Fifteen years ago, one day in a pensive mood, I was driving to a Goa Small Industries Association (GSIA) meeting. Having recently started my own SSI unit (MSE in today’s terminology), there was a battle on in my mind. Should the meeting be attended or should a cold call to a customer be made? Was Company time being wasted? Was this meeting productive? Was the right it a good decision to attend the meeting?
During the weekend that followed there was an article by the Late C K Prahlad (CKP) which discussed the topic, “Which divisional head would you promote to be CEO?” The normal or standard thinking would have generally been, ‘the best divisional head should become the next CEO.’ Not so for CKP. He questioned everything and had his own ideas on the subject. The role of the CEO was to scan the approaching horizon, basically look out and decide what needed to be done to meet customer expectations and then ask the divisional heads to produce the same.
CKP defined the role of a Divisional Head as one who looked into the Company and brought out (manufactured) what was required or ordered. He had to ensure the lowest cost, acceptable quality and timely delivery. Meaning Divisional heads had and inward looking role, while a CEO had an outward looking role. Hence the Divisional head who could or would be able to handle this outward looking role should get the job and not necessarily the one who performed the inward looking role the best. Contrarian and totally CKP.
What then is the connection? What CKP was saying could be applied to us, CEOs of small companies. We wear two caps- one of the CEO wherein we have to scan the horizon and decide what direction the Company needed to take and one of the Divisional head and ensure we look inwards and produce goods and services which will help the company grow in the chosen direction.
The dilemma was unraveled. The various questions were answered, attending the GSIA meeting was as important as making a sales call. A CEO sitting in his little cabin in his factory would have a limited view of the horizon, reading was an option. Attending the meeting meant my network grew. A network that provided a collective wealth of experience in matters relating to running a Company. Ideas could be bounced off peers just adding to the many advantages. The best of course is that so many decision makers heard of my product which was in a way selling.
By attending or actively involving myself in the Goa Small Industries Association, Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industries or CII, I was, you may say- scanning the horizon. I was doing the outward looking part of my job. This in turn helped me look inside the Company and make adjustments as a Divisional Head.
Over the years it has been an enriching experience having given my time, energy and money working with trade organizations wholeheartedly. The exposure allowed me to hone my decision making skills, make many new friends and widen the horizon of my outlook. Of course I believe that over the years my Company too has benefited from my activity and not suffered because of my absence.
I remember making a cold call on TAFE in Chennai. I could not get past the security. A call to the secretariat of CII did the trick and fifteen minutes later, much to the surprise of the guard, I was invited in. Such instances are many. Go ahead- network, join one or more organizations, professional, industry or social. You have nothing to lose but your inhibitions.
He may not know it but Mr C, K. Pralhad has made a difference in my life. I thank him for that advice. May his soul rest in peace.