Saturday, November 28, 2015

Don't kill yourself!

You’ll get yourself killed if you operate without guards—in sports & in business.

Some of the people we knew sadly killed themselves. As a mark of respect, we choose to attribute their deaths to a cliché “in the line of duty”. The fact is, neither the person dying, nor we the ones on the sidelines, can say that we liked the part where somebody died.

Yet, the fact remains that people die in business. An even painful reality is that more casualties are in the making as you breeze through this article.

And unless you & I use guards, we the business-people, are headed towards that fate too. Possibly, even worse. May Allah guard us! Ameen.

My research to-date shows that having, & mastering, the art of the below-mentioned skills can help harness the risks associated with business:

1.     Ability to multi-task
2.     Ability to spank the bums that need the thrashing
3.     Ability to stay cash positive
4.     Ability to handle the stress of not being an MNG (Mr. Nice Guy)

Let me warn you: the stuff you are going to read now is not easy to-do if you’re the reckless kind, and totally irrelevant if you’re not a risk-taker. Feel free to abort now, & move on to better things in life than trying to lend ears to my attempt to sound like the sensible genius that I am not. J

Guard # 1: Ability to Multi-Task

Today is November 29, 2015.

A year (plus 2 days) ago, Sydney’s pitch witnessed the making of the latest casualty in cricket. The hash tag #RIP Phil Hughes summed up the horror caused on live TV.

Was Phil reckless? No.
Did he lack skills? Of course not!
Was he wearing guards? Yes, and in hindsight, no.

His guard, the best in terms of known-technology & safety requirements was adequate until Sean Abbott’s bouncer hit Phil Hughes in the freakish manner that it did. The objective is not to delve into the technical details of cricket, but to try and let you understand that if your guard isn’t good enough for the challenge you are confronted with, you are toying with death.

I can bet my last dollar on the fact that Phil Hughes must have been hit on the head, and other parts of his athletic body, numerous times but it was that particular instance where he missed the ball & the latter missed the guard he was wearing, and that 5.5 ounce of leathered-beauty became the bullet that took his life.

One of the bullets that will kill you instantly is breaking of a single commitment.

Yes, you heard it correct. One single instance of breaking a commitment shall take your business-life. Yes, you will suck the life out of your business by turning up for a meeting one minute late, or by not making the call that you had committed to make.


1.     Is anyone (personal or professional) complaining that you have been unable to do something you had committed to do?
2.     Is anyone (personal life or professional) complaining that you were unable to be somewhere on time?

If the answer to any of the above 2 is a yes, then I’d suggest you stop right away, and get this guard for your business-body. Do not face a single delivery (I’m using cricket jargon) without 1st having this guard on the body.  

80% of all business demises can be attributed to lack of use of this guard. So irrespective of how good or bad, new or experienced you are, wealthy or struggling businessman you are, make sure you have this guard.

Guard # 2: Ability to spank the bums that need the thrashing (& show care where needed)

My wise ex-boss used to say: Every problem has 2 legs.

Many of us know this too. Many of us have even heard of people screwing people. Apnay hee giratay hain nashaiman pai bijliyaan! Yet many of us fail to guard ourselves against the evils of the legs around us.

It is almost funny to hear people say: (I failed because) Allah kee marzee nahi thee.

Now, I am not trying to be blasphemous by saying people fail because of some non-Divine cause. It is a requirement of Muslim faith to attribute all success and failure to Allah alone. What I am trying to establish is that as part of an exercise of dissection of failure, (when we will try to get a hang of the Cause & Effect of the failure), you would almost always be able to assign faces to the cause of your failure.

Every problem has 2 legs, right? Then that body with 2 legs certainly has a face on the top.

