Integrity: A Positive Model to Solve Problems

“ca. 2004, while most of our prospective clients are in the pre-sales stage, my brother was becoming impatient about the nature of our business. The sales conversion process was really long. A typical cycle takes 3-6 months. Because of that, our team was already shaking. I got frustrated, we all are.

One of our few and critical programmers, on the other hand, was changing career. He was destined to take over their family business in Lucena. A mom and pop but famous auto-supply retail shop. During his last days in the company, he enrolled at Don Bosco for a mechanical course. Then suddenly, his dad died from a sporadic disease. That forced him to resign early. Then he left.

Dann and I have decided to dissolve the company. We agreed to talk to our uncle Manny about our departure. The night before our mtg, for some reason, I took a book from the office shelf that had been sitting there for years, it was a book given to us by Manny. The title of the book was Built to Last by Jim Collins. I started reading when I got home. I read overnight for hours. I knew my purpose. I knew I have to be resilient. I knew that more than profits, the company has to do a mission.

Next morning, we sat down at Starbucks near the office. The awkwardness was galling, making me fidget. Dann had no idea that I won’t be leaving the company. I cleared my throat and said, “I am staying.” He was disappointed to know that I changed my mind. It was the first time I felt independence from under his wing. I took that courage to stand alone and try to turn things by myself.

I went to the office right after the meeting. It was gloomy. I knew I had to take over Dann’s engagements with the prospective clients, Unionbank and its clients, Summersault Outsourcing to name a few. I knew I had to do presentations with corporate executives. Just by the thought of it was so nerve-racking.

I sat down and gaze around the office thinking about the weight on my shoulders. But deep inside, it was fulfilling. I survived.”

Integrity, as defined, is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. It presents as a positive model within morality and legality. When a person is faced by problems, integrity is a tool for solutions, increased performance and quality of life. Though commonly ignored, I firmly believe of its significant role in productivity and performance.

Here are practical ways to exercise integrity in solving problems:

  1. Determine your core values. We all see this in offices and corporations but do you know what’s this for? These core values guide organizations in decision making. When faced by circumstances where we have to choose between path A or path B, one of the criteria for the decision is, it is aligned with our core values?
  2. Keep your word. Many of us can relate to when friends or colleagues who commit to call back, reply back, promising this and that but always fail to deliver. It has become an acceptable norm for many of us. Please don’t say yes if you wanna say no because if you do, then expect that the solution to the problem you agreed upon will not happen.
  3. Keep an open mind. Listening to and respecting the opinions of others is one of the keys to problem-solving. A leader will never know everything. Don’t assume that you know everything especially when solving problems. It is essential to gather thoughts of the people around you and analyze what they have to say.
  4. Do the basics. Solving the problem by doing the unethical and illegal is a big NO.

In my story above, I came up with the decision of continuing the company because I kept my word to the stakeholders, partners, and customers. I solved the problem in sales by determining my mission, which is to help them solve their business process problems through software automation.

Solving Problems By Entrepreneurial Thinking

Our team of about 25 people is mostly sitting at the conference table. Some are standing up while their smiles fade about the agenda I am about to discuss. It was a Friday, March 30, 2007, about 6 p.m. It is a payroll day, and I am announcing that I am giving them all up together with the office and all company expenses because the cash flow cannot justify them anymore.

I went home, and inside my bedroom, I leave it dark, I lean against the wall and put my head in my hands. What should I do? I sink to the ground, and I want to make myself as small as possible.

I have never been in this kind of situation. My co-founders and all the staff were all gone. Several clients, a couple of desktop computers and my coding skills were left. Get it together, Dennis.

What is the principle behind entrepreneurial thinking? I read research written by Dr. Saras Saravathy at the University of Washington entitled “What Makes Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurial?” In 1997, she traveled across 17 states in the United States over several months, and she met with 30 founders of companies, ranging in value from $200 million to $6.5 billion and spanning a variety of industries including steel, railroad, teddy bears, semiconductors and biotech.

She coined the term “effectual reasoning” and “causal reasoning.”

