Intro: If you’re running a software development agency, it shouldn’t be too hard to grow. Welcome to Managed Coder podcast. Tune in every week to find out how to grow your software development agency and help you to solve your day-to-day problems with 20 plus years experience running an agency, please welcome your host Shahed Islam.
Shahed: Welcome Tariq. Welcome to our podcast. Thank you again for your valuable time in this podcast. Can you just introduce yourself, even though we know each other for a long time?
Tariq: Shahed first of all I want to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to share this podcast with you. My name is Tariq Khan. I’m a founder and CEO of global diversity marketing. I have 30 years of professional experience. The first 20 years I spent working for major fortune companies in senior leadership roles. And about 2010, I started my own company, which is a marketing and a strategy consulting firm. I’m also involved with the New York University as Angen faculty for the last 17 years. And I teach leadership and marketing courses. I have recently published a book called Leadership in Changing Times. And I’m glad to be a part of this podcast.
Shahed: Thank you, leadership. I have learned from you and one of the things Tariq I learned from you that initially even I wish I knew it. A lot of our agency and our software development company, we are kind of exchange Intel entrepreneurs. We just started doing work and we become successful. We don’t even understand what leadership is. So maybe the first question to you would be, why do you need a leadership team when you are growing as a company, whether it is in software or other places, sometimes the misconception talking to a lot of other software development company owner. They don’t think about leadership. The thing is like, you know what? We are technology people. We don’t need to learn this skill here, or we don’t need to build a team.
Tariq: Yeah, I think that’s a great question, but I want to go back to the word that you use. Accidental entrepreneur. I personally believe that entrepreneurs are born and leaders are made. There are many leaders who have the innate leadership traits as well, but most of the entrepreneurs, they have an entrepreneurial bug insight. Now when that accident happens is questionable. So personally myself. I started my career in corporate and I stayed there for almost 20 years and I start entrepreneurship very late. I had that bug and it came out. So an entrepreneur basically is an individual who’s very creative and innovative in approach.
Now some entrepreneurs turn out to be good leaders, but there are many entrepreneurs who are great at being an entrepreneur, but they really need help in leadership development. So what happens is when you create something and you innovate something, you start judging your success by your innovation, to create something, to innovate something obviously is a huge accomplishment. But to maintain that and run an organization is something that requires leadership skills. And if you look at some of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world who have created some phenomenal products, the reason of their success is not only their product, but it is because they have a very good leadership team.
And Mark Zuckerberg is a perfect example. He created and founded Facebook, which is called Meta now. And he ran that company successfully for many years and he realized that leadership is a full-time job and that has to be outsourced because he was an entrepreneur and he brought [03:49 inaudible] Sandberg to be his partner. So I think people who are entrepreneurs and successful, they should really focus on, I am going to be creating products and services, but who’s going to lead my organization. And for that, you need a leadership team. Now that doesn’t mean that you completely disassociate yourself from running the company, but let the subject matter experts do what they’re good at. And that’s why you need to cultivate and develop a leadership team.
Shahed: So like talking about building a leadership team, whether Mark’s case, he hired someone from our side, but it can be done many different ways. Build leadership team within the company. So if I want to go ahead and start my leadership team, if I’m running a software development company, everything rely on me. How do I start? What advice for those people, how do they start?
Tariq: First of all, now let’s say you have a software company and your company is doing good and you’re getting the clients and you’re delivering on the promise. But how do you want this company to grow? What role do you want to play? In my opinion, the person or the founder of the company should be the leader of the organization who should be responsible for developing and creating a vision, but not implementing the vision. So you need people who can implement your vision, and that’s why you need to delegate that. So right now when you started a company, obviously your role was very different and you have to transition into a role where you only do things that first of all, you’re good at. And second you really enjoy. And then for everything else, you really outsource to people.
And how do you outsource, within your team? Or if you don’t have the right people in your team, then bring the people in your team who can compliment those traits that you don’t have. So I’ll give you an example. You may be very good at doing something at a technical level, but managing people may not be one of your skill or leading people. So identify people within your team who could do that, because what happens is a lot of time entrepreneurs spend too much time in human resources efforts, or putting off small fights or small disputes among their team that they should not be. You should really focus on innovation and visioning how you want the company to be growing as and just leading the team, but not actually doing all the heavy lifting that’s required by other managers to do it for you.