Your ability to identify who’s at fault and then acting with transactional correctness to fix the fault would inshaAllah enable you to hit success. You, however, would never be able to chart a course towards success without developing this capability to ascertain whether the failure was:

1.     Due to lack of means,
2.     Due to lack of ability,
3.     Due to your own lack of administering the correct accountability

You pick one side of the stick; you automatically pick the other too. The moment you develop this capability to spank those who deserve spanking, you need to make sure you have the other ability in place too: the ability to show care where needed.

Every problem has 2 legs, right? So does every success.

Make sure you do not take success for granted. Make sure you have the humility and correctness of intent to zero in on the 2 legs that caused the success. Then make sure you either recognize them or reward them based on your assessment of the situation.

Reality Check:

1.     In the event of a failure, were you able to ascertain whose fault it was?
2.     Were you able to assess whether the cause of failure was caused by lack of means?
a.     Are you aware of how many means are needed? (Tools, resources, standard, information, authority &/or leader’s time)
b.     Are you aware of how each of these means is provided?
c.      If it was caused by lack of means, did you have the humility to assign the blame to yourself rather than the team member?
3.     If the issue was not caused by lack of means, were you able to assess whether the person failed due to lack of ability (Knowledge of How & Why)?
a.     If it was caused by lack of ability, did you have the humility to assign the blame to yourself rather than the team member?
b.     Are you aware of how to coach someone who needs information regarding “HOW” side of ability?
c.      Are you aware of how to mentor someone who needs information regarding “WHY” side of ability?
4.     If the issue was not caused by lack of means or ability, were you able to choose correctly from the choices available with regards to accountability?
a.     Are you aware of when, where & whom to train?
b.     Are you aware of when, where & whom to recognize or reward?
c.      Are you aware of when, where & whom to censure or punish?

My friend, if the answer to any of the above queries is no (or maybe/ I think so), then my advice to you would be stop again. If stopping is an issue, then at least realize that you are seriously handicapped and the above guard is needed for you to thrive as a businessperson.
Guard # 3: Ability to stay cash positive (and not just being P & L positive, on-paper)

My eldest daughter asked me what I do in office. It took me 45 days to come up with an answer. I was almost embarrassed to tell her that all I do is talk, talk and talk (aka meetings) J

Eventually I marshaled strength and told her the truth. All I do is meet people.

So I get to meet these industry experts. Almost everyone I meet thinks and believes that his or her area of specialization is the best part of the whole, wide world, and that the only thing that they should be concerned about is “their area”. So they choose to be oblivious about “other departments”, especially finance.

Another common characteristic is that they are ultra scared to lose their current jobs. So they are worried about their finances, but choose naively not to learn about finance.

I sometime try to reach into these people’s minds and try to get them to see what’s happening to them:

1.     That they are scared to lose their jobs because they don’t know how to “create cash” if, God forbid, the income stream stops
2.     They don’t know how to create cash because they have actively chosen not to learn or acquaint themselves with the science of cash
3.     That they would never get themselves to learn the science and art of making cash because of the affair they are having with their career

So this resolve to not learn the science and art of cash creation has to be broken, otherwise people cannot succeed in business. We see countless cases where people leave high paying jobs to start their businesses, only to fail, and then be back at the doors of their original company begging them to let them have their jobs back.

Those who are not in control of their cash-flow make others, who are in control, rich.

The best part is that learning how to make cash is easy, but it requires certain skills and one needs to invest time into acquiring these skills. It would start with the humility to accept that we don’t know and that we need to be under an apprenticeship of a finance expert, or a cash-creation master so that we can learn the basics & some tricks of the trade

Reality Check:
1.     Are you aware of what other departments do, and how the people in those departments go about doing their work?
2.     If you are asked to move into that department and earn your income from that department, would you be able to get that job?
3.     Are you aware of the sources, amounts & nature of your incomes? Are you maintaining a record of these incomes?
4.     Are you aware of the amounts and kinds of expenses you incur? Are you maintaining a record of these expenses?

