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Last Mile’s Journey towards Success in The Consultants Industry -by Diwakar Menon

Interview with insights success
What risks involved in Last Mile Business and how you have addressed them?
The biggest challenge on the People Enablement side is the commoditisation trap. Our uniqueness stems from the fact that we have carefully designed the programs, tailored it to organisational role definitions, and ensured the assessments are aligned with the organisational assessment frameworks. In the reach for scale, it is possible that some of these principles will get watered down. We are making our processes robust, ensuring that there is a principal consultant aligned with the organisation and ensuring that the tailoring is done to suit organisational realities. The people we bring on board will be our differentiating factor, and to that end, we have been lucky to get the right team in place.

In a consulting mode, we offer point solutions – i.e. we come into an organisation, solve a particular problem, enable the organisation to work independent of us and exit. We have seen a fair amount of success in this way of working, and helps bringing in a fresh point of view into organisations, without the commitment of long term business.

Is there any situation arise with Last Mile to take a critical decision? How you overcome the situation?
Saying no to a particular line of business. We have been telling a lot of our clients that we are not a recruitment body or a provider of resources. Our goal is to help them solve a particular testing problem. It can hurt both ways – to you as a potential loss of revenue, to your customer as a disappointment of having to look elsewhere. However, I think in the longer run, this should hold us in good stead. We are not there to compete with our customer organisations – we are there to help them get better at what they do in their core services.

What are the things you have learnt from your mentors?
Being close to your customer and being available for them 24×7. We have come across situations where we know we are not the right persons to deliver, but have stepped out of our zone to help them find the right partners. Solve their problem, even if you have to stretch yourself. It’s a trait I learnt from observing my leaders at Perot Systems and Tech Mahindra.

Keep an eye on the cash flows. We have been cash flow positive from our early times, and we have been prudent with how we have scaled. We hired part-time consultants initially to start with, invested in bright kids, co-shared office spaces before we rented our own, and managed our expenditures. When you have employees dependent on you, you look at financial risk very differently!

Lastly, the value of a good network. The value that a good network provides cannot be quantified.

What roadblocks Last mile has encountered while achieving success?
Sales and Marketing : We built a lot of our offerings leveraging our network, but good sales and marketing has to be built so that your business can sustain outside of the network too.

Product focus : We started our product focus a little too late, IMO. We should have created different ways of funding this and spun this out separately early in the lifecycle. However, this is always a chicken-and-egg issue – so not really a big regret.

Each of the founders will have different drivers : We learnt that each of the initial stakeholders brings a different focus and intensity into the organisation. It will mean that all of us need to recognise it, and work with it, rather than getting worked up about it.

Pay attention to the fact that there is more to an organisation than just the idea or the service. There are supporting functions, where you have the practical challenges of managing an office, managing your finances, managing your sales, managing your workforce. Not many tend to speak of these, but they are time consuming too, and these are basic building blocks of a lasting organisation, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Lastly, the need for a cohesive team that you can depend on. Our fall back mechanisms kick in, when one is temporarily out of action, and works amazingly well.

Your views on entrepreneurship/ leadership and management
Ego – the biggest stumbling block to getting work done. Be ready to don different hats – from running around to paying bills to taking strategic decisions.

Set short term targets in the general direction of where you want to head. Long term is 6 months in the initial stages.

Have a focus, stick with it, be ready to adapt – since market perceptions can be very different. Go out of your network, and get a true feel of what your services (or products) are worth to people who have no obligations towards you.