At BrilliantRead Media, we always strive to bring to our community some of the finest stories from the entrepreneurship world. As part of this endeavour, we invited yet another passionate entrepreneur – Shankar Sahai for an exclusive interview with us. Shankar is a Business Leader, Entrepreneur, Co-Founder and CEO at InfoIvy. Let’s learn more about his inspiring journey, background and advice for our growing community!
Excerpts from our exclusive interview with Shankar:
We are aware of your contribution to the ecosystem, talk us through your background and your journey as an entrepreneur, please;
I have worked in the technology and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) industry for some years and was fortunate enough to successfully co-found two startups – the first one provided solutions to the SMB market for instant messaging and VoIP over the internet, and the second one focussed on marketing data aggregation and analytics.
For some years I have run a very successful blog focussed on the application of big data and data science in the field of customer success and creating a better customer experience.
This path led me naturally to consider the rapidly expanding field of customer success for my third startup. I felt that I needed to make a contribution to the younger generation and offer coaching and mentorship services to the many newcomers that join the industry as customer success managers or relationship managers.
As well as coach current CSMs and other customer success and support professionals to grow their careers into more of a leadership and management role.
Hence I have recently kicked off a new venture – InfoIvy.com – which is solely focussed on working with corporates and academic institutions to impart a real-world edge to their classroom and textbook style of teaching.
I would like to invite the reader who may wish to know more about me personally to visit this link. And would like them to connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.
What attracts you towards entrepreneurship instead of a corporate career?
Growing up in a middle-class family, becoming an entrepreneur was not something I thought about or even dreamt of. Yet, I guess I probably always had a desire to build something new in me.
And with some encouragement from family and friends, I was able to channel that creativity into multiple new ventures. But, do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in having a corporate career.
In fact, in many ways the experience learned during those years helps you become an entrepreneur.
‘InfoIvy.com’ is such a unique name; talk us through more about it, please. Our audience would also love to know what kind of problem you are solving?
The latest venture is called InfoIvy.com since just like an ivy plant that keeps growing, the data and more importantly the information that surrounds us keeps increasing as well.
Much of the information is misleading and hard to use. We here at InfoIvy help you make sense of the information and how to apply it to improve customer experience and better the customer success function in any SMB enterprise.
What does your company specialise in?
InfoIvy offers coaching, mentorship and consultancy services to customer-facing organizations, especially the ones in the newly emerging area of customer success and relationship management.
The company is fueled by our passion for navigating the nuances of how different personality types impact professional interactions and can make all the difference between failure and success.
We help build world-class customer success managers and provide guidance in developing customer success strategies for today’s world. We have positively impacted several global multinationals, such as Google, IBM, Salesforce, Cisco, Abbvie and many others.
How do you manage to keep going despite the challenges? What drives you?
I am fueled by my passion for navigating the nuances of how different personality types impact our professional interactions and can make all the difference between failure and success. This is seen often by the customer-facing teams. And very few know how to reach these nuances and more importantly how to react to them.
I consider myself a lifelong learner, eager to both build on my experience and stay in tune with the latest research on customer personas and profile creation along with customer relationship management and success strategies.
At InfoIvy we want our customers to trust us to advise, coach and educate their teams when they need to reduce churn, increase adoption and drive more renewals.
Who do you believe has been the biggest source of motivation in your daily life?
My day revolves around my work and family. My wife is a source of constant support along with the kids.
She is super busy with everything on her plate but she still finds time to help me. I am lucky that she is by my side and is a source of constant support and encouragement.
What are some of the strategies that you believe has helped you grow as a person?
I believe the following 5 strategies have helped me grow and focus on an ongoing basis.
1) Set goals & create a plan – First and foremost, set goals and clear objectives. Identify and make note of what you and your team need to achieve, then use this as a benchmark and measure of success. Setting great goals will help; make sure your goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based (SMART). Once you have a SMART goal, creating a plan becomes easy.
