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!
An oft-quoted Forbes article from 2013 states from Bloomberg source that eight out of ten businesses fail within eighteen months.
So, this had to happen. The first quarter of 2009 brought bad news. There were in fact two, giving deathblows to our venture. The first one came from Riyadh. The other from Denmark.
On the new year’s day of 2009, in the third month of the project, I received a call from my Saudi partner informing that all of our three consultants had defected together with a plan to join the client itself as its employees. I was shocked. What happened to all their promises and commitments? He informed me that they left on 27 th December, never to come back to Anexas. Probably they wanted to celebrate their New Year at home before joining their new masters in Riyadh. They stopped answering my calls and ghosted me! Probably they had put a distinctive ring tone for my calls to alert themselves.
Probably, my number drew up some ten-headed Ravana on their mobile screens. Probably, they feared that I would enter the telecom lines and have a duel with them. However, I know what had happened. We all know it. They had simply seen where the grass was greener and grabbed onto the opportunity. I knew I didn’t have a strong enough legal discipline to take them to court for that.
Our Saudi partner was extremely upset with this and threatened to take me to court. I shuddered at the very thought of the wide range of available punishments under Saudi law. Of course, the partner pulled out of the partnership. That put a full stop to our ongoing operations in Saudi Arabia.
In Denmark, our client got badly hit by one of the worst financial crises the world had experienced during 2007-08. By the March of 2009, within three months of our Saudi operations getting adversely hit, the Danish client informed me that they wished to cancel the Anexas contract due to lack of funds. As Nielsen, the client operations manager put it, “We are shutting down 40% of our businesses. Dear Amitabh, why would we need process improvement consultant when there are no processes left to improve! We are even letting other consultants, the ones in IT and strategy go.”
So, there were no assignments now. No team members too. It was time to wind up after paying up all the expenses. Forbes and Bloomberg were so right! With everything over, I took a flight from Copenhagen to Riyadh to pay for all the pending expenses to the Saudi partner and complete the closure formalities of the partnership.
Before finally calling it a day, I thought through the whole thing and saw a ray of hope. What if I submitted a new proposal to our banking client in Saudi, whom we had lost out because our own consultants joined them – a proposition to consider our services for their other business units? These three ex-colleagues were deployed in retail banking operations. So, why not check out on the opportunities in investment banking, corporate banking, or risk management?
I contacted all these units separately including Ahmed, the quality head with whom I had worked earlier. Having not heard from them for a week, I started losing hope, when I received a call from the bank, “Can you meet us regarding the proposal you have submitted?”
I put on my best suit and attitude to put my best foot forward for the meeting which could save us. Let me succeed one time, just this one time, I thought. I arrived at the reception of the same bank, which was our client three months ago. “Please wait as I inform the panel about your arrival,” said the receptionist with a smile.
‘Oh, so there is a panel of experts set up to evaluate our proposal,’ I thought.
After getting a nod from the receptionist, I entered the meeting room. I was startled to see the occupants. There were three panel members to evaluate Anexas. Ahmed, the quality manager, Amar and Vish. Two of them knew me quite well. I also knew them better by then. But I knew that innocent Ahmed did not know that the two panelists sitting with him had broken promises made to me. But he knew that I was the person who had recruited them in the banking assignment. So, I was hopeful of a positive outcome as he was leading the evaluation panel.
“Welcome Mr. Amitabh,” said Ahmed, “Good to see you again. As you know I am not a big expert in process improvement, I have invited Mr. Amar and Mr. Vish to join me for the meeting, as they understand Six Sigma better than me.”
“Of course, that is great. Good to see all of you again,” I mentally cursed my fate at the possibility of being interviewed by the people whom I had interviewed six months back! You never know when time turns tables on you.
“So, Mr. Amitabh, how can your proposed project help us?” Amar started the formal meeting. I explained my thoughts on process mapping helping their operations and assisting their existing initiatives. I badly needed the assignment and I had to do my bit. Then Vish joined Amar. Both of them kept questioning about the methodology, my skills as a consultant, the credentials and references. I kept providing answers, which probably they already knew. If there was a black comedy happening in the room, I was not aware!
Then Amar changed the course of discussion with a smile,
“I understand Mr. Amitabh that you do not have a team yet you are proposing so much of process mapping. How would you get the consultants, and more importantly the visas and the permits? It is very difficult to get working visas in Saudi, you know.”
I was blank, shattered and dumbstruck. I could sense the distaste in the mouth. Silence lasted long. It lasted for a second too long. It was Ahmed’s turn to break the silence, “Mr. Amar, I think Mr. Amitabh knows how to arrange for the visas and if I am not wrong, it was him who arranged the work permits and visas to get you here in the first place.”
“Oh yeah, yeah…,” I managed to say in the face of total depravity. The lump in my throat seemed to rise up to a balloon size in the next fifteen seconds of silence. Perhaps Ahmed sensed what was going on. Or maybe he saw the tiny hidden teardrop in my eye, which refused to roll down. He tried winding up with the oft-repeated closing line used in such kind of meetings destined towards an ambiguous outcome, “Mr. Amitabh, please send us the new proposal based on our discussion today.”
This episode would signify the demise of my blind trust in future team members, resulting often in my paranoid reaction to their behaviors. Essentially, there I was, without a business and without the helping hand of people. I realized that my entrepreneurial venture in Riyadh was finally over. But I had to wait there, just to collect its death certificate.
But please note, death had not arrived.
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.