Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Heart Bleeding !!

The day ....Pakistan stops distinguishing between GOOD TERRORISM nd BAD TERRORISM ...........nd start dealing with it with a UPPER HAND ........terrorism will end in Pakistan as well as in India .....!!!
But ...that is not to happen in near future ....nd hence will innocent civilians keep suffering on both sides of the Border !!!
"If you kill one innocent soul, it is as if you've killed the entire Humanity"


Thursday, November 6, 2014

बेवफाई जुर्म क्यों नहीं ?

" क्या दिल टूटने से चोट नहीं लगती? क्या किसी की भावनाओं के साथ खेलने की कानून में कोई सजा नहीं है? क्या दिल पर लगी खरोंच शरीर पर आई खरोंच से कम दुःख देती है?" 

उसकी आंसुओं से भीगे प्रश्न लगातार मेरे जेहन पर हथौडे की तरह पड़ रहे हैं! वो आज आई थी मेरे ऑफिस में.....दुखी, परेशान....बात बात पर आंसू छलक उठते थे! भर्राए गले से वो बोलती जा रही थी!मैं चुपचाप सुनती जा रही थी! उसे धोखा मिला था! तीन साल तक साथ जीने मरने की कसमे खाने वाले उसके बॉय फ्रेंड ने अचानक कहीं और सगाई कर ली थी! किसी तीसरे से उसे उसकी सगाई के बारे में पता चला ....और पूछने पर बॉय फ्रेंड का जवाब था- " बी प्रैक्टिकल यार...ये सब तो चलता है!अब मेरे मन में तुम्हारे लिए पहले जैसी फीलिंग नहीं हैं...हम बस अच्छे दोस्त हैं!" इतना कहकर लापरवाही से सर झटक कर वो चल दिया अपने रास्ते!शायद इसके बाद लड़की का फोन उठाने की ज़हमत भी नहीं की उसने!और लड़की उसी दिन से डिप्रेशन में है.....कभी वो पुरानी बातें याद करती है...कभी जानने की कोशिश करती है की आखिर उसके प्यार में कहाँ कमी रह गयी...कभी किसी तांत्रिक के पास जाती है की शायद कोई वशीकरण मन्त्र हो जो उसे प्यार को वापस उसकी और ला सके! पिछले दो महीने में पांच किलो वज़न कम कर चुकी है अपना! रात को नींद की गोली खाए बिना सो नहीं पा रही है!और आंसुओं का तो कोई हिसाब ही नहीं है! ये सब मुझे उसके साथ आई उसकी मां ने बताया!

सलाह देना कितना आसान होता है....मैंने उसे समझाने की बहुत कोशिश की! जो जो भी बातें उसे जिंदगी की राह पर आगे बढ़ने के लिए मैं कह सकती थी..मैं कह रही थी! वो हाँ में सर हिलती....फिर कुछ ही पल में उसकी सिसकियों के साथ मेरे सारे उपदेश बह जाते! अचानक हिचकी भरी आवाज़ से उसने मुझसे पूछा " अगर कोई किसी को डंडे से मारे तो क्या अपराध बनेगा?" मैंने हाँ में सर हिलाया! उसका अगला प्रश्न था " डंडे की चोट कितने दिन में ठीक हो जायेगी?" मैंने कहा ...कुछ दिनों में!
उसने अपनी सूजी हुई आँखों से मेरी तरफ देखा और बोली " क्या मेरे दिल पर जो चोट लगी है...उससे ज्यादा चोट डंडे से मारने से लगती है? डंडे का घाव तो कुछ दिन में भर जायेगा...मेरे दिल पर लगे ज़ख्म जो पता नहीं कब भरेंगे...उसका कुछ भी नहीं? " क्या जो मेरे साथ हुआ वो शारीरिक प्रताड़ना से कम कष्टदायी है? फिर किसी का दिल तोड़ना अपराध की श्रेणी में क्यों नहीं आता?" मैंने उससे कहा ...अगर उस लड़के ने तुम्हारे साथ कोई ज्यादती की है या तुम्हारा शारीरिक शोषण किया है तो ये अपराध है! लड़की बीच में मुझे टोकती हुई बोली...." यानी की अपराध तभी होगा जब शरीर को चोट पहुंचे...वैसे उसने मेरे साथ कोई ज्यादती नहीं की है" इस बार उसकी आवाज़ में शिकायत और तल्खी दोनों ही थे!

