Thanks for showing so much love to my book – The Anexas Story. Based on many requests to publish chapters of the book on LinkedIn, I continue to write a series of articles based on these chapters. Please read on and keep believing that there is an entrepreneur in you…and everyone!
Back to food where most of my good thoughts or news came.
While enjoying the dinner in the ‘summer house’ of my Indian poet friend Chaand, who had been staying in Denmark for the last forty years, I received a call from a British national who wanted to meet me in London. Anyway, I was going to London to speak at an IQPC conference and decided to meet him then. It was a new opportunity for us. Chaand, well known within the European Indian community for his Hindi and Urdu couplets, even recited a poem to celebrate the possible success of the outcome of the meeting!
The next week I travelled to London. In a downtown hotel, my host had booked a meeting room and we were to meet at 6 pm just after the conference ended. On the day of the meeting, I had completed the first day of the workshop for a group of seven and was tired of speaking for almost six hours. So, I was more in a mood to listen.
He greeted me and switched on the LCD projector in the meeting room and said, “Yes, go ahead!” I could not understand what he meant. Seeing the puzzled look on my face, he said, “Yes, I am listening!”
“Excuse me, but what do you want me to do?” I sought some direction from the suave Britisher.
“Where is your presentation?” he looked startled.
“Which presentation? Oh, the one I did today? If you missed it, you can still join tomorrow. The first half will be spent revising what we discussed today, but let me present the summary to you,” I started unpacking my laptop.
“This just means that you have not done your homework. Didn’t you bother to look me on the net?” his questioning smile mystified the meeting further. I thought of requesting him to reveal the secret he so dearly safeguarded, “I am sorry, I did not get the chance to.”
So finally arrived the demystifying moment.
“I am an investor. I invest in or sometimes even buy companies. You can read my success stories on the internet. I also appear on the popular TV show – Dragons’ Den – as an investor. It appears that you don’t watch too much TV.” How could I tell him that I only watched a bit of Indian TV? There was no such show on Indian TV then. So, I was unable to understand what he was talking about. But anyway, I decided to stay humble, “It is so nice of you to decide to meet a trainer like me. What can I do for you?”
He appeared to be disappointed, but continued, “No, no, you guys don’t understand. Do you think that you are just a trainer? You have got a concept, which works. I know about your organization and I am interested in Anexas. One of my Danish friends told me about the work you have done.”
“Wow, it is so nice to find someone like you interested in us. This is indeed a good news!” I was delighted. Yet, for the life of me, I had not figured out what interested him.
“I generally talk to the point. Can you show me your business plan?”
“A business plan? We don’t have one.”
“What? Ok, let us talk about strategy. What is your strategy for the next five years, or say three years?”
“I have never thought about it!”
“What do you mean? Is everything just happening without any strategy? There must be something on your mind. What do you want to achieve in, say, three years from now?”
“Frankly, I don’t know!”
“My friend. I am surprised. Let me give a piece of advice to you. You must chart out your cash flows for the forthcoming years. You must know what you are going to do in the next five years. You must have a vision and a mission. You are heading for trouble otherwise.”
He continued with his questioning, exploratory and advisory mode. He started asking questions about what did Anexas exactly do, who our clients were, which countries we wished to work in future.
I did not have any answers to those questions. I did not have anything to offer him. Anexas did not have any business plans and we had never conducted any strategy meeting till date. With whom we could have strategized? Our team was more focused on delivery rather than thinking about the future! Most of the responses he got from me were in the form of a blank look, a foolish frown and a puzzled face, from which he tried to grasp whatever he could. Finally giving up, he said,
“This way no one is going to invest in your company or buy it.” I had heard of focus – the power of focus. You must focus on something so deeply that you lose focus of everything else. That is the key to success. This guy signified that. He was a perfect example. I knew now why he was a successful investor. All he could see was buying stakes in companies or buying the companies themselves. I wondered if he also thought of buying the Piccadilly Circus or the Buckingham Palace while he was in town.
I did not understand his idea of business. I had set up something that nurtured people and organizations. If I and the team did that well, people would pay us well. We would remain in business. Forever. That was our focus and sole road to success. I was, in any case, a lost lamb in this vast unknown valley and all such things didn’t make any sense. These valuation guys saw values and riches ahead and a disdain for people who were humbly doing it from the beginning and making some money.
I composed myself and replied, “Sir, I never knew that you are coming to meet me to invest in my company. We don’t have any plans, strategies, mission or vision. All we know is that we want to help other companies by providing our process excellence services and get a living out of it. However, if you are that interested in us, then it would be better that you follow us in the next few years and figure out our ‘hidden’ strategies, which even we are not aware of today!” I tried my best not to sound arrogant.
“Oh yes, yes. You want us to follow you! I understand. Anyway, I cannot offer you more than one million pounds to buy the company,” he finally proposed.
And my head started spinning with the thoughts of filthy lucre. I started picturing myself as Amitabh Bachchan with two briefcases of cash atop a large table, with my long legs on the table for good measure. What? One million Pounds!! I went into raptures of all kinds.
It is more than one million dollars, I thought! And today, my whole combined wealth is not even one tenth of it! It is a significant amount of money. It will make me ten times richer! It will solve so many of my problems allowing me to devote time to so many things I always wanted. Say, for example, writing a book!
But what would he buy? I don’t have any big team employed with the company! The company does not own any significant assets. There aren’t any long-term contracts with any clients. Today, I don’t even know where the business will come from after three months! Doubts, doubts and more doubts. A realization dawned on me that if this man could estimate one million bucks for our company, then there certainly was untapped potential that I had failed to see. Despite his offer, I still couldn’t understand what exactly about the company merited such a huge amount. Come on, this must be a joke!
However, if he was able to see some hidden treasure in Anexas, is there something out there? Why don’t we mine it ourselves? Anyway, I was much too confused and thanked him for his time after politely declining his offer. I didn’t even know if he would have given me one million pounds if I had said yes. At least the notional value of Anexas had increased for me after that meeting. This helped me survive many a crisis later on.
And it was only after five years hence I realized why he wanted to pay us one million then! I am glad that I couldn’t understand his logic then. Thanks to my limited understanding of the philosophy of the investors! The logical conclusion after five years was that he wanted to invest in me and my strength as a trainer and my increasing popularity in companies and forums that he would exploit in the later years.
It was just me he was buying out. Now, after so many autumns, I know, sometimes investors buy founders or the ones who sparked the idea. Not always do they buy an organization. To me, back then, buying humans was akin to slavery. Dark images of indentured laborers during East India Company days going to Trinidad on ships came as flashing lights inside mind! However, I should have listened to him.
As what happened next was just something I was unprepared for!
For subsequent articles, please watch this space.
You can buy the book directly from its website on https://www.anexasstory.com
or on Amazon on https://www.amazon.in/ANEXAS-STORY-There-Entrepreneur-Everyone-ebook/dp/B07ZGLN8C7
Amitabh Saxena is founder of Anexas, a well-known lean six sigma and project management consulting organisation. He has trained over 50,000 participants and has 30 years of experience in consulting more than 300 organisations around the world including Fortune 100 companies across industry domains. With a strong team of 25 Master Black Belts, his organisation Anexas has been helping individuals and organisations achieve eminence through excellence since 2006. They can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.