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Preparing for the Future

Thu, Mar 12, 2009

Published (English)

Preparing for the Future

 

What does the future of Nepal hold for professionals, managers, entrepreneurs and investors?  How should we prepare for the upcoming changes in the new economy?  What should be taken as threat from the WTO regime that is so much the talk in town?  Can we counter it?  Is it real?  Does it matter? 

 

How to make sense of all the news both in the socio-political front and the economic front?  What do they indicate?  Should we take any actions?  Are we missing something?  What? 

 

Challenge to the entrepreneur

Imagine yourself back years back before any cars roamed in Nepal.  A business opportunity came to own dealerships of automobiles made in Japan, India or Europe.  That time it must have been a folly: how many cars would sell anyway!  Now individuals buy cars as a fashion statement.  Could it be that we are too missing a trend for an unforeseen opportunity unfolding?  Is it only tourism (hotels, buses, travel agencies, airlines) and hydro-power? Is there a virgin industry that requires less seed capital that has the potential to grow into a multi-billion industry and of which you could be the monopoly player?  Even if you could identify such a sector, how would you make the magic happen? 

 

Challenge to the investor

It is not only entrepreneurs that are left to worry about the post-CA era.  Investors seek the best return on their investment.  There is much talk on capital flight to India owing to higher rates of bank interest.  Also it is rumored investors having lost confidence from Nepalese market are putting their eggs in Singapore, Malaysia and other countries.  We are not sure how real the danger of drying up our well of investment is but things are changing and you can feel it in the air. 

 

CA or may be a special alignment of planets and stars has boosted the Nepalese morale.  Economics is less based on policies about interest rates, tariffs and subsidies and much more on this abstract thing we call morale.  Happy people feeling safe spend more than sad and insecure people.  The latter work more diligently than the latter.  These two outcomes of higher level of confidence are good news for investors.  Now the question that they must ask is: Is the right time to invest in ideas of enthusiastic youthful entrepreneurs?  Besides my money, what value can I add in the ownership? 

 

Challenge to the Manager

Managers cannot be less perturbed by the waves of change than the entrepreneurs and investors.  Gone are the days they could get away with mediocre performance.  The competition is intense, the boards seek results and at the same time employees want to participate. 

 

In a workshop for professional managers, I asked them, “What do you think you are paid for? A plumber gets paid for fixing water pipes, bathrooms; a mason for raising walls and floors; a dentist for repairing our teeth; a doctor for prescribing a cure or performing surgery.  What about the manager?”  Surprisingly they were dumbfounded for an answer. 

 

We played a game known popularly as the tower of Babylon.  The objective was to make a tower of people.  In the first layer, people have to make a circle to support those in the second level on their shoulders.  They again encircle one another to support those in the third layer.  The race is to reach the highest level.  The risk is that all fall in the process.  Many meanings can be found for this game.  But it describes best the role of the manager.  He is the one at the top.  He stands on the shoulders of the employees.  It is hard on their bodies.  However without him their teams cannot reach the great heights.  On the other hand, in one group, the person at the top, jumped down being dizzy of the height.  Yes, being a manager at the top is not an easy job.  So his job is to keep the organization stable so that it can reach its goals and win the competition, and at the same time keep the people happy to make sure his empire doesn’t crumble.  Worse, following the example of the tower of Babylon game, the height expected to be reached by managers is increasing every year.  After WTO it will be still higher.  The instance of falling would destroy many lives.

 

Challenge to the professional

A group of entrepreneurs called me to fix a management problem: their employees didn’t meet their expectation of pro-activeness.  We had training.  I asked the employees what they thought management expected from them.  They said, “Hard work, dedication, well-wishing for the company.” They were convinced that there could not be a second opinion about this.  After all they were groomed believing that these three qualities was what employers always wanted.  They were shocked when I asked the directors to state their expectation from them.  It was, “Expressiveness, teamwork, productivity, innovation, no communication gap, knowledgeable, and self-starter.”  