थोडी देर सब खामोश रहे....फिर वो उठी और बोली " अब मैं चलती हूँ!" मैंने धीरे से सर हिला दिया! जाते जाते वो पलटी और बोली " शायद मैं धीरे धीरे इस स्थिति से उबर जाऊं पर अब किसी पर विश्वास नहीं कर पाउंगी....और शायद शादी भी न करून! काश आपके कानून में बेवफाई भी जुर्म होती ! " 

मैं फिर अपने कमरे में अकेली बैठी थी.... पर उसका आंसू भरा चेहरा न तो हटता था आँखों के सामने से और न ही उसकी सिसकियों की आवाज़ कानो से अब तक अलग हो पायी है! सोचती हूँ वाकई उसके प्रश्न कितने जायज़ हैं! बेवफाई न तो कोई जुर्म है और न ही उसकी कोई सजा!



Friday, September 5, 2014

Acharya Devo Bhava...Guru Devo Bhava !!

"Agnyaana Timiraandhasya, Gnyaana Anjana Shalaakayaa, Chakshuhu Unmeelitam Yenam, Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha. "

Meaning: A Guru can save us from the pangs of ignorance (darkness) by applying to us the balm of knowledge or awareness of the Supreme, I salute such a Guru !!




For years, we have grown on the images of Guru-Shishya engaged in teaching-learning under the learning tree. From times immemorial, from Dronacharya to Radhakrishnan, & Rabindranath Tagore we have revered and romanticised the superhero status of a great teacher. Their students in turn made the teachers proud, giving the mentor-mentee relationships an alluring charm.

Today India has 320 million students in over 1 million schools, 30,000 colleges and 500 universities. The gross enrollment ratio in colleges is a measly 12.4 per cent. Employability rate is estimated at 25 per cent. 25 per cent of teachers are absent from work.

Only 50 per cent of teachers are actually engaged in the act of teaching while at work. India faces a shortage of 1.2 million teachers. Something has going horribly wrong. To break the vicious cycle, we will need to start with the gardener, who must sow the virtuous seed-the teacher.

The classroom has evolved tremendously. After arrival of various writing systems in ancient time, hornbooks came in 1400 in England and US. The blackboards invaded classrooms only in 1801. Instructional TV and Radio ruled the roost from 1940-90 when personal computers and internet took over. What next?

The classroom of the future will be wireless. Students may choose not to carry books; they won't leave home without the tablets. Yes, the tablets will be all-pervasive. From KG to PG, a student will be connected real-time to his teacher. The content delivery will be automated. The assessments will be online and the classroom will often be outside the four walls of the institute. The good news is that we can produce the rockstar teachers of the future.

Confucius rightly said, I hear and I forget. I see and I believe. I do and I understand. We need to bring back learning experiences to the classroom. Seven principles of learning; prior knowledge, organisation of knowledge, motivation, mastery, practice and feedback, student development and classroom climate and metacognition. All of this boils down to a student-centric learning. This transition from teachercentric teaching is not just imminent but an unstoppable reality.

A teacher is trainable. The future does not need fountain-heads of knowledge and super-hero teachers of yore. The knowledge will be digitised on the tablet, available on call. But synthesising and organising that knowledge will not be easy. For effective and purposeful synthesising, the good-old teacher will always be required.

Only the teacher can start the virtuous cycle with an inspired student wanting to be like his teacher, leading to better student outcomes. Better life skills and employability skills will lead to greater success of these students leading to more children inside schools and colleges, more fees and revenues and eventually higher wages and growing teachers. The search for excellence in the Indian Education system must start inside & outside the classrooms- with the teacher.We need more Nalanda & Visva-Bharti like Universities again.




