What a Startup Founder can Learn from an Executive Business Coach?


Amol Ghemud | Published: May 20, 2022
What a startup founder can learn from an executive business coach?

Welcome to today’s podcast. I’m your host Amol Ghemud.

The title of today’s podcast is “What a startup founder can learn from an executive business coach?”

Executive Business Coaches assist business owners to achieve their desired goals by helping them boost their business performance, processes and systems. During this processes, answers are found together or self inquiry is conducted by the business owner rather than being offered ready made solution by the business coach.

The aim of any business coaching activity is to enable the business owner to become a solution finder for any business problem and to be ready to face any internal or external challenges that may arise. Changing perspectives, dealing with a difficult situation, questions and thinking of ways to do things differently a part of business coaching. In my personal opinion, a business coach can have a profound effect on your business and life if you’re able to find the right match.

Our today’s guest, Ram, has to say a lot about it. And that’s why we are talking to him today. Ram is the founder of simply.coach. He has tickets of first time senior executive experience in coaching and have worked with across organizations from startup through global MNCs.

Having served as VP and Country Manager for Sapient Nitro, Ram’s corporate experience covers executing responsibilities for every area of business, from marketing and sales to regional capability development.

He has managed leaders across the spectrum from technical engineers and sell stuff to creative teams as well as across cultures. His track record for building successful teams including an award winning digital agency that supported global clients such as Coca Cola, Taco Bell, and Citibank.

This gives Ram both credibility with his clients as well as a real understanding of the challenges they face. Recognized as one of the most talented coaching leaders in India by CHRO Asia Ram believes that true change is always from within.

His coaching is characterized by well defined strategic thinking coupled with strong interpersonal skills. He focuses on positive change to empower leaders to reach the goals. Ram approach is perceptive, humble, inquisitive and open.

Let’s speak with Ram today.

Amol Ghemud
Okay, the call is on recording mode right now. As I said, I will start asking the question, and from the beginning, I will mute myself when I’m not speaking. And whenever, you know, I ask question, feel free to mute yourself. So there is no sound disturbance coming from any of us background. Hey Ram! So here is the first question, will you tell us about your journey? How you started in advertising and media? How did you become a coach and now are the enterpreneur?

Ram
Yes. I have always taken mine private has come, opportunities, showed themselves up right from college when that offer paying for advertising and media, then becoming a coach or now becoming a tech entrepreneur, these have come up, and I have not been married to my own idea of how life should be. And I’ve gone with more life has presented. And so most of my positions, in hindsight look fantastic. And at the same time while taking those decisions, and not really thinking very deeply about it, or worrying much about them.

Amol Ghemud
Interesting! Did you advice, the same kind of approach, someone who is starting their journey shall take, or they should be thinking deeply about their decisions before they decide to do anything new?

Ram
Yeah, so thinking has its uses and its limitations also. We think that by doing a lot of research by doing a lot of contemplation, and decisions. Unfortunately, this all depends on your biases and natural tendencies to So, growing with a lot of faith, growing with the direction that is appearing in front of you, as long as it is aligned with your values, morals and ethics, I think will be a much better decision. And you’re going to discover a lot as you go on the way rather than things which you think are the best for you.

Amol Ghemud
I see your point of view. I believe you have done the corporate hustle, you work as an executive coach. And now you’re an you’re an entrepreneur running a business, and your coach, what are the pros and cons of edge?

Ram
I like to rewatch what are the pros and cons of each because everything will have a pro and a con. So in a corporate hustle. You get to manage a team, you get to work on bigger assignments, or more or less, I will say with a certain degree of comfort, you’re more or less assured of a salary each month. As an executive coach. In order to work or fend for yourself. You’ve got to do your business development, work with clients raises the bills, follow up on payments. Make sure you manage your own moments of being alone, not with a team. And right now, when you talk about an entrepreneurial journey, initially coaching is a technology product as a platform, and it’s an leads away from a services business or being a coach. So it has its own excitement in terms of building a product out of India. And at the same time number of knows most when you’re doing more efficiently resonate or not. So, one Okay, going back to the first question right? And one takes a decision. One knows that there will be nervous moments there will be moments where everything looks positive. And the best attitude would be to back yourself up, have trust and faith in what you’re doing. I think

Amol Ghemud
That’s true. You need to you need to see through things. Why you do not have a known file you do not have a tech background? Did you face any challenges while building a SaaS platform like Simply.coach?

