September 04, 2006

TiE Mentoring Session

Attended a mentoring session organised by TiE this evening. The speaker was Mr. Sridar Iyengar who is the president of TiE global. For those of you who don't know much about this iconic organisation, head to the link on the post title. Mr. Sridar Iyengar was previously the Partner-in-Charge of KPMG's Emerging Business Practice. He has had a number of leadership roles within KPMG's global organization particularly in setting up and growing new practices. He has the unique distinction of having worked as a partner in all three of KPMG's regions - Europe, America and Asia Pacific as well as in all four of KPMG's functional disciplines: assurance, tax, consulting and financial advisory services. From 1997 to 2000 Sridar was Chairman and CEO of KPMG's India operations and a member of the Executive committee of KPMG, Asia Pacific Board. He also currently is on the board of ICICI, Rediff.com, Infosys and Progeon.

I am going to run you through the gist of his talk (as i remember it - with my comments in parentheses) in bullet points:


  • Don't be afraid of change, when faced with a fork in the road: Take it!
  • Out of a hundred people he mentors and interacts with, only maybe 2 or 3 start up firms. This doesn't mean the rest are'nt entrepreneurs. Be entrepreneurial wherever you work.
  • When he joined KPMG in 1968, he decided that he would quit KPMG the day they offered him a partnership and go his own way. So have focus, know where you want to go
  • Ages 35-55 are the most productive wealth creation years. Use your time to acquire all the weapons and expertise needed to hit 35 with the stuff to go on your own if you are serious about being an entrepreneur
  • CEOs are not specialists they have to be Generals( generalists)
  • In the old days the concept of internship and rotation across functions ensured that by the time you reached the top you knew absolutely everything about very function in the company.
  • Make sure you spread your radar and learn across depts ( I remember my Dad giving me the same advice one day before I was starting off for my first job at ESAB) make sure you can see the big picture. 
  • Also ensure that there is atleast ONE specific skill where you are the best, the "Go to" guy
  • Key areas of learning / expertise absolutely essential for CEOs / entrepreneurs: Product knowledge (R&D); Marketing and selling (very crucial);Finance ( for obvious reasons, especially if company is in trouble)
  • Don't get stuck in a rut/ vertical dead end. If need be, take a demotion across departments , and then move upwards again
  • An Entrepreneur/CEO needs to have dashboard in front him. he needs to be clued into absolutely every small change that occurs and respond as things play out
  • Don't try to get from pt A to point B in your career via a straight line it may be the shortest path, but prefer a weaving path if it provides more learning and challenge.
  • Learn that in life you can't always do what you, but you MUST like what you do!!
  • Let's say you're trying to build a 1000 storey building on a 200 storey foundation, you know it will collapse. What if you have a 200 storey bldg and you spot the opportunity to build 5 more storeys should you do it? Let's say you know that building these 5 storeys would keep the building intact for a year and then the entire edifice would collapse , what then? - Business is about striking at such opportunities as and when they arise, and then back filling - Go ahead, build those extra 5 storeys, but make sure you have the foundation sorted before the year is out. If you wait to solidify your foundation first someone else may have already beaten you to building those 5 storeys!
  • Leaders have a tendency to feed off successes and walk away from failures, Great leaders tend to walk away from successes and flock to failures.
  • Work experience in a large organisation ( generally) can be useful to help you curb both over enthusiasm and frustration, when you are experimenting with ideas in your venture.
  • Try to spot "white spaces" - new ideas , new business avenues that people find promising and are willing to bet on for the future- in an organisation and move into them, if you want retain your entrepreneurial spirit within an organization - especially large ones.
  • In a large organization, a leader must protect his people from the organisation itself.
  • When delegating make sure you brief properly. If your subordinate doesn't do a job well enough, make sure it's not because you did a bad job of briefing them
  • Pursue ideas, but know your limitations and build an excellent team; get people better than you to cover your bases on areas where you're not that great
  • It's usually the case that VCs (and I'm sure PE firms as well) prefer a great team with a decent idea than a decent team with a great idea. That's how important the quality of people is to any business venture.
  • It takes a lot of persistence, staying power (both monetary as well as personal) and tremendous self-confidence to succeed in an entrepreneurial venture. Most businesses fail because the founders call it quits too early
Plenty of things to consider there...
TiE is also planning some sort of Angel investor interaction at IIFT over the next week.
I am hoping we can chalk out some formal tie-up between TiE and our ECell ( Entrepreneurship club at IIFT)
Do post your comments below....