Monday, April 28, 2014

Workplace Wellness Program


Employees spend an average of almost nine hours a day at work – more awake hours than any other place – so it seems logical that employers would want to develop a workplace that encourages and promotes healthy behaviors.
Effective workplace wellness programs can help improve an organization’s culture and change lives. Companies can also benefit from lower turnover rates, fewer absences, increases in productivity and higher job satisfaction.
Decades after the launch of the Wellness Council of America, one might think the steps for getting a wellness program off the ground are easy – give employees a gym membership or stop bringing in sweet treats.Still Indian firms are not yet so convincing on the same.
However, it’s not that simple. Lack of engagement, a shortage of leadership support and complicated incentives all have the potential to derail your wellness program before it starts. Here are a few tips about how to build a successful workplace wellness program and some things to avoid.
  • DON’T rush into a wellness program. 
  • DO take your time to develop a formal strategic plan with measurable goals. Without a plan, you will always be reacting to the pressure of the day instead of focusing on specific objectives. 
  • DON’T launch a wellness program without any support. 
  • DO partner with as many employees and departments as you can. Consider recruiting employees for a wellness committee to help you reach across the entire company.
  • DON’T forget about getting buy-in from management.
  • DO include senior management as visible participants in the wellness program.
  • DON’T leave people unsure of how the program works.
  • DO communicate consistently and often.
  • DON’T call it a Human Resources project or initiative.
  • DO position the wellness program as something much bigger. Think about how the program will strategically impact the business and how it plays a role in your culture.
  • DON’T forget about the night shift. 
  • DO provide night shift workers the same access to wellness events and programming as the day shift. 
  • DON’T stop the wellness program because it hasn’t saved millions of dollars. 
  • DO have realistic expectations. Behavior change takes time, and most wellness programs do not see a positive ROI for at least 18 months.
  • DON’T view data collection as unimportant.
  • DO collect data on your employees’ health status. Biometric screenings are a great way to collect objective data.
  • DON’T select programs that are not relevant to your workforce. A smoking cessation program, for example, will do little to impact costs if smoking and its related illnesses are not cost-drivers for your health insurance plan.
  • DO focus on the health issues and concerns of the majority of your employee population. 
  • DON’T forget to address employee privacy. Some employees may ask, "What do they need that information for? Can they fire me because of my poor health?”
  • DO stress repeatedly that personal health information is confidential.
  • DON’T assume you need a large budget. 
  • DO be creative in identifying free activities to improve employee health. Things like walking meetings or healthy potlucks can help promote a healthy workplace without breaking the bank.
  • DON’T build a complicated wellness program. If employees don't understand wellness offerings or don’t know how to participate, they will get frustrated and give up.
  • DO keep it simple and straightforward. 
  • DON’T be negative or insult employees.
  • DO show your employees they are valued. You want your wellness program to demonstrate that the company cares about employees’ health, not give the impression the company is coercing them to take a Health Risk Assessment.
  • DON’T put your wellness program on autopilot.
  • DO run regular reports and assess how your wellness program is improving employee health. Your program should evolve with your employees.
  • DON’T build a wellness program with only the intent to decrease health care costs.
  • DO look at the bigger picture.

Wellness can have a profound effect on your company culture, turnover rates, recruitment efforts and overall productivity. Follow these do’s and don’ts and your workplace wellness implementation will go so smoothly, that you’ll wonder why you waited so long to get started. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Critical Thinking: Educating Competent Citizens


We are becoming increasingly aware of the need to analyze the enormous amount of information we receive every day.  This information helps us in our cognitive development and participates in the construction of our patterns of perception of reality. In the case of children and young people, these patterns are in continual development.
Critical thought is a cognitive process that proposes the systematic analysis of information, opinion and statements that we accept in our daily life as valid or true. It is a basic skill for a competent, free and responsible citizen.
It is not about questioning every information we get everyday, it is about being critical with the information that is relevant to us when we make up an opinion about something.
To educate an individual in critical thinking implies educating him or her in the ability to make decisions. It implies that students do not accept opinions or statements as valid without submitting them to their own analysis and as such, to their consideration, based on their knowledge and on other opinions or information that enables them to form their own criteria about what is true or false.

