In this episode of The Balls Of Steel Show, you’ll get a bit of life-changing advice from two maestros who believe in working for a greater good. Our host Sarthak Varshney gets in a candid yet insightful conversation on the entrepreneurial mindset of two people which is beyond business. It is often believed that the motive of an entrepreneur is to making money, but Nikhil Juneja and Aditya Gupta the founders of Here and Now breaks the myth. In this conversation, Nikhil and Aditya will share their entrepreneurial journey about greater satisfaction than money- changing people’s lives. Let’s dive in to get a deeper understanding in their Dhandho Ni Soch.
WHAT BUSINESS ARE YOU RUNNING BECAUSE OF WHICH WE ARE GOING TO SAY THAT YOU’VE GOT BALLS OF STEEL?
The business that we are in is leadership transformation, can call this our vision as well. But, we also realized that leadership transformation can only happen when personal transformation happens. Therefore, we are working with many other organizations to develop their leadership.
This is our B2B model and B2C model is where we have individuals wherein, they are provided with life coaching. We believe that to become a good leader you first need to become a good human.
The major three things that we do are leadership transformation, team transformation and all employee engagement solution for organizations.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY TILL NOW BEEN? HOW TRANSFORMATIVE CAN ONE CALL IT?
My entrepreneurial journey has been a roller coaster. Talking about myself, I always had this dangerous question in my mind. Am I playing too small? And this question never let me in peace. I always thought about making a bigger impact. They say when you become a leader you become a topic of dinner table discussions. I thought how can I make an impact on these leaders. How can I transform normal people into leaders?
Secondly, my expectations from myself led me to think about me making a smaller impact. One fine day I made a mistake commonly done by over-excited people. I left my job without a plan.
I remember meeting Nikhil in his favourite place coincidentally on Valentine’s Day. This was not the Valentines neither I nor Nikhil was expecting (laughs). We met through a mutual friend. I had this conversation with our mutual friend with regard to the kick which was missing in work. I had worked in my family business, in an e-commerce platform but I always felt something was missing.
So, my friend introduced me to Nikhil because I wanted to see people becoming leaders and make a difference. We met and had a small chat, he told me about the work he was doing and his vision. I discussed my experiences with him and my future plans. I was totally inspired by his vision of a possible change that he wants to bring in the corporate life of individuals by making them leaders. At the same time, I thought this is something that I also want to do in the long term.
He asked me to come to the office and that’s how my entrepreneurial journey started off. Since then it’s been a roller coaster ride but has defined our personalities.
To add on to what Aditya said, he got inspired by my vision but somewhere I got inspired by him and this amazing energy that he has. He is equally crazy as I am so that inspired me as well.
ADITYA YOU LEFT YOUR FAMILY BUSINESS AND NIKHIL YOU LEFT YOUR JOB. SO, WHAT YOUR RESPECTIVE THOUGHT PROCESS AT THAT TIME?
Both of us come from a family business background. I’ve had my share of business experience, Nikhil had managed his family business, started his new business and managed a firm on his own. I would urge Nikhil to share a life-changing and eye-opening story to give us some perspective on how things began.
I also come from a family business background. It was a poultry farm so I had always planned on joining my family business without a second thought. I had always thought that we’ll expand to dairy products and so on. In short, my life was set.
There was this time when I was going for delivery to Alwar, Rajasthan. The driver and I were taking turns to drive, it was my driver’s turn and he slept by a chance while driving. We met with an accident, we were lying on the road, nobody helped us. We had to go to the doctor ourselves in very bad shape.
That particular accident was eye-opening. My family came to the place and I was transferred to a hospital in Delhi. I was on bed rest for three months. It was then I realized what am I doing with my life? In those three months, I opened to some new possibilities. Then I started pursuing a job with a friend. Meanwhile, my father asked me when will come back to where you belong?
What played for me was that business mindset because I had seen my dad. In whatever I did, I always looked for ideas of expanding and innovating my business. From that point on, I moved to leadership management and that’s how things rolled out for me and my entrepreneurial experience.
When you surrender to what you’re doing and you keep your mind open, then you automatically start moving towards what’s good for you and what’s not.
