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7 Questions with Anil Menon
7 Questions with Anil Menon
Name: Anil Menon
Current title: Chief Executive Officer
Current organisation: CMS Computers Limited
A seasoned executive who has led business transformations, Anil has a proven track record for developing and implementing strategies for profitable growth and increasing shareholder value in the technology sector. Solving complex business problems; building cultures that embrace inclusion, continuous learning and innovation is what drives me as a professional. Deep appreciation and expertise of Service delivery, Sales, Business Development, Partner Sales, Cash Flows, Ecosystems and People Leadership garnered through Entrepreneurial and Industry experience has helped build Software, Services and Systems Integration businesses across industries.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
Cash Flows are a huge challenge. Banks are happy running after you when you do not need them. But when cash flows get sticky, they put hurdles in your path delaying recovery.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I'm the CEO a Medium-sized company, not really a classical SME- though we grew from there. Hired from outside to help in the transformation of the company. My experience across large Enterprises and having set up and run a start-up gives me unique insights. On one side you have daily challenges and on the other, you learn how to build scale. These two are a continuum and very few organisations can cross that chasm.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I look at this as a 24x7 job, largely spend on client issues, addressing client delivery concerns, people and competence, cash flows. The fun is in doing it all over again every day where you are on a 30,000 feet strategy one minute and the very next digging deep into a sticky client resolution which requires granular attention. In between, you throw in some reading and time with family. The best part of this is that your mind is always engaged - very often 16-18 hours a day leaving no time for cobwebs.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Trust your people and invest in them. Across organisations, I have found that most people want to do good and grow if only leaders choose to listen and are willing to invest in them.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are frankly several. However, one book I would definitely recommend is "The hard thing about hard things" by Ben Horowitz. Most management books are not easy reading and either stay at a very high level or are pedantic. Mr. Horowitz is a true practitioner. He speaks about the real hard things running a business. It is not about setting a big hairy, audacious goal; but about several hard things, you face daily. Questions where there are no clear answers and your conviction, integrity, loyalty and several other elements fuse together in a problem. Having faced most of such issues several times a week, I could relate to the book and Ben's approach - he got few rights, few wrong - gave an excellent perspective.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
Very tough ask. You have cost issues on one side and the need to transform on the other. The fundamentals remain same - bench planning, Top talent, career planning, job rotation, aspirations, performance, EQ. A judicious mix of internal growth and infusion from outside is the best way to handle this. Big shifts need people with ambition, hunger for growth, fire in the belly. Bold moves are required to shift orbits which very often calls for hiring talent from outside. However, hiring right, firing even faster is the only way you can build a capable leadership team.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
Life in a SME is a story a day. Let me connect this up with some of the earlier questions on management books, leadership. A huge issue SME's face is of entitlement among people who stay long in the company, behave as though they know everything, have tried everything possible and obstinate about change. You do not want to lose such employees, yet you want them to support and participate in the change process. I have encountered this few times and resolving such issues is nerve-wracking and takes a lot of time. It calls for deft handling since you do not want to push such well-meaning folks off the ledge. I have had to invest substantial time in such situations. Mostly lead to happy endings though with few more grey hairs and ulcers.