Everyone Has A Platform (Part 1)

The best thing about technology today is that everyone has a platform.

It doesn’t matter whether our preferred medium is in written, audio or visual form, we have access to all the technology we need to create, publish, broadcast and market our message to anyone, whether they’re in our hometown or all the way across the other side of the globe.

How Do You Measure Success?

We’re in a business environment that, for the most part, is fixated on growth. One that values year over year, double and triple digit revenue increases as absolutely essential to being considered a “successful” company, to not be considered a failure.

In particular, if the organization is funded, that’s almost always a base level expectation. You aren’t being funded to simply create a going concern, you’ve been given a charter to create something transformative, huge, the next proverbial unicorn. (The more prominent the funders, the more prominent this expectation becomes.)

There's Always Room For Value (Part 2 - Competition)

In my last post, I talked about how there’s always room for value when deciding to enter a market and that the key is in defining that value in a way that matters to the customer, and is profitable for you.

In this post, I’ll discuss the idea of competition and how defining who you compete with, as well as how they go to market, can and should influence your decision to play within a specific space.

Now, our initial tendency as we evaluate a specific market will be to consider the most obvious competitor in that space. This is our direct competition, and they are always the ones with the biggest brand, revenues, mindshare.

There's Always Room For Value (Part 1 - Markets and Customers)

All too often, when we’re evaluating a new product or service idea, we get caught up in the notion of '“competitive dominance”. That there can only be one competitor who owns that space and, hence, competing in that market is a non-starter. Or, alternately, that there are so many players that that market has become commoditized. Either way, there’s no point playing in that space because the opportunity (for us) is gone.

When We Rush To Judgement

The more time you spend on social media, the more you see examples of it.

Someone posts a video excerpt of an altercation, or footage of someone acting a way we don’t agree with, or an article about someone making statements that don’t resonate with what we believe in.

And our tendency, our natural instinct, is to react. To make our judgement. And then to share that judgement with someone else, and someone else, and someone else. Because the emotion of the moment is hard to get past, hard to get over.

Own The Message

Back in my early consulting days, I was asked to give a presentation to a prospective client and was handed a deck to present. My instructions were to go through the material, get comfortable with the content and then do a run-through with the partner with whom I’d be doing the pitch.

The content was right in my sweet spot, so I was pretty comfortable with the key messages that we needed to get across. But some of the material in the deck didn’t sit well with me.

The Myth of Inbox Zero (Or, For That Matter, Perpetual Happiness)

I don’t believe there is any such thing as Inbox Zero.

I think it’s one of those Holy Grail type of scenarios - we all keep searching for it, but we will never find it, because, in all probability, it doesn’t actually exist. Just like there’s no Ark of Covenant, no Loch Ness Monster, and no better football team than the 2003-2004 Arsenal Invincibles. (Yes, I said it.)

But while it may not be practically possible to get to Inbox Zero, that doesn’t mean we should pursue it.

When You’re Sick of Fitting In...

“People want companies and the world around them to align to their values, their goals, their needs, their interests. People want to find where they belong. They’re sick of fitting in.” Chris Brogan

We’re in a very different age from the one I grew up in. Back then, consumer brands exhibited personalities along parameters that were, generally speaking, non-controversial. It was important to offend no-one and “to stand out” was to do so along ‘conventional’ lines (sexy was cool but in a heterosexual way; models were never plus-size; family units started with a man and a woman, etc.).

If You Have To Brag About How Busy You Are...

I’m so busy. I’ve got a ton going on. I don’t have the time. We hear (and say) these phrases regularly, and to little surprise, given all that we might have on our plate at any given time.

In most ways, of course, it’s good to be busy. To experience the buzz you get when things at work are humming along, when you’re in full flow and driving towards whatever goals you’re working towards.

The flip side, though, is when we feel as if we have to be this way all the time - and worse, to show it, and constantly say it.

The Experienced Entrepreneur: What The Data Says

In my post on Monday (Are You Too Old?), I argued that, as an experienced professional, you had to lean into your age and experience instead of trying to downplay or avoid it. As such, you either look for those who value your experience and work with them, or take matters into your own hands, and do something for yourself. In other words, take it as a Call To Action and do what you want.

The interesting thing is that in trying to do what we want, many of us are hounded - constrained - by the same conventional wisdom that drove us to this point in the first place.

Are You Too Old?

I recently came across a survey of US Tech Start-Up Founders by the venture-capital firm, First Round Capital, that yielded an insight that I think most of us, explicitly or implicitly, know to be the case:

37% said age is the strongest investor bias against founders, while 28% cited gender and 26% cited race.

Age is the strongest investor bias. No surprise there. And while the survey was focused on Tech, I don’t think it would be a stretch to envision this to be the case across start ups in other sectors as well.

Cutting The Cord

Earlier this year, I got rid of my landline. It was a decision that, frankly, much harder than it should have been.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve had a cell phone since the late 90’s and I’ve been using my cell for all personal calls, almost exclusively, for the last half decade at least. In addition, the only calls that I (or any of my family) have been getting on our landline the last few years have been from telemarketers, and we pretty much never answer those calls.

3 Reasons This Post Will Change Your Life (Disclaimer: It Won't)

Yes, that title is clickbait. (Partially anyway.)

A title that is designed to lure you in and make you read what I’ve written.

Because it promises you salvation (or resolution or clarity or closure) in some form. Because it suggests that that salvation will come from a few discrete steps. Because it suggests that salvation is going to be easy (implicitly anyway).

I’m Not Him

A small portion of the folks who follow me on Twitter think I’m Omar Abdullah, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. I know this because every so often they’ll Direct Message me with news about developments in Kashmir (usually holding me accountable for it), or they’ll post an article about some Kashmir related issue and tag me along with the Prime Minister of India and other senior South Asian politicians.

It doesn’t happen a lot but it’s happened enough that I posted a PSA in Twitter that I wasn’t him and if you were following me for my views on Kashmir, you’d be sorely disappointed.

Friends

It feels like I’m at that age where the loss of family and friends I’ve grown up with is becoming less and less of a rarity. People who have been instrumental, in ways large and small, to how I’ve grown up, what I’ve learnt, what I believe. 

This past weekend, we lost one of our closest family friends, a man my family affectionately referred to as Malik Uncle. He was someone my father befriended early on, when we moved to Hong Kong (when I was still very young). His wife was an important influence in our lives, and his three sons became close friends with my brothers and I. We all grew up together, never living more than a few blocks apart until our late teens. 

You're Not Perfect. That's OK.

“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us.” (Brene Brown)

There’s an illusion in the business world that we cannot expose our flaws to anyone around us - not our colleagues, our clients and certainly not our bosses. The fear is, of course, that we will be judged, perceived as someone who is fundamentally flawed and, accordingly, cast off to career obscurity.

It’s an illusion that becomes all the more exacerbated at the management level. I can’t afford to show any weakness. I have to always impress that I know everything. I can never say ‘I don’t know’.

When You Need A Burning Platform

Change doesn’t tend to come easily to most of us.

For the most part, we don’t typically choose to change. More often, change - or at the very least, the need for it - is thrust upon us due to some exterior event, shift or development. When profits are severely impacted, when a competitor introduces a revolutionary new product or when an external environmental shift occurs, shifting the steady state we’ve become so comfortable with.