Your maternity leave is coming to an end, and you are frantically looking for a daycare centre that’s convenient, safe and trustworthy. What seemed like a simple enough task (after all you see daycare facilities dotting the roads all around town), appears impossible now that the well-being of your child is at stake.
Divya and Ketika saw this as a potential area where new parents needed help. But where others see problems, they sensed an opportunity and turned it into a successful business. ProEves, an online portal that aggregates, verifies and engages with preschools and daycare centres across India, services parents and corporates to finalise a childcare centre that meets their requirements.
We spoke to Divya Agarwal, a driven first-time businesswoman, and mommy of two, about her entrepreneurial journey.
Divya: So, I was a corporate workhorse (Ketika is also a workaholic par excellence!), but with motherhood, some priorities shift. I loved my work in HUL – the team and the work environment were fantastic, but I was itching to do something of my own. Naturally, both of us had discussed this idea of connecting parents to good daycares.
During my maternity leave (with my second child) I felt its now or never! So, in 2016, Ketika and I bootstrapped our company and started our business with our little kids sleeping beside our desks!
Divya: A lot of parents don’t know what to ask or check when they go scouting for daycare facilities for their kids. I mean we check reviews of restaurants before we go out for a meal, so how can we rely on word of mouth for our kids! Basic questions about staff and first aid kits etc. are never touched upon. There are no legal requirements and licenses for day-cares in India, the industry is not transparent, and it does not provide flexible options to parents.
So we come into the picture as a daycare aggregator, we help corporates and parents discover, decide and book centres. There are features like mom references, block a visit, counsellor chats that parents can make use of.
On the other hand, many local, regional childcare centers are not tech and marketing savvy. The investment in infrastructure and staff is sizable, but they only end up relying on word of mouth to attract business. They don’t know how to manage social media or get reviews or do reputation management.
ProEves helps both sides of the child care spectrum; we help parents by ensuring that the daycare centres meet all requirements and we help daycares by streamlining their marketing and giving them a trusted platform.
Divya: Well yes, any business is challenging. For us specifically, the biggest bottleneck was creating a large network of preschool, daycares and getting inroads to our target customers of new parents. It took a while to talk to managers and owners and explain the concept to them and get them on board and to create a list of standardised features that everyone followed - safety, first aid, staff training, etc.
Also, as we were bootstrapped, we had financial constraints. Putting together a good team took some effort as we were looking for like-minded professionals.
The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 gave a good boost to our business – it made crèche facility mandatory for every establishment employing 50 or more employees. By this time, we had already connected with over 600 daycare centers and had honed our knowledge of the whole ecosystem (in fact we were the only ones in the field).
This helped us work with corporates as consultants – they outsource their entire process to us. We shortlist facilities, conduct audits and manage the entire front end between the creches and parents.
Our corporate business has helped us grow and sustain our other operations. Now we are ready to go in for a round of funding in 2019 to expand our B2C business.
Divya: Increasing the depth and breadth of our network, technology-enabled bookings and ramping up marketing is a priority for our business. We plan to roll out various services like event booking, hourly daycare bookings etc for our customers
And yes! We also continuously conduct large-scale surveys and research with corporates the whole year round. Extra funding could help us increase the scope of these as well.
Yeah! So, lots to do! We have big plans!
Divya: Well, to be honest, not really. The field is largely women dominated. There is a perception that women don’t have a good head for figures, so maybe we will face these biases when we start tapping investors for funding. But I am pretty confident that in our field we are the experts and we have a tested business model, so I am not too fussed with how we will be perceived by investors.
Divya: Business is not easy, setting up a new concept or service is even harder. I wouldn’t lie – there were times we wanted to give up. But am glad we hung around.
I have been blessed with a great team that has grown with us and with the support from my family. For both of us, Ketika and I, things worked out great – we found a good business idea that we are passionate about and a complementary partner in each other. She is meticulous in her work, plans for the next things and brings the big picture thinking, while I focus on executing with excellence. Maybe starting a company with a 6-month-old baby wasn’t the best timing – but there is no perfect timing for everything in life!
Divya: You need to let go of the salary mindset. Initially, for the first year, I was validating when the business outflows will be matching my corporate salary. It took me some time to realise that when you are building a business you need to think long-term and you need to think big. What excites me now is - what is the growth rate of our business, how many customers are we acquiring, how soon we will hit the 30 Crore, 50 Crore and 100 Crore mark.
Divya, Ketika and their team are doing a commendable job of helping women get back to work without worrying about daycare centers. We wish them all the success because therein lies the success of many women returning to work.
If you would like to share your entrepreneurial journey, then drop us a quick note or a comment below. We would love to hear from you.
We've all been there: you invest in a leadership training program and hope to see the promised results. But, months later, nothing has changed. Meanwhile, your team is still struggling with communication and collaboration issues.