Education in Critical Thinking Implies…



  • Reflection. We should ask ourselves about the information we receive.
  • Analysis. By using our own knowledge and other data we evaluate information and arguments that reinforce or question ideas.
  • Acquisition of information. By contrasting and collecting data from other sources we can, in many cases, confirm or reject the information we have analyzed.
  • Creativity. This is stimulated by the need to associate ideas and knowledge with the purpose of building up our arguments.
  • Structuring arguments. Learning to build up cases on a solid foundation in order to support the criteria we have constructed.
  • Decision making. Learning to take decisions based on our own criteria.
  • Commitment to our own opinions and arguments.
  • Debate. The ability to explain and defend our ultimate criteria and contrast it with other criteria that may be as valid as our own.

Cross-curricular Connected to Education in Values

All these capacities have a clear relationship with the underlying value based educational objectivity of our system, given that these values are ever present in a world  that is increasingly technological and, for some, in process of dehumanization.
In working with students, critical thinking encourages and promotes:
  • Humility to accept criteria that is not their own.
  • Courage to defend their own criteria against others.
  • Responsibility to contrast and take into account the appropriate information.
  • Commitment to filtering out and separating valid from useless information.
  • Respect for the group and for the individual when the time comes for debate and contrasting ideas.
To educate an individual in critical thinking is to educate him or her to be capable of governing or controlling their own personal and professional life and to be able to find answers and solutions to problems. It is the road to forming critical and responsible citizens who are capable of confronting the challenges of the future.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine Slaughter !!

