From the Battlefield to Business: 3 Leadership Principles for Cultivating Company Culture - Entrepreneur

From the Battlefield to Business: 3 Leadership Principles for Cultivating Company Culture - Entrepreneur

From the Battlefield to Business: 3 Leadership Principles for Cultivating Company Culture - Entrepreneur

Posted: 02 Apr 2020 12:43 PM PDT

The captain sets the culture that leads the team toward victory or defeat.

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While entrepreneurship can be lonely, no one makes it entirely on their own. Even the most brilliant minds are backed by their teams, large or small. After all, who would Steve Jobs have been were it not for the genius minds at Apple executing on his ideas? Business is a team sport, and every team needs a strong captain to exhibit necessary leadership. The captain sets the culture that leads the team toward victory or defeat. In business, the company culture you establish as a leader will drive everything from employee morale to performance and overall growth. 

According to former U.S. Army Ranger turned author, entrepreneur and leadership coach Jeramiah Solven, "There are poor, good and great leaders. Great leaders have the ability to create unparalleled buy-in and, in turn, create powerful cultures," Solven says. "Culture is an extremely effective force. When you have the ability to create it, you can align everyone to one singular direction and accomplish the unimaginable."

Related: Want to Be Successful? Stop Thinking About Failure

Creating company culture is about creating a "why" that inspires the highest standards of quality, efficiency and self-sustainability at every level of your operation. Inspired by his experiences as a U.S. Ranger, Solven takes his cues on business leadership from the battlefield mentality. When you focus on the culture and the process, "the score takes care of itself," he says. "Excellence is achieved by focusing on the process, not the end result." Whether you're hitting an enemy objective or a quarterly sales goal, your team's performance in pivotal moments depends entirely upon the culture and identity that have been adopted and integrated into daily practices.

While leadership is never one-size-fits-all, here are three core leadership principles for creating a solid company culture.

1. Be present where presence is needed. 

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many different hats, but it more often means learning to prioritize wherever it is that you're truly needed. "Your placement as a leader has a profound effect on the organization and on the outcome of the mission," says Solven. "It's true in the military, and it's true in business." A platoon leader may not be on the front line of fire but is close enough to still call the shots. Similarly, as a business leader, you have to discern where your attention and physical presence are most required.

"I think a lot of people fail in business with that now because they want to rely on technology," explains Solven. "They want to do virtual meetings, they want to do remote working, and that stuff's effective because you can do a lot and not waste time. But there's something to be said about putting yourself in the right position as a leader." Showing your face around the office gives your team an energizing presence to rally behind. Where your physical presence is not absolutely necessary, learn to delegate. By having thoroughly trained supervisors and periodic check-ins to touch base, you maintain effective leader placement by ensuring that your presence is always felt — even in your physical absence. 

Related: 10 Myths About Workplace Culture I Really Wish I Had Known Before I Started

2. Use unrestricted force in everything you do.

To maximize effectiveness as a leader, create a company culture built upon violence of action, which means using unrestricted speed, surprise and strength to dominate the enemy. "The Rangers I served with were some of the most aggressive and professional men I have ever known," says Solven. "They taught me everything about being mentally tough, mastering your craft and chasing excellence." It's about callusing the mind by approaching every new challenge or enemy with vigor. In business, the enemy can be a competing company or even stagnant sales. The point is to reach your fullest potential by diving in with both feet — and getting everyone in your operation to do the same. 

Author Neal Shusterman said, "I'd rather be partly great than entirely useless." In other words, better to commit fully and fall short of your goal rather than never committing at all. According to Solven, "A lot of people go one-foot-in with a lot of things. What I learned in the military is, if you want to win in a gunfight, you go all in. You don't want to kind of win in a gunfight. You want to absolutely win so that everybody comes home alive. The same rule applies to anything that you're after in business." Violence of action culture is the difference between an employee doing the bare minimum and one who goes above and beyond, between the person who does what they can and the person who does what it takes. As a leader, model violence of action for your team every day by taking risks, being decisive and committing to your work. 

Related: 7 Ways Teams Can Problem Solve Better Than Individuals

3. Use the Badmuthers mindset: Never quit. Ever. 

Remember that your vision as a leader stretches much further and wider than that of your team. In tough times, they will look to you for reassurance, even when you're scared out of your mind. This is why every leader should develop a Badmuthers mindset. Inspired by his Ranger platoon, the Badmuthers, Solven conceived of the "Badmuthers mindset" to describe the relentless spirit that he and his team embodied. This steadfast, unstoppable energy carried these soldiers through challenges and environments that proved fatal to others, yet the Badmuthers Platoon prevailed, time and time again. Why? The culture of "we don't quit" was etched so solidly into their bones that no time or energy was wasted on fear or hesitation. As a leader, when you adopt this mentality and instill it in your team, efforts turn from doom and gloom toward solutions. 

