The GROW model

GROWIn order to run a profitable business one has to be good with managing people and the key to managing people is effective coaching and mentoring. As an entrepreneur, you might come across numerous instances in your daily lives where you find yourself directly or indirectly coaching people. Coaching involves making sure your people set realistic objectives and achieve those objectives in desired manner. By effective coaching you can help them make better decisions, solve problems that are holding them back, help them develop new skills which would eventually progress their careers. There are many coaching methods that one could adopt. A specific method of coaching might suite a leader, whereas the same method would not be favorable for another leader, who might be dealing with a different set of people and objectives.

In the early 90s many leaders saw the need to structure a formal and effective method to coaching and objective setting. They eventually came up with the GROW model (or process), which is a simple yet powerful framework for structuring coaching or mentoring sessions. It was developed in the United Kingdom and was used extensively in the corporate coaching market in the late 1980s and 1990s. Even in the present day work cultures, coaching is some way or the other related to the GROW methodology.

The word “GROW” is used as an acronym here and stands for:

G – Goal
R – Reality
O – Options
W – Way forward

So to put it in simple words: while coaching and setting objectives for someone, treat it as a journey i.e. first, you decide where you are going (the goal), and then establish where you currently are (your reality). You then explore various routes (the options) to your destination. In the final step, you establish the way forward i.e. prepare yourself for the journey and plan your next move. This method is a simple yet effective way to coach and helps people think more realistically.

Many a times, leaders get into discussions with their teams, where they bombard them with information, facts, steps, plan etc, but lack this simple framework. The most effective way to use the GROW methodology is to align the basic coaching framework with your firm’s objectives. For example if you were to help a team member set objectives or deliver a desired result for your company, you would first need to discuss and set a clear cut goal, examine the current reality, evaluate the options and plan the way forward. Finally, decide on a date when you’ll both review the progress.

This method is highly effective even while setting personal goals and objectives. The core of the framework is that it helps one think and channel their thought in a more structured method, rather than get into a haphazard information dump. As with many simple principles any user of GROW technique can modify and apply a great deal of skill and knowledge at each stage but the basic process will always remain the same.

BRIC – The Big Four

BRICBRIC – alternatively known as the “big four” is an acronym that refers to the newly advanced countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Goldman Sachs was the first to introduce this acronym in one of their reports in 2003, stating that by the year 2050 these four economies would be wealthier than most of the current major global economic powers. Some sources have also predicted that by the year 2027, the Big Four economies will even overtake the G7 economies.

Unlike the countries affiliated to the European Union – that have more of a political alliance – the BRIC nations have the potential to form a powerful economic coalition. Recent statistics show that in the coming years, China and India will become the world’s dominant suppliers of manufactured goods and services, while Brazil and Russia will become equally dominant as suppliers of raw materials. Further, due to the lower labor and production costs, many companies are looking at the BRIC nations as an opportunity for foreign expansion.

The BRIC nations have realized that the development of small businesses and enterprises are the most important factors for overall economic development and have accordingly prioritized the growth of the SME (Small and medium enterprises) sector. These countries feel that SMEs are of utmost importance, as they provide benefits such as employment, exports, entrepreneurship and productivity.

Internationalization is another factor towards the growth of SMEs in the BRIC nations. Due to the rapid advancements in telecommunications, transportation and the Internet, the firms of these nations are becoming international much faster. Recent developments show that Governments of the BRIC countries are nurturing the SME sector by providing them adequate funds and also supporting their technological needs.

From an investor’s stand point, the word “BRIC” has become a synonymous for “emerging markets”. Larger companies are eyeing these courtiers for investment and business expansions. The BRIC nations have also become pioneers in global competition and job creation. According to a recent study conducted by the Oxford University, finding talent for global expansion is the new imperative for these nations. With a population of almost three billion people in total and a combined GDP of US$14.8 trillion, the BRIC countries have become the most talked about nations in the world economy.