Ram
Yeah. It is very important for a startup to have a technology person as one of the founders.

And in this case, we’re extremely blessed to have Kiran on board, right from day one as part of the founding team. Then one is able to marry the best in terms of business, domain knowledge and technology understanding, to push the boundaries, even today and explore new ideas on how to make Simply.coach better. It always starts off with need or a requirement, or a pain from the customer is ultimately a coach or a coaching business. And then there is a translation of that into what is possible from a technology point of view, or how we can help ease that problem. And that’s when technology comes in. So you see a lot of the work which is happening, even for somebody like Kiran, who comes from a tech background is to understand the human problem. And then technology is just an enabler. So to answer the question, not really any challenges. However, as a caveat to startups don’t start out with an idea when you don’t have a technology person 100% Fully onboarding.

Amol Ghemud
Understood that, that leads me to ask the next question, what are the toughest aspects of getting your business off the ground, which can be you know, finding the product market fit or building a team? As you just mentioned, it’s very important to have a tech background first and to the part of your founding team? Or was it testing the product? Or was it making the first and what are the different challenges you face when just starting off or taking the business off the ground

Ram
So I don’t think it’s the product market fit or building a team testing the product making the first move Those are normal parts of any business growing the business and you need to face those kind of challenges every stage of the business

getting it off the ground drive is telling yourself that you’re informed along. With so many of these stories going around in the market of exerts and valuation highs and unicorns, status, a lot of times one is kind of fooled into believing that who I’ve got the biggest idea and everybody will jump on it. And you will have this crazy valuation in one year instead of three years, that doesn’t happen. So I would say toughest aspect is every day right from day one saying that I’m building this to last and not building this to get a valuation or an exit. And I’m in for it for the longer.

Amol Ghemud
That’s such an important advise, I’m in today’s world, when the valuations of the funding rounds are happening in an hour. Probably a budding entrepreneur can easily get blinded, looking at all these things happening around him, and we just oversight probably the aspect of the long term growth. So does that mean you you advise the any new entrepreneur to look at the things from very long perspective and do not plan the short term or the medium term? What exactly will be you will be your advice.

Ram
So I’m reminded of a quote right, which was given by an novel Ravi Khan’s, right? So he was the person who said that truly, truly if you were to look at this right, visible creating value, and as he said it, Anyone who attempts to serve a customer at a new level of quality and scale is an entrepreneur, anyone who does not is not an entrepreneur. So you should understand that as business owners are saying what value am I creating? Can I serve this customer in a better way then what is being done right now, when the focus is on the customer and on the problem is to be solved, and the value that is being created, then I think it is something which is going to be at least a learning experience for me, there are many, many conditions is different and market saturation and political battles within global signals, socio economic problems, really many things can help me or undermine you. So finally, what I will say is, don’t worry about valuations, don’t worry about exit, don’t worry about funding, focus on solving a real problem and be committed to solving that and making it a bigger part of your life.

Amol Ghemud
That’s so true. I always believe that value is something nobody can compete you against with pricing or any other aspect of your business, or the services can be easily compete upon. But if you’re able to create a pass on that value to your customers, that is something nobody can compare you against. But do you agree to that?

Ram
Yes, And value is not something that is defined by you, right? You don’t say I’m adding this value value is what is perceived by your customer. And their perception of value could be driven by a variety of different things, for instance, and simply coach, surely you have a technology platform, features and functionalities under our help documents, where there is pricing and we compete, all of that is in place, the true value comes from the fact that we are able to help our coaches on the on the platform and use all its features to the most extent possible. That’s when they feel supported. That’s when they feel that it’s not about self service, not about helpdesk, it’s not about remote again, and as a real human on the other side is committed to helping you use a new technology platform and get the most benefit from.

Amol Ghemud
That’s so true. Ram, are there any learning from your time as a coach that you apply to your entrepreneurial journey from time to time?