Shahed: So when you say managers, we are talking about leadership team. And actually, in early days when I look back and I was trying to build the leadership team, there are certain criteria I always look for. But honestly, after reading and later talking to you, I have learned that there are some criteria you should never compromise, because if you are bringing, no matter whether they are very talented people, they may not be the best leader for your companies for future growth. So the question would be whom do you pick as a leader in your team? And what are some criteria you look into, who should be leading you with you and without your presence there?
Tariq: So whatever your organization is, different people at different stages of time. And as an entrepreneur, you have to play multiple roles. You are the leader of the company. You are the manager of the company, you are the janitor of the company. Because we all start in a bootstrap or with limited resources, but look around yourself and see, what kind of people do you have in your team? Are these the people who actually compliment what you do? Do they have the traits that you don’t have and sometime the leader maybe outside your organization. At the end of the day, you have to see that, where are you best used. Look within your organization, who are the people who always not only meet your expectation, but exceed your expectation. So if you don’t have people who exceed your expectation, then you really need to bring in more people.
And as an entrepreneur or a leader you have to be very caring about your team, but you have to be very brutal about your business plan. You don’t want to be too caring in the sense that you don’t want to carry over a baggage of a person just because that person was hired nine years ago when you started this business and that person is a liability. So if you have to spend nine years and you cannot change that person, the chances are that person won’t be changed. So you have to really spend time with yourself and take a day off, take two days off and say, what am I lacking? What are the gaps within my organization that exists? I am very good at bringing business, but I cannot be good at bringing business and delivering the business.
So you really need to identify the gaps that exist in your organization today. And you have to fill them up. Now, how do you fill them up? First you see if there are people within your organization. The people that know your organization are always the best people, because the devil that you know is always better than the devil that you don’t know. But there are times that you don’t have the right people. So you try to train them. But if someone is not willing and able to be trained, then you really have to replace that with a person who could be more complimentary to your efforts.
Shahed: Yeah. I think that brings two questions to my mind. That first thing, I think all of us who are leaders and started the company, that delegation is a tough job for us. We never want to trust other people, but if you don’t give people responsibility and delegate, you will never grow those people. They need to build their muscle themselves. So what are your advice to those people who I have seen, and I’ve been talking to more than 100 agency owner the last three years. And one of the biggest problem I see, the reason their team is not growing is because they don’t trust those team members that they can pull out, or they can do a better job than themselves. And that’s why leadership is not getting built on that level. They never trust them enough. So what do you suggest to those people that they are not doing it and why, again going back what are the ways they can think about this?
Tariq: No, that’s a great question. So Shahed, I see this as a major problem among many Asian leaders or south Asian leaders. We always envision our business and we want our succession to be our next generation, our children. If you see the difference, why we don’t see the Googles or Meta like Facebook, or even IBMs of the world in south Asia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh. These companies, some of these big companies in these countries have a potential to be as big as Apple. But when Steve Jobs was leaving this world, he knew about that in his time of death. Many people don’t get that opportunity. He never for a moment thought of, that my daughter would come and run my company. He had that leap of faith in Tim Cook, that this person can run this organization.
And Tim cook has exceeded the expectation. So the problem with us is that we never develop leaders to replace us. Every person that you should hire, you should look in that person that, can this person replace me? And then out of those five people or four people or 10 people, or whatever the numbers are, identify one or two people who could really replace you and train them, outsource as much of your work as possible to the people. As a leader your job is to be the coach and door opener. That’s the only two things you should be doing and rest, everything should be done by your team members. And if they need some training and development, either you do that or hire somebody to do it.
Shahed: So this is where my next question is that a lot of time I fall into that trap also, and I have seen other leaders, oh, we don’t have time. The training or mentoring. So I learned that lesson the hard way. And I have seen repeatedly the company’s growth is not going to the next level because leadership team do not have continuous learning process, or they are not put into some training because we are not, like we have to learn new things. This is a skill people don’t realize. So can you tell me what are the advice or framework we can put together? If I am building a team of four, they are my future leaders. What should I do to train them continuously?
Tariq: So let’s say you identify a group of people that they have the potential. And you have developed that trust with them that you say that I see a long term relationship with them. So you have two options Shahed, one is, do you ask yourself, do you really enjoy training people? And I don’t know the answer, the answer could be yes or no. If the answer is yes, then make sure that you spend time, enough time with them on a weekly basis and look at their progress. This itself is a separate function. And if the answer is no, that I really don’t enjoy training people, then outsource it. Hire someone who could really develop and train your people. And you instead of training four people or developing four people, you spend time with that coach who would really be working with you and him, or she would ensure that you accomplish what you’re accomplishing.
