Helping Entrepreneurs Succeed

The writer of this blog Ravi Patel, President and CEO, Patel CFO Services was interviewed by Fred Arnold on his show “Out of the Rough” on SCVTV, Santa Clarita, CA.

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Published in: on September 14, 2012 at 5:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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About C-Level Reflections

Ravi Patel has over 35 years general, financial and operational management experience in C-Level executive positions with multi-sized companies in diverse industries.

Having substantial experience in leading and consulting with entrepreneurial companies, Ravi utilizes this blog to share useful management thoughts to hopefully assist Entrepreneurs in growing their companies.

 

Published in: on April 10, 2010 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Validate Your Idea Before Full Development

Soon after Entrepreneurs have ideas, they tend to forge ahead on product or service development at full speed. Is this always a wise course of action? Bias for action is a commendable attitude, but it needs to tempered with reality.

It is essential to obtain validation from potential customers or users before proceeding too far down the path of product or service development.

Regardless of how brilliant the idea, it is ultimately the customer that will decide if it going to be accepted. If the customer does not buy the product or service, there is no long-term value in the idea. Asking potential users about the idea and its potential features is a great way to validate its further development. Customers might even have thoughts and features that the Entrepreneur might not have considered.

There is always the argument that for a revolutionary idea the potential customer might not even be aware of the need, and it is the task of the developer to educate the users. There is merit in this argument; however, it doesn’t hurt to obtain some initial validation of the feasibility of the idea from potential customers.

A solid product or service development process should require some form of meaningful validation from potential users prior to going too far down the path of detailed design. Do the Right Things!

Ravi Patel

Do You Know Your Weaknesses?

Knowing your weaknesses and doing something about eliminating or mitigating them is actually a strength.

As a part of the strategic planning process, it is essential for Entrepreneurs  to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on their business and develop strategies for each area.

How do you find out your weaknesses?

Entrepreneurs can do an honest assessment and perform an in-depth, critical review. They could involve the management team in this process and have them openly, without fear of recrimination, list each area of weakness in the business. Have each manager of a functional area review not only his/her own area, but also other functions in the company.

Entrepreneurs could also solicit frank feedback from the Board of Directors and mentors regarding the areas that need improvement. Such feedback is more likely to be objective depending upon the relationship with the Entrepreneur.

The truest assessment of your weaknesses will come from competitors if you can obtain such information. Competitors analyze the business of their rivals very carefully to develop strategies to compete not only against their strengths but also to exploit their weaknesses. If you can find a way to gain analysis of your weaknesses performed by your competitors, it would be very useful in your strategic planning process.

Something to ponder ….

Ravi Patel

Published in: on March 12, 2019 at 4:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Molding Consensus

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus” – MLK Jr.

Every new idea, whether small or grandiose, has to be sold to people for its acceptance. A true leader goes about it the proper way.

Consensus is defined as a majority of opinion or general agreement. In many organizations, getting consensus becomes a “political” process wherein the idea promoter seeks out or searches for people who agree with him/her, largely based on personal appeal of the person rather than the idea. This is not true leadership in getting consensus on an idea.

Rather, a genuine leader stresses the virtue of an idea and actively persuades people on its benefits thereby molding or building consensus. The acceptance of the idea then becomes internal to the believer rather than being forced upon him/her through brow-beating or intimidation. If the leader is successful in building, rather than seeking, consensus the implementation of the idea is more effective and lasts for the long term. The benefits of seeking quick consensus are often short-lived.

True Entrepreneurial leadership should strive for molding consensus to generate wide acceptance of new ideas in their companies.

Ravi Patel

Published in: on March 5, 2019 at 4:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Thinking at a Higher Level to Solve Problems

Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them. – Albert Einstein.

What a brilliant statement!

Problems occur in every business and for every Entrepreneur. Inexperience, limited skills and not fully developed thinking contribute to the situation . This is not unique and is to be expected from new Entrepreneurs.

However, learning from your mistakes starts the process of elevating your thinking. If you keep on making the same mistakes in  similar situations, you are not thinking at the next level.

More importantly, the level of thinking to solve the problem has to be at a higher level than what got you there in the first place. If you approach the issue from the same viewpoint as the one that created the problem, it would be difficult to have a new solution. Thinking from different perspectives helps solve problems.

How do you get there? Constant learning from mentors and advisers and acquiring knowledge through self-education elevates your thinking to solve problems. Asking for advice from professionals also contributes to elevating your thinking level.

Think at the Right Level to Solve Problems!

Ravi Patel

Published in: on February 26, 2019 at 4:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Deal with Performance Issues

Do you delay in dealing with performance issues?

Entrepreneurs, like many other managers, do not like to confront employees regarding poor performance. Entrepreneurs, especially, take a softer view with certain employees that started when the company was established. How can they after all be tough on people who supported them when the times were bad?

Not dealing with performance issues in a timely manner not only hurts the company, but is a disservice to the employee. If the employee is a potential long-term player, it is better to get them on track sooner by making him/her aware of the deficiencies and help the employee develop and work on a plan to correct the shortfalls.

If performance issues are not addressed promptly, it creates in the entrepreneurial company a sense that the Entrepreneur is partial towards certain non-performers. Obviously, a poor performer is readily visible in a small company and not dealing with such issues creates a situation with poor team morale.