 

The world has changed.  No professional can ignore the new expectations placed on her shoulders. 

 

In the above company there was a big gap.  Through my intervention it closed to a great extent.  This group of owners was kind. They invested in transforming their employee’s attitude.  However in the new economy, freshers will come with the right knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors. Those who lag behind, will be left to wonder only why they didn’t get the job despite being more qualified. 

 

Salesmanship

A young staff (Rajesh) of a big organization asked me, “I have an idea to make all the filing system.  But no one is helping me.  They think it is unnecessary work.  But they don’t know how it will save their time and mental peace.  Why do you think is that they are not supporting this obvious idea?” 

 

A credit officer (Durgesh) in a bank asked me, “High value clients want to get loans without fulfilling all the documents requirements.  If I push they threaten to go to competing banks.  If I don’t push, the management won’t be happy.  How to deal with the situation?”

 

A new manager (Priyanka) asked me, “I am strict I admit it.  But I can’t tolerate people shouting to the colleague at the other end of room.  What is the intercom for?  Why is that so hard for them to accept me full-heartedly?”

 

An entrepreneur (Huma) asked me, “I am sitting on this dealership of QMI, a product that increases the life-span of engines many folds saving maintenance cost, opportunity cost and headaches.  But the car dealers aren’t open to the idea nor are customers.  It has been 15 years.  Why is that?”

 

An investor (Lal) asked me, “I want to bring in a new partner who I believe can boost up our business but the current investors are against the idea.” 

 

The need to influence becomes apparent in all the above four instances.  The new skills I prescribe for the new economy could simply have been convincing skills.  But even that is not enough.  We must develop a spirit of salesmanship. 

 

Tricks of the trade of sales

Nagram was a computer salesman.  He wanted to sell Rs.1 million worth of computer equipment to a prospective client.  But the client said, “Your competitor has given me a proposal of Rs.800 thousand.” In sales lingo this is called objection.  Most of us untrained in sales techniques would oblige and start the bargain process.  But not Nagram who handled this objection saying, “Mr.Prospect what I understand you saying is that you are want to make a saving of Rs.200 thousand.  Am I correct?”

 

The prospect is now pulled to a new game of which he is not prepared.  It is like someone wearing boxing gloves moving towards the ring and suddenly he is ushered to a football match (here of psychological nature).  Disoriented since he was expecting a lower quote, he replied, “That is right.” 

 

Nagram continued, “Mr.Prospect, for how long do you think you want to use this new computer system?”

 

Caught in the mental dribbling of Nigram, he replies, “At least 10 years.”

 

Nagram continued, “So you will be saving Rs.20 thousand per year?”

Prospect:- “Yes”

Nagram:- “That is Rs.1,500 per month?”

Prospect:- “Yes.”

Nagram:- “That is Rs. 50 per day?”

Prospect: “Yes”

 

Now Nagram like a Pele goes for the decisive shot in the goal post, “Mr.Prospect, our company is reputed for the highest level of after-sales service.  Customers praise it time and again.  On the other hand, such compliments are not common to other companies.  So, Mr.Prospect is it worth Rs.50/- to have to wait for several days of delay in case any of your machines face a problem? 

 

Prospect readily replied, “No.”  Right there he signed to order form.  Sale at Rs.1million without reducing the price was achieved. 

 

Cross discipline learning

Recall the credit officer, Durgesh.  I taught him how to use the above sales story example in his work.  He was a bit puzzled, “I am in banking. Nagram is into computers. I am talking about customers not wanting to give documents.  Nagram is faced with a bargaining situation.  Besides I don’t like being compared to salesmen.”

 

I replied, “Would you like to be compared to a CEO?  Even they are salesman, but of ideas, visions and change.  The outstanding ones use similar techniques to those who sell cars, mobiles or even kitchenware.” Durgesh said, “Ok then, how can I apply the learning from Nagram in my context?” I weaved him a narrative between himself and the difficult client. 

