[Srijan Wednesday Webinars] Role of Luck & Serendipity in Business


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The role of luck and serendipity (fortuitous coincidences) is underplayed and under quoted by successful business leaders. They probably find that giving credit to events outside of their control, would present them in poor light, undermining them and their business success. In this webinar, Rahul talked about Srijan's journey, and the role of luck and serendipity in its success so far. We hope that his candid sharing will inspire more aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners, as well as leaders and managers, in being open to events that occur outside their control, thus adding to their success.

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[Srijan Wednesday Webinars] Role of Luck & Serendipity in Business

  1. 1. My Journey With Srijan © Srijan Technologies Private Limitedwww.srijan.net Role of Luck, Serendipity, Agile & Letting Go!
  2. 2. About this talk
  3. 3. Luck in Business?
  4. 4. Entrepreneurs & Success ● “Six Attributes of Successful Entrepreneurs” ● “The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs” ● “10 Important Personal Characteristics of Entrepreneurs”
  5. 5. Entrepreneurs & Success ● Intuition ● Tenacity ● Tolerance of ambiguity ● Flexibility ● Rule-breaking ● Vision ● Passion ● Hands-on ● Self-belief ● Listen & Learn ● Inherently creative ● Willing to take risks ● Great people skills ● Goal-oriented
  6. 6. World Changing Vision & Mission! Source
  7. 7. World Changing Vision & Mission! ● Only a fortunate few find a grand vision: ○ Disney -- “To Make People Happy!” ○ Microsoft -- “A computer at every desk”
  8. 8. No Grand World Changing Vision! ● Virgin Group started as a Mail Order company ● 3M was a mining company which nearly died in a few years ● Sony (earlier Totsuko) used to make wire-mesh bread heaters after WW-II ● Nokia started as a paper-pulp company
  9. 9. No Grand World Changing Vision! ● Serendipity happens! ○ Origins in a persian fairy tale where the princes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of” ○ Fortutious happenings
  10. 10. Fortutious things happen ● Serendipitous events happen often when you are searching & preparing for a leap: ○ a chance meeting with a ‘future partner’ ○ a lucky lunch meeting with a big (potential) client OR a reference ○ an apple that falls from the tree when you are engrossed with questions of gravity ○ a meeting with struggling wall painter (re- birth of 3M)
  11. 11. Fortutious things happen ● Few entrepreneurs, specifically in the west, like to offer credit to occurrences outside their endeavours / skills / traits ● Luck is not a bad word! ● You can work at making yourselves lucky!
  12. 12. Role of Luck & Serendipity
  13. 13. Luck & Serendipity - By Invitation Only! “Lucky people have an openness, an authenticity, and a generosity towards embracing people - without overthinking ‘what’s the value exchange?’” ~ Anthony Tjan, Co-author of “Heart, Smarts, Guts & Luck”
  14. 14. Luck & Serendipity - By Invitation Only! “Learn to live, and you shall learn to write” ~ Shama Futehally
  15. 15. The Story of Srijan
  16. 16. No Grand World Changing Vision! Source ● Estb 2002 ● No grand articulated vision ● Personal search and pursuit of purpose & meaning ?
  17. 17. The Journey :: 2002 - 2003 ● Srijan was doing custom PHP and ASP -- hand- coded CMSs ● Got opportunity to have a booth at ICT4D fair in Geneva via the World Bank ● Breakthrough: IDRC -- ENRAP on Postnuke; wanted help
  18. 18. Tryst with Open Source :: 2004 ● Impressed with what Open Source Postnuke could do, searched on open source ● TYPO3 happened! ● My jaw dropped on reading the feature list -- all open source and free! ● By June 2004 we had an enquiry from a 200-chain retail store from Germany
  19. 19. The Journey :: 2004 - 2007 ● Small Team 10-15 people ● Short-term projects ● Fairly Profitable ● Mostly incoming leads ● Nearly all TYPO3, Germany + Netherlands ● Airtel, Bharti -- TYPO3; Srijan was among the first to implement open source CMS in enterprises
  20. 20. Emerging Values & Culture : 2004 - 2007
  21. 21. Emerging Values & Culture : 2004 - 2007 ● Experiments with transparency & participative decision making ○ Open Books / Finances ○ Open Salaries ○ Set your own salary ○ Profit Sharing ○ self-organizing teams with independent P&L
  22. 22. Emerging Values & Culture : 2004 - 2007 ● Team oriented ● Take on challenges ● Work very hard ● Nimble, Responsive, Responsible ● Less processes (lots of chaos + self-organizing)
  23. 23. Tougher Years : 2007 - 2011 ● Bigger projects ( < $30K) ● Fixed Cost ● Incorrect estimations (nearly always) ● Tail of the projects always dragged (endlessly) ● Each time we bore the brunt (of such cost over- runs) ● Change requests were “difficult to capture”, “scope” and “estimate” ● Fingers pointing all over (sales -- devs--managers)
  24. 24. Tougher Years : 2007 - 2011 ● Financial constraints led to staffing developers on new projects (before completing one at hand – endless project tail!) ● One-person-team staffed on a project, was not unusual ● Low developer morale ● Low leadership morale ● Poor financial health (even after a lot of hard-work for years)