Last but not the least; technology and R&D have become the most important factors that have contributed to the development of the SME sector of the BRIC nations. These nations have realized that technology is helping them achieve longevity and sustainable growth. From the year 2002 to 2007, the BRIC nations have doubled their spending on R&D and science research, raising their collective share of global R&D spending from 17 to 24%.

So, as a business owner or investor, it is important to keep a close watch on these developing nations, as they present great potential and opportunity for business expansions. It is about time that businesses around the world start recognizing the potential that these nations have to offer in terms of market growth, cost savings, cheap labor, technology and a rapidly growing educated population.

Industrialization as a Business Model

IndustrializationWhen we talk about industrialization, we generally think of an assembly-line setup or a factory production environment where people are working on standard processes and functions. In general perspective, we can look at Industrialization as a part of a wider modernization process, where development is closely related with process, technological and innovation. Looking back at the history of Industrialization, we see it as a phase in social and economic change that transformed human groups from an agrarian society into an industrial one.

In a modern day society the definition of Industrialization has gone through a transformation. Businesses are adapting the theory of industrialization and are combining it with strategic management initiatives. The service sector in particular is now being closely linked to the process of Industrialization. The key factor in industrialization is to plan and provision services as an industry process that is subject to industrial optimization procedures, such as standardization, bench marking and quality control.

The reason why the concept of Industrialization came into picture as a business model is because in the year 1972 the service sector suffered from high degree of inefficiency and variation in quality. The reason was that each service offering was treated as an isolated entity or event. There was an anxious need for a system or process that could amalgamate all different elements of service events and standardize the offering. So more like defining and executing repeatable function with predictable result, that is accelerated by technology to achieve far higher levels of productivity. The influence came from the manufacturing sector; where with the help of automation and statistical quality control, better products could be manufactured with consistency and quality. The same theory was applied to the service industry and the results were remarkable. Two apt examples are the case of McDonalds and WalMart.

WalMart in specific has been very instrumental in adopting the Industrialization process, specifically in their supply chain management system, ex. products are always moving and the supply-demand cycles flow almost instantaneously to market demand, with inventories kept at a bare minimum always.

However, after almost a decade of business Industrialization influence, many companies and industries are now facing varied consequences. Things like low employee morale, attrition and a gradual dip in service quality are the outcomes of and industrialized working environment. Customers feel that they are missing that “personal touch” or “human factor” while doing business. Many employees of such industrialized companies feel like working in a very robotic environment where there is great dependability on processes and technology.

Latest developments in Industrialization environment show that companies are now gradually becoming more cautious about personalizing their service offerings. Employees are now been trained and empowered to customize the service encounter to the individual characteristics of customers. So we see a trend where industrialization is now been followed more as a backbone to perform a function, but the emphasis is still on giving that personal or human touch to business and customers.

International Banking Basics

International Banking BasicsWe keep hearing stories about rich businessmen and corporations around the world opening up Swiss bank accounts and parking loads of money into international banks. We probably wonder about the amount of money these international banks make out of foreign savings and investments. With new businesses emerging out of different industries and economies, International banking is taking a whole new dimension and rich individuals around the world use such banks to shelter their money from their home country’s income and estate taxes.

According to OCRA Worldwide — international banks tend to offer their services to companies and to fairly wealthy individuals, i.e., people with cash of about $100,000 and counting. A large number of banks are based in countries with low or no income and estate taxes, such as the Cayman Islands, Belize, Panama and the Isle of Man. Swiss banks also offer great opportunities for foreign individuals by allowing them to open up bank accounts in their country.

There are many corporations and individuals that use such international banks to invest in the economies of booming countries and in developing countries, the same way they might invest in domestic ventures or investment opportunities. These banks offer other exciting benefits, for example, some International banks make it easier for a company with an international presence to do business around the world. There is less paperwork and easy regulations to handle while doing business internationally. Also, such banks offer better interest rates than domestic banks, providing a money-making opportunity for customers.