How do you get an entire operation to adopt the same mindset? By example, acknowledgement, reward and repetition. Observe existing operations to see what works and what doesn't. Reward behaviors that are in line with company culture (and penalize those that are not). Finally, repeat these principles with your team until they become second nature. 

Establishing a company culture gives your team a sense of identity and a sense of community. The Badmuthers mindset keeps Solven and his platoon members bonded to this day. "I owe every leadership lesson that I have today to the men I served with," Solven says. "I was very privileged to be surrounded by great leaders who taught me how to create other high-quality leaders and cultures that win."

When you know what you stand for as the leader and make that message plain to your staff, they know what it means to work for you and what it means to work for your company. They begin to take pride in being not a cog in a machine but a member of a movement with a greater aim. Culture is about infusing purpose into everything, and when done right, that purpose is felt from internal operations all the way down to your customers. Culture counts, always. 

No Dithering! Quick Reaction Saves Businesses (Allen Engstrom Commentary) - Arkansas Business Online

Posted: 02 Apr 2020 06:40 AM PDT

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We are in the storm and heroes are being made by the minute. They are the brave men and women who are taking care of the sick and keeping us safe. 

But there are also lesser known heroes at work. They are the small-business owners up at 2 a.m. trying to figure out how to make payroll next week. 

This is an Opinion

In times of crisis and confusion, it's a lack of clarity and failure to act that kills. During the Great Recession, the No. 1 lesson we learned from our work with companies was a lack of decisiveness. The companies that reacted quickly were the ones that survived. When it comes to cutting costs, no one wants to do it and it is gut-wrenching. When there just isn't enough revenue to cover costs, the math is brutal but undeniable. You either cut now, preserve the business with some people laid off, or you cut later after all your cash is gone — and the business is gone with everyone laid off. 

The first priority is to bring in the revenue and save everyone's job. Herculean efforts should be made to find the dollars to cover costs and keep people working. Brainstorm sessions should be had. Creative ideas should be hashed. War rooms convened. And while you're at it, take exquisite care of your existing customers so they are least likely to cut you. 

Panic is not helpful. Toss what you can't control. Be laser focused on the task at hand with the understanding that everyone is rowing in the same direction in the fight for their livelihoods. 

So here's the clarity:

  1. Shore up the losses. Start with the attitude that you can't lose money. You can't count on things to turn around next month. Businesses fail running on wishful thinking. Pull out your financials and the spreadsheets and come up with a plan to cut costs. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. 

  2. There are some good assistance programs from the Small Business Administration. The first is the SBA's Economic Injury Assistance Loan program. You apply for that directly with the SBA. The second is a provision contained in the CARES Act, a modification to the SBA's 7(a) loan program called the Payroll Protection Program. This is run by way of 1,800 local banks across the country. To apply for this, you can get an application at Check with your banker to confirm they are a participating bank and send it to them as soon as possible. 

  3. Those two programs have unique features and provisions that you should understand. For example, the PPP loans can be forgiven under certain circumstances.

  4. If you have questions or need help, reach out to your accountant or give me a call. Everyone involved, including the SBA and the bankers are still hammering all of this out. There are no fees to apply and there are no prepayment penalties. Each application should take you less than 30 minutes to complete. 

  5. You are concerned about the well-being of your employees if they get laid off. In addition to the PPP, the CARES Act contains a good provision focused on workers. Basically, it is unemployment insurance on steroids, allowing most workers to maintain their income levels. If you are faced with the difficult decision to lay off any of your staff, familiarize yourself with how unemployment works and be prepared to walk through this with them. 

  6. No dithering. I've talked to too many companies in the last two weeks who are burning cash by the day. You must have the attitude that this is serious, and you will need every dollar before all of this passes. Focus on the big expense items first and act. 

  7. There are other small business assistance programs to check into, such as payroll tax credit with others being rolled out. Take care of the big things 1-6 then circle back.

During the Great Recession I was powerfully moved working alongside our many small business clients. It's cliché, but I really did see what makes America great. It's that American ingenuity in high gear; our capacity to roll up our sleeves and do things that haven't been conceived of before; our capacity to awaken, rally and fight to win. 

