The Secret Ingredient of a Successful Company

March 2, 2008 1:53 am 8 comments

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This is a guest post by Mansoor Adenwala. Mansoor is a blogger, corporate trainer, process advisor, and generally a solution-finder in the world of ICT. He currently works for Business Beam Pvt. Ltd in the capacity of Managing Advisor and is based in Islamabad, Pakistan.Almost all organizations in the world are started on two basic premises. 1) To change the world and 2) to make lots of money and create wealth for its founders and shareholders. So how does one do it?

You ‘grow’ into it.

You cannot start up an organization with thousands of people on the first day and expect results immediately. Maybe you can with tons of equipment and large office space, but not with as many people. I say ‘cannot’ because of some very real and very basic reasons. Companies are nothing by themselves. It’s not the factories, it’s not the machinery and it’s not the office space or even the image. A company is a group of people, working towards a common goal.

And as with everything human, it takes time to build up that team, that sense of belonging and that commitment towards a goal. Some of the worlds (and Pakistans) leading organizations are those whose people are committed to it, and not thinking of their jobs as a means to earn a living.

By now, you must be getting an idea of what it does take to grow into a successful company. As the journey proceeds, and you build up your initial product or service (or throw it aside and start with a totally new idea altogether), you promote it and sell it and start getting a profit (or you don’t and scrap the whole idea for a new one) you learn several things along the way. One of these is ‘operational excellence cannot come from machines’. Sure, you can get efficiency that way, but not excellence. Unfortunately, this lesson is not such an easy one to learn, nor is affordable for many.

You must be thinking (and rightly so), how can he say that? What basis does he have for quoting that operational excellence cannot come from machines? The answer is in texts, is in research papers, is in conferences on business processes around the world, and above all, is in the day to day life of the people you work with. Many a company has tried to make its processes separate from the people who execute them. Spending millions of rupees in the quest to find, after that one initial success, a method to repeat it and make anyone able to perform it. They buy consulting services, they buy tools and invest in expensive software licenses to eliminate the risk of having an employee having to think about (and subsequently screw up) their work.

But it doesn’t work. Well, most of the time at least. When you come right down to it, it’s the people which do the work, it’s the people who influence how the end product (or service) is made and delivered, and it’s the people who are ultimately accountable for good or bad quality. It’s the people who give the leadership, it’s the people who give the innovative ideas, and it’s the people who spend day and night, sacrificing their personal lives and in many cases, their health, to further a cause (the company goals) they believe in. And people are not machines!

Processes, tools, software’s… they are all there to support an organization’s growth. To aid it, not dictate it. Yes, they aid it well. In fact, so well that sometimes we place them above the people until we learn yet another expensive lesson. “A tool is only as good as the person who uses it”. So the next time you’re sitting in a board meeting, trying to figure out why profits aren’t as high or customer satisfaction isn’t satisfactory, think about how much you’ve invested in your tools vs how much you’ve invested in your people.

Before I end this post, allow me to summarize.

A company is group of people working towards a common goal, and not the office space or machines or even the processes for performing the work. As long as the goal is clear, is shared and has a culture built around it, the company will give spectacular results. If it doesn’t, the company will set itself up for failure from the start, or worse… be doomed for mediocrity.

Facebook comments:


  • Majid Farid


    Very well put. A country where people struggle to follow even the traffic rules its very hard to get them to follow processes and if these processes make their daily life a bit difficult but bring operational excellence forget about it.

    I imagine that the “danda culture” mixed with HR development is most of the time the answer. The goal have to be directed from top with close follow ups. A Director should follow a process before he/she expects the department to follow it….for example I am sure all of the organizations have employee cards but you seldom see people wearing them and specially the top management tiers!

    Another thing that we miss out greatly (not just in Pakistan) is the organizational change management which brings fear and hesitation from employee…but I guess that whole another topic.


  • true. following processes is a very difficult thing for us. whether it be for our own betterment or our company’s. one of the underlying causes is also the ego factor which dictates ‘my way is the best way!’

    but yes, organizational change management is an whole other topic, one which we’ll talk about in upcoming posts inshallah.

  • I agree completely!! The tech perspective and user experience are two completely different things.and the more user friendly a machine,the more efficiency the individual can deliver

  • Salman Naqvi

    Great. Another paper-tiger, 20-year old something who has odd-end jobs and neve really become successful,tell us how to work and blah blah blah.

    Lesson for you fatso. Go on a diet. and save us the BS

  • ian have hit the nail on the head!In fact all the nails!
    It takes a while to realise the people are the company..and your selling to people!

  • ian have hit the nail on the head!In fact all the nails!
    It takes a while to realise the people are the company..and your selling to people!
    I started my dream in 1999..(must be the longest startup in history.)Like you say i had to ditch ideas modify and finally realize that unless i got really skilled staff it would stay a dream business…
    But if you persist it starts to happen..
    i decided to build the team first ..this i am doing partly by some contacts through G&W..
    One of the most potent helps for any startup is blogging…i started “ creatives as the focus for the team building..its working..
    My idea for changing the world is to get the richest people; the investors ,to gift the poorest people the means of generating revenue …It’s working; although i could not get any poor in Pakistan to use my system ..i am starting the pilot in Santa Marta Columbia,
    We shall offer free internet access to Mian Channu later in the year…
    The tecnology can now be upgraded to serve the team and customers..
    Yes it does take time to build a team but if your not paying them or little and they are high quality ,you know they do share your vision and will work towards your common goal,
    with big rewards ahead..not just in the pay packet but in realising the dream..
    Can you get a better dream than that all the poor in Pakistan will be able to enter world markets ?
    As Zig Ziglar said :” If you help many people get what they want you will get what you want.”
    ian ceo ; startup-asia

  • Well written Mansoor. I also highlighted a related post on my blog recently. It is very much in line with your thoughts.

  • ian: thanks, your ideas seen to be very much on the track of making a world class company. best of luck!

    babar: thank you.

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