I’ve recently been inspired by stoicism and my reading lists and podcasts playlist seemed to be brimming (ironic for a stoic) with advocacy of simple living.

A STORY OF RESILIENCE AND AGILITY 17th September 2021, Economic Times Leaders of Tomorrow Conclave. The announcements for the category of services are announced. Hearing the candidates nominated, me and my colleagues see our grip on that award loosening with
every competitor’s credentials being announced. We’re at a third of the turnover and in some cases a tenth as compared to the other nominees. Our profitability numbers dwarf in comparison tosome of the giants in our category. (Best MSME Services) The moment arrives, the winners,announced by one of the most prominent thought leaders in our country, the Chie Economic Advisor to the Government of India, Mr. Sanjeev Sanyal. To everyone’s surprise, ours the most, the name announced is HotFut Sports. We were dumbstruck, and the only question I had
for Mr Sanyal on stage was, WHY? His answer – We are looking for the leaders of TOMORROW. Not the cash cows of today.
What makes the future leader? A future full of uncertainty and ever-changin technological disruptions. A Future where existing business and industry standards are decimated overnight by, for example, AI and machine learning, automation and robotics. To his mind, the answer was defined by two words – Resilience andAgility.
Resilience – in the face of uncertainty, of rising competition both from within the industry and from across industries. A company whose foundations are strong enough to weather the storm and roughpatches, to find a way to survive when everything around them seems to be
going against them. And Agility. – The ability to be flexible as an organization. To adapt to industry changes, tech trends or whatever major disruption heads your way. To be able to pivot, entire business models, that too multiple times if need be.
To find a way to align or compete with the disruption on hand and be flexible enough to make sweeping changes to the way you conduct your affairs to align to the new norms. So apparently, we had an abundance of both resilience and agility. But how did we get there?
In all honesty, mostly by accident. But reflecting on these accidents gives us great insight into how to be prepared to
be a company for the future. Upon reflection, we identified that we had 5 years of terrible luck combined perilously, with short-sighted, hasty decisions on investments made for our expansion. Market conditions had changed with low entry barriers in our business moving us down the ladder from pioneers with an innovative product, to one of 350 new companies that established on our model within 3 years. We ventured into allied business and expanded both horizontally and geographically,  without possessing the management prowess or execution bandwidth to do so. This was followed by a 2-year COVID that decimated our industry specifically. All these factors led to a
plunging bottom line and a P&L that was in the red for 4 straight years and plunging. Resilience -We got out, by taking some really harsh decisions. As owners, we had to sacrifice any and all salaries or perks for ourselves.

We had to shutter bleeding projects and locations no matter the social or emotional repercussions. Leading to some long and old friendships being soured in the process. We had to renegotiate banking terms, re-mortgage assets, and sometimes even personal. We had to incur the heat and flak from creditors whom we were unable to pay and grudgingly work out payment schedules with folded hands. But no matter how hard and insurmountable the odds, we never lost our confidence or optimism in our ability to make it out and survive. This chapter of our lives was ugly, to say the least. How
did we build this resilience?
A) Belief – in our Philosophy and our purpose.
B) Desperation – We had put everything we had into this. Calling it quits was just not an option. I was personally financially highly exposed. All my personal networks and reputation were invested into it. There was no option BUT to keep bailing out the water.
Lesson – Be FULLY vested in what you do.
If you leave an easy way out, a back passage exit. You WILL take it. I know I would have. In the words of Charles Bukowski –
Find what you love and let it kill you. For all things WILL kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.
c) Responsibility – Having a team that took pay cuts with us. Faced head-on with the rough creditor calls, the customer complaints, and the downgrade in lifestyle. Without us ever asking them to.
They never lost faith in us. We owed it to them.
Lesson – Build a culture of loyalty and responsibility at the core of your organisation.
There are several ways to do it. The one that worked for us was radical transparency and a democratic approach to decision-making. Authority is earned in our organization by demonstrated energy and outcomes, constantly.
This was our story of resilience. Agility – I remember distinctly a board meeting, at one of our lowest points, where I was given the task of making – the
company grow aggressively, without capital
investments and while being risk averse. I gawked at the time at my fellow board members at the sheer audacity to suggest such a ludicrous proposition. I believe my response (as per the officially recorded Minutes of the Board meeting)
was “and we can throw in the Taj Mahal,
since we’re only dreaming”.
Through this period, we did change our model. Not once but several times. We pivoted from an infrastructure dependant Pay and Play product-driven company to a services-driven consulting, academyand events management company. We reduced our dependence on Pay and play (which is highly price sensitive and highly volatile) from 90% to 30% within 3 years.
We pivoted from a capital-intensive model to a Capex-free model whereas a policy we do not invest in capital infrastructure, but use our knowledge and capability to execute operate and deliver ROIs for large developers, institutions and
government bodies. We pivoted from high-risk fixed Opex contracts to moreamiable revenue share models thereby deleveraging our risks. We demonstrated resilience in the face of insurmountable odds and agility time and again to adapt as the market shifted.
How did we do this? How did we build strength and fighting spirit as a company?
How did we create such a flexible system that the company and the people in it, could change, adapt and evolve faster than others?
Our secret – we have pinpointed it down to – Our culture. We staggered and stumbled our way into our culture. However, the philosophy that guides it was always there as a constan baseline in our purpose and our motto. Resistance builds character. Driven constantly by our philosophy of resistance-building character, we kept the belief that this too shall pass and we will emerge stronger wiser and better prepared for the future.
Lesson – Have a strong purpose. One that you truly believe in. Not a fancy-sounding tagline on a wall.

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