Friday, 9 December 2011

Make the future work

Yesterday, one of my friends called me to say, “I have taken the advice that your elder brother gave you. To get a loan from a bank and buy another house”. I laughed out loud. Because, I knew instantly what the words behind his words were.

When things are comfortable, thoughts about future life distract from work. A biggish financial liability burns excess libido and brings back the focus to earnings and therefore to work. And life goes on as it is generally supposed to. That’s what my brother told me over a year ago.

Other memories surfaced.

A proclamation by someone, “professionals who aren’t brands in their own right shouldn’t even think about going on their own … they’ll trigger little recall and won’t get anywhere”. True enough.

An admission by another, “I get work done by others and focus on macro items … if I were to start off on my own I would either have to invest in a firm and pay people to do different levels of work … or stay by myself and be content with work that doesn’t use my full abilities since potential customer organisations would have their leaders to take care of the macro stuff … it’s like frying pan and fire”. Sure is.

Preferences - people making choices, doing different work and working differently. Evidence - organisations experimenting with different models of engaging skills. Direction - networking platforms and collaboration technologies.

A task at hand distracted me from these memories. Work towards launching my website - attractive design, super functionality, reader convenience, socially known. Big agency costs were prohibitive. Boutique firms were too focussed on getting big-agency-like customers and would put me on lower priority. Freelancers would have only one or the other of the skills I needed.

A boutique firm that charged fair money, and believed that our collaboration would get them a great credential plus enjoyable work, should be my choice. But why would such a firm sway from its set ways ? Yes, most likely not. Then, how about if there were a platform or association where I could find two or three great guys with the sum total of the skills I needed ? And they collaborated with one another and with me to deliver a great product ? Wishful thinking.

I don’t know why I thought about a group of cabbies we know. It’s been four years since we’ve been using their cabs. It’s an informal association that now has over twenty cabbies. They have a few simple rules. More customers for the association means more customers for each individually. So they pass on business to one another. Retain and grow the customer base for the association by a service offering that easily beats the individual cabbie and also takes on the big daddy cab companies. So they have good and polite drivers. Different cabs to suit your need of the day. Fair but flat price agreed in advance, where loyal customers get lower rates and an exemption from paying waiting charges. A guarantee, that they would reach customers at the appointed time and place. So they make sure that one of them reaches you, even at odd hours, and even if he could afford not to.

Now they do not wait at taxi stands nor ply about in search of business. They get familiar, quality customers who give them respect and admiration. They are open but choosy about which other cabbie they accept into their group. When members rub against one another they iron out issues as a collective and move on. They offer employment to willing and able relatives and friends as their assets multiply. Each can solicit business for himself but doesn’t anymore. Everyone can leave the group at will but very few have.


  1. The collaborative network of the cabbies is a nice example. I do believe that many SME and entrepreneurial businesses survive and thrive due to such loose-tight collaborative networks and support systems that evolve around them. However, it is also true that for anyone starting anew, such a network or support system may not be available from day one ... And as in your example, a new member in the cabbies network needs to go through the grind! Perhaps, that is why, if starting a new venture, one needs to be a brand in the eyes of at least one potential customer ... And that should not be tough!

  2. Thanks Tarun. I'm toying with the idea of such a network. And I'm going to remember what you've said about 'loose-tight' and 'brand for at least one potential customer' for some time. Nicely put.