Monthly Archives: June 2013

How to ensure that the software company you hired will deliver!

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It is commonplace in America for smaller programming houses to take on new clients when they have no resources to do the actual work. They typically do this either because they can not predict their future workload, or because they intentionally want to have a large backlog of orders so their staff will not be sitting around with nothing to do.

Unfortunately, what these companies typically do is to take on a new client, and immediately put them on the back burner. The client will have to wait months to get one week’s worth of work done. Lies, deceit, and other manipulative exchanges of reasons will accompany the sluggish work. The question is, how do you ensure that your new software company will not put you on the back burner?

(1) First of all, SMALL software companies don’t care about the long term business – by definition. Because if they did, they wouldn’t be small for long. They would treat their customers well, acquire new ones, but not lose the old ones that often. Smaller software companies typically mishandle all of their clients and lose them as fast as they come in. That guarantees that they will remain small (and inept) forever, until the market changes in which case they would simply vanish.

(2) Companies with offices typically get more done than companies where employees work from home. This is not a hard and fast rule, but I have many examples in my mental database of work-at-home scenarios. If the company is a large and reputable company and workers work at home, that might work. But, for small companies that don’t have a solid reputation, you are asking for trouble if people work from home. Companies with 1-5 people tend to be completely un-businesslike and irresponsible. Pair that with working from home and you have a disaster. If they have an office, and the office has not been populated by them for more than five years, they lack what Indians call: “Being well settled”.

On the other hand, companies who have had offices for years and have 6-12 people who work in the office daily, my experience has been that they are not perfect, but will get some serious work done. Companies with 20+ workers will get tons of work done. The size of the population inhabiting the office (during business hours) is directly proportional to how much work will get done on your project.

(3) Companies LIE about how many employees they have. You need to VERIFY that they really have 500 employees. Ask the boss to NAME THEM all and tell you a little about each of them. I am not joking. At least do this with the employees whose business pertains to your work. VISIT their office to make sure it really exists and that they really have 30 Java programmers with 10 years of experience per person, and not 4 Java programmers where the lead programmer has 3 years of experience who is leading a bunch of inept clowns with 1 year of experience.

(4) TEST these companies out. Give them a few test projects. Perhaps ask them for an estimate on a job. See if the amount of hours they need is reasonable. See if they ask good questions. Ask them to do a quick project to see if they actually do anything. How quick? You are paying for your test, so it is as quick as you like. A 1-hour test might be enough to see if they get off their rear!

(5) Getting programmers to deliver is similar to getting building contractors to deliver. They are notoriously late every step of the way, and two month projects generally take two years. A PENALTY contract might be hard to get them to sign, but it is at least something to think about if time is money. There needs to be a distinct penalty for sluggish or uncooperative behavior. They can ruin your company’s development plan for months if they don’t cooperate.

Potential Damages for Carelessness
Imagine that you hire a company who gets you to get involved in a long project and they stall half-way through. You will be put in the position where you have a choice of firing them mid-way (which is expensive and complicated) or waiting indefinitely for them to finish. You are at risk, and most software companies couldn’t care less about stringing you up and keeping you waiting indefinitely. Proceed with caution!

How to acquire call center clients — looking like a big company

Categories: Call Center, Popular Posts | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Getting respect
Many small companies feel that they can’t get any respect unless people think they are a big company. If you live in a 3rd world country, it is hard to get past these narrow-minded opinions. 3rd worlders have nonsensical and narrow-minded opinions about almost everything. In America, we don’t think that bigger is better. The coolest companies in America are small companies. Small companies often don’t want to become bigger companies.

Keeping your roots
Some larger American companies still maintain a lot of the charm that they had when they were smaller companies. Some people think that you can’t get ahead without the big company image, but charm sells — and don’t you forget that!

Small time call centers
Many small time call centers feel that they can not get clients unless they look like a big company. Nothing could be further from the truth. Often, the reps at these companies will be very impersonal and distant to maintain their big company image. However, when you ask them anything about their company and workers — they can not produce any content — it is always private. The bigger question is, how can you acquire call center clients if you don’t answer any of their questions? People don’t want big companies, they want answers! So, start giving them.

Being helpful — not being big
Indian call centers are famous for having people with typical thick Indian accents pretending to be in America, and having a fake American name. They think that the only way to be liked is to be American. This is not true. The way to be liked is not to be American, and is also NOT to be a big company. Being HELPFUL is the way to be liked. At my company, clients don’t like it when we are NICE to them. They don’t want NICE, they want HELP. This is why I succeed in my business — I am not nice — But, I am helpful.