It's what I've learned about our heroes that gives me no doubt that we will make it through this.

Allen Engstrom is managing director of CFO Network of North Little Rock.

10 small-town businesses that are now multi-crore brands in India - YourStory

Posted: 09 Mar 2020 12:00 AM PDT

small town business

A remarkable journey begins with a small step. There are entrepreneurs who took forward their family legacy and made a big name in the business ecosystem. There are also many businesspeople who invested in heaps to gain high returns. Some business tycoons also made a mark starting businesses in the big cities. 

However, there are some entrepreneurs, who have clearly shown that location does not matter as long your business idea is sound. 

SMBStory has drawn up a list of business entrepreneurs who started from a small-town India to build a multi-crore brand. 


Ankit Agrawal (left), Director and Partner, MDPH, and Anshul Agarwal (right), Partner, MDPH

Even seven years after Prakash Agrawal quit his sales assistant job at a textiles store in Indore, he couldn't find success as an entrepreneur. His attempts at manufacturing and selling soaps, detergents, and hair oils all proved to be unsuccessful. 

Prakash's mother didn't want him to continue manufacturing and failing. The family had limited means, and she always wanted her son to pursue a stable job in the textile shop. But he was adamant and wanted to stick to entrepreneurship. 

One fine day in 1992, Prakash's mother told him that as he couldn't succeed as a manufacturer, he should become a distributor for any established agarbatti (incense sticks) brand.  

He took this as a challenge instead – wanting to prove his mother wrong by becoming a successful manufacturer. But even Prakash had to admit that agarbatti was a good idea. The Indian market for agarbatti was flourishing in the 90s on the back of a swelling demand.

Speaking to SMBStory, his son Ankit Agrawal said: 

"My father did not have any capital. In 1992, he borrowed Rs 5 lakh from some relatives to start an agarbatti manufacturing business Mysore Deep Perfumery House (MDPH) and agarbatti brand Purab Paschim Uttar Dakshin. His younger brothers Shyam and Raj Kumar joined him in the effort." 

And so, Prakash and his brothers began making agarbattis out of a small garage in their Indore house. His mother joined to supervise the labour and production processes.

"Today, the company has four manufacturing units in Indore with a cumulative floor space of 6.5 lakh square feet. The third unit we set up, in 2018, is the world's largest raw agarbatti manufacturing unit and has more than 550 machines. More than 2,000 workers are involved in the manufacturing process across our units, out of which 75 percent are women," Ankit says.

Read the full story

Red Chief

Manoj Gyanchandani, Founder, Red Chief

Manoj Gyanchandani started a leather shoe export business in his early 20s while he was also involved in his family's business.  

In 1995, he set up Leayan Global Private Limited to export leather shoes to Europe. However, two years later, Manoj realised that the Indian footwear market isn't organised in the leather shoe sector. 

Thus, wrapping up the export business, he studied the market to incept a business to do so. In 1997, he launched Red Chief brand under the parent company Leayan Global Private Limited, which is a part of Rs 5,500 crore diversified conglomerate RSPL.  

In an interaction with SMBStory, Manoj says, 

"There were no good quality men's shoe available at an affordable price and so, I decided to launch my own footwear brand, bootstrapping capital from the profits of the existing family business."

Initially, Manoj decided to set a firm foot in Kanpur itself. He started by showcasing products in multi-branded outlets across the city. This continued till 2010 when Red Chief expanded to multi-branded outlets in other different states.  

In 2011, the entrepreneur launched the first exclusive Red Chief outlet in Kanpur. Since then, there has been no looking back. 

Read the full story here

Solar Industries

Satyanarayan Nandlal Nuwal, Founder, Solar Industries

Here's the story of Satyanarayan Nandlal Nuwal, a 67-year-old entrepreneur who laboured under a lot of struggles when he started his business journey in the 1970s. Little did he know that over the years his company, Solar Industries, would become one of the leading manufacturers of explosives and detonators, and will get a licence from the government to make explosives for India's Armed Forces.

"I belong to a small village in Rajasthan. I dropped out of school when I was in Class X to find my luck in the business. But, at that time, I was too innocent to understand that business is gruelling at times. I tried my hand at many things, including a leasing business and a transport company, but everything failed," he recalls. 

Satyanarayan then moved to Nagpur to work with a relative. He didn't have enough money to rent out a house and spent his initial nights in the big city sleeping in the railway station.  

But the dark clouds soon parted after months of struggle when Satyanarayan got a licence to trade explosives and a warehouse to store them, paying a monthly fee of Rs 1,000 rupees to the licence holder. 