“In general, In MBA programs, students are taught causal in every functional area of business. Causal rationality is the traditional approach where you predetermine goals and a given set of means, and then identify the optimal, fastest, cheapest, alternative to achieve the goal. This is also synonymous with strategic thinking.

Effectual reasoning, however, does not begin with a specific goal. Instead with a given set of means and allows goals to emerge contingently over time from the varied imagination, diverse aspirations of the entrepreneur and the people they interact with.”

Causal thinkers are like generals while effectual thinkers are the explorers, setting out on voyages into uncharted waters.

To summarize her study, entrepreneurs are entrepreneurial, as differentiated from managerial or strategic, because they think effectually; they believe in yet-to-be-made future that can substantially be shaped by human action; they realize that to the extent that this human action can control the future. It is important to point out, though, that the same person can use both causal and effectual reasoning at different times depending on what the circumstances call for. In fact, the best entrepreneurs are capable of both.

In my story above, unconsciously, using the principle of effectual reasoning, I have to work with readily available resources. I began with some questions like who am I, what are my traits and abilities, what do I know and whom do I know.

Instead of revalidating our products by doing market research and business planning, I started by setting up a workstation at home while working on projects by myself. When I realized I needed extra hands, I sourced for interns from several universities and asked one of my existing customers who is also a good friend/mentor to accommodate me in his office in Makati. I used desktops from the old office and hired the interns. By word of mouth, I started booking new customers again, got a new office and hired regular employees and then eventually changing our name to Hilsoft, Inc by 2012.

In summary, in relation to my experience and the study above, below are some keys to solve problems by entrepreneurial thinking:

  1. Solve problems using existing resources and means.
  2. Execute solutions focusing on affordable loss and not on expected return. It means for example not to exert too much effort on market research and to choose the target market, but instead do the actual selling and adjust products accordingly.
  3. Solve problems by trial and error, leverage on contingencies and be open to surprises.
  4. Take advantage of opportunities while solving problems through human action.

As I say all the time, we can solve anything as long as we do not tolerate problems. By adding this concept, I wish that each of us can find what we are looking for.

The Innovative Employee

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Being an innovative employee is a little tricky. It depends on your overall career objective. Are you working for your employer because you love what you do? Or are you working because you want to help your family, help customers, save for the future or gain experience?

When I was working for a Japanese company back in the day, I used to play around with tools to make our product, a banking application, useable. My motivation was the self-gratification of solving real-life programming challenges. I was competitive and enjoy the experience of finishing early on my commitment. Until I left the company and worked for my own.

So the innovation that I had done was to find ways to estimate tasks creatively, execute coding with finesse and release early. I break tasks into 2-hour chunks, use a notepad to log them thru our intranet time accounting app.

As the youngest member of the 12-man team, I love the attention I get when I solve challenging problems by myself.

Here’s my take on how to be an innovative employee and routines that will get you on your way to peak performance:

Proper Mindset

Having a positive mindset and attitude is the top most important thing that you should do. Stay away from work gossip and toxic people who feed you nothing but negativity & complaints.  Establish a productive routine from making your bed by the time you wake up, visualization, exercise, and focus.

Implement the latest technology and methodology.

Look up the technique called “Pomodoro”. It’s about breaking your tasks into 25-minute chunks and 5-minute break. It’s one of the trending methodologies these days. With this, plus an app such as TickTick can be an innovative tool for productivity.

Balance stress and rest.

Did you know that the most important part of toning your body is rest? After breaking your muscles during a workout, rest is the part where it builds back the muscles that you teared up. It’s no different with work, rest is where you sometimes achieve the eureka moment and get solutions to your problems. It allows your brain to step out of the linear thought process. It is where your subconscious mind kicks-in.

Do not multi-task.

Compartmentalize your tasks into categories and block your time for each category. Turn off your phone during time-blocking.

Concretize your purpose.

Is it really about just gaining experience or just getting your salary every 15th and 30th? Align your purpose with the company’s purpose to get motivated and contribute to society.

Set your own scorecard and engage for impact.

Try to gamify your scores. When I heard the term “gamify” for the first time, I couldn’t help but be curious and be excited about it. Being creative on your targets and your KPIs make it more exciting and fun to work with.

