– About Me, My Why & Your Benefits
Who I am, why I do what I do, and how you could benefit
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 want to do something with what I learned – provide people a shorter path to greater personal success in business and life.
I am the founder and President of the Business Thinking Institute at Princeton. I have worked in the 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 master’s 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. Neither of my parents was business people, or business-minded – they were employees. The upbringing with that 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. And, perhaps more importantly, I did not know business thinking or have a business mindset. But, I was ignorant about my ignorance and shortcomings as I ventured into business.
I set out on my entrepreneurial path and am now on my fourth startup. The first two never got off the ground – I labeled them as ‘death on the runway’, as they took too long to take off and lost co-founders, and ran out of cash. The third 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 of 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 success 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’s 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 paradigms and mindsets. Some of them 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, and less so because of what I lacked or hadn’t become. I needed to eliminate or manage my ‘fatal flaws’- my ‘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.
I also realized that I had (naively or egotistically) expected to continue to be successful because I had two master’s degrees, am an MIT grad, and am considered ‘smart’. But, I have seen over the years that the world is littered with ‘smart’ people who did not achieve the level of success they thought they would achieve.
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 have 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. It is not only for people in business but for ALL people because every one of us exchanges our time or skills in return for money (paycheck or revenues).
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 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 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 experts 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://www.businessthinking.com/) on which all the content is organized around the factors of business success. I launched the ‘Business Thinking Radio’ podcast (www.mitramiyer.com/podcast/) 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.mitramiyer.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 (www.businessthinking.com/business-thinking-for-business-success/), 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 guide 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 parent 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 has dropped. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of layoffs across the world. Those 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’ 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 abetter society for all of us. If we don’t, we could see a jump in poverty, an overburdened social safety net, and social chaos.
- BUSINESS OWNERS: More than 70% of all businesses fail and an even greater number of people fail in business. While external factors like capital, technology, and market access are essential for success, many of them have not developed the requisite business thinking for success reflected by the stubbornly high failure rates. If we can reduce the number of business failures, the number of sustainable jobs will increase expanding the economy. Logically, lowering the failure rate will increase the standard of living around the globe – we will spend resources on making things that people need and use (improve lives) rather than on failed companies that end up wasting resources.
- ENTREPRENEURS: Most entrepreneurs are awestruck by their ideas or technology and the possibilities of success, however, few have developed the business thinking required for success. If we can reduce the failure rate of startups, it will dramatically increase sustainable jobs and expand the economy. While experience (including failure) is essential for continued future success, it dumbfounds me that society accepts a 70% plus failure rate as the ‘price to pay’.
- BUSINESS EMPLOYEES: People who work in businesses in functional or cross-functional roles seek upward mobility in the business which requires ‘business thinking’. The greater the number of people with ‘business thinking’ in business positions, the greater the success of the businesses they work in – good for the businesses, employees, and society.
- SOLOPRENEURS: Many people become freelancers or solopreneurs, either by choice or circumstance. Out of 28 million businesses registered in America, about 22 million have no employees. Many of those companies do not have revenues and many others do not have enough revenue to support even one adult. Developing business thinking could help many of these people improve their revenues and grow their businesses. Shortly, hundreds of millions of people could end up becoming solopreneurs or freelancers. The more of these people we can assist to become successful, the higher the standard of living each of them could have and raise the local communities they live in.
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 your 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 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 discreetly. 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 commit, you can achieve greater business success and we can help you – EVERY DAY.
Ram V. Iyer
Princeton, New Jersey