In 1995, he made modest efforts to found Solar Industries in Nagpur, first as an explosives trading business and, a year later, a manufacturer of the same from a small plant. To set up the unit, Satyanarayan invested a capital of Rs 1 crore.

Solar Industries went public in 2006 and in FY19, the company clocked a revenue of Rs 2,461.6 crore. 

Read the full story here

Malabar Gold

MP Ahammed, Founder, Malabar Gold & Diamonds

One of the secrets to success is doing common things uncommonly well, and 62-year-old MP Ahammed, Founder of Malabar Gold & Diamonds, is an epitome of this adage. 

Born into a family of merchants and landlords, Ahammed began his entrepreneurial odyssey at the age of 20 by setting up a spice trade venture in 1979. He used to trade cardamom, pepper, and coconut to the retailers of Kozhikode in Kerala. However, he soon realised that the trading business will not become big. 

In an interaction with SMBStory, KP Narayanan, Media and Marketing Head of Malabar Gold & Diamonds, said, 

"At a very young age and just being a school pass-out, MP Ahammed imbibed rare and precious business lessons that no top management institute could have imparted in a classroom. However, he wasn't settling for the same and wanted to do something bigger." 

Sharing one of the episodes from Ahammed's life, Narayanan says that in the early years of his business journey, a retailer in Mumbai owed a hefty payment to Ahammed. However, due to a financial crunch, he was unable to clear the dues and was planning to shut his business. The retailer promised Ahammed that he would repay the dues by selling his brand.  

The episode was very overwhelming for Ahammed but it was also a cognitive one. He discovered the value of forming a brand and soon he realised that he needed to form one of his own. But not in the spice business. He took a leap in an altogether different journey…

Read the full story here

Loom Solar

Amol Anand (L) and Amod Anand (R), Cofounders, Loom Solar

During her Budget speech on February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman laid out a roadmap to revive the country's economy, counter the economic slowdown, and outlined a slew of measures aimed at fulfilling the aspirations of all Indians. And, among the measures was a strong emphasis on the solar power industry of India. 

The Budget for 2020-21 allocates Rs 2,516 crore for the solar power sector, including both grid-interactive and off-grid projects. This thrust and increased need to look at renewable power sources propelled brothers Amod Anand and Amol Anand to make a disruptive start in the solar power sector.

The brothers launched Loom Solar in 2018 in Faridabad, which, in the span of just a year, generated a Rs 25 crore turnover in the financial year 2019. 

The company has installed 3,500 kW solar panels in 9,000 Indian homes since its inception, creating around 4.2 million units of electricity from solar panels and 99,000 tonnes reduction in carbon dioxide emission, which is equivalent to planting 1,58,000 trees.   

In January, Loom Solar won the title of fastest-growing SMB at Amazon Sambhav.

Read the full story here

Chamundi agarbathi

Kantilal Parmar, Founder, Chamundi Agarbathi

Small-town people dream big with open eyes. Kantilal Parmar also had big dreams when his brother moved from Jalore, Rajasthan, to Bengaluru, Karnataka, to work with their father's friend in an agarbatti trading firm. 

"My elder brother moved to Bengaluru with my uncle (father's friend) to start working. I was studying at that time in Jalore. After completing my schooling, I also came down to help him. Though we were working, we had dreams of doing something big at some time," Kantilal Parmar, 40, told SMBStory.

Kantilal's brother initially had rotogravure printing work, where he used to print packages for various agarbatti manufacturers. Later, in 2003, both the brothers branched out by trading in the raw materials used for agarbatti manufacturing.  

"We used to trade raw materials like perfume, packaging material, and more used for manufacturing agarbatti. We continued the same work for around seven years after which we decided to open our own manufacturing unit and scale up rather than just continue trading." 

In 2009, deploying capital from personal savings and taking a loan against property, Kantilal started an agarbatti manufacturing unit in a 1,200 sqft space with around Rs 15 lakh. Now, they have grown it into a Rs 20 crore company.

Read the full story here

Highflow Industries

Sumit Jaiswal, Founder, Highflow Industries

Long before the electric vehicle (EV) revolution and the advent of lithium ion batteries, Om Prakash Jaiswal used to sell rubber containers and plates to Indian battery companies. 

His small business, Om Engineering Works, was started in 1987. It operated out of a shop in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh. 

With the passing years, Om Prakash felt there was a big opportunity in producing batteries. So, in 2000, the company started making lead acid batteries, and five years later, began smelting and recycling them. The batteries found applications in household electronics, solar devices, and automobiles. 