Well, there is a flip side to international banking too. One should do a thorough homework before opening up accounts in international banks. It is always good to keep in mind that the way domestic currency can change value, so can foreign currency. Is the bank in a country on the verge of some sort of civil war or economic collapse? Is the bank known for efficiency and smart investments or for poor customer service and federal bailouts? These are things one should always check and keep in mind while taking the international banking route. Also, due to numerous cases of money laundering and international terrorism, many international banks keep a close eye on account activities. So, if you’re moving massive amounts of money around quickly, you will raise a red flag.

Last but not the least; international banking should be treated as an initiative in itself. It is always advisable to consult seasoned international financial consultants before opening accounts in international banks. Businesses should do a complete check on the regulatory and policies aspect of these banks and make a move, when they feel the time is right.

At the end of the day, it is all about how well you can manage your money by securing it safe.

The Big Data story

The Big Data StoryBig data – as the name signifies is a general term used to define the rapid growth and availability of structured and unstructured data in all formats. The reason why it has been termed as “big data” is because it defines data sets so large and complex that it cannot be managed by typical data management systems or any traditional form of data processing applications.

Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software programs to capture, manage and process within a reasonable time span. A 2011 McKinsey report suggests suitable technologies to manage Big Data that include A/B testing, crowd sourcing, data fusion and integration, genetic algorithms, machine learning, natural language processing, signal processing, simulation, time series analysis and visualization. As of 2012, Big data has increased the demand of information management specialists and Fortune 500 companies such as Oracle Corporation, IBM, Microsoft, SAP, HP and Dell have spent more than $15 billion on software firms only specializing in data management and analytics.

The theory of big data has become a hot topic among businesses and societies. Big data means more data and more knowledge, which in turn means accurate analysis and better decision making. With exponential growth in data, big data is now being associated with three main attributes i.e. volume, velocity and variety. This huge data is been used to spot business trends, determine quality of research, prevent diseases, determine real-time roadway traffic conditions and also combat crime. These are just a few of the typical uses of Big Data.

Big data, in a typical business scenario can be defined as a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing finding and analysis. Here it is important to remember that data received and gathered could be structured and/or unstructured. Structured data is anything that can be easily understood and comprehended i.e. interactions between people and machines, such as web applications or social networking platforms. Whereas unstructured data is something that cannot be easily interpreted or organized and is typically text-heavy. Meta tags, XML feeds, software code are few examples.

With increase in globalization and world markets becoming more competitive, it is important that businesses and organizations start understanding the importance of big data. It not only helps business owners make better decisions, but it also gives surprising insights about different markets and trends. Big data has helped organizations completely re-engineer their business model, thereby adding value to their end users or customers. With the right use of BIG Data, businesses can expand their customer engagement and intelligence. From a customer’s perspective, it’s a simple question to answer: “Don’t you remember me?” For any company with hundreds to millions of customers, that recognition doesn’t always happen, but big data can help overcome that problem and will equip you to offer a customized approach to your customers.

BIG data, is here to stay and is ever increasing. With markets and businesses becoming more digital and cloud based, entrepreneurs are understanding the importance of this new data theory and are gradually increasing spending budgets to fund BIG DATA management initiatives.

The life and death of Aaron Swartz

Aaron SwartzAaron Swartz or now more popularly known as “The Internet’s Own Boy”, was the man behind the development of the web feed technology called RSS and the also the social news website Reddit. Aaron was also known to be an Internet Hacktivist, a computer programmer, writer and a political organizer. On the evening of January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment because of charges that he faced due to computer crimes.

Aaron was born in Chicago, Illinois, the eldest son of Jewish parents Susan and Robert Swartz. After leaving high school in the 10th grade he joined a course at the Chicago are college. At the young age of 13, Swartz won an ArsDigita Prize, given to young people who create “useful, educational, and collaborative” noncommercial websites. He later went on to attend the Stanford University and while in his freshman year, started the software company, Infogami.

