How about getting out of the box???

Often while running a business one of the biggest frustrations faced by those who head and run it is that they seem to often hit an air pocket with no solution in sight.

It could be an issue that is internal like team dynamics, external like unreasonable customers, delayed payments, errant suppliers and confusing market conditions. Or it could be even the bullying behavior of a bigger competitor who is ruthlessly trying to put you down or cut off your supplies. Often in these situations, the frustration is seemingly endless because whatever seemingly logical approach you try (i.e. one that has been attempted before) it seems the issue never goes away.

Worse, increasing in intensity with passage of time. Come to think of it, the best way to get out of these endless frustrations is to get literally out of the box. What I mean by that is to get innovative and look at the whole issue and its context in a completely different manner or look for hints from the unlikeliest of the places. Let me give you some examples.

Richard Branson, the Founder of Virgin Group, faced intense and often unfair competition from British Airways, which was far bigger and had infinitely higher resources at its command. He realized that if he fought back in the same manner, he would be fighting a loosing battle since he had neither the resources nor the influence of the bigger competitor. He listened to the advice of one of his friends who told him to become a walking brand himself and use himself to promote the airline. A quite unorthodox idea. But if you notice, today, that unorthodox brand-building approach has helped Virgin become a multi-billion dollar empire and given its Founder, a cult-like status unheard of in business. Closer home, let me highlight two instances where home grown entrepreneurs did something unorthodox in what were otherwise dead end situations.

The Founder of Cavincare, a path-breaking company that has rewritten the rules in the FMCG space, had a unique challenge when he originally started his business. While he was confident of his products, the big dealers were unwilling to stock him and those who were willing, asked for extended credit periods and higher margins. Either terms if agreed, would have meant unmanageable pressures on the fledgling venture. Instead of working along their demands, he instead went and placed a huge advertisement in a leading newspaper about his business inviting dealers.

The trade people who saw it, thought the company was big, promising and responded in droves to lay the foundation to what today is one of the fastest growing consumer companies in India.

To cite another instance, the promoter family of Idhayam Gingelly Oil, which is a household name in Southern States and now overseas also, had a unique problem when he first went to meet the big retailers of Bangalore to stock his products. They were unwilling to meet him and even in the meeting were unwilling to provide their shelf space to a unknown company and brand. Instead of giving up, the promoter suggested an innovative idea to the owner of the retail chain. He would give away his products free in a promo to customers of the retail chain. The owner of the retail chain could not refuse it as he had everything to win out of the arrangement. Soon, the customers came back to ask for the brand and the store had no choice but to agree to stock the Idhayam brand of products.

Instances like this abound where the lack of solution was turned into a path which led to the growth of the same business, bogged down by that issue. If one were to draw some common parallels, innovation or thinking out of the box is as crucial to business success today as is a good idea and a strong business model. The real need being to keep one’s mind open, absorb new things and developments and develop the gut and conviction to go ahead and take an unorthodox decision and see it through till it is done and the battle won.

Tougher times not just require tougher professionals. But ones who think out of the box too. Ready to put on your thinking hat and get out of the box? All the very best!!!

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