The Six “Must-Have” Attributes of Successful Business Managers

There can be no doubt that the winners in business are those who break the rules and chart new, creative courses of action. I’ve seen it countless times as a CEO of major insurance companies and it’s good to know that rule-breaking is alive and well in business. Often, these trailblazers are running new, entrepreneurial businesses, but just as often they head some of the biggest names in business.Think of Fred Smith, founder of FedEx, Steve Jobs, the guru of Apple, Inc., Bill Gates of Microsoft, or Richard Branson of the Virgin empire. Entrepreneurs like these are noted first and foremost for breaking the rules; for challenging the tradition that says, “You can’t do that.” Still, true maverick rule-breakers are too few on the American business scene.If you want to join these successful business rule-breakers, you’ve got to start by thinking like they do. And that means you have to learn and practice that six character traits that they do.The first sign of a rule-breaker is relentless curiosity. The man or woman who “cheats” on the old, outmoded rules of business is constantly asking questions and challenging the way things are done. They consistently question established procedures and mores. Just because a business has always done things a certain way is no reason why changing times and conditions call for new tactics.Successful business managers often exhibit other attributes as well:1. Willingness to adopt new perspectives whenever possible
2. Openness to try new things and to do old things differently
3. Compelling drive to act on ideas to test their true value
4. Eagerness to listen to others and profit from their input, regardless of who gets credit
5. Respect for and support of others when they propose new courses of actionRule-breaking behavior requires an openness and willingness to look at the world in new ways. Rule-breakers know that new ideas need nurturing and support. But they know that thinking about a new idea is not enough. The true value of a good idea resides in its implementation. As management expert Peter Drucker declared, “Ideas are cheap and abundant. What is of value is the effective placement of these ideas into situations that develop into action.”On the surface, rule-breaking doesn’t require any special skills. You don’t have to have an MBA from an Ivy League university. In fact, you don’t need a degree at all. But if it’s so easy to be a rule-breaker, and the potential for reward is so great, why, then, doesn’t everybody do it?The Will to Cheat Is Hammered Out of UsWhen we’re young, we’re much more apt to be rule-breakers for the simple reason that children don’t know any better. Children commonly exhibit the inclination to question why things are done the way they are. It’s natural. As soon as babies can talk, they ask, “Why?”Schools only exacerbate the problem. The educational system is founded upon the pedagogy of answering questions, not asking them. Students are rewarded for the proper rote playback of answers, not their ability to question the reasons for the answers or, sometimes more important, the assumptions behind the questions. It’s no wonder that a child’s willingness to question and break rules is exorcised as if it were a troublesome evil spirit.Rule-Breakers on the FringesWe have to recognize that daring to think and do things differently exposes us to risks as well as rewards. But you know what? Even though you may risk the ridicule and tsk-tsk of your friends, teachers, parents, business associates, bosses, and an endless string of others; even though there is a risk that you’ll come up with a dumb idea for which you’ll be chastised; even though some may perceive you as a show-off or know-it-all; even though all of this may be true, when you finally succeed by doing things differently, the reward and personal satisfaction is so much better than the punishment, it’s not even a contest.The only reason the downside exposure exists is simply to control you: to intimidate you so that you’ll be unwilling to be a rule-breaker and a creative thinker. The result? Many potential rule-breakers are afraid to engage in behavior that could potentially make waves. Instead, they lay low and avoid the possibility of future embarrassment and pain. The bottom line is that, even though we start out in life as rule-breakers and cheaters, most of us become timid feeders in a sea of conformity before we ever get our first job out of college.Fortunately, even if one is not born a creative rule-breaker, you can acquire the talent, and it’s well worth learning and practicing. To develop and nurture this talent in yourself, you first must overcome the way your psyche has been bullied for so long and start asking questions. Has it always been done this way? Why? Is their a better way? To achieve real success in your life and career, it is essential to recondition yourself to challenge convention. I know that this is easy for me to say. I’ve made my millions, and I have little to lose now by rocking the boat. But I insist that you can do it too.