If the answer to the above is no, then you need to put your name on the list of endangered species. You are living in a fool’s paradise, and you are your own worst enemy. Your family thinks you are their savior, but the reality is, you are only as good as the chances you have been exposed to. The moment those opportunities are taken away from you, you would find yourself distraught and unable to chart your own future course.

You are probably the lazy type who generally thinks money is not important, or are disillusioned by this mantra that if I do my daily work well, money would take care of itself.

Buddy, you need to wake up! And you need to act fast to convert the answers to questions mentioned above into a yes.

Guard # 4: Ability to handle the stress of not being an MNG (Mr. Nice Guy)

This section is for those who have graduated in the above 3 areas. If the answer to the above 3 is yes, then let’s meet up. Since all I do is talk, talk and talk, it is best we talk about this over a cup of coffee. J

In the end, I’d like to thank you for going through the above paragraphs. I hope it was of help in your quest to ascertain your readiness for business. I’d love to hear from you and take your comments/ queries. Just remember that my desire is to force people to wake up, realize the nature of the beast they are up against, and prepare themselves in advance before the unwanted happens to them.

People say doing business is risky. I couldn’t disagree more with them.  

Doing business without guards is riskier!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Light at the end of the tunnel.......

June 14, 2015

It has been 44 days since I jumped off the bandwagon. Now I work for myself and earn my bread through my own pursuits.

I would be wrong to say that it has been easy. It's been everything but easy. Nervousness seems to the fabric this entrepreneurial cloth is made up from. I'm told every business owner feels nervous like I am feeling now so I'd like to believe I am safe.

'Feeling safe' and having clarity about the end of the journey is a feature that embodies all our actions as a person in the salaried-income category. It is the over-arching tendency to feel safe that forces us to prefer a job over a business. We want to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel even before we choose to step into that tunnel. It is because of this inability to trust that the tunnel will inshaAllah open up as we move along that we don't dare to become business owners.

In business, nothing is clear. But not everything is unclear too.

There is just enough clarity for us to keep moving at our pace, and then as we step forward, the path becomes clearer progressively. But I'd doubt if there'd ever be complete visibility..............

So, in view of this, I too move on. One step at a time. Slowly, carefully, cautiously but surely, firmly and with a feeling of assurance that this tunnel would eventually open up to a beautiful estate. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A No-Tears Approach to Life (By Keeping Soap Away From The Naked Eye)

It hurts me see people cry.

The tears flowing down their cheeks, & eyes red due to the strain, makes me wonder what I can do to help prevent the agony. What distresses me even more is the knowledge that this pain of tearful eyes is self-inflicted, & that applying soap to ones eyes would most certainly (& naturally) cause tears to flow……….

It gets more interesting when you see them go on & on & on & on & onnnnnnnnnnnn about the pain, the stress & the fact that they wished they didn’t have to cry. Guess what folks; you needn’t apply soap to your eyes in the 1st place. Try telling this to my tearful friends and they’d snap back at you:

“Ahsan, you think I don’t know that? Stop patronizing me!”

So, in essence what we are saying is we know that applying soap to the naked eye hurts, it has hurt the 1st time you did it, it hurt the 2nd, the 3rd & the 4th time, & yet you have allowed the slippery criminal to go back to offence this time, and when I tell you it is avoidable & that there is no reason why you should be in this agony, you feel I am at fault in telling you the obvious?

Hmmm, right. Me & my big mouth!

Losing cash, borrowing cash, making losses, not controlling expenses are some of the leading international brands of soap. Apply any to your eyes and you can trust the latter to cringe.

Don’t believe me? Try asking your best buddy for $700 and then treat yourself with the beauty of a sleek iPhone 6. Or for that matter, borrow $50 and buy a not-to-be-shown phone or ice creams, for all I care. Wait till the deadline when the loan becomes due for payment, and tell your friend you won’t, can’t or don’t want to pay. In fact, tell her you need a little more to get back the initial amount she had lent.

