finance Global 100 brands shows that there has only been a 2.4% drop in their combined value! That’s ONE TENTH of the average drop in brand value!

 

How much are these top 100 brands worth anyway? Roughly 25 trillion USD, or nearly the total value of goods and services produced in the entire United States over TWO years!

 

That’s only the top 100 brands!

 

So you can see that reputation is worth a lot. A good name, a good reputation is worth a lot. And it isn’t built by advertising, though that helps. A reputation is built by being clear WHAT reputation you are trying to build – and then crafting, aligning, monitoring, controlling, refining and reorganising all the systems and procedures, all the policies and incentives, and everything else, to make sure that the company consistently and continually delivers on what it promises.

 

So, from all the above, the question for us this afternoon is: what ideas, what initiatives, what moves, can you think of that would add to the reputation of the company, its good name? What can you suggest, and more important, eventually actually DO to ensure that quality, reliability, precision, value for money, ethics, customer satisfaction, environmental concern, social justice or whatever other values your company wants to stand for – are firmly associated in the customer’s mind with your company?

 

So what was the first thing you have to do in any job? ESTABLISHING CREDIBILITY

2ND? RAISING VISIBILITY

3rd? ADDING VALUE

4TH ENHANCING REPUTATION

 

And now we can come back to where we started, the 5th and most important thing: TRANSFORMING YOUR INDUSTRY, AND INDEED EVENTUALLY ALL INDUSTRY AND ALL COMMERCE (IF YOU ARE IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE, THEN ALL PUBLIC SERVICE AND ALL GOVERNMENT SERVICE) SO THAT IT BECOMES MORE ETHICAL, MORE JUST AND MORE SOCIALLY AND ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE.

 

That is easier to do in some cultures than in others. Easier to do in North European and North American cultures than in almost any other culture in the world. But of course the reality is that it has become more difficult than it used to be thirty years ago even in Northern European and North American cultures, while it has become more easy here in our culture than it used to be thirty years ago. Why has it become more difficult in Northern Europe and North America – and why has it become easier in India? Because we have come more into line with international standards as a result of globalization influenced by standards that derive eventually from the Bible rather than from any other source, while Northern Europe and North America are already suffering the cultural consequences of their rejection of Biblical values – and those consequences will come here too, unless we are careful.

 

But those are broader questions than we have time for right now – though you may want to take up such matters in the question and answer time that we have before us.

 

Meanwhile, I hope that I have provided some food for thought.

 

Thank you.

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