Building a great organisation is always a work-in-progress and a lifelong pursuit. In the early stages entrepreneurs are focussed on survival and rightfully so. But it is also in these early years when the cultural DNA of the organisation is created. Hence , the leaders and founders must keep a few things in mind to ensure their culture code is designed for success.
I have worked with many entrepreneurs and business leaders over the past 17 years . This has allowed me to observe how daily decision-making impacts long-term success. What I share below are my learnings over all these years. However they are, by no means, absolute truths; they are just my truths. You are free to reject them or take inspiration from them.
- Hire right than bright
Make sure you hire those who have the same value set as yours. Functional skills can be taught, but values are difficult to teach. Most of the time, business decisions need to be made with incomplete information. So, if the team is aligned on values, decisions become faster and execution is better. Value-alignment also makes delegation easier, as this ensures that the behavior is the same across all levels. Hence, a person down the chain will take the same call as someone senior up. Bottomline: don't be dazzled by the bright one. Look hard and pick the right ones.
- Don’t be better guys doing old business
If your business’s success is primarily hinged on “We will be better than those who came before us”; think again. Today barriers to entry are relatively low, so if you are not bringing a significantly better experience for customers, be cautious. Even if you get success in the short run, someone will catch up with you soon and eat into the mileage you have earned by being the “good guys”. No matter how cynical you feel about the world, there is no dearth of “good guys” but ‘“good experiences” are few and far in between.
- It’s not about the people at the top, but those on front line
While every founder starts with a mission to delight the customer, only a few realise it. When asked, most blame the people they hired. By the same analogy, it’s the same people who deliver customer delight too, but these people are not “CXOs”. Function heads & business heads are far-removed from the customers; it's the emotional wellbeing of people on the frontline that matters most. They interact with customers; they fix the code to resolve a customer’s issue; they are the ones replying to mails and WhatsApp chats . They are the ones who feel the customer’s pain and delight, day in & day out. Hence, you need to pay attention to their happiness and this does not come about by only paying them fat salaries, but by providing them with the resources, tools and empowerment to help them help your customers. If they feel that they get the right appreciation from the management, you can trust and believe that your customers will feel appreciated too.
- Brand is not branding
Brand is not your font, color or logo style. But it’s the emotion that a customer feels when they use your product. Brand is a combination of expectation and experience. Your communication and packaging creates the expectation. Your product delivers the experience. If the expectation does not match the experience, you will never build a strong brand. Many entrepreneurs think brand-building starts the day you become somewhat famous. It’s like saying “we know people like honesty, but we will be honest when many people know us”. Even in real life, would we respect a person who changes their behavior based on how many people know them? Gandhi was Gandhi even when no one knew him. The same rule applies to brands as well. If you walk the talk and you will undoubtedly build a great brand.
- Long term is the only term
Having been through many stressful situations, I have come to realise that decisions taken with a long-term view were the right decisions. Every founder goes through many desperate moments, but if you can have the tenacity to not let go of long-term value, you will make better short-term decisions.
Jack Ma has famously said that from day one, Alibaba’s mantra was to only invest in businesses they believed would be big in 10 years. Their discipline of staying away from short-term opportunities has helped them achieve their current position. We should always consider a long-term view about people we hire, customer segments we serve and partners we work with. It helps to build long lasting businesses that will flourish and grow beyond the life of the founders.
The author is the CMO at Kristal.AI — Asia fastest growing private wealth platform.