Skills — not size
When I interview call centers, I don’t care if they are big or small. I want to know if they have employees who can do my work the way I want it done. If they have 100 workers of various skill levels, but refuse to give me one who has the skill set that I want, I will not be happy. I would be better off with a call center with 1 seat, that has the worker that I want. It is about skills — not size.

The moral of the story
What you should learn from this blog entry is: Don’t pretend to be a glamorous large company (unless you are). Rather, pretend to be a small, helpful, and skillful company that answers all of the client’s questions. Then, you will impress people. You should be flexible and nice too if you want to attract call center clients!

Women programmers in India and the U.S.

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A general trend is that there are more and more women programmers in both India and the U.S., but India is ahead. Women in the U.S. make up less than 20% of all undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Engineering, and women studying IT in India are roughly at the same percentage, but India has doubled the number of women enrolled in IT colleges. What motivates a woman to succeed as a programmer or an engineer?

We’ll let the programmers speak for themselves.

Neeta is a 28-year-old Indian programmer who was offered a job upon graduating from BIRLA Institute, a prestigious IT college. “In India, science is promoted as something that can benefit our culture. Also, the literacy rate has improved from 15% in 1971 to 54% currently. This means that all daughters in upscale or average families are well educated; girls who grow up in respectable families get a lot of encouragement in education and career. It is no longer an idea that women can depend on a man or a marriage for everything,” explains this programmer in India. “My brother is an engineer, and now earns 500,000 rupees a year.” How much is that in U.S. dollars? Almost $10,000.

Says Kamala, another female happily employed as a programmer in India, “Women in India are not seen as unattractive in any way if they are good at math and science. India’s percentage of women undergraduates doubled from 1997 to 2000, and is now 20% of undergraduates. In Kerala, 50% of technical college graduates are women,” notes this Indian programmer. “There is no prejudice against women programmers in India, and in fact, in the South, they are often sought after and even offered more money sometimes than men. Some companies fight to hire women programmers. Also, having a career does not hurt a woman’s chances of marrying, as was previously thought,” smiles this Indian programmer. “Everyone in my family encouraged me to be a programmer, and cheered when I won math and science contests. I started at age 10, which is a great time to start.”

Kerry, a programmer in the U.S., tells us, “My parents sent me to summer camp for computers when I was 12. Throughout high school, I gradually realized there was a career in this. I learned programming here and there in high school, and eventually entered a top U.S. college and majored in Computer Science. This whole time, I kept getting encouragement– from my parents, my family, and my teachers. I think that kept me going. Nothing was ever said to discourage me– but the positives–the encouragement–made me succeed as a programmer.”

Sunita, another Indian programmer who graduated from one of the top 20 IT colleges in India, says that, in addition to encouragement, in India programming is seen as a select profession, not lowly like working in a factory. “It is one of the few respectable professions a woman can go into to earn a good living, help support her family, and do good for the country,” this programmer in India adds.

Sudha, an Indian programmer who graduated with top honors in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a prestigious IT and science-oriented college, believes that “In the U.S., the culture produces a certain image of cute women with glamorous careers. Careers in science don’t seem as appealing, and girls don’t choose women mentors who are in a science field. I had a science teacher who mentored me when I was 10. She told me, ‘Smart women can go far in the IT field. You can start as a programmer and end by having your own huge IT company.’ Women in India aren’t all fooled by this air-head, glamour image of what a woman should be,” says this programmer in India. “In India, if there is a chance to get scholarships and get a good career, we take it, no matter if it seems glamorous or not. By 2002, the percentage of female IT college graduates doubled from what it was 6 years earlier. It is still rising.”

According to one study by the University of Michigan and the University of California at Berkeley, soon the IT workforce in India is expected to be 45% female, and in some IT colleges, 50% of the graduating class are women. There will be a 22% increase in the number of technical jobs in India and the U.S. by 2018. That means we had better start encouraging and rewarding young women for success in the IT field.

Slow-but-good verses Fast & Sloppy programmers

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Programming is a very meticulous task and you can ruin someone’s business if you are sloppy. The programmers I have hired in the past were all sloppy which is why I am changing my hiring algorithm to include a testing process involving a two hour programming test. The test is easy to pass, but most people are not paying attention and fail. But, let’s say that some people do pass the test. Then what?

If one company delivers slow and meticulous work, that is wonderful. But, what type of project do you put them on? If one project is time sensitive and my company will suffer $2000 / day in damages if there is a delay — then slow and meticulous might not be the ideal choice. On the other hand, if I have a very complicated project which doesn’t need to get done for a few months, then slow and meticulous might be a great choice.

