Everybody wants to succeed in life - some do, many fall short, and yet others fail. Whichever path or stage you are in, this write-up of my background, why I started and run the Business Thinking Institute and how you can benefit, may be useful to you. Like most good ideas, the Business Thinking Institute started with personal setbacks and a search for answers that led me to wanting to do something with what I learnt – provide people a shorter path to greater personal success in business and in life.
I am the founder and President of the Business Thinking Institute in Princeton. I have worked in business for over 30 years and reached several highs and lows but the spectacular business success which I thought I should achieve eluded me. I have the drive and the credentials - two masters degrees, one from MIT, a business degree, an extensive network of contacts, knowledge and skills, broad experience and constant learning. It seemed that something was holding me back or preventing my greater success.
I come from a large middle class brahmin family (I have 57 first cousins) in a small town in southern India and emigrated to the United States over 35 years ago. My grandparents and ancestors were mostly priests and farmers. Both my parents were teachers. My upbringing in a conservative southern Indian academic family which prized academic excellence, lifelong employment, and stability set me on a course to academic achievements, a quick set of promotions and jobs as an employee. The mindset of my upbringing (an employee mindset) got me to a certain level of success as an employee, but then, I hit a ceiling. At about that time, I was in Silicon Valley, California when I realized that my heart was set on entrepreneurship and business, not working as an employee. That was antithetical to my traditional and risk-averse immediate family.
I set out on my entrepreneurial path and am now on my fourth startup. One was a great success that served customers in 16 countries. The next one crashed spectacularly. I couldn’t figure out how I could have failed. Me and fail? I looked at typical causes of failure from books and the press and sought answers from friends and experts. None of those explanations rang convincingly true to me. While I was trying to figure this out, my life was falling apart, and I descended into personal and financial ruin, taking on an inordinate amount debt and chasing a failing business to the proverbial ‘bottom’. Several professional colleagues, friends and family members ‘disappeared’ because they found that associating with me during my business pursuit was ‘inconvenient’. Initially, I considered it a ‘failure’ but then decided to make it a stepping stone to successes and a better life.
The popular press and business schools talk about all the external resources and factors you need to succeed in business (capital, technology, talent, etc.). What I found was that failure to succeed can also come from who you are and what you have that are either bad or wrong for success - the 'silent' factors that you may hide, ignore or overlook as irrelevant or unimportant. Think of these as bad or wrong ingredients that are detrimental to your business success. If you have these bad ingredients, it does not matter how many good ingredients you do have – you can only achieve limited success or face failure. As an analogy, if you use bread covered in mold, fresh organic peanut butter and yummy jam cannot make a good PBJ sandwich.
I also realized a rather obvious thing that most people forget - you can only achieve success if you avoid failing in the first place; you can only sprint to success if you are not dragging a ball of bad habits (your 'silent killers of success'). Many people fail before they have a chance to succeed. The ‘silent killers’ are often the cause of their failure. Many coaches, consultants, writers and the society-at-large focus on the 'positives' as nobody wants to give you 'bad news' (read this article I wrote - Business Advice is Much Like Modern Medicine about how short-term thinking drives all the players in the ecosystem and the business person pays the biggest price others kick the proverbial can down the road). They make you feel like the person who is about to cross the finish line (or abandon you) rather than somebody running toward the edge of the cliff. We live in a ‘feel good society.’
Once I found some truths on my own, I tapped into the ‘truth tellers’ among my friends and family. Some repeated the ‘worn’ advice they have heard for decades based on their own paradigms and mindsets. Some of them told me told me some hard truths about how they saw me and about some of my behaviors. Some of those were hard to hear. Then I introspected and came up with a whole bunch of important insights – the hard truths - I had avoided telling myself and the lies I had been telling myself.
We are raised with the ideals of speaking the truth and not lying to others. However, we are not taught to be truthful to ourselves. I found that I had been lying to myself and avoided telling myself the hard truths I needed to hear. I had ignored hard truths or swept them under the proverbial rug so that neither I nor others could find (and fix) them.
The deep introspection that followed made me realize that my limited success in some ways and failure in other ways were more because of who I was and what I already possessed, less so because of what I lacked or hadn’t become. I needed to eliminate or manage my ‘fatal flaws’, my ‘the silent killers of success’, before I could have the chance to succeed again. I also found out that to succeed in business, I need 'business thinking' and a business mindset, and have a business success framework to guide me.
Upon reflection, I remembered the many people who have guided and helped me on my way to many successes. I also realized the many bridges I had burnt with my arrogance. Through my successes and failures, I made lots of money, lived a lavish lifestyle and also experienced the humiliation of living on food stamps; I lived in a luxurious house and also been evicted from an apartment; I had a credit score of 840 and have also been sued by creditors. I have been through high highs and low lows. I could go on…. but most importantly, I reflected on my successes and failures and gleaned insights that are making my life better today. I know that my experiences and my lessons could better the lives of others. That is why I started the Business Thinking Institute. From my failure, I found my mission - to evangelize the need for business thinking to millions of people around the world – and my next business.
I put together a plan to systematically identify and eliminate the silent killers within me, acquire business thinking and a business mindset, and the factors to succeed in business. I got my head around each success factor to assess where I was and what I was missing. Without the assessment, I would have wandered aimlessly and fallen prey to many so-called experts. I have also been speaking to many experts to develop and collect assessments, content, tools and exercises to identify, understand and fill the gaps.