Did you know that only 50% of leadership training programs yield the desired results? That's a pretty startling statistic, and one that should serve as a wake-up call to any company looking for increased productivity, better employee engagement, and reduced turnover. The reason is simple: Leadership development programs don't always deliver the ROI they promise because they're often designed in isolation from your organization's specific needs.
We all know that leadership training programs are not a one-and-done deal. They require continual reinforcement and upkeep to be effective. But why do they fail in the first place?
It's not just you, it's pretty much everyone else too. Leadership training programs have traditionally failed because of a few key factors. In this blog post, we will share all that can go wrong so that you can create more effective leadership programs by focusing on what matters most to your business. This way, when it comes time for evaluation at the end of your program, you'll know whether or not it was worth investing in.
Factors that contribute to the failure of leadership development programs
If the system does not change, it will set people up to fail. Research in the 1950s found that most supervisors regressed to their pre-training views after a while. The only exceptions were those whose bosses practised and believed in the new leadership style the program was designed to teach.
Training programs do not facilitate organizational change. Even well-trained and motivated employees are unable to apply their new knowledge and skills when they return to their units which are entrenched in established ways of doing things. In short, individuals have less power to change the system surrounding them than that system has to shape them. Organizations need “fertile soil” in place before the “seeds” of training interventions can grow.
When organizational change and development efforts are championed by senior leaders then training gains the most traction. That’s because such efforts motivate people to learn and change; create the conditions for them to apply what they’ve learned; foster immediate improvements in individual and organizational effectiveness; and put in place systems that help sustain the learning.
Organizations are systems of interacting elements: Roles, responsibilities, and relationships are defined by organizational structure, processes, leadership styles, people’s professional and cultural backgrounds, and HR policies and practices. All those elements together drive organizational behaviour and performance. If the system does not change, it will not support and sustain individual behaviour change—indeed, it will set people up to fail.
The effectiveness of any manager depends on the clear strategic direction that they have from the top management. Many companies consistently struggle with unclear direction on strategy and values, which often leads to conflicting priorities. This creates confusion and dissipation of valuable resources. When senior executives themselves don’t work as a team and are not fully committed to a new direction or acknowledged necessary changes in their behaviour, it is quite difficult to expect the rest of the managerial team to be able to deliver effectively. The problem then is more about the incongruence between what they learn in the training program and what they see on the ground in their organisation.
Sometimes a top-down or laissez-faire style by the leader prevents honest conversation about problems. Employees hesitate to tell the senior team about obstacles to the organization’s effectiveness. This, coupled with a lack of coordination across businesses, functions, or regions due to poor organizational design and inadequate leadership time and attention to talent issues can create an environment where performance will be hindered, no matter how good the training program is.
Hence while developing leadership programs, it is important to start at the top, ideally through a coaching intervention. Coaching of the senior executives will help bring clarity on the strategic direction and values. This can then be cascaded down to the next few layers through group coaching and training.
By addressing management practices and leadership behaviour that shape the system before training individual employees, leaders create a favourable context for applying the learning. The systemic changes encourage—even require—the desired behaviours.
Too many training initiatives rest on the assumption that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, organizational culture, or CEO mandate.
Context is key. One size does not fit all. Many organizations invest in off-the-shelf programs or send their managers to academic leadership courses offered by well-respected universities without considering the real impact and results they are looking for. While these can be great for the individuals in terms of their personal brand building, it does not serve the purpose for the organization. Companies need to ask themselves what the desired outcome is and how a program will relate to specific organizational goals.
Often, leadership training programs are offered as a one-and-done approach. In other words, you attend a 2-day training and that is the last you hear of it. But while a one-and-done approach satisfies the need to do something, it ignores a critical fact: leadership behaviours and new habits are developed over time. Leadership development is all about creating good leadership habits. As we know habits cannot be changed just from attending a 2-day class.
Effective leadership development needs to be constructed as a learning journey that unfolds over time. But not only this—it should incorporate continuous coaching to help observe and reinforce good habits. It should also provide opportunities for skill practice and application. Nothing can replace on-the-job training and giving real-time feedback.
To ensure success for your team, combine professional development with coaching or mentoring sessions focused on practical application.
So, there you have it – some of the key reasons why your leadership training program may not be delivering the results you are hoping for.
Becoming a more effective leader often requires changing behaviour which also means adjusting underlying mindsets. Identifying some of the deepest, “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition of behavioural change—something that’s often missing in leadership courses.
Companies can avoid the most common mistakes in leadership training and increase the odds of success by first doing the groundwork of creating fertile soil for desired change, establishing clarity about strategic direction and values, matching specific leadership skills and traits to the context at hand; embedding leadership development in real work through coaching and mentoring interventions that investigate the mind-sets that underpin behaviour.
For designing effective leadership development programs in Singapore and India, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
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