Fast & sloppy can work too on a NEW project that doesn’t have any customers or data yet. If they fix their mistakes right away, you might be able to make some real headway, and working on an experimental project might be great with this type of team — once again assuming that they fix their mistakes as quickly as they make them.

But, what about fast and meticulous. Programming companies are so short-staffed, that it seems almost impossible to get fast service at any price. I think you could make a mint if you hired really good programmers and charged insane prices. Some people will pay for it, at least when they are in a bind — which seems to be the case for many companies. If you get a client who is short on time but packed with money, they might like to have someone fast and good who charges 50% more than the market rate for programming services.

The moral of the story here is to think from the perspective of the customer. They are the ones paying you, so try to find a way to cater your programming (or other services) to their needs in terms of speed, accuracy, customer service, or anything else that matters to whomever is paying.

Do you boss people around or do you guide them?

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Do you boss, or do you guide? That is the question. A boss who everyone hates will soon get fired, or the workers will quit. So, as a boss, you have to be nice and personable. In India, it is fashionable to yell at your workers. Sometimes this is necessary if they are being stubborn or insubordinate. But, you should not yell at workers who generally try to do their best. With the moderate or good workers, you need to function more as a guide.

You guide workers, teach them, develop them and bring out their best. If you are a successful boss, putting aside how wonderful your salary is, your workers will say, “Wow, that boss brought things out from within me that I never knew existed!”. Bringing out the best in people will not only make people like you, they will respect you with awe. So, we all need to rethink our role as a leader, and become better at it. There is a lot to learn about being a leader.

So, the secret to being a good boss lies in knowing when to teach workers new things, or when to give them new projects. You have to know how much to guide them in their projects and when to leave them alone. Strategy exists at all stages in the road. Keeping a written road map of what you are doing with a particular worker makes a big difference. That way you can keep track with a glance. By my standards, a worker has to put in some hard time to deserve your scarce time and attention. But, once they have paid their dues, give them some teaching and coaching that will make them become an expert at some facet of your business, or at a particular task. Guide them to mastery and then complement them in a “wow” kind of way. “Wow, I can’t believe how good you are at that — just a week ago you could barely pick up the phone and look at you now!”. This type of “shock and awe” strategy is really a sales strategy. If you amaze prospective clients, they will be very likely to buy from you and only you. But, the same applies to employees. If you amaze employees with what you can bring out of them, they will hold you in a type of regard fit only for a guru or a king (or a god if you are in India).

So, remember, the goal is to take calculated steps that make everybody involved say, “Oh my god(s)”. If in a Muslim environment, a simple “W’allahi” or “Mash’allah” will do the trick as well when your worker outshines the group. If not, then you need to regroup, and come up with a better strategy for guiding your people! If you get really good at this, then your employees will flock around you like you are Jesus walking from town to town in the areas West of the Jordan! Imagine!

Why your sitar & tabla lessons are the most important training for business

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I am always being asked how to get more clients for call centers, data entry, and software houses. But, the type of answers people want are what I call, “immediate gratification” type answers. How can I get something now that I may or may not deserve or merit. If I were writing to a Western audience, I would talk about piano or violin lessons, but most of my readers are in India, so let’s talk about the veena, sitar, tabla and tambouras.

When you take music lessons, you learn a whole lot more than just music. You learn discipline (essential for any profession), impeccable timing, listening skills, sensitivity, and how to coordinate with others — especially if playing a raga with a tabla player.

Many times when we call Call centers, we get people who can hardly communicate, if they answer the phone at all. If we email them, the email doesn’t get returned. If you want clients so badly, what prevents you from answering your email? That might be the only medium for communication that someone could use to communicate with you. Additionally, we get the “hard sell” types who want to immediately lock you into a very constrictive contract without evening listening to what your needs are.

Listening skills
Then, the staff at these call centers sometimes speak too softly, or too loudly. If you had a musical background, you would realize right away that their pitch was off tune. Some of them have a pleasant or unpleasant tone. Anybody can notice this, but with a musical background, your brain becomes very much more sensitized to noise. A call center worker might put words together in ways that are hard for the client to understand as well. You will pick up on this much better with a musical background. As I stated earlier, the management also doesn’t always listen to what the client wants. Listening is critical to success in business and you will have a much better listening skills if you took sitar lessons.