Ram
Yeah, so my entrepreneurial journey is building a coaching management platform, right, and therefore, all the learnings from being a coach is being applied in terms of developing the thought. That aside. So that aside, in terms of just bringing in all the coaching aspects onto the platform, that we, as coaches, we help people to become better leaders. And that is so true, when we are trying to build a company as well. In my real to be entrepreneur, in order to build something out there, I might go ahead and build something which is very, very traditional and falling into the same trap of a conventional growers, as well. So as a coach was also trying to explore what kind of business are we building, like, for example, simply coach was founded during the peak of the pandemic. It is a completely remote team. We don’t have any physical offices. And some of the team members have not met each other for two years. Now, all of that, classically, will be a case for oh my god, is there engagement? Are people really progressive and all of that and still, we find ourselves working very, very smoothly. We are onboarding new people, we collaborate, we work together, and we’re growing is like I have seen as a coach, where the leaders have tried to create the kind of the culture and environment and I know the struggles that they’ve been through and therefore I try to apply or bring that into when they are complaining.

Amol Ghemud
I can easily resonate with that at a growth as well we haven’t seen, you know, many of our team members who joined during the pandemic? And I’m sure you know, there are many businesses out there who started during this time period. But they haven’t seen their team members understand the way the life it is, as of right now. Do you prefer to work with a certain type of client? During your coaching engagement? If yes, you know, which type of client? And if not, how do you set up and manage expectations of the time when delivery.

Ram
So, though I prefer to work with a certain type of a coaching client as a client to know. That being said, you always want to make sure that a person who wants to be coached is committed to change, is willing to work on himself or herself, get outside their comfort zones be vulnerable. So in terms of setting and matching their expectations, when I started working with a coaching client, one of my very, very initial calls will lay out the fact that this is not going to be easy. This is not going to be something which is done. Just like any other conversation, it is a very, very intentional learning process and one. So I try to be self coaching, I try to say, hey, there’s not something if you are not committed to it is not something that you want to get into. So that is also my way of making sure that the person knows what we are saying. So a certain type of client is not on the external personality, whether they are logical thinkers or emotional doesn’t matter whether they are a CEO or somebody who’s a senior associate, it doesn’t matter whether they are a public sector company or a multinational company doesn’t matter. What matters is their willingness to change their ability to work on themselves with a certain level of humbleness, openness, and less expectation.

Amol Ghemud
Absolutely, having a willingness to change is one of the most important factor I believe, any relationship gets started from, in your opinion, what is the most important trait any startup founder or business owner should have? If he wants to be successful in life or business?

Ram
Most important trait of the irrational exuberance is you have to be positive, you have to be patient for no reason at all. As the business owner, a startup founder is not positive about what they are doing, then they don’t have the ability to bring an idea to life, nurture it, and grow it and take it to the next level. Right. So 100% commitment, absolutely positive. Resilience and the patience to see their ideas.

Amol Ghemud
With that in mind, what do you see begin the what do you see as being the biggest or the most common problem with business? Or let’s say with any businesses out there today?

Ram
Yeah, so this is an interesting one, right? I would say that it’s actually problems. It’s time to take your problem or what you think is a great idea and mapping it onto the whole world and believing that five or 6 billion people will also resonate with it.

and then not building a profitable business. Some of the biggest names in the market right now are businesses which don’t have a line of sight to be profitable at all. And everybody is okay with that. So I would say, business and most common problem is starting off with an idea where you think it is one that resonates with everybody else without really truly doing the work, of research of understanding what it is and then getting into it and building meaning that without a line of sight of profitability and still be able to stay

Amol Ghemud
interesting, do you think, in the trades World Business Owner realize that they a need of professional business coach? And if they do not realize, do you think that it somehow hampers their growth?

Ram
Yeah, so do business owners realize they need a professional business coach, not really, what they are looking for is Arswers towards growth, right. So answers towards customer acquisition answers towards improving their service quality, answers towards reducing their costs. So more often than not, they believe that the knowledge of these things will help them to grow. And what I will tell you that it’s not the knowledge knowledge is available, you know, you can read about all the things that I’ve started to watch a number of TED talks, or or articles about these topics. One of them is on a nice to diverse has this coach, or somebody who walks with them on this journey, does not advise them, does not mentor them, but walks with them on the journey and truly shows them that every time a learner is one or doesn’t pay that position, the reflection should be should show them why they have taken the position is it because they’re not willing to take the risk is because they are not confident about what aspects about themselves, is preventing them from taking the divisions which they should take to grow their business, that looking inward, showing them the mirror of what a coach can do for them truly. And that is what they need most of the volumes.