I researched and eventually defined business thinking, a way of looking at the world that is essential for business success; and, developed the business thinking canvas, a systematic one-page worksheet that guides you to consistently develop business thinking. I also researched and culled the elements of successful business mindsets from experts and seasoned business people around the world.
I did not find a framework for business success – what I needed as an individual to succeed in business. Business schools teach you the functional knowledge to manage a business - finance, marketing, etc. – and apparently, presume that you have the aptitude and the right psychology for business. Notice that most business schools are named as schools of management, not schools of business. Without a framework for business success, how would you know what you must have to succeed, what you are missing and therefore need to acquire and develop? So, I spoke to successful business people, psychologists, entrepreneurs, business coaches and several expert to put together a BUSINESS SUCCESS FRAMEWORK - essential factors for business success as a guide for myself and others.
I developed and collected assessments, content, tools and exercises in each of the 36 factors for business success. I developed a website (https://businessthinking.com) on which all the content is organized around the factors of business success. I launched the ‘Business Thinking Radio’ podcast (https://businessthinking.com/podcasts) to constantly speak to experts on each of the success factors and to reach audiences on the radio and platforms including iTunes, GooglePlay and Stitcher. I also launched a speaking website (www.ramviyer.com) and a speaker business to reach large live audiences around the world.
My work at the Business Thinking Institute, my keynote speeches and workshops (https://businessthinking.com/workshops), the website and my podcast articulate my learnings about the ‘silent killers of success,’ how to develop business thinking and a business mindset, and become more successful in business by developing along the 36 business success factors.
With my skill for speaking, interviewing and teaching, my podcast, presence on multiple social media platforms and the businessthinking.com website, I am on a mission to share my key insights about the silent killers and business thinking with at least one billion people over the next twenty years - people who want and need to grow and succeed as individuals, both in business and life.
I shall provide guidance from my experience and that of others I respect – (uncommon) common sense, sometimes obvious perspectives and always PRACTICAL insights for success in business and life. Along the way, I want to grow and create a legacy that will put a constant smile on my face and make my daughter, professional colleagues, family, and friends proud. And yes, I am also practicing business thinking!
How You Can Benefit
Whether you recognize it or not, everybody is in business - you rent your brain or your brawn to somebody who pays you for it by the hour, week, month or year. Fewer and fewer people will work for the large companies that our parents' generation did. With fewer companies being created and the existing companies becoming more productive (they will need fewer employees to do the same work or generate the same revenues), more and more people will have to be self-employed. That means, MORE PEOPLE WILL BE IN BUSINESS FOR THEMSELVES. But, did anybody teach you how to define your marketable skills, package and monetize them, find and sell to customers, generate profitable revenues, manage your profits and save for retirement while providing for your family? Well, nobody taught me either. If you do not have these skills, you have to settle for a much lower income and standard of living. In business as in life, if your competitor/s are savvier than you, you will 'lose'. If you do not maximize your value, the world will hand you a (low) value you will have to accept.
The world's population continues to grow while the rate of business formation and employment in businesses have dropped. Those, in turn, will push more and more people to become INDIVIDUAL business people - solopreneurs or single-owner companies - working as freelancers. They need to develop 'business thinking' in order to successfully compete with business savvy people. For many, it may be necessary to even earn a living. When we help develop 'business thinking' as a competence across the globe, it will create more stable families and communities, leading to a better society for all of us. If we don't, we could see a jump in poverty, overburdened social safety net and social chaos.
My goal is to educate 1 billion people about 'business thinking' by the year 2040.
I have found two things about people:
1. Many people would rather fail than let anybody else find out they need help. It is only the smart and committed people with a growth mindset that recognize their gaps, seek help and achieve greater business success. You may be in a senior position, be a millionaire or have blue chip credentials. It is entirely logical for you to have gaps and seek to fill those gaps (and get help).
2. People who obsessively look for 'free' stuff tend to fail in business. They tend to be dabblers whose primary interest is not business. If your focus is purely on saving money, you are not focused on growing yuor business and its revenues. If you spend one hour to find a $5 item for free, you are valuing your time at $5/hour. At $5/hour, it will take many lifetimes to become a millionaire. On the other hand, successful and committed business people pay the $5 and make quicker progress. They build their businesses on the backs of other people who can be hired or 'bought'. Who do you think will achieve greater business success sooner?
Join me on the path to greater success for you
If you desire to achieve greater business success and you are committed, I invite you to join the business thinking community. Let's grow the pie; you can take a bigger piece of it, raise your standard of living and improve the community you live in.
On this website, we are systematically harnessing the knowledge of successful business people (role models) and those seeking greater success in business. For each ‘Business Success Factor’, we are developing quizzes (assessments) to identify your strengths and gaps, assembling expert coaches who can help, identifying books that can inform and educate, collecting tools that can teach and reinforce, launching a podcast series that can elicit insights from experts, organizing a community of experts that can help and encourage, collecting inspiring quotes and collecting gift items that could inspire and enable you to achieve greater business success. We do all of this while providing the help you need in a discreet manner. Every day, you will acquire more skills to help you become the bigger business success you are capable of. If you are committed to becoming a business professional and achieving business success start by taking the first quiz ‘Are you wired for business success?’.
I will be on the journey with you. You can discreetly access the website from your PC, tablet or smartphone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (membership page). Remember, business success has to start in your mind and with your commitment long before you will see the big titles, fame and fortune. If you make the commmitment, you can achieve greater business success and we can help you - EVERY DAY.
Ram V. Iyer
Princeton, New Jersey