In Oct 2019 B.C. (Before Corona), we participated in a conference in LA. At our booth, there was a visitor who introduced herself as the CEO of a healthcare company. This remarkable woman wanted to empower millennials worldwide to take better care of themselves and their loved one’s by building an engaging, personalized health management platform. We had an engaging conversation with her and we talked at length about why healthcare solution providers need to rethink their patient engagement solutions. She seemed interested to work with us, so we exchanged cards and went our separate ways.
A week later, she called to take the conversation forward. We had a series of meetings with her team to understand the project’s scope. Our team in the US and India pitched in to answer their questions about how we approach a project, our agile processes and our experience of building products that scale.
I had a hunch that we were pretty close to signing a contract with them. The CEO was impressed with our team and had a positive outlook towards working with an offshore development company in India. However, the organization shifted priorities, hired a new CTO, and that tabled the partnership conversations for an unspecified duration.
Fast-forward to July 2020 D.C. (During Corona), I woke up to an email from her where she said that she would like to touch base again and collaborate with us. She wanted us as her offshore partners. She said she feels Quovantis has a team of talented, empathetic, committed, self-directed professionals best suited to help her achieve their mission. Her words, not mine.
That day I learned a very important lesson. I learned that every good outcome is a result of a structured process. If you trust the process and follow it with deliberate practice, you are destined to get outcomes. If not immediately, then after a while. The universe has a way of aligning you with your goals and dreams.
In my case, my team and I had done everything in our power to show our prospective partners that we’re capable of building their dream product. In every conversation, we were authentic, honest, and transparent with them to the T.
This was our process.
It didn’t work for us in Oct 2019.
But it made a lasting impression on their mind. They remembered us.
As a result, it worked for us in July 2020.
When I realized this, a sense of relief passed over me and I felt stupid to doubt our capabilities. Later, I pondered over it and thought about what makes businesses memorable? What makes a potential partner decide that they are going to work with another company oceans away from them? What makes a company stand out among thousands of other companies in the world?
I could think of below characteristic traits that make businesses impactful and memorable-
Ethics and values
One of my colleagues who is an avid reader shared a story of her favorite bookstore in Delhi.
She pointed me to an interview about the bookstore where the founder has shared his learnings as a bookseller- “I have learned never to deceive the customer. If you are honest with him, he will be loyal to you. I remember when, back in the day, I would sometimes chance upon a child stealing a book or a comic. I never said anything – who was I to come between a person’s desire for knowledge, even if they couldn’t afford to buy the book. Inevitably, 10 or 15 years later, they would come back to the shop, all grown up, apologising and wanting to pay for the book they might have once stolen, a book that might have got them addicted to reading in the first place! That is what Bahrisons has always been about – relationships, trust, and a thirst for the written word.”
She said that she prefers to buy from that particular bookshop because of their ethics. Because she feels that they are not just in business for money, but for a greater good.
This is applicable in every other business. Good business ethics are like good genes. If you have them, they reflect in your decisions. They serve as a guiding principle for everyone in the organization. And when everyone in the organization abides by these ethics, people outside your organization begin to admire you, trust you and would want to work with you.
Organizations are made by the people who run them, not the other way around. So if an organization is efficient and effective or lackadaisical and clumsy, it’s because of its people.
In our case, we are blessed to have amazing people. They are a curious bunch who work not just to impress, but to add value. I remember our meetings with this partner. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the kind of questions our team asked had set the stage for our partnership.
And we carry the same zeal in every conversation with our prospective partners. When we talk to them, we don’t just look at it as a ‘deal’ worth chasing. We look at it as a project that would give us a chance to make the world a better place. Therefore, we have this unsaid convention to help our partners discover value in their product by asking relevant questions, deep-diving into their pain areas, and patiently listening to the problems they are trying to solve. All of that, irrespective of whether we make or break the deal. All of that, irrespective of whether the partner seems interested or disconnected in engaging with us.
This might seem as a trivial thing but it makes a major difference in how we make a first good impression.
I read the most endearing lines about culture in this HBR article by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss.
“Culture guides discretionary behavior and it picks up where the employee handbook leaves off. Culture tells us how to respond to an unprecedented service request. It tells us whether to risk telling our bosses about our new ideas, and whether to surface or hide problems. Employees make hundreds of decisions on their own every day, and culture is our guide. Culture tells us what to do when the CEO isn’t in the room, which is of course most of the time.”
Our definition of culture at Quovantis is quite similar. Right from our inception, we have designed, built, and nurtured our company’s culture of delivering quality outcomes to our partners, irrespective of who’s watching us.
Our engineers and designers play an important role in the initial conversations with the prospective partners. We encourage them to think out of the box, ask questions, and make decisions. We empower them to propose solutions and shed the fear of getting critiqued.
One of our partners shared this sometime back– she said that she was impressed that our initial conversations included the engineers and designers who would be working on the project. She felt as if every person was as empowered as the CEO. That’s why she made up her mind to work with a team who is self-directed and knows how to work around problems.
This is how our people become the flagbearer of our culture and further fuel our future engagements.
I have seen people talk about differentiating themselves by providing exceptional service at highly competitive costs and creating a niche for your work. But here’s what I have learned from my experience– Just be your authentic self with your partners. Do what you say you will do and help them raise their business as your own. That’s the best way I know to differentiate yourself from the competition.