Engaging for impact means, just adequate follow through and you’re working harmoniously with your team especially when your tasks are inter-linked with each other.

There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing progress, whether it is about your own growth, the company’s, your team or your customer’s.  And being an innovative member of your team gives you true pleasure at work and in life.

Becoming A Hilsoft Employee: Do You Have It Takes?

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This is a letter to my team. It’s the first time I’m going to talk about this topic. I am trying to avoid the word “employee” and use another word because I see everyone as a member of the Hilsoft family.  I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

When I started this business 17 years ago, I was so pumped up with the idea that I am going to have my own business and start creating something.  I was in my early 20s and had a huge drive to develop something.  

Looking back, I was able to gradually build the company’s DNA.  Which is to continuously be creative and innovative in all aspects of being and working in Hilsoft.  I radiated that mindset and attitude even outside of work.

The great Tony Robbins said, “Progress equals happiness” and the only way to have progress is thru innovation and creativity.

I’d like to request members of my Hilsoft family to step back and ask yourself the following questions: Why did you choose a career in this industry? Why did you choose to work at Hilsoft over any other company? These “whys” will give you the criteria in making the right choices at work, or even in life in general.

I am not writing this because we are in chaos.  I am writing this to serve as a guide and a reminder that we can all be the best we can be when we have the proper mindset and attitude.

So what does it take to be working at Hilsoft in order for us to deliver our promise to our customers?  I am well aware that I cannot do it on my own that is why I am reaching out to you to take time to read this.

1. Work with a sense of purpose.  Here are the company’s purpose and vision.

“To constantly find ways to innovate in all aspects of delivering the best software product and service using cutting-edge technologies and the best software development methodology that will make every user look forward to more innovative products from us.”

“To be the leading software innovator in the Philippines and in Asia in the next five years. We want to be known as the brand that aims to improve people’s lives through automation and help the programmer community release their inner awesomeness.”

Work in alignment with our company’s mission.  

If you’re a software implementor, QA or developer, the main purpose of why you work on any given task is to amaze our clients; that our product is useful to them and our product gives value to their work through automation.  It is important that you understand their need, that you understand each task in detail, and that you deliver them with utmost quality at a timely manner.

If you’re in sales or marketing at Hilsoft, the purpose why we offer and sell our products is because we want to solve their problems in their business processes.  The software we offer to them will be their edge over their competitors.  Imagine their happy faces when we are able to deliver! It is so gratifying.

If you’re in HR, finance or admin, you are the support system of our team and our efforts to support the team is very important in product delivery.  You are the motivator and the culture builder of our team.

2. Re-assess your values and align it with Hilsoft’s.

“Consistent progress with excellence and balance, integrity, resilience, creativity, and competence are our guideposts to success. We live and breathe these values, and we keep it close to our hearts.”

Try to step back and think it over while on your bed or having coffee: What are your values?  Your values dictate your attitude and behavior.  I believe you are mature enough to know what is right from wrong.  With good habits and discipline, we’ll be able to achieve our purpose if all possess these values and align it with Hilsoft’s.  

I am appealing to each and every one of you, without comparing notes with your seatmate, identify your values. Align it with the company’s.

3. Be proactive.  If you have no idea on what you’re dealing with, ask and be assertive.  If someone sent you a message, whether it came from a client or a colleague, have the respect to acknowledge it immediately and follow it through. Do not drop the ball.

If you feel our current process is not working, reach out to the management.  If you do not understand your task, do not commit and ask questions. Never commit to a task that you don’t understand.  Do not sign on a job order if there are unanswered questions or if it is not clear to anyone.  You have all the right not to accept a task that you are not capable of doing.  Speak up, justify, and communicate with your supervisors or team leads openly.  

To the leaders, please practice democracy, not too tight and not too loose.  Please remember that leaders are also servants, not the other way around.  If your team needs your help, attend to them with sincere care and guidance.

Lastly, suggest products, features, and innovative ideas.  You all know that we have an open door policy. 