2) Start small – It could seem daunting to “make yourself a better communicator”. But if you break that sizeable target down into smaller steps and start on just one of them, then the task seems less formidable.
If you challenge yourself to achieve just a modest goal at first, you can grow from there once you’re ready. Reaching a small, more achievable personal development goal empowers and encourages us to continue. In no time at all, you will be merrily working away towards your ultimate end goal.
3) Learn from failure – Try to take something from every personal encounter you have. Most people we come across day to day can teach us something that we can then apply in our own lives. At the simplest level, the friendly customer service you received when you picked up your morning coffee will probably have brightened your day. Can you then apply that attitude in your next encounter and make someone else similarly happy? Try also to be open to new opinions and new ways of doing things; you never know what you might learn.
4) Prioritise your personal development – Set aside the time to spend on yourself. Put your own development at the top of your agenda and focus thoroughly on it. Unless you apply yourself, your new learning won’t become a habit and things will gradually wane. Besides, you’re worth it.
5) Measure your accomplishments – Measuring your progress along the way allows you to adjust your plan if you are not on track. If something’s not working, you might need to stretch a deadline or adjust the objectives or the strategy itself. If you at least know that it’s not working, you can then ask why. You can additionally consider how you might be able to make it work and what you have learned from it.
Given the rapid pace at which the world is changing, what are the leadership traits that are necessary for success?
This is a great question.
Leadership traits have evolved over time just like everything else. In my opinion, the three leadership traits needed in today’s world are:
Focus – Bring focus to your entire team. With all the distractions at work, social media etc, it’s very important for the modern-day leader to be focused on themselves and to bring focus to the entire team. If you are not focused on yourself you can never bring focus to your team.
Empathy – Learn to understand how your team members feel. Learn to understand how your customers feel. Having strong customer and team empathy will guide your actions.
Time management & Delegation – they both go hand in hand. Modern leaders must embrace delegation as a way to achieve time management. If you can delegate something to your staff you should never be doing it yourself. If you are, you are most likely ignoring something else.
In your opinion what are the keys to success?
I believe the following keys can work for anyone. They worked for me and can work for you as well.
~ Build high self-esteem Believe in yourself, have confidence, like and feel good about yourself, take pride in what you do. Most of the time the harder thing to do is the right thing to do. So, do not fall to the temptation of taking the easy way out or as they say – the path of least resistance.
~ Focus with a positive attitude. Always expect the best possible outcome for what you do. Your thoughts drive your actions. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions. And positive actions result in positive results.
~ Set powerful goals Give your brain a place to aim. Set goals so that you can reach them. When you do, reach a little higher. Do not let others dictate what you can and cannot do. Only you decide that. Having detractors is a good thing. They remind you of why you need to focus on your goals.
~ Persevere Never quit. Never give up. Keep going and keep trying. Based on various factors, adjust your speed accordingly but keep moving forward and sometimes that might be more like inching your way forward but that’s OK too.
~ Maintain a healthy mind, body, and spirit Take care of yourself through a healthy diet, exercise, and say no to drugs. Taking some time off is a good thing. Your mind or your body is not a machine. They both deserve to rest.
What advice would you give students and young professionals who want to have a successful career?
For fresh graduates, I would say first get a job in the real world. Get a few years of industry experience.
And while doing the 9-5 grind, fully immerse yourself in your new role of a corporate creature. Classroom success does not lead to success in the workplace. Academics rely on memorizing textbooks and regurgitating the content in the exam halls. Corporate life is a lot different. Learn the rules. Get help if needed.
The second piece of advice is to make new friends. Learn from them. They will help you see the world in a completely new way. And will add a level of richness to what you are aware of and appreciate.
The third and final piece of advice. If you like what you are doing, keep doing it. There is no shame in aspiring to have a corporate life. On the other hand, if you want to venture on your own, the first thing is to look at a problem that needs a solution. Get to know the problem intimately and then talk to others about it to get their viewpoints. If you feel you can solve it much better than any other solution out there, go for it. Rest will come easy.