3 Steps To Identify Most Appropriate Travel Technology Solution For Your Business

Over the last 10 years, the travel business scenario has changed significantly. Today selling travel products is all about ‘best’ rates. To sustain in the battle to offer the ‘best deal’ and ‘best fare’ to the consumers, travel business owners have been forced to reduce almost all of their possible profit margins.I still remember when a service fee of $6 was a norm across online sales of air tickets. Commissions and contracts were available to travel agents. Cancellation fee on hotels were healthy.The emergence of large online travel agencies changed the rules of the business across the globe. Fuel prices and global economic conditions added to the challenges of earning healthy margins. Travel became the most competitive business. Commissions dried up. Segment fees reduced and “no fee” became the new best seller.On the Travel Technology side, along with successful implementations, I have heard stories of many failures where travel businesses were not able to derive what they wanted from technology. Most of the time the key reasons for failure has been:Over ambitious technology goal on a constrained budget Lack of ‘competitive’ Travel Technology expertise Poor IT team and management, suffering from ‘over promise’ and ‘under deliver’ In this ecosystem, how could a travel business set about defining an effective Technology Strategy for itself?As a travel technologist, I have many motivations to say “buy my software”, but in my experience that’s not a good pitch. After carefully analyzing various successes and failures in the industry, here is what I feel I have learned:Step 1: Identify what Travel Technology you needWell, it is easier said than done. Most of the time not articulating the technology needs well is the biggest hurdle in Technology Strategy. As a travel business, here is what you could do to clearly articulate the need for technology.Pen down the technology needs of the organization as envisioned by the business owner / key management personnel Consult with people external to the organization such as technology consultants, Travel Technology companies, GDS account managers, CRS / Suppliers and Travel Technology bloggers Let a technology company interview you and recommend a solution. This is generally free most of the times. Pursuing one or more of these three exercises diligently will build enough knowledge base about what your internal Technology Strategy should be. Identify and validate these thoughts with inputs from internal operations and marketing teams.Step 2: Build vs. Buy?This is considered the most complex question. The answer lies in dividing Travel Technology needs in three buckets.ProprietaryCustomizedOut of the BoxWhat is proprietary?It is important to identify your differentiator as a travel business. Most of the time, proprietary defines a piece of technology which reduces OPEX corresponding to your business operations or is the biggest revenue generator corresponding to your business model.What is a customized need?Is there any part of your technology needs that could be sourced through an existing technology solution, customized per your need?What can be out of the box?This might be the most effort intensive part of your technology needs and may require a tremendous investment to build. Getting an out of the box solution that meets the majority of your requirements and configuring it as per your needs, is the ideal way. How to evaluate an out of the box solution is in itself a comprehensive process.Now we come to the next complex part of this exercise.Step 3: Identify the right budget and vendorIdentifying the right budget and the vendor is the most common shopping problem in every business sector. It takes a lot of time and energy to reach to a decision.Let’s compare technology acquisition to the decision of buying a laptop. There are many vendors to choose from. There are laptops priced from $300 to $3000. Your decision to buy would be shaped by the life of the laptop, and the continuity of business (your work) it will guarantee.Similarly, the continuity of your travel business would significantly depend on the Travel Technology you choose. That is why identifying the right budget, and the vendor is a complex decision.I would attempt to breakdown the process of identifying a vendor into simpler steps since just asking a vendor for a quote would not necessarily help find the right one.Expertise – Does the vendor has expertise in the travel business?Support & Servicing – Travel is a service business. Irrespective of whether the product is ‘off the shelf’ or is being built for you, longevity and promptness of support is critically important to maintain a personalized quality of service to your customers.Customization needed vs. Customizability -What is the future customizability of the software? (Applicable to both out of the box or custom built software) Whether customization done today decrease future cost of changing the technology? This is an important question to ask and seek answers to.Value Add – Another important evaluation parameter for selecting a vendor is to check what part /component of the software is available free of cost and would remain so in the future.Stability – Your guarantee of service to your customers depends on the stability of your vendor. It is important to seek answers to questions such as is the vendor going to be in business for long? How are you safeguarded if a vendor goes out of business?References – Who are the customers of the vendor? Can the vendor provide references?Maturity – Is the vendor’s organization a product oriented and innovation driven institution or do they survive by making money from one gig to another?Empathy – Does the vendor considers your business as their own? How willing is the vendor to empathize with your business challenges?Budgeting for technology is also a little challenging. It may be worthwhile to look beyond the onetime fee and understand all cost factors, including the cost of extended support the vendor may provide during your business life-cycle.Cost should also include additional overheads of implementing technology, especially when you are dealing with GDS or CRS / Consolidators. Budgeting done in partnership with a selected vendor often yields the best results.I have attempted to lay out a model that would help travel businesses shape their Technology Strategy.As always, I would happy to hear your experiences and views.

Business Management – How to Take Decisive Action

Taking decisive action is an important business management skill that every business executive or manager should have. Today’s fast paced corporate world needs managers that can think on their feet and have the ability to take the initiative and get things done.When effective managers make a decision they go through a process that enables them to make the right decisions quickly. These are not rash decisions as they are well thought out however, the process enables them to leverage their time and experience more effectively.One of the key components in relation to making a decision is to ensure that everyone who is key to making it happen have agreed and are fully involved in the process. If not then a decision cannot be made to move forward. It is very important that you keep everyone involved by communicating your decision. You will need to do this on a regular basis to secure their commitment to make things happen. In order, to avoid delays, misunderstandings or resistance it is important that you keep people fully up to date about what the objective is and what each person’s role is in reaching the objective. This part is essential to reduce the risk of delays.Once a thorough analysis has been made and everyone understands and agrees in what needs to be done an effective manager will act and move forward with confidence. It is important and realistic to go through a well defined and logical process to arrive at a decision however, it takes confidence and energy to make that decision and outcome a reality. If you do not have the enthusiasm and belief in what you are trying to achieve then you will have a hard time trying to persuade others to come on board with you. Your enthusiasm and the logical well thought out process or both needed to ensure the success of the final outcome. One without the other will increase the risk of rejection and failure.