Entrepreneurs need to create a culture where performance issues are dealt with promptly, either by implementing a corrective plan to improve performance or managing the consistently poor performer out of the company.

Ravi Patel

Published in: on February 19, 2019 at 4:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Culture of Finding Solutions

Don’t find fault, find a remedy – Henry Ford . Entrepreneurs could learn from this statement.

In a blame-rich rather than solution-oriented culture, leaders (mostly political) often seek out whom to accuse of problems rather than find solutions. Sometimes this extends to poorly run companies with unhealthy culture and negative management practices.

In the real world it is acceptable for leaders to hold people accountable for their performance. However, it is not wise to continually blame others for problems. Entrepreneurs have to take responsibility for the issues facing their business and teach their managers to do the same.

More importantly, blaming others or even accepting responsibility does not solve the problem. Entrepreneurs need to create a culture where finding solutions or remedies to issues takes precedence over blame. Such a positive culture allows people to readily accept responsibility for decisions without having to face ridicule.

Do the Right Thing by creating a solution-oriented culture in your company and incorporating that in your Mission.

Ravi Patel

Published in: on February 12, 2019 at 4:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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When to Let Go

“Don’t let go too soon and don’t hang on too long.” – Mitch Albom. Quite useful advice for Entrepreneurs.

It is always a delicate balance as to when an Entrepreneur needs to let go and delegate responsibility of his/her business to someone else. If one leaves too early, the Mission and Vision might remain unaccomplished. On the other hand, hanging on too long might jeopardize long-term success.

Leaving the business to pursue other ventures is all dependent on to whom the Entrepreneur is relinquishing control. If the Entrepreneur has built up a strong leadership team and a solid foundation to accomplish the Mission, delegating responsibility to run the business to a competent CEO is prudent. However, if the leadership team and the new CEO are not seasoned and well-developed, the Entrepreneur risks a lot by leaving too soon.

Hanging on too long can be an issue also. If the business has grown beyond the capability of the Entrepreneur to successfully run it, it might be damaging to hang on to power. A new CEO is then necessary. Alternatively, if the Entrepreneur has recruited a solid leadership team and a likely CEO and trained them, hanging on will be demotivating to the capable successor CEO and the  team as they cannot show off their potential.

If Entrepreneurs run the business on their  own without a secondary leadership team and want to continue doing so, they do not face the question of leaving too early or hanging on. But is that continued retention of control achieving the Mission and Vision of the business?

Ravi Patel

Published in: on February 5, 2019 at 4:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Firing People

Is firing people wrong? Depending on the circumstances firing a person or a group of employees might be necessary for an Entrepreneur.

A continually poor performer in any enterprise becomes a liability to the other team members and the organization. If there is no change in the employee’s performance after repeated attempts to improve it, it would be wise to part company. Similarly if a third-party service provider does not consistently provide excellent service there is cause for firing that provider.

In a broader sense, for the survival of a company and a majority of its employees if a few employees have to be let go (after all other options have been exhausted), it is most often the right thing to do. As Spock used to say in Star Trek, .. for the survival of the many, a few have to suffer.”

Firing people for spite, revenge, uneconomic, or irrational reasons is never appropriate, but letting go of people for the right rationale is not necessarily wrong.

Ravi Patel

What Could MLK Teach Entrepreneurs?

The nation celebrated Martin Luther King’s birthday yesterday. It is interesting to review what lessons Entrepreneurs can learn from Martin Luther King (MLK).

Dave Kerpen wrote an article on Inc. on January 19, 2004 listing seven lessons from MLK that are still relevant today. Here is my summary:

  1. Dream big – if you don’t dream big, you can’t achieve significant things
  2. Persuade without power – don’t be a “boss.” but be a leader through the power of persuasion
  3. Give people something to believe in – have passion in your Vision so people are compelled to adopt it
  4. Embrace fear and be courageous anyway– be honest with people about the challenges but have the courage to face them anyway
  5. Get everyone involved – Entrepreneurs can’t do everything themselves. They need to have other people involved to build their company.
  6. Create a sense of urgency – have a bias for action to get ahead of competition
  7. Inspire people – without inspiring leadership it merely becomes a job for your people. Have them motivated to fulfill your Vision.

These are lessons that Entrepreneurs can definitely learn from and adopt.

 Ravi Patel

Are You Prepared?

Boy Scouts used to have a motto – “Be Prepared.” The idea was to teach the scouts to always be prepared for almost any situation.

Should Entrepreneurs adopt that motto in their businesses?

Develop a philosophy to always be prepared for foreseen and, hopefully, some unknown situations. Does your company wait until absolutely necessary to prepare for financial year-end, tax returns, regulatory or customer audits, quarterly returns, and so on?

If so, you are not prepared. Being prepared for these situations allows you to analyze problems beforehand and fix them ahead of the deadlines. There is less stress on your personnel and of course the Entrepreneur.

Implement a system of preparing for known events ahead of time so you are prepared. Having that type of discipline may allow you to also be ready for unforeseen situations.

Ravi Patel

Published in: on January 15, 2019 at 4:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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