So you have just outsourced something that you didn’t want to do. Now, one of the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs do is they bring people who really have the traits they don’t have. And then they try to train them. Now you’re training someone to be filling the gap that you don’t have. So you are going outside of your comfort to train that person. What would happen in the worst case scenario, you would convert that person to yourself. So there’ll be two people like yourself and the gaps that you had are still the gaps. So in my opinion, the personal thing is all leaders should have coaches who could really help them and tell the coach that, Hey, this is what I wanted to see with my leadership team. I want you and the coach is not someone who’s necessarily better than you. A coach uses a different lens and will give you a very objective opinion that out of the four people that you really think, three of them are okay. And one person is outstanding. And that person will give you an independent view. And it’s important to listen to those people and then work with them. Now you have just outsourced. And what would happen is they will give you extra time that you’ll put into your business and you’ll grow your business exponentially.
Shahed: So I think the biggest challenge I have seen that we do not understand that this is something we have to invest. We are continuously chasing the client work and we are continuously, especially the kind of work we do. We have to deliver things. These people are part of the day to day activities. So removing the 10 hours a week for learning is important. Like giving them certain responsibility or giving them some reading materials or maybe master class or this kind of classes also.
Tariq: Yeah. Just think about it Shahed, if Roger Fred, or Rael Nadal, if they did not have coaches, would they become the player that they are right. And their coaches were not better than them. And the reason they had coaches is because they wanted somebody to look at them closely and just give them positive or negative feedback. Constructive feedback to improve themselves. And to your point earlier, a lot of times, many entrepreneurs, including myself, we have all made that mistake, no I don’t want to invest into this. This is an unnecessary expense, but what happens is we end up spending our quality time on things which are not productive.
Shahed: Yeah. Let’s talk about mentoring, which you are talking about coaching. You have helped me in China a lot over the years. And I always give this advice to other people. You already touched that point, but like, how do they start? I mean, even with you or someone else, how do they find a coach?
Tariq: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be me, anyone. So there are two relationships that you need. One is called a mentorship. Now mentorship is different than being a coach. Now who’s a mentor. Mentor is a person who’s a well wisher. Someone that you look up to and you reach out to that person and say, Hey Tariq I would like you to be my mentor. And the relationship between a mentor is mentor would be happy to see you grow, but mentor does not have any skin in the game. If you don’t do well, the mentor feels bad, but mentor has not lost anything. When you have a coach relationship or a sponsored relationship, it means you both have a skin in the game. When a coach team is playing. If the team loses, the coach loses, if the team wins, the coach wins.
It’s a bigger investment from an entrepreneur’s point of view to have a formal coaching involved. But that person takes that as a job and say, okay, my goal is to make sure that Shahed business is grow. As far as a mentor is concerned. You’re probably going to see a mentor once a quarter and mentor would be happy. But if you say, Hey, my business is not doing well. The mentor say, oh, I can pray for you. And I can wish you all the best. They are not going to go beyond that. A coach will always be constantly thinking about it because the coach has direct skin in the game. So you need a professional person who can really look at your business and they don’t have to know much about your business, but they must know about leadership. Because their goal is to make sure that they give you more free hours. And you can do things that you really like and enjoy and not do things that you really are not good at. And then you waste your time in doing that. So this relationship is very important. And a lot of time, many entrepreneurs think this offers an extra investment, and they say one of these days, I’m going to do that. And they never end up doing it.
Shahed: Thank you. Thank you, Tariq. How do people contact you? What is the best way of contact?
Tariq: Well, one of my best contact is they can contact you, but if they want to contact me directly they can send me an email. Probably you can post it later on, but it’s TKHAN@GDMus.com. And that’s the best way to reach out to me. But they can always reach out to you and they can send you a message and I’ll be more than happy, or they can contact me on LinkedIn. But I’m not so active in reading the message because I get so many messages. So I think email is the best option.
Shahed: Thank you Tariq, thank you for your time today. Hopefully we’ll talk soon.
Tariq: Thank you Shahed.
Shahed: Take care. Bye bye.
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