My family business is about 25 years old. I did try my hand at the family business and learnt through my dealings with the staff and employees. Even though things worked out well, I felt something’s missing. I realised my life cannot only be about buying stock and selling that to people, without a higher meaning.
Further, I went on to pursue an MBA and thought of learning something new and maybe with the thought of a job. I have always been notorious for studies and my parents were surprised at such a decision. We had arguments over the how to’s of getting into a management college. I tried for an entire year it didn’t happen, I tried worked with triple-strength the next year and studied like crazy. I somehow managed to pass my entrance and scored a good percentile. However, I wasn’t able to pass the group discussions due to a lack of corporate experience.
So, I moved to Delhi and channelized the same energy in my first job. I broke the sales records that people who worked there since the past two years couldn’t achieve. Till today I thank my family for all the arguments that we’ve had. It was because of those arguments and my retaliation that I found the hidden energy inside me. I can say that I had the entrepreneurial mindset, but the arguments and objectivity helped me in channelising my energy.
HOW DID YOU GENERATE THE FUND TO SUSTAIN YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET?
We don’t think about the money to that extent. What we just think about is the value addition that we can render to our clients. A plan of slow and steady growth is what we believe in. We have seen a lot of organisations that have grown pretty faster but their quality has gone down. This is our USP and our uniqueness that we provide quality that the big organisations don’t.
First of all, I would want to work with people with similar kinds of values. Earlier the thought of money used to cross our minds. However, we learnt to be content in whatever we are and in whatever we have. As time passed and we did good work our clients got us more work.
For first two years we didn’t do any marketing as we sustained on word of mouth and references. We had planned that we’ll save up money and expand only when we’re settled. So that’s what we did.
To add to that, one of the major points in our business was that Nikhil had a very good face value. He had a good reputation in front of the clients that had worked earlier with him. The moment they knew that he has started something of his own, they contacted him. We focused on giving 10x value to the client, they not only gave us repeated business but also referred us to people.
SO, ONE OF YOU HAD THE CORPORATE EXPERIENCE AND THE OTHER DIDN’T, HOW HAS THIS AFFECTED YOUR MENTALITY WHILE RUNNING HERE AND NOW?
That’s true I didn’t have any corporate experience and I still don’t. But I had the business mindset and the business instinct. I believe that my lack of corporate business has complemented my role in Here and Now. We are not a corporate firm but we provide them with an experience of enhancement.
However, we need to understand the working of a corporation for which we have Nikhil who has more than 15 years of corporate experience. He has taught me what works well and how it works well. This has given me a ton of experience and information regarding corporates.
Another thing that I have learnt is people working in corporates have become robots. They lack innovation and have rusted their innovative instincts. They live from a paycheck to another paycheck.
When we started, we made sure that people working with us are from varied backgrounds. People who can be termed vintage in this industry and the young blood, we have a blend of both. We have an amalgamation of experience and energy in Here and Now. We had another business that Aditya managed by himself and got a team on his own. Things started to get like how things happen in any other organizations. Aditya managed everything very well.
WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS?
The values regarding the work are the same. Some of the values like quality service is the same and the importance of inner work is the same. But then he is very organised and I tend to drift away in my vision.
So, sometimes he says let’s finish what we’re doing today and not take a ten-year gap. This angers me in turn that Aditya is not taking me seriously. Initially, when these conflicts cropped up, I thought he’s rejecting my ideas and he thought I am rejecting his. This was all due or individual differences.
Conflicts are normal, we worry when we don’t have conflicts. We sit and discuss our problems and try to express the angst that we have in between. Even if we have to talk for hours, we make a point to express our hearts out.
We have some of the wonderful principles of team effectiveness, I believe. Whatever we teach our clients through coaching on leadership, we follow all of this in our organisation. We are proud to say that we practice what we preach.
I couldn’t agree more with what Nikhil said. This is one of the things, that has made our relationship stronger than ever. We’ve been working together for 2 years and the ways of working are evolving too.