In the year 2005, Infogami merged with Reditt, a social news website. Initially, Reditt found it difficult to make money, but the site later gained in popularity, with millions of users visiting it each month. In 2008, Swartz founded Watchdog.net, “the good government site with teeth,” to aggregate and visualize data about politicians. Aaron was also instrumental in supporting campaigns to prevent the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

The JSTOR controversy:

While attending Harvard University as a research fellow, Aaron Swartz used JSTOR, a digital repository, to download a large number of academic journal articles through MIT’s computer network over the course of a few weeks in late 2010 and early 2011. Apparently, visitors to MIT’s “open campus” were authorized to access JSTOR through its network. On the night of January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested near the Harvard campus by MIT police and a U.S. Secret Service agent.

On the evening of January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment by his partner. Swartz suffered from debilitating ulcerative colitis — a bowel condition — as well as crippling depression. His depression became worse as he and his family spent millions defending against felony charges and a steep prison sentence he faced.

Brian Knappenberger’ recently released a brilliant documentary named the “The Internet’s Own Boy” on the life and death of Aaron Swartz. Swartz had been in a two-year legal battle for using MIT’s network to systematically download 4.8 million academic journal articles from JSTOR. He was facing $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison.

Top 5 sales films

Top 5 sales filmsMovies have always been an inspiration to business owners and wannabe entrepreneurs. It gives them ideas, new insights and sheer motivation to go out there and make that move. Sales, as a concept has always been a topic of debate in any business environment. No matter how big or small a company might be, sales are something that no one can get away with.

Unfortunately, one can never learn how to sell just by going to a high class B-school or by reading a few books on how to sell. Moreover, “sales” is not an art or a defined science that one could learn; it is more of an attitude. You just need to go out there and find new ways to get the attention of customers and offer them your product or service. The more differently you do it, the more experienced you get in selling – yourself, your idea, you product or your service.

Here are a set of 5 most popular films based around the concept of sales:

The wolf of Wall Street (2013):

Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film is about the famous New York stock broker Jordan Belfort. The film shows Belford’s rises to success, from being a penny stock broker to becoming the most affluent business owners of the 80’s. It depicts Belford’s rather colorful life – filled with drugs, women, greed and his passion for selling. The film talks about a lot of concept on how to never stop selling in life, motivating your team, focusing on training and embracing adversity.

Gelengarry Glen Ross (1992):

Directed by James Foley, the film is and adaption of the 1984 Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning play of the same name written by David Mamet. The film shows two days in the life of 4 desperate real estate salesmen. The film like the play is notoriously famous for its foul language and use of profanity. The film is famous for its famous dialogue, “ABC i.e. Always Be Closing”, meaning that no matter what you do, a salesman job is to always be “CLOSING” sales.

Boiler Room (2000):

Written and directed by Ben Younger, the film is based on interviews the writer conducted with numerous brokers over a two-year period. The film is a true depiction of the so called concept of “boiler room operations” which refers to the use of high pressure sales tactics to sell stocks to clients who are called randomly, most likely after being picked out of a phone directory. If you are looking for adrenaline pumping sales action, then this one is a must watch.

Thank you for Smoking (2005):

A comedy-drama film written and directed by Jason Reitman, the film is about a lobbyist named Nick Naylor, for the tobacco industry whose job is to promote cigarette smoking in a time when the health problems related to cigarettes are obvious to most people. This film clearly shows how business, media, and government interact to influence the choices consumers make. The film depicts how day-to-day consumers are blind towards unethical sales tactics that many corporations undertake to sell their product.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Harder (2009):

Directed by Neal Brennan, the film is a comedy based around how Ben Selleck’s car dealership, in Temecula, California, is failing and he is forced to hire a mercenary, Don Ready. Don is more like an “outside” person who along with his team, sells cars for Ben, by any and every means possible. The film depicts, that a salesman should have the courage to go to any extent to sell!