She was only fourteen then. It was her ‘first valentine’ with her ‘first boyfriend.’ She had wanted it to be perfect. She had spent weeks picking out the perfect dress for their perfect date on a perfect day.
Her dress was pink – the colour of love. But she couldn’t leave the house – all decked up for her date. She lived in a joint family and each person in her family was more conservative than the other (it was as if there was a contest for the title, The Most Extreme); so she had surreptitiously hidden the dress, the shoes and the makeup in her school bag, which was easy since her school bag was empty. It was her first valentine; there was no way she’d waste the day in school!
She had to go to school as she couldn’t escape the ever-vigilant eyes of her cousin sisters…but she had a plan.
The massive iron gates of the convent had shut imposingly behind her; but that gate didn’t feature in her escape route…she had a better plan.
Before the morning assembly, she had quietly slipped into the restrooms situated on the playfield. She stripped quickly and put on her ‘date’ dress, before shoving her school uniform inside her school bag.
She was putting on the last bit of her makeup, when she heard a multitude of voices singing in unison…the assembly was drawing to a close. One of the things that a convent school really liked doing was singing. And as she herself was a good singer, the convent sisters had harangued her, to within an inch of her life, to join the choir. In the end, she had cited stage fright. Standing in front of the school and singing every day for the entire school life, was not something she wanted. She sang for fun and only when the mood struck, but the choir sang for the sisters and as soon as the chord struck.
She looked at the reflection in the mirror. She had tried her best to hide those ugly red pustules but they were all over her face. Hormones, she had been told but it did not make the situation any better. She was ugly! It was a miracle that she had found a guy who loved her and had looked beyond her face.
She smiled, as she watched her reflection; true love was rare to find. She reached inside her bag and removed a plastic bag. Inside the bag was a beautifully wrapped present – his favourite cologne (after all, her boyfriend Rohit Randhawa was in high school and was a ‘man’). Only she knew how she had managed to save up enough money to get him the gift. Even though she came from a well-off family, she never got any pocket money. She had tried arguing a couple of times, but all she accomplished doing was instigating an hour-long lecture on how money spoilt children. Her parents argued, why she needed pocket-money when her family bought her everything she asked for. There was no arguing with that.
In the end, she had resorted to saving her lunch money, preferring to eat a little from her classmate’s lunch-boxes. Oh…the things you did in the name of love…but it was all worth it. HE WAS WORTH IT!!!
She took her school bag and hid it in one of the underconstruction stalls. Her friends had been instructed to retrieve it after school and meet her exactly at 2 pm at the corner cafeteria. In school, matters-of-the-heart required careful planning and complete coordination. Now she was ready for her great escape. She had planned to slip out through the in-campus bank, which had two entry/exit points. The fact that she was in plain clothes would not raise any suspicion. Of course, she prayed that the bank teller did not notice the pearls of sweat, glistening on her head. If she had to be successful, it would have to be done in one fluid motion. She entered from one side and exited from the other…and she was free.
She was supposed to meet Rohit at the entrance of Cupid’s Corner, a restaurant which was frequented by couples. She had heard about this restaurant, her friends often went there.  This would be her first time. Finally, she would no longer be the odd-one- out.
She got down from the auto and there he was, leaning on his bike in front of the restaurant. “Oh, he is so cool,” she thought as she sighed, “there is something about a guy on a bike.”
He waited as she paid the fare. She joined him and he took her hand and pulled her inside. They climbed two flights of stairs, until they were in front of a big wooden door. He pushed the door open. It was so dark that she couldn’t see a thing. It took her eyes several seconds to adjust to the darkness. She was still squinting when a young waiter led them to a corner table with a ‘reserved’ plaque.
She sat down at the corner of the upholstered sofa seat and waited for him to sit opposite her on the chair. Instead, he shoved her in and sat beside her. She was a little uncomfortable but she didn’t want to ruin it…after all, it was her first Valentine’s Day!
The whole restaurant was plunged in darkness. “How do people eat?” she wondered. There was a single small light hanging above the table.
“I’ve got you something,” she said, handing him the beautifully-wrapped box. He tore it open and smiled at the cologne, before replying with a simple “Nice.”
“I’ve got you something too, to show just how much I love you.” He pulled out an expensive-looking velvet box. There inside the box, delicately placed, was a beautiful mother-of-pearl bracelet.
“Oh, this is gorgeous,” she said, reaching for the box.
“Allow me.” He took the bracelet from the box and placed it around her wrist. She was admiring the bracelet under the orange hue of the incandescent light bulb. It was magical…her first valentine gift.
He turned her hand over so he could close the metal clasp and lightly touched the inside of her wrist. She quivered at the tingling sensation. She thanked him when he did the clasp and started withdrawing her hand, when his grip tightened…
“Let me go,” she bantered playfully.
He was forced to let her go as a waiter approached their table and switched on the lamp. Rohit unceremoniously opened the menu and ordered the ‘Valentine’s Special’ menu – with an assortment of chicken canapés; the main course was pasta in red sauce; and strawberries, champagne and imported liquor chocolate for dessert.
Rohit withdrew a 500-rupee note from his wallet and handed it to the waiter as a tip. The waiter smiled widely as he nodded his head and walked away.
“There, no one will disturb us now,” remarked Rohit, as he switched off the overhead light.
Maya was panic-stricken, when she felt Rohit place his hand on her thigh. He shoved her further back into the corner. Before she knew what was happening, his mouth came down hard on hers. She felt pain when he bit her lower lip. “What was happening?” she thought as she attempted to push him away; her hands placed on his chest as she tried to increase the distance between their bodies. But he simply grabbed her hands and resumed the onslaught.
It was several minutes before he finally released her, his breathing heavy. Her lips were throbbing! She ran her tongue over her sore lips and could taste a salty residue. She wasn’t sure if it was the taste of her blood or her tears.
Rohit was lighting a cigarette while her eyes roved back and forth the room; she saw several couples across the room…making out. She could almost swear that she saw a girl, topless…with a dark head sprawled over her chest. She could gag!
She felt nauseated…she was going to be sick. She put a hand over her mouth as she started to retch in disgust. She could feel Rohit draw away from her.
She reached for a glass of water, while he sat there…fuming! Her retching stopped in a few minutes but she held onto the glass. She didn’t even dare look at him.
She heard him curse under his breath, “Stupid bitch.”
“I’m sorry,” she croaked, still unable to look at him.
“I got you an expensive bracelet, you bitch. And what do I get? This is how you repay me?” he said unkindly.
But wasn’t it a gift? She felt her eyes watering.
“What did you think? That you’ll con me and I will let you?” he ranted, every word spewing venom.
“But I didn’t ask for a gift,” she managed, in between breaths.
The ensuing laughter reeked of scorn. “When a woman accepts an expensive gift from a man, she knows she has to return in kind,” he carried on ranting.
Tears were now streaming down her face…He didn’t love her; he thought she was a whore!
“But I thought you loved me,” she pleaded.
The repulsion on his face drove a dagger into her heart.
“You think I can love you? Have you even seen yourself?”
She closed her eyes as fresh tears rolled down her face, like the torrential rainfall of summer.
“Do you know why I brought you here, you bitch? This is the only place where I could switch off the lamp. You think I could kiss you if I had to look at you?” He got up and left, while she sat there, hurt, angry, weeping; and now alarmed…how will she pay for the food he had ordered?
She got up quietly, pretending to walk towards the restroom. No one was watching her—the guards were busy enjoying the scenes at the tables.
She turned and bolted out the door. She had learnt an important lesson—“When a man paid ‘for’ you…you paid ‘to’ him.”
It was her first valentine slaughter.
She could hear voices in the distance, which drew her back into the present. She simply looked down at the bags that she was holding in her hand—her expression sombre. She had vowed to never ever let a man pay for anything for her—ever again!!!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Co-founders and married? Conduct yourself right!!!!