 

Durgesh:- “Mr.Difficult Client you need to bring 20 documents to seal the loan.”

Difficult Client:- “Other banks need only 10.”

Durgesh:-“Sir, how long are you expecting to take this loan for?”

Difficult Client, “About 10 years.”

Durgesh, “How much time do you think you can save by not completing the 10 documents?”

Difficult Client, “4 days.”

Durgesh, “Lets us suppose that after about 5 years, I am transferred and someone else takes over my portfolio and at the same time your need for funds is urgent.  Realizing that the documentation is not complete and of course not knowing if full how good a relationship you have been with our bank, he unintentionally stops the flow of loan for a month.   Would those 4 days you saved today, worth the month long crunch of capital, continual visits, and loss of opportunities in that plausible event?”

Difficult Client, “Not at all”

 

In this way, he brought the all the 20 documents.  Durgesh has succeeded. 

 

On the same line of thought

Rajesh had an idea but it was not well packaged.  His idea of new filing system was good but what are the benefits, how long will it take, what resources are needed, who will do it, when?  Such questions hover in the mind of his colleagues as he presents his idea but they don’t spell it out lest they think he is being treated like a salesman. 

 

Priyanka, the manager wasn’t able to make a strong empathetic bond with her staff and they felt they were pushed into buying. 

 

Huma and Lal also failed as salesmen of their products and ideas. 

 

My question is why to fail when the technology to succeed is available? 

 

WII FM

We all must learn to tune in to this channel that all great salesperson listen.  Its full form is “What’s In It For Me?”  Ask most salesman in Nepal what they think clients will answer to that question and they will say, “Discounts or commission.”  Ask a manager what he thinks employees will answer to this question and he will say, “Money and facilities.” 

 

But this is a zero sum equation that is one person wins and other loses.  Like in the example of Nagram using sound sales techniques, you can identify other answers to WII FM than financial things, when you make a sales, try to convince on a new approach to work. 

 

From my management consulting experience I have found that employee’s answer to WII FM are not money alone or really, it is “Growth in terms of responsibility and authority, learning opportunities, recognition, appreciation, respect, and participation.” 

 

From my shopping experience, I have found that customer’s answer to WII FM is not only discounts alone or really, it is “The Feeling of having made the right choice.  It means my family and friends will praise me for my purchase and the product will do as it says or service will deliver its promise.” 

 

WTO and the inflow of sales power from multinationals

Most of news that we read about business point towards a national weakness in selling and marketing.  We have not been able to export as we should.  Even we have not been able to sell tourists as much as they would have wanted to spend. 

 

Westeners learnt selling skills early in their history by converting people from various religions into Christianity.  After 2010 A.D many are alarmed by the financials muscles of MNC.  But what we should be frightened by is their ability to market and sell. 

 

Customer focus

It is high time that we start the revolution in customer satisfaction.  We are way behind both at company level and the employees level.  Our attitude towards customers must be like a participant in workshop rightly said, “Steps in the ladder to success.”  It is not enough we give lip service and say customers are god.  At least let us treat them as beloved guests to our homes with a smile, bright face, inviting body language and matching words.  At company level, let us orient our organization towards bringing them what they want, the way they want it and also what they don’t know they want but will want it when we sell them. 

 

Internal customer

WTO and the flood of MNC’s have learnt something we are just starting to get a grasp.  What do we want? Profits.  How will it come? Through satisfied customers.  Who will do that?  Employees.  We can only give what we receive.  We must treat our internal customers (employees) the way we want them to treat our revenue generating customers. 

 

More KSAB for everyone

All of us professionals, managers, entrepreneurs and investors must identify the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors we need to develop to prepare for the post CA economy and meet its upcoming challenges.  For some it starts in this article, for others it is just a reminder.  But this quest of KSAB never ends. 

 

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