The business of a business is to do business

This is what i heard a Goldratt certified trainer in India state with a roaring voice during an industry event where he was invited to speak. He then later on went to literally reprimand every business-owner among the audience who spoke about “values”, and “helping to make a better world”, and such similar moral objectives of running their business. I was among the ones who got a good blowing. This was 5 years ago.

The roar of his voice shortly gave way to the call of my heart over the months, even as i “got” the idea behind the “Theory of Constraints” rather well. I was back to doing business for “good of others” with huge goals and aspirations from life, constantly trying to instil values of “high-thinking and simple living” among my people. Running my company like a “co-operative” or as a Section 25 company were ideas on which i had spent hundreds of man hours (no kidding!) researching, discussing, reading and evolving a model.

The state was such that in all these high aspirations i forgot that i had a goal of running the business well, and earning money for its growth, for the growth of employees, and for the sake of the area we worked in. “Remaining consciously small” was the mantra i again followed for years. Ofcourse, i must state that this mantra was adopted after 2-3 failed attempts to scale, through the way of building partnerships along the way.

Looking back now, “staying small by choice” was more out of the frustration of not having the abilities of a good CEO to enable scaling up the enterprise. However, it was not with such deep introspection that i decided to join an Owner-Manager Program with CIAM. It was just by chance it came along, and i liked the idea of a few entrepreneurs sitting together and talking about business challenges.

“Do you know most of you sitting in this room can get salaries way more than what you pay yourself? You are all at best “self-employed professionals” – “glorified freelancers”, who do not like to be held accountable and be reporting to a boss

The primary goal of an entrepreneur is to grow the enterprise. If you like doing “creative work”, go work in a creative agency; don’t run a business. If you like to do “social good” work for an NGO!”

This time, it was Rattan Chugh, the former CEO of Fidelity India, and currently a faculty at CIAM, who made this highly provocative statement. My world really came crashing down. I WAS DEEPLY DISTURBED. Once again “Small is Beautiful” by Schumacher and “Small Giants” by Bo Burlingham was ringing in my head. Further – “i am NOT an entrepreneur – what bullshit. Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs even if they keep the business small”, is what i wanted to get up and shout back at him.And what about “values” of running a business? Huh? Well, i tried to argue back a bit with him, but Rattan was least interested in debating with me endlessly.

Out for lunch, i caught him again. And explained passionately how Nescafe should not be making “coffee sachets” (passionately shaking one such sachet in my hand), as they are brutal to the environment.”I never said have no values, or do not care about your employees, but your business purpose is to grow the enterprise and make it better”, he re-asserted what he was saying.

I was quiet. He was right! All the years of hiding behind “being small and sustainable” (as much as i could manage) was giving way to a “sense of failure” in achieving growth for the enterprise. Not only had i been horribly irresponsible with my own finances, i’ve costed the company as well with my inability to do what was needed to grow the enterprise.

If low cost staff augmentation was what was needed to be done, it was needed to be done. But no, i had my values about India growing up the value chain; and looked down upon companies who did this. Forget what i did to myself financially, by not going this route, i also frustrated the good employees by not being able to afford better salaries for them.

India would have been a better place, with a more successful Srijan – driven by values, and yet using market opportunities to create an even bigger success story for an open source company, and by doing wealth creation for myself, my people and my company.

Doing what is needed of a CEO is the need of the hour, no matter what the skills, or the lack of them, are. A business model needs to be created for finding more clients and serving them well. Induction more and better people needs to happen, if i find myself, and the current partnerships inadequate to grow the enterprise. The enterprise called Srijan must grow!

Find ways to do so. Find ways to pay yourself a market salary, Rahul!

We have something unique about us, and this must succeed.