His son Sumit Jaiswal, who has since taken over, told SMBStory

"We initially had a capacity of making 20 batteries a day. After breakthroughs in e-rickshaw and solar battery manufacturing, we grew at a fast rate, propelling us to our present capacity of three hundred batteries per day." 

In 2014, the company changed its name to Highflow Industries. Today, it makes lead acid batteries for inverters, solar panels, e-rickshaws, two wheelers, cars, tractors, heavy vehicles, and more.

Sumit said he's invested Rs 10 crore in the business so far, and claimed an annual revenue of Rs 25 crore.

Read the full story here


Ashok J, Co-founder, Hosachiguru

After working in the IT sector for over a decade, Ashok J and Sriram Chitlur were planning for their retirement goals in their mid-30s. They were on a lookout for an opportunity to make a difference while remaining connected to nature.  

In 2008, they were curious about starting sandalwood cultivation after the government's move to liberalise it.   

They began searching for land and travelled to rural communities on weekends to procure it. After two years of toil, they acquired land and began the cultivation of sandalwood in Rayadurg, Andhra Pradesh.   

In an interaction with SMBStory, Srinath Setty, who joined the duo in 2014 to direct their sales and customer support, said,    

"Ashok and Sriram love nature. Earlier, when they were thinking for their retirement they caught hold of farming as a great opportunity. They not only wanted to grow more trees, but also help those who wanted to enter into farming." 

Hosachiguru believes in focusing on agro-forestry, and there are two ways individuals can engage with them. Firstly, people who want to purchase farmland can buy from Hosachiguru with the options of developing on their own or with the help of the company. Secondly, individuals can also go for development and management of existing farmland (provided it has a scale of 50+ acres and the landowner is willing to bring in the resources to set up a commercially viable agro-forestry project.)  

The idea became prominent among the people and in just five years, Hosachiguru captured 18 projects spread across 800 acres of farmlands of sandalwood, mahogany, and melia dubia. The company clocks a turnover of Rs 20 crore annually. 

Read the full story here

rv enterprises

RV Enterprises founders Vickram Singh (left) and Ramesh Rao (right)

Artwork and handicrafts were a big part of Vickram Singh's life in Bera, a village in Rajasthan famous for its leopards and panthers. Growing up, he admired the skill local households put into making handcrafts. 

It took some years for him to notice the villagers who made handicrafts were not benefitting from sales. Profits largely went to traders and other middlemen who the villagers relied on to take the products to market. 

"Looking at this situation, I understood that the problem existed in several other parts of the country. I saw a potential opportunity for creating an international B2B marketplace—one where small-time manufacturers, factory owners, and MSMEs could sell globally without going through middlemen," Vickram, who is an MBA graduate from Christ University in Bengaluru, told SMBStory

Vickram went on to work in a range of corporate and startup roles before he quit his job and took the entrepreneurial plunge. Ramesh Rao, a banking expert and also an MBA graduate from Rajasthan, joined Vickram in taking the leap. 

In 2016, the duo started RV Enterprises in Bengaluru with their savings of Rs 25 lakh. Vickram and Ramesh decided to test the idea by piloting one material: granite. 

India is a major exporter of granite, and RV Enterprises capitalised on this and brought the business online. 

The company built a website that organises and makes transparent the details of the granite products and suppliers. 

Read the full story here


Umar Akhter, CEO, Koskii

Umar Akhter was just a 16-year-old when hard times fell upon his father, Saifulla Akhter, a Bengaluru-based distributor who would buy sarees from manufacturers to sell to retailers.  

In a conversation with SMBStory, Umar said, "We used to live in a small house and our father used to do business from home as we had no shop. I remember after coming back from school, I used to go to the market with my father on the back of his scooter, carrying a huge box of sarees." 

Umar, eldest of six children, recalled his father selling sarees to retailers located in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, with the latter holding the major share. But, one bad day changed their lives.  

Due to some issues in Hyderabad, the city's retailers shut shop and Saifulla's payment of around Rs 8 lakh was stuck.  

"We didn't have money to pay the debt because the stock was sold in credit to Hyderabad retailers and the people whom we took credit began harassing us," Umar added. 

It was a tough time for Umar and his family and they refused to continue the wholesale business on credit again. One day, they heard that a small businessman from Kolar was selling his shop at a meager amount and inspiration struck. 

How would it be if they could sell sarees from their own retail store and clear the market debt?  

However, they needed one crucial ingredient – funds. 

Read the full story here.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)

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