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What is your Plan B?

We often talk about business planning but right now I want you to focus on Plan B.

Plan B is the plan you need to have if things don’t go to plan.As with anything in life you can never be sure what might be around the corner. Doing business is no different with a variety of changing circumstances at play and you never know how things might turn out in the near future. So, you better be prepared for the unexpected.

The ultimate goal here is to think outside the box and come up with potential solutions for any unlikely circumstances that could create issues for the business down the line. From the simplest things such as not achieving your sales targets or expenses exceeding budget to the more complex scenarios of the business failing, you need to have a fallback position or as I refer to it, Plan B.

At one end of the spectrum, you have to keep an eye on the changing political, legal, social,technological dynamics and at the other end, you need to constantly stay abreast of your internal business operations to have an idea of where things might take a turn for the worse. You must do a great deal of brainstorming and come up with creative solutions in order to deal with unexpected scenarios.

An example of the unexpected problems faced by an entrepreneur can be gauged from the global financial crisis which took most of the world by surprise. The speed and extent with which it wreaked havoc with businesses and economies alike surprised the entire world. Yet those who had prepared for such eventualities by putting in place relevant mitigation strategies to overcome the crisis where able to come out stronger than before and continue their journey on the path of growth and prosperity.

How is your Plan B coming along

Case of Credit Cards in Pakistan

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Credit cards are a very useful tool for consumers as they provide convenience to pay for purchases without searching for ATMs or carrying cash. Credit cards can also help you track your expenses and provide you with various incentive programs.

Due to these and many other reasons, credit cards have been extensively used in the developed world with much reduced reliance on cash.

The number of credit card users has been increasing in Pakistan over the past ten years and more and more people are now able to transact business by flashing their “plastic” as opposed to cash.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan credit card users continue to be charged exorbitant interest rates without any checks and balances over the consumer credit industry. A consumer credit code is much needed in Pakistan, especially given the lack of awareness amongst the majority of the credit card users.

The current level of interest rates on outstanding balance is in the range 40% per annum. Yes, 40% per annum!

Given the lack of understanding of Pakistani consumers, the banks have constantly charged rates which resemble those of loan sharks. While the banks always use the excuse that credit cards are unsecured form of lending, therefore, they need to charge high interest rates. It’s hardly a plausible and credible justification. If the bankers cannot manage the bad debts on their credit card portfolios, they need to think carefully about their business models and approaches.

A credit card if used properly can be a very useful tool in managing your finances. All you need is a bit of planning to fully utilize the interest free period and save yourself from extremely high interest rates. You need to be disciplined in how much money you spend. If you suspect that you will not be able to pay the balance at the end of the month, then you should not be spending that money.

In the United States the President himself intervened to bail out the credit card customers. Similarly, our Government and the State Bank should intervene in order to protect the unsuspecting consumers from the extremely high rates of interest being charged by the banks and to prevent the consumers from becoming caught up in the vicious cycle of debt.

Do you regularly use credit card or rely on cash? What are some of the challenges faced in using credit cards in Pakistan

How do you get your Startup Funded? AQs Top 3 Tips

If you are a young entrepreneur at the early stages of starting your own business, you probably spend all of your spare time thinking about how to get funding for it.

You keep reading all the news about how a start-up operating out of Lahore, Karachi or even Toba Tek Singh has raised an “unspecified” amount of money at a valuation approaching millions of dollars. You start wondering what you are doing wrong and why are you the only one not getting the million dollar breakthroughs.

Being an entrepreneur is simple, you thought, think of an idea (better still just cut and paste something from overseas and pretend it’s never been done before!) create a website, develop a social media presence, put together a slide deck and start pitching to investors with a fake American accent!

But then you discover that there are no investors that are interested in your idea or even if they show some interest, there is a mismatch of expectations. You offer 10% equity and want a million dollars for it, they were thinking that 51% equity would be good and a Million Rupees should be more than enough. Sigh!

All businesses need funding to grow and develop their product/service or reach a level where they become profitable.

How and where you can get capital for your business? How do you attract investors? How do you get your start-up funded?

I have heard far too many pitches all over the world to be easily convinced to part with my money and the poor quality of many of the pitches and the badly prepared business plans continue to amaze me. If you want to be taken seriously by investors or financiers, then you need to pay attention and focus on my Top 3 Tips to start with!

AQ TIP 1

Understand the Environment– Contrary to the hype and the exaggerated reports of start-ups being funded left, right and centre, realise that this ain’t the Silicon Valley. Only small deals are being done here in Pakistan but they are being blown up to create the entrepreneurial hype through clever PR campaigns.

Pakistan does not have many Angel investors or a VC industry of any significance. Your chances of being funded are not great in the first place. Many of the investors who have the cash may want too much control with the aim of making you like a manager with an incentive plan.

Figure out early on what it is that you need to develop your idea and what you are willing to give up. Can you manage without an investor? Can you raise funds through family and friends? Can you earn funds elsewhere and invest in the business?

AQ TIP 2

Develop a sensible, logical and realistic Business Plan.

To quote the famous author Michael Gerber, many of you in the Technology Sector, are simply “Technicians having an Entrepreneurial Seizure”

It takes more than just a product, service, an app, a website and a group of Techies to build a successful business.

When a group of technicians puts together a business plan, many of the key aspects of the plan are either ignored or not dealt with in a professional manner due to the lack of knowledge, expertise and research. If you want someone to hand over their hard earned money or even inherited wealth, you need to put a lot of effort into developing the strategy, developing your financial plans, figuring out the marketing strategies and plans and creating the business model.

Spend the time with the right team to develop a plan that makes sense, is practical and one that you will be able to execute on.

When dealing with seasoned business people and financiers, you simply can’t fake it!

AQ TIP 3

Have a Multi-Disciplinary Team

Those business plans with profiles of you and your college buddies, with all of you having fancy titles like CEO, CTO, CMO, despite having no real world experience are not going to excite the investors. You need a great team with a different set of expertise and specialisations. You need to show the investors that you have all bases covered with the professionals who preferably have skin in the game.

Have you ever come across a cricket team that was just made up of wicket keepers or fast bowlers? Never right! A good team needs a blend and a mixture of skills. So, go ahead and seek out other like-minded professionals who have the skills to complement your own

There is a lot more, I would like to share on this topic, so keep an eye out for the next of my Top 3 tips!

Secret to Building a Committed Team – Part 1

A leader is nothing without a committed team. The vision and dreams will remain unaccomplished in the absence of a core team that commits to giving their very best for the fulfilment of the purpose and the mission presented by the leader.

The magic lies in the leader’s ability to attract the right people who are willing to go the extra mile to create a successful future for the company, the leader and for themselves.

The key challenge for today’s leaders is to put together a team that works with a sense of mission. This is neither simple nor straightforward. Emerging leaders need to understand and master the process of taking an eclectic group of people and moulding them into a dedicated, devoted and a steadfast team.

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V+A Can Change the World

 

‘Vision without action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare’- Japanese Proverb.

The first step to formulating a strategic plan for your business is to formulate a vision. Understand the functions and characteristics of a clear vision and how to translate this for strategic planning in my following presentation.