  25. 25. Role of Luck & Serendipity NASSCOM #EMERGEOUT 2011 ● Heard a speaker from the NASSCOM mentoring program: “Infosys knows its revenues 2 years ahead” “I got out of projects; looked for clients offering long-term contracts”
  26. 26. Role of Luck & Serendipity NASSCOM #EMERGEOUT 2011 ● A woman from the audience heard my questions to MindTree’s CEO (KK Natarajan) on my internal conflict of “rapid growth”; invited me to a biz program she was attending [was an act of generosity without any consideration of a transaction]
  27. 27. Role of Luck & Serendipity NASSCOM #EMERGEOUT 2011 ● A woman from the audience heard my questions to MindTree’s CEO (KK Natarajan) on my internal conflict of “rapid growth”; invited me to a biz program she was attending [was an act of generosity without any consideration of a transaction]
  28. 28. And i got thinking... “How could i get long-term contracts for Srijan?” “How could i negotiate with clients wanting to build products, that fixed costs won’t work?”
  29. 29. Role of Luck & Serendipity Agilecon - Feb, 2012 ● Speaker presentation on “Distributed Startups” ● Met an Agile Coach who shared: ○ Break your projects down into phases ○ charge for estimation (whoa!!) ○ bad idea to write hundreds of pages of requirements & tech documentation upfront ○ Client education/agreement on Agile contracting is tough; but do you have a choice?
  30. 30. Fresh ideas were emerging ● Was wondering how to find a product development client; convince them on Agile contracting & development ● Got into Agile-SCRUM trainings with a leading Agile coach ● Joined the business program (CIAM) -- “The purpose of a business is to do business!”
  31. 31. Role of Luck & Serendipity Management Consulting firm; 2011 ● A Phone call -- the most important one i ever received! ● Small beginnings with a huge ‘management consulting’ firm ● Our single biggest client now
  32. 32. Managing the stress! ● Started to refuse fixed-cost projects, incl a “really” large one ● Had stress with my then partner -- lifestyle OR scale? ● Partner-CTO moved out (merger; de-merger) ● Meanwhile, the management consulting firm offered the financial cushion needed
  33. 33. Role of Luck & Serendipity Varun Singh; From Dharamshala; Pursuit of “purpose” Krishnan N., Bangalorean 22 yrs in embedded sys Mountaineer
  34. 34. Role of Luck & Serendipity View from our Dharamshala office; 2011-12
  35. 35. Breakthroughs! ● The management consulting firm were Agile believers -- our “common language” struck a chord ● Converted a fixed-cost product development client to an Agile engagement ○ our refusal to do business under fixed-cost attracted them ○ they loved “our integrity” ● Our first SCRUM trainer had moved out of his company; accepted offer to spend 2 days a week
  36. 36. Breakthroughs! ● Our first SCRUM trainer had moved out of his company ● Accepted offer to spend 2 days a week and work across teams rigourously Avienaash Shiralige, Agile Buddha
  37. 37. Breakthroughs! ● I found a business coach ● CEOs often have “loneliness” factor to deal with ● Further, accountability for a CEO goes missing ● The business coach solved this, and together we set goals, and enrolled leaders at Srijan in those Darshan Bhat, CIAM
  38. 38. What was now changing? ● Staffing “Teams” (not offering costs based on hours-estimates) ● Focus on delivery every 2 weeks ● Client Demos ● Engaged clients ● Billing cycles became month-wise / sprint-wise; leading to financial health, better cash-flows ● Project changes were being managed well
  39. 39. What was now changing? ● Devs were focussed on one-project-at-a-time ● No one-person-project-”team”!! ● Long-term contracts and cash flows enabled hiring better people ● Higher employee-engagement, satisfaction
  40. 40. Where are we now in 2014? ● Still -- chaos!!! :-) ● In pursuit of excellence. But dissatisfied/discontent with where we are! ● Agile adoption is not uniform ● Sprint Cadence missing in a lot of projects ● Not enough SM leadership (we’ve been a company of engineers!) ● Sales team and processes just beginning to evolve!
  41. 41. Where are we now in 2014? ● Long-term contracts with a few clients -- we’ve “hugged” them ● Our customers love us! ● Deeply “motivated leaders” -- to uphold our core values ● Big leads still come in serendipitously, just when we begin to feel the heat
  42. 42. Committed to this journey! ● “Continuous Improvement” is our stated mantra! ● Raising the bar on all staff members ○ by restructuring roles and responsibilities ○ hiring better, motivated, passionate people ● Changing tools -- Pivotal Tracker to JIRA ● Holistic “Performance Management system” -- Customer Happiness, Internal Process, Self- Learning, Financials
  43. 43. Ta-da! A new Goa office!
  44. 44. Standard sales pitch about Srijan
  45. 45. About Srijan ● 11 year old web services consulting company based in New Delhi, Dharamshala (India) and Delaware, USA ● 75+ motivated team members ● 150+ happy clients across US, Europe, Middle East and APAC in 10 Industry Domains ● Consulting, designing and engineering products and solutions for online businesses ● Supporting / maintaining applications and websites
  46. 46. Areas of Expertise - Technologies Web Server: Search Engine: Database Management: Document Management System: Content Management System: Coding Languages: Quality Assurance:
  47. 47. Reaching me ● LinkedIn -- in/rahuldewan ● Twitter -- @rahuldewan ● Email : rahul@srijan.in Thank You!