4. Keep an open mind, take care of yourself and your well-being.  For me, working at Hilsoft is a way of life.  Troubleshooting all company issues is my way of life.  They say that being a CEO is the loneliest job in the world, but I know that with your help, I will never be lonely.  

I listen to your needs and I need your open mind when we can’t agree or give in to all your wishes and demands.  I want to let you know that I decide based on the benefit of the majority.  I know I am not perfect, I make mistakes, too, but I am trying my best to solve each and every issue you have. 

On top of work, you can only help me if you take care of yourself.  Take care of your health.  Make exercise and diet as a way of life. Read and meditate.  Be mindful of your relationships with your significant other, your kids, your parents or siblings.  

I discourage overtime, especially working overnight. Sleep well.

5. Last but not the least, be creative and innovative.  This is our DNA.  Exert efforts to be creative in everything that you do from your morning habits when you wake up, to eating habits, to work habits, etc.  Be on top of the latest technologies.  Like now, we hear artificial intelligence and blockchain every time.  Spend some time to learn them and see how it can improve our product and serve our purpose.  

Be creative in doing your tasks.  Suggest tools to automate some of your codes, testing and some of the processes.  Let’s not stop progressing and innovating.

Some of you may ask, “What’s in it for me?” More than the rewards, incentives and stock options that the company is more than willing to give, you will find contentment in being part of a family that is one with you in purpose. You will find happiness in the progress and growth that we will achieve together along the way.

I repeat, Hilsoft is my family.  We are all family and what we do should be our way of life.  Let’s be vigilant and not tolerant of the problems we see.  Attend to the problems and attend to them fast.  I don’t want to be lonely, guys. I need you to help me out because I can’t do it all by myself.  Let’s own our tasks, let’s own our projects, let’s own the company.  

Let me take a moment and give thanks to every one of you for being part of Hilsoft.  I value your needs first, then the customers’, the shareholders’, and then myself.

Now, after all is said and done, do you have what it takes?

5 Innovative Ideas to Boost Sales

innovativeideastoboostsalesBeing in sales in the past decade with Hilsoft has been great! I’ve seen and observed customer problems vividly.

But I figured it is not enough. Salespeople have to show a unique impression with a customer. They have to have an obvious authentic presence.

Let’s explore more options and innovative ideas I can think of to boost sales in your organization.

1. Hire a specific personality. A good recruitment process in general is essential in choosing the right person. If you’re a startup, generating revenue is the first priority hence hiring a good salesperson other than yourself is a must.

But how does one hire the best candidate? You have to define a specific personality who will represent sales.

In our case, since we are selling our own software solutions, the candidate must possess a strong background in software development and business process. A young executive, enthusiastic about technology and innovation.  Or it can probably be a typical geek like myself who can answer any technical question the customer can throw.

2. Implement Pareto (80/20). First step is to group prospects in the pipeline. In our case, we group them depending on the percentage of chance to close the deal. We define the percentage with the ff criteria sample:

a. Have they seen the product?

b. Do they need it asap?

c. Is the owner or the top decision maker involved?

d. Do they have a copy of the proposal/contract?

e. Total project cost.

Based on the above, 80% of our efforts are focused on 20% of the highest business potential, immediate and highest chance to close.

2. Focus on Closing Techniques. There are a lot of closing techniques in sales but I would recommend the ff:

a. Push for a “price” meeting. We normally set a mtg with the decision maker to discuss the proposal. We tell them that we will bring a laptop so we can modify the proposal during the meeting and sign on it.

b. Push for a “comparative” meeting. Suggest to meet them to discuss competitive advantages over other vendors.

c. Offer a promo/discount with deadline. Promo can be 50% discount with other products, trip abroad for two, free hotel accommodation with breakfast and lunch buffet.

3. Brand recall. Don’t leave a meeting without a leave-behind item. It can be a penholder, a paper weight or anything that they will use on top of their workstations.

Another way is to always add the business card emails to your company’s product newsletters.

4. Referral Program. Implement a referral program. In our case, we offer customers incentives if they give a referral.

5. Treat the vendor selection team. There are some decision makers who are loyal to their subordinates.  Treating them for lunch will definitely give positive impact with the deal.