It is a human tendency to make a perception about other’s action. For some reason, we are so afraid to express our authentic selves. For example, if I say something with an intention, it might have another intention. You might perceive it with a different intention and actually, the thing might have a completely different intention. This is one of the major reasons why misunderstandings happen.
Communication is the key. In a conflict, we always use I statements and I have learnt this from Nikhil. As my accountability partner, it is your responsibility to make a safe space for me to make me feel better. When you will do this for me, I will do this for you too.
When I will share how I feel, you will also open up and share what you feel. This creates a common ground for sharing feelings with each other. Both the partners need to be responsible and need to agree on the flow of things that are taking place. Giving up is not an option and the partners should explore whether they have tried every measure to sort things out.
There is a lot of difference in our judgement. When we make mistakes, we think of our intention. When other’s make mistakes, we judge them by actions. This is our ingrained hypocrisy and this is where we go wrong.
THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION CAN YOU TELL WHAT IS THE BIGGEST FAILURE THAT YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY TILL NOW NIKHIL AND ADITYA?
We have learnt a deal from our failures. Our entire learning process is based on that. One of the biggest failures for me was when we were getting a lot of business, I was travelling. I was happy that I am following my passion and conducting a lot of workshops. At that point, I did compromise on the time that I couldn’t spend with my team. I realised because of lack of regular communication we had started drifting apart from our vision. It was then I understood that we need to sit and have regular chats and meeting to be on the same page.
I am also struggling with the answer because we haven’t had any massive failure till now. Failures would be the loss of certain business opportunities because of internal glitches. But we resolve those failures by strengthening our day to day coordination. After every workshop, we sit down as a team and brainstorm about the ideas that went well or what can be further improved.
MOST ORGANISATIONS FACE A COMUNICATION BARRIER AFTER SOMETIME WHICH ULTIMATELY DISRPUTS THE BUSINESS SO WHAT DO YOU SUGGEST FOR THAT?
The best solution for such situation is to set healthy boundaries. This means that there should be a segregation amongst people with regard to their work. We should leave the execution of work on that specific person and trust his skills.
The others can definitely pitch ideas but the final call should be of the person assigned. One of the reasons that family businesses fail sometimes is because they don’t adhere to the boundaries.
As far as incapability of a person to do a work is concerned, it depends on the person as to how willing is he/she in asking for help? The first step is to plan things extensively. The most prominent mistake that we make s we think about the execution and not the planning.
We need to plan our idea first and then look out for its application. In our organisation, we make monthly plans and weekly reviews of those plans. In this manner, accountability becomes easier. I guess planning time and weekly review are most important.
TAKING THE CONVERSATION FORWARD NIKHIL AND ADITYA ARE YOU GUYS MONEY MINDED?
I would say that we love money but we also know that money would only come if we provide quality services. We love money but we are value-focused. We don’t make money targets we make value targets. I can attribute it as the best part of my entrepreneurial mindset.
We have kept money secondary choice up till now. We are indeed value-focused but we also believe in building relationships before money. There have been instances that we have worked on a minimum margin for client satisfaction. So, I wouldn’t particularly call ourself money minded.
IS THERE ANY ENTREPRENEURIAL TIP THAT YOU WANT TO GIVE TO OUR LISTENERS?
In my opinion, the mindset of abundance is something that every entrepreneur should have. Your business cannot grow with a mentality of scarcity, your entrepreneurial mindset needs to grow. I also, think if we have things available for everyone, then we should start sharing things. That abundance and that habit of sharing are required to make a difference. The more you share is the more you grow and impact people’s lives.
Taking the solopreneur mindset out of the mind might help. Only a single person is not responsible to run a company. A team is required and when a single person does everything, the person becomes more scared to express. Inclusive leadership needs to come in and the solopreneur mindset needs to go out. The solopreneur mindset subconsciously harms the real entrepreneurial mindset. Therefore to enhance your entrepreneurial mindset and the journey you need a competent team.
This is what an inspiring entrepreneurial journey sounds like. This conversation with Aditya and Nikhil have become an epitome of success through thoughtfulness. Stories like these always makes an individual strive for more than platonic materialism. We hope that the stories of Aditya and Nikhil impact and enrich you like it has enhanced us.