In music, you have to play a sequence of notes, with sensitivity in a particular rhythm. Emails are similar. They need to be answered in a time sensitive way. You can not wait three weeks to get back to someone about a time sensitive issue and then say, “oh sorry”. If the tabla player plays 12 beats and then you have to play a few notes immediately afterwards — this is very similar to what happens in the world of business. Your client might send you a process that has to be begun on Tuesday morning at 5am. What if three hours after a process is started, you need to inspect a critical piece of work to see if the project is going as planned, and you miss that precise window of time? If you are not paying attention, you miss critical deadlines and get lose your clients. A few veena lessons will teach you about timing!

In business, analytics is very important. Knowing what the most important task to do at a particular time when you have limited resources. Sensitivity can help you notice more, and a lot faster. You will also notice a lot more details about what you are doing, and what is flawed and what needs to be fixed. Higher level business-people are much more refined in all aspects of their work.

Most companies have managers who are either unavailable, or who have trouble giving accurate answers to questions. In music, if there is even one flaw, the entire song, piece or raga can be ruined. In business, if you give wrong answers, your sale can be ruined. This type of accuracy training or discipline is irreplaceable and comes from studying music. Sure, business school can teach you a lot of principles, but tabla lessons teach you a sense of accuracy that can be transposed into any profession!

Clasically trained musicians make higher incomes!
If you look at people who are classical musicians in the United States, their average income is in the top 1-5%. They average around US$120,000 per year in income. People who just want quick bucks generally make around 15-40% of that amount. The discipline of classical music translates into good study skills which once again translates into higher level jobs and higher sensitivity in business skills. Sensitivity training is everything and your tamboura lessons will really help with this.

The moral of this blog is — think of your clients as tabla players. After they play their beats, you have to chime in!

(1) Classically trained musicians make higher incomes if they pursue professions
(2) The discipline of classical music translates into better study skills = higher income

You might also like:

What if classically trained musicians ran IT companies in India?

Vaastu and Feng Shui for your business

Capitalizing on the shock factor in sales

Categories: Sales | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Do you have the ability to shock people? It is a skill. Comedians rely on their ability to create material that stimulates people’s interest and make them laugh. A salesperson is somewhat like a comedian in the sense that they also need to spark an acute reaction in people. Another reason why salespeople I know are like comedians, is that they are so bad at sales, that it is actually funny!

But, getting back to the shock factor. calls it the “Wow factor”. You could also call it the “Oh my god” factor. This is an important factor regardless of what you call it. Human beings go through life in a humdrum way. We are addicted to what we normally do, and seldome do anything new. We are stuck in our ruts, and only get out of them on the weekends if we are lucky. We drive the same car, have the same computer, have the same family, take the same route to work, buy gasoline at the same place, get the same peanut m&m’s at the same gas station, and go shopping at the same costco. The Indian aunties I know will go to the same Costco their entire lives buying the exact same chapatis from the same aisle, etc. If they move to another metro because their husband got a job, the first thing they will do is to find the closest Costco and find the chappati aisle and continue in their rut.

So, the point of the shock technique is that you need to shock people to get them out of their habit. You have to have them get a sudden realization that what they already have is terrible. Or, they need to discover that what you have is much better.

I use wow type sales techniques every day. I tell people that if they do “x” that statistically they will have triple the business and will stand out. Get our certification, get reviews, and write a better profile notes section is what I tell my subscribers. Then, I do the reverse psychology and have them pretending to be the customer looking at their listing. If you were the customer, then who would you pick? Would you pick you with the zero reviews, or Fred who has 30 reviews? Me too, I would pick Fred. Get some reviews! If they can see the situation from another person’s point of view, then I can sell to them. The problem is that my “wow” doesn’t always work. Many people are not motivated by success. People with what I condescendingly call “lower consciousness” are much more motivated by fear than by success. So, I use a reverse-wow technique. I tell them that as other people get reviews, the others typically will monopolize the work, and you will be left holding the bag. Conditions change, and the way they are changing, you will get less and less until you are out of business — unless you do “x”. Then we tell them stories about people whose phone stopped ringing when the guy below them on the search results got 10 reviews overnight. That story had the shock factor we needed and we made the sale.

The shock factor is about pressing emotional buttons in people. Sometimes reasoning with them doesn’t work, but stories often do. So, if you want to be good at sales, learn to be good at telling stories — REAL stories. Believe in the power of what you are selling. Your belief really shows too.

My parting words are that you should wow yourself.
I was talking to my assistant and we decided that the certification we were selling was so valuable that it was worth a house in the best case scenario. Not a mansion, but maybe a small starter house. For $179, you can not get a house in any neighborhood that I have heard of. What we were selling had amazing value, but was not expensive at all. The minute we made that inner realization, we started selling them like popcorn!