Leadership Conversation / 17.12.2019

FOCUS: Building a Successful Global Company

Recently, I had the honor of speaking at Entrepreneur Live’s first Indian edition in Bangalore and below is the summary of my talk.

As I look back at the journey that took us from a company founded at IIT Madras lab in 2008 to today having our Headquarters in Palo Alto that we inaugurated this month, I am filled with a sense of awe. It was hard to foresee then, that we would end up becoming the leaders in Conversational AI and Automation for Customer Service.

We today have 7 offices in 4 countries and likely to double this number in the next two years. We have customers in 12 countries today who represent different cultures, languages and experiences. Throughout this exhilarating journey a few things stand out for me, which I would like to share with you.

Flying out of your comfort zone

Start-up life starts at the end of your comfort zone. It’s a lifestyle choice, less of a career choice. Right from identifying the service/ solution you want to bring to market and taking it all the way to those markets yourself; you need to be ready to go out of your comfort zone.

From deciding which markets to enter, to thinking about how we setup a distribution channel, to hiring in those countries and figuring out local regulations – everything was new. Our approach has always been, to do the research and then quickly take the plunge and lead from the front.

Ownership

Ownership right from the get-go and be prepared to do whatever it takes.  It was clear to me that as we were scaling up a team which was going to be geographically spread out, what got us here won’t get us there.

I had to learn to delegate and trust my teams to deliver on key areas to keep moving the business forward. I also noticed something very interesting- when I changed my attitude from being hands on to one of empowerment, I saw leaders step up and take ownership of tasks that they used to wait for me to make a decision earlier.

‘Ownership’ also means being able to be honest enough to accept ‘what you know’ and ‘what you don’t’ when it comes to running a business – but the important thing is that you should recognize and accept it in order to address it and achieve positive outcomes.

Communications and Culture

I’ve learnt from my mentor John Chambers that the role of a CEO is to be the visionary, bring in the team, define the culture and communicate all of the above. At Uniphore we often talk about One Team, One Vision, One Result. However, this needs to be communicated repeatedly. Culture is the glue that binds the organization together. it defines how people behave with each other and the outside world.

Recognizing the value of defining the culture and overcommunicating it, I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and transitioned from an introvert to a compulsive extrovert.  Be it interacting with media, attending conferences, TED Talks, or talking to customers, potential investors and communicating the vision and ideas over social media.

Uncertainty 

Start-ups charter new territory and discover new things along the journey. It is important to develop comfort and create a playbook around this uncertainty especially when building a global business.  The uncertainty of labour and people regulations in a new country, taxation and remittance, distribution and customer service etc.

Every time we’ve entered a new country or geography, we’ve had to deal a lot of uncertainty. We now have a playbook that helps us navigate these decisions in a timebound manner without derailing us.

Scale

A start-up that can scale will always sail. As exciting it is to create something new, it’s even more exhilarating to see it scale, especially around the world. Everything from the sales process that you might have mastered in your first market to delivery and customer success, needs to be revisited when you decide to scale the business globally.

It is important to think global in terms of common values, culture and processes, but even more important to act local. You have to adapt your global philosophies with local regulations, customs, and people. There is tremendous power in building a business at global scale. It gives you a network effect, ability to handle shocks during uncertain times and economic corrections, a differentiation of scale against peers and more importantly a maturity early on as you learn from multiple cultures and experiences.

Being decisive and having a strong intent while maintaining the humility to recognize the newness and learning along the way are keys to enjoying the process and the journey. The key to building a global business is to have laser sharp focus on the priorities and processes.

Tune in to watch Umesh Sachdev at the Entrepreneur Live event in Bangalore.

 

By: Umesh Sachdev – Co-founder and CEO