Let's talk about drawing a lakshman rekha as part of the wedding vows when marital partners also happen to be co-founders of their organization. How do you make sure that clear lines are drawn between office and home?

Some couples have found it very easy to leave home behind but others have not been able to do so. Here are some cardinal rules that I have put in separate buckets:
Personality type: To my mind, this is the starting point. It is very important that couples do personality mapping and then decide whether they can partner with each other.  
If both are of the type who say ‘my way or the highway,’ or both are of the laid-back, lotus-eating type, it is best to steer clear of the 
business even if they are ideally suited in terms of skill sets. It is important that they have a yin-yang personality match to nurture the business.
Responsibility matrix: When spouses are co-founders, it is very important that the roles and responsibilities clearly outlined, and as far as possible, there is no overlap in there.
This should also be communicated to the hired teams in such a fashion that neither one breaches them. Not the co-founders and certainly not the team members.
Equity structure: As far as possible avoid having equal stake holding in the company. The rules that apply to unrelated co-founders should apply here as well.
Stake holding should be decided on the basis of what he or she brings to the table in terms of experience, competence, skill set and capital. Also, it helps if there are one or two other co-founders who are neutral so that if there is ever an impasse, it can be resolved by that neutral. And whatever happens, avoid sweat equity.
Good financial practice: In most organizations, there are two signatories to cheques and statutory documents. Spouses should never be cosignatories. This could become a showstopper at the time of raising capital.
Remuneration: Salaries of spousal co-founders should be market-driven and not based on the consideration that husband and wife should draw the same salary.  It should be a function of responsibility, experience and skill set.
Professional courtesies: During office discussions, even if spousal co-founders hold different views, their expression has to be within the professionally defined framework of respect, courtesy and decorum and not in terms of spousal familiarity.
Reporting: Depending on their roles, it may happen that one spouse reports in to the other. This has to be treated with as much sanctity as one would have reporting to someone else. If this is not treated seriously, not only will it impact their relationship but the teams will start taking advantage of it and the whole organization culture may become endangered.
Shared vision: In spousal co-founders, it is important to remember the vision for the business that brought them together.  In the rigor of managing family and managing the business, somehow certain unpalatable adjectives creep in.
Words like patronizing, condescension, even contempt could sound a death knell.
It is important to take each other seriously and respect what both bring to the table, evaluate performance objectively, support and nurture for the enrichment of the organization. As in marriage, so in business too, it is important to give primacy for values like respect, trust, pride, confidence and passion.
The best example of a well-balanced relationship was brought home to me when I recently attended the board meeting of one of my mentees.
The company has four co-founders, including a couple. And one of the team members said to me that unless someone told you, you would never know that these guys are a couple!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The One Thing Your Startup Really Needs to Succeed

Your startup is not special. You are not going to get the big bucks from investors. You did not go to Stanford and are not located in Silicon Valley. You have no track record of running a business, and your business plan is based on made-up numbers and hoped-for assumptions.
All you have is a good idea -- and you know that history is littered with failed startups that were born of good ideas.
You suddenly realize that no more paychecks are coming in. Your friends who cheered you on when you launched your startup have disappeared into their own problems. No one is knocking on your door or offering help. You start to realize that people promise things and then don't deliver. You don't feel like you're accomplishing anything.
You look around and find that there are many others like you -- people dreaming of business success. And you know that most will fail. Will you?

