Monday 14 March 2016

Thuan Pham, Uber CTO - "Don't take Anything for Granted" - at Uber Exchange Invest India

I know this post comes after a long time, but I've really been occupied with work, my books, family, festival and so much more. Life is good and I'm grateful.

Now to the main story that I want to share....

It was an extremely empowering and enlightening experience to hear Thuan Pham talk about so many practical challenges that I have faced in a lot of my previous jobs with smaller setups and startups.

I won't get into any further introductory details of the venue, etc. But let me tell you how I got an opportunity to listen to Thuan mentor a bunch of startups. I was representing  Projects for School  at the Uber Exchange Invest India in the month of March.

To begin the interaction, 3 questions from the startup scenario were given, startups had to begin the participation by answering any of these questions and then Mr. Pham would share his insights / inputs. Eventually it was to become an open questionnaire.

The input questions were as follows:

1. How do you continue expanding / scaling in line with profitability?
2. How do you hire and / or develop external and / or internal leaders?
3. How does a startup ensure that they do not over hire?

Someone began with the second answer and shared their HR and office politics woes. If I understood it correctly, Thuan gave a very insightful, almost flowchart like answer. Seemingly very simple in its approach, it looked like the one thing almost all business leaders in the startup ecosystem constantly deny.

The steps are:
  • Identify your skill / talent need.
  • Do you have an interal leader fitting that bill?
    •     If yes - problem solved.
    •     If no - Is there someone who can be groomed? How long will it take to groom them? Can my business wait that long?
      • If no - Hire the next best fit
      • If yes - You groom, those who potentially fit in.
If I understood the gentleman correctly, he said, do not  take anything or anyone for granted.

Your people are the key resource you have. While they are dispensible, do not take them for granted is my learning from the whole event.

A business can only continue to scale in line with their sustainability and profitability if they do not over hire. As a result, it is important to know when you may be over hiring. For that matter, it is important to know when you may be overdoing anything which amounts to investment. The only way around is - Titration. The only way is to evaluate every thing and "Don't take Anything for Granted". Interesting that very soon we all heard Leonardo De Caprio say the same words in an entirely different context and from an entirely different platform though.

Launch your plan on a small scale, measure impact against the effort, scale up a bit, retitrate, rinse and repeat. The more capability a business has to do this, the better it is and the more sustained growth they achieve.

Thank you for the insights, Thuan.

©Anupama Garg 2016 March

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