I’d love to know what happens. You may email me, call me, Whatsapp me or engage me on Skype. Something tells me I know the answer already.  And you know what, my friend, I think even you know that right now.

So my question is, why is it that you mismanage CASH and make decisions that ensure someone is always there at the door, or on the couch, demanding you to pay her? The answer is in the word “self-restraint”, or the lack of it. If you know that you wouldn’t be able to pay on time, or pay at all, just don’t borrow. If you are so freaking good that you would be able to pay in X moments from now, why doesn’t Superman wait those X moments, save that much and buy when cash is in hand? The creative bull**** I get to hear as a response to that is called “Self-Belief” & if you’d want to get technical & throw that Wall Street crap on me, it is called “Leveraging”.

Folks, choose whatever science, philosophy & terms to justify your actions but that fact remains the same. If you want a no-tears life, try following the simple words of ultimate wisdom:

“Dainay wala haat lainay walay sai behtar hai”.  (The hand that gives is better than the one that takes).

Hope you’d choose sensibly if you haven’t already & you’d help your friends too if they are in tears. Till next time, adios amigos!

Friday, May 2, 2014

What we can learn from some traits of 50 leaders (

  1. Saved the company without resorting to bankruptcy or bailouts
  2. Changed risk-averse, reality-denying, CYA (cover your ass) culture
  3. Hands-off style that gives managers wide leeway and incentivizes them like owners
  4. Three rules of success. The first? Surround yourself with good people. Over the years I’ve forgotten the other two.
  5. Highly demanding
  6. Never offer excuses or give less than maximum effort
  7. Exhorted employees to think big and work for their dreams.
  8. Someone who sees beyond existing constraints to imagine novel solutions to once intractable problems.
  9. Get players working in harmony
  10. Empower the players by sometimes stepping back
  11. Care more about players than to win
  12. Undertake multiple missions
  13. Ability to group employees into small, self managing teams that choose their own managers, compete for internal talent, and can earn big bonuses.
  14. A low-ego leader with big dreams
  15. Still pushing (and pushing)
  16. Understood that he was not just selling a product, he was creating an experience.
  17. He saw value of offering medical insurance to all employees, even part-timers, and pursuing environmental and social projects that inspire employees and attract customers.
  18. Thinking different
  19. Stood up to resistance
  20. Fierce and outspoken defender (of beliefs and values)
  21. Persuasive
  22. Sees each meet as a new chance to change things up
  23. We can do better!
  24. Aggressively expanded (through acquisitions)
  25. Maintaining reputation as one of the most sought-after employers
  26. Infectious optimism, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy
  27. Pursue a long impossibly audacious plan of consolidation—working with governments, powerful labor unions, and other constituencies to rewrite the rules of the game in tough times.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Tribute to the Mentors…..

I have had 2 solid years since I left Pizza Hut. Alhamdolillah!

I feel I need to thank all my mentors who stepped in and tamed me for I was an absolute mess. It wouldn't be possible for me to thank all but the ones who have had the most profound impact on my development were the following individuals:

1. My uncle, Mr. Meherally Mahmud:

1A. "Always have a back-up".

Wow! What a lesson! If only one could pay attention to this and spend time creating back-ups before the crisis hits you.

1B. "Even if you are asked to be a dispatcher, do it in a manner no one else can"

Job description doesn't matter. Pay scale doesn't matter. If one can instill this element in him or her, job security/ success etc would never be an issue.

1C. "Ahsan, you will have to weather the storm!"

Uncle, couldn't you give me an easier way out? ;) Best advice ever!

1D. "Stop comparing yourself to your ex-company"

A very recent advice that has changed the way I am approaching my current assignment.

2. My ex-boss, Richard Unsworth:

2A. "Every problem has 2 legs"

A simple diagnosis of alllllll our personal and professional problems.

2B. "Grab those ***** and jump in"

This line simply extended my shelf-life in retail business. There is no way one can succeed without the mindset of an Operator.