Don't panic. Your startup can still succeed. But it will depend on one thing and one thing only. Can you guess what?

Customers.
Really? Doesn't this sound obvious? It is obvious. And yet, I meet so many "entrepreneurs" that get so wrapped up in being an "entrepreneur" and monkeying around with their spreadsheets and pontificating about their grand plans that they forget that in the end they're supposed to be running a business. And a business simply needs customers.
Your startup will likely need one or two years to be profitable. During that time you must bring in work. That means that while you're building your product you're also hiring yourself out as an engineer at an hourly rate. Or while you're developing that new killer application you're doing some other programming work on the side. Or while you get that shop set up you're selling your products on eBay or Craigslist. You will lose money, but you will learn and build some history.
Potential investors and lenders don't want stories, they want results. They're interested in an existing, viable business that needs their help to grow. They want to see real financial statements showing revenues from live customers that you're turning into a future model rather than fictional plans and ideas based on assumptions.
I'm sure your idea is good. And I'm sure your plans are fine. Just don't spend too much time obsessing over them. Build a business -- go out and get some customers with what you have.

Monday, January 13, 2014

How Hiring and Firing Employees is Just Like Poker

Business, like poker, is a gamble. Some people will lose, some will win and some will simply break even. Employees are one of the most critical variables in your success at the table -- they will make or break you. You can up your odds of success by taking the following steps:
Don't be afraid to go "all in." A good employee is almost always worth a big bet; they are like the pocket aces of the poker world. If you are fortunate enough to find one, do what you need to do to get them on board and keep them engaged.
Granted, reading people isn't quite as easy as reading cards. "Aces" don't always announce themselves. There is a deluge of recommendations on how to identify great employees. You'll have to decide for yourself what is most valuable to you and your organization. Is it cultural fit? Is it aptitude? Experience? There's no single "right" answer. The best thing to keep in mind is, if in doubt, then odds are you don't have pocket aces. Don't rush a hiring decision.
Betting large is a good thing, but only if you've taken the steps to figure out what kind of hand you're holding. This may involve multiple interviews in different settings with different people (e.g. other team members if this isn't your first hire). Background checks are always a good idea. People lie. A few minutes on the phone can save you from a costly mistake. Going "all in" with pocket nines may mean you never make it to see those pocket aces.

Know your bankroll. While there is little formal research available on failure rates of small business, some statistics suggest that as many as 50 to 70 percent of small businesses fail within 18 months of opening, according to Tim Caroll, Deluxe's VP of small business engagement. One of the most common mistakes that leads to failure involves hiring too many employees or too often.

A business with several employees will have a harder time surviving trying times than one with few employees. It really comes down to simple physics: a smaller mass allows you to adapt, change directions and surmount unforeseen obstacles (three things that you often need to do during the business's infancy). You can't win if you don't play the hand, but you also can't win by playing too many hands. Pick and choose which hands to play, keeping in mind the risks associated with being "short stacked" (or the errors that can be made by playing too aggressively with a flush stack).
Fold your hand early. In hold'em, a 3-7 is bad hand. Sure, you can hit a straight, but the odds are against it. If you've already paid the ante and the flop doesn't bring the cards you need, it's time to fold. Too many employers make the mistake of continuing to pursue a lost cause. Perhaps because of our inherent nature, many entrepreneurs think that by sheer force of will or through coaching, they can turn a bad hand into a winner. This may be the case, but like the 3-7, the odds are against it.
If you have given your employee a reasonable shot at success and it isn't working out, the best move is usually to fold. Beyond the initial ante, continuing to play can cost you -- probably much more than you realize.
 There are six factors that contribute to bad employee costs. These include the cost of hiring, their total compensation, the cost of maintaining the employee, the cost of disruptions, severance and money lost on mistakes, missed business or unhappy clientele.
The longer a bad employee is attached to your company, the more money you will lose. Considering direct and indirect costs, by some estimates a bad employee with a yearly salary of $62,000 can cost a company around $600,000 over a two-year period. Beyond the dollar cost, most entrepreneurs can't afford the opportunity cost associated with such a loss. Fold early and give yourself a chance to keep playing.

