Navigating through the bend: Being an 'Entrepreneur Manager'

If you are a people's manager and keep people to the centre of your business, you shall never lose footing, says CP Gurnani, Tech Mahindra MD and CEO

Updated: Apr 30, 2020 03:06:52 PM UTC
Image: Tom Werner/Getty Images

I am always fascinated by Formula circuit races. As a spectator for years, many thoughts cross my mind, but the one manoeuvre that fascinates me even today is navigating the bends. All of them have the same track, the vehicle with more or less the same configuration, driving at microseconds difference from each other, but some drivers are always better than the others.

Today, COVID-19 is that track on which entrepreneurs and managers are driving their businesses. Some managers may pause and stop, while others may pause but only to accelerate by taking a calculated risk. At a particular speed, few drivers will be able to go past the bend and stay ahead of the curve. Hence, it's about how you manage the risk and the choices you make, that will determine how you successfully navigated your business in times of Covid-19.

Being an 'Entrepreneur Manager'
So while entrepreneur skillset is reflective of ideation, intuition, flexibility or discovering gaps, the managerial attributes focus on market, growth, people and processes; and together, they complete the circle of business.

As per the Chinese philosophy, the yin and yang is referred to contextualise how seemingly disparate or diverse forces may be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent for a holistic perspective. In entrepreneurship, yin is about knowledge, discovery, ideas and new possibilities—while yang is about establishing markets and putting strategy and structure.

The Yin Yang for 'entrepreneur managers', is a  constant toss between the drive of an entrepreneur and the accountability of a manager. The bend may be deep, but the manoeuvrability is skilled and specialised. It is all about managing the speed, direction, balance while understanding the environment and situation to emerge as a winner.

Over the years, I have made a list of five traits that I identify with, and I believe are the characteristics of an 'Entrepreneur Manager'.

Balanced risk for reward
"Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail," said the Chinese philosopher Confucius.

I am often asked, How did you solve the Satyam crisis? My answer is elucidated later in the article. But, I wish to highlight that each of us in our lives has to weigh our risk appetite. In a game of soccer, every single move or pass is crucial to reach near the goal post, and even the final kick or hit has to be measured, balanced and given the right direction for the ball to score the goal.

Celebrate failures
Failures are just another step towards attaining the end goal, failure is not just a let-down, but an experiment that needs to be encouraged even if it takes a longer time to reach the finish line. Entrepreneurs are idea machines that are willing to risk it. Eventually, either they become good managers or hire some.

Simplify the complex
Remember, every complex equation is a sum of many simple equations. No matter what the problem, break it down and look at untangling one knot at a time, and the resolution shall appear. Sometimes, we try and do too much at the same time; thus making things complex. To me, the most significant reference point was when 11 years back, we at Tech Mahindra decided to acquire the erstwhile fraud-stricken Satyam.

The move was risky and complicated, given that the investor and customer faith in the brand was shaken and there was an advisory on a negative impact on the parent brand as well. Yet, it was also a unique opportunity to diversify our service offerings and de-risk our dependency on specific customers. So we simplified the strategy, broke into manageable 10, 20 parts and empowered individuals to solve challenges. We went ahead and completed the acquisition, rest, as they say, is history.

Pick the right person for the right job
There is nothing you can achieve without networking; building relationships is what supports business—in fact, 'business' is another word for 'network'. A business network consists of individuals, and they play a decisive role in the firm's success. All through my career, I have seen a repeat version of three kinds of individuals: 'doers' who do, 'improvers' who will go two steps beyond the brief, and 'game-changers' who are genuinely out-of-the-box thinkers. Unless you have the right person in the proper role, things won't work out, and this lesson that has always stayed with me.

For the people
People are an integral part of the success of any business. As the world moves towards a catatonic demographic shift led by digital transformation; reskilling and upskilling of people becomes an intrinsic part of strategic business planning. Organisations need to leverage new-age technologies to nurture a future-ready talent pool and also try to recognise talent and entrepreneurship capabilities. Be a people's manager and keep people to the centre of your business, and you shall never lose footing.

The journey so far has taught me that one size can never fit all. An entrepreneur and a manager use different variables in their decision-making to resolve one problem. A seemingly indecisive entrepreneur can be an effective manager, and a decisive manager can become a successful entrepreneur. But the most important thing to remember is that only training does not work, execution is very critical. So dream big, start small and have a bias for action.

The writer is MD and CEO of Tech Mahindra

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The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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