2C. "The 3 N's of fixing someone"

Richard, you need to consider writing a book on this. It is a beautiful and simple way of fixing sooooooooo many problems.

3. My last boss, Rasikh Ismail:

3A. "You're on holidays. Just rejuvenate"

He wouldn't take my calls or let me stay connected to work while I was at home. A difficult route but if done well, it can ensure such calmness in life.

3B. Have the ability to prevent work & personal stresses to overlap and affect each other.

4. My friend, my mentor, the late Babur Firoz Sahib:

4A. "Don't leave Pizza Hut. What you will learn here is something even Universities cannot teach"

During the period when my bottom was getting whipped for my casual, irresponsible behavior. Had I run away from PH in 2009, I would not have been able to get a grip on my internal weaknesses. A big thank you, Babur Sahib for guiding me back then.

4B. "Na jaanay kon duayon mai yaad rakhta hai, mai doobta hoon (aur) samundar uchaal daita hai"

Wah! Babur Sahib, you were one of a kind. :)

4C. A master negotiator thanks to his great ability to keep his emotions' buttons firm within his fingers.

Well, this is something I can probably achieve only with age. Still a long way to go.

A big thank you to these individuals and all the others who have been around me. Still a long way to go before I am able to achieve my vision. And yes, how can I forget Yameen Bhai, Suleman Bhai and Rehan Bhai for shaping my vision.

Alright, back to work now. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Need to Launch "Winning Food"

It was a sight that broke my heart.........

We were on the top floor of Defence Y Block Pizza Hut today afternoon, when my eyes got fixated at a sweet-looking girl. She was probably Hajrah's age, clad in a pink colored outfit. She stood next to the garbage tank while her mother rummaged through the smelly contents to find something useful.

I started thinking, what could this duo possibly get out of this commercial garbage bin? And then it hit me. Food!!!

Could you believe it? This is Defence Housing Authority--one of the upscale residential projects in Lahore. And not very far from where the girl's mother had her hands planted deep into the waste, maybe just 30 feeds on either side, were parked fancy cars like the Civics, the Mercedes and the Land Cruisers of the elites that lived in Defence. They bought fancy clothes from the Bareeze's, the Urban Cultures, the Stone Age shops; bought grocery from the Al-Fateh Departmental Store and spent ten of thousands while this family had to search for their a garbage bin!

Shame on us Pakistanis! Especially the well-to-do ones for thinking that our issues at work, our petty quarrels at home, and other problems in our lives are so grave that we can't even thank Allah for what we actually do have. It probably doesn't hit many of us that we too have a responsibility, not just of our families, but of those that are actually forced to search for a meal in the garbage bins.

Many of you would argue that it is difficult to discern the genuine needy ones from the fake ones. Well you have a point, and while you are busy pondering and arguing over that, what I am planning to do is to launch Winning Foods--a charity where we will go out with our 10 rupee note, our 100, 1000 or more and collect whatever we can, and do whatever we can to help some of the needy people to eat.

I am certain Allah would help me and you, if you choose to contribute. As a first step, we will create a bank account that we can collect funds in. People can just transfer or deposit in this account and we can distribute it by buying food. Or we could gather food that is generally discarded in the restaurants or at home. And then give it all ti the one(s) in need. In short, we will do something. InshaAllah!

The question is, will YOU? If the answer is yes, let me know and we shall work our way through this. Frankly, I don't where this road would lead to.....I just hope it would take us to Heaven one day.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Producing the Book "Winning: Why Some Professionals Are At The Top, While Others Are Languishing At The Bottom"

I am forming a team for research & production of book "Winning: Why Some Professionals Are At The Top, While Others are Languishing at the Bottom". Those interested in participating should send CVs to or send a private message on LinkedIn. Final selection would be based on scrutiny by the core group. (Note: The project team would comprise of winners with a track record of successes in their field. This project is and would remain philanthropic in nature, so do not apply if you are seeking an escape route from your existing project)