Have patience. Mike Caro, an author, casino executive and professional poker player, once said, "Aces are larger than life and greater than mountains." Pocket aces are rare. You have to play enough hands to get them, but when you do, they can make all the difference. The same is true of great employees.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stop Spending Time With Toxic People !!

One of the most significant things you can control is association -- your choices of who you permit into your world, who you give time to or invest time with, and who you look to for ideas, information and education. The people around you rarely have a neutral effect. They either facilitate your accomplishment, they undermine it, or they sabotage it outright.
The first useful association tactic is the elimination of toxic people and saboteurs......It's not an easy thing to face facts about a friend, family member, long-time employee or long-time vendor when they are, in some way, interfering with or disapproving of your accomplishment. It's important to face these facts and to act on them because the more time you spend with people who are unhelpful, unsupportive, disrespectful, envious, resentful, dysfunctional or outright damaging to you, the less value all your time has.

These people don’t just harm the minutes you and they are in the same place. Few people can so perfectly compartmentalize that they can lock every thought, assertion and act of a toxic person in a little mind box and without leakage into other mind boxes. Paraphrasing a Chinese proverb (I found in a fortune cookie), if you lie down with mongrel dogs, even for a short nap, you wake up with fleas -- and they ride with you wherever you go.
Ideas, beliefs, opinions and habits work just like that. Even if you're associating only occasionally or briefly with someone who is intellectually or emotionally toxic or someone who is feckless and inept, it’s enough time for the fleas to leap from them to you, burrow in and be carried away by you to subtly affect your performance and productivity. If your creativity or constructive thinking or work performance is thus diminished, so is the value of your time.
People who are detrimental for you to associate with are not necessarily of evil intent. They may all be “good people,” but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you. Good chocolate cake is not good for a diabetic. In fact, it’s poison. Associating with somebody who is always pushing it to you, saying “Just have a tiny piece” is just as suicidal as baking it for yourself.
There are lots of ways a person can be toxic and poisonous to you. I’ve had clients describe how recurring disputes with a particular employee were mentally exhausting but couldn’t be helped because otherwise, that person was a great asset. The “otherwise” is a big problem. Many small businesses wind up with a ruthlessly defensive key person who goes into murder mode anytime an attempt is made to add a second person but is “otherwise” terrific.
There's the “we tried that before” guy. If it were up to him, we’d light the place with candles because Edison would have been limited to one try. There’s the “constructive critic,” always making you feel inadequate or undeserving, in the guise of being a cautionary ally worrying over you stubbing a toe.
On the other hand, constructive association with creative, inspiring, encouraging people can do a great deal to bolster your performance, thus making your time more valuable. Each minute of your time is made more or less valuable by the condition of your mind, and it is constantly being conditioned by association.

The entrepreneur is particularly susceptible to gaining or losing power by association because he has so many diverse responsibilities and is often operating under pressure, duress and urgency. Playing this game in a compromised mental state, weakened or wounded by poor ideas and attitudes seeded into the mind by association, is extremely difficult. Playing it strengthened and empowered by rich ideas and attitudes seeded into the mind by association can make the difficult easy.
Simply put, you want to deliberately reduce and restrict the amount of your time left vulnerable to random thought or association, and deliberately, sharply reduce the amount of time given to association with people who won’t make any productive contribution and may do harm. Does that mean you can only spend time with people you are in complete philosophical agreement with? No. In fact, such isolationism can be dangerous. But it does mean you should avoid association with people who believe and promulgate beliefs diametrically opposed to “success orientation.”

You want to deliberately increase the amount of your time directed at chosen thinking and input, and constructive, productive association. You want to associate with strivers and achievers, with winners and champions. This is an uplifting force that translates into peak performance, which makes all your time more valuable.