Amol Ghemud
Interesting. This is more of a personal question, you can skip it if you’re not comfortable. Are there any systems or processes, you know, for example, a simple morning routine that you follow, which you want to share or you know, open to share, which helps you to keep your productivity high. And just you know, helps you to get things done throughout the day, which any entrepreneur or business owner can implement, and become productive from from tomorrow onwards.

Ram
So, it could be an entrepreneur could be a product owner, it could be as you said somebody in a conflict, can the hustlers you call it. Each one of these peoples are so many things to juggle so many priorities. So many decisions to make, so many people can engage with. And what is required is a clear mind, where you’re able to focus on demand, where you’re also able to switch context and a half an hour, this call next immediately after this hour, you might be going into a pricing negotiation for a very, very large contract, you need to switch the context and go there. So that needs to be absolutely clear in our head, no confusion, no doubt. So what helps me what I help from all the people is to have some kind of a practice. call it meditation, call it exercise, call it whatever you want. But in practice that will help you to work with a clearer mind during the course of the day, is what you should pursue right up front in the morning. Practically sitting essentially prioritize your day, manage your calendar, be ready to be organized on tasks. And at a very deeper level. You go about it very, very quietly, calmly not be tossed around by your emotions and external circumstances. So I highly recommend any meditative practice anything thate helps you quiet mind.

Amol Ghemud
That’s so true. So I also follow up, you know, more or less the same morning routine, for example, when I wake up at 5am in the morning, I usually do yoga or either go for the run. That’s get my day started. And a meditation followed by that just helps me to calm down and basically be throughout the day, how productive it’s gonna be and looking through or imagining, you know, the things you want to get it done really helps. But, um, last question, you know, we just come into the end we like to ask this question to all our guests, you know, what’s your favorite? What’s your favorite productivity hack for entrepreneurs or as you were just mentioning, it could be a productivity hack for any business owner out there, or product owner, or somebody who just, you know, juggle so many things. Do you? Do you have any secret to share?

Ram
Yes, most of the secrets out there, the Pomodoro Technique, which asks you to work in 20 minutes bursts, followed by a five minute break, and then a 20 minute burst, right? Is something that I use when I need to work on items, which are very big, and very, very scary in my mind. For whatever technique helps me to get disciplined when it comes to sitting down for 20 minutes to a very small commitment. And it helps me to make progress. So which I use along with that, now, over the last, I would say, 15 years, I’ve experimented on sound. So over a period of time, I found music, which helps you helps me to learn. So for instance, I’m writing a presentation, I’m putting together my thoughts, I will start off my Pomodoro clock, and a particular piece of music. And that puts me in the zone of being creative. The most like I have trained my entire state of being to say, okay, clock starts right now. You need to be creative, and creativity happens. That’s much the hack.

Amol Ghemud
Wow, I, I just cannot imagine for doing that. I’ll be start implementing right away from today. And we will keep you posted in one of the details of that one. I’m pretty sure that’s gonna help me. Alright, so the last question, you know, if the listeners of this podcast want to reach out to you what they should do where they should find you.

Ram
Yeah, so you can find me and Simply Coach on LinkedIn. So I think that’s the best place you will find have what we spoke about in terms of life, in terms of business, in terms of coaching available on the Simply Coach page on LinkedIn, or on my personal page on LinkedIn.

Amol Ghemud
That’s helpful. Thank you very much for sharing your insights, and helping the business entrepreneurs and business owners out there. Thank you very much for your time.

Ram
Thank you Amol. Thank you for having me on this podcast. I really appreciate your questions. Onpoint they helped me reflect. I hope it was valuable for people out there who are starting up their journeys or anywhere in their journey. As a matter of fact.

Amol Ghemud
I agree. Thank you Ram.

Ram
Thank you.