Some Thoughts On Business

In 1998, while working for an automobile bus body building company, I found myself on the outskirts of the CAD software industry by virtue of me taking up CAD programming projects that were being outsourced to India. I founded my first company in partnership with an old school mate in 1999. Later in 2004 I founded SYCODE as a sole owner company. Today SYCODE has all of four employees (which includes me) and we work from a one room office in one of the most beautiful places in India. We have customers in 83 countries spread across 6 continents (all except Antartica). We count companies like Boeing, NASA, Siemens, Northrop Grumman, Alcoa and Voith among our customers and we partner with all major CAD software vendors on the planet. More importantly, almost all our partners are arch rivals of each other and we have managed to maintain our partnerships with them, while staying clear of the conflict of interest issues that force companies to choose between one partner or another.

Yesterday we issued a press release announcing our partnership with Kubotek and the release of twelve data exchange add-ins for KeyCreator. Today we issued another press release announcing the release of four ESRI shape file import plug-ins for AutoCAD, Bricscad, IntelliCAD and Rhinoceros. This takes the number of products that we offer to a whopping 214. I leave it up to you to imagine how a four man company manages to carry out the research, development, debugging, testing, documentation, marketing, sales, support and e-commerce of 214 products.

Contrary to what this post may look like, my point here is not to brag about my achievements or that of my company. Everybody has a story and I am pretty sure that most of them will be far more compelling than mine. But before I get to the real purpose of this post let me paraphrase the foreword of a book that I read some time ago. Here goes…

Once upon a time, two recently graduated engineers met to consider the idea of founding a new company. They put their thoughts on paper, beginning with a general statement about design and manufacture of products in the electrical engineering field, followed by a startling statement: “The question of what to manufacture was postponed…“.

Jim Collins, the person who wrote the foreword, often used this example while teaching a class on entreprenuership at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He challenged his students to rate this startup on a scale of 1 to 10. Not surprisingly, the average score would be about 3. The MBA students blasted the founders for lack of focus, lack of a great idea, lack of a clear market, lack of just about everything that would earn a passing grade in a business plan class. Then he would say, “Oh, one more little detail, the names of the founders were Bill Hewlett and David Packard“.

The MBA students would just sit there in silence. This went completely against everything that they were being taught in other classes. They were being taught that they needed a clear understanding of how to create competitive advantage, a great idea for launching an enterprise, a solid business plan, etc. etc. And here they had just given a rating of 3 to the founders of HP.

The book is called “The HP Way – How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company” written by David Packard shortly before his death. After I read the book, my whole outlook towards business changed completely. I strongly recommend that you read it as well, irrespective whether you are an entrepreneur or not. The book outlines the history of HP and the development of The HP Way.

I could immediately relate to this story. When I started out more than a decade ago I had no idea what I would be doing apart from the fact that I would be writing software. I remember one of the first software that my friend and I wrote was an accounting system developed in Turbo C complete with Windows style menu system and block cursor mouse support. Nowhere close to CAD.

I still have no idea what SYCODE will be doing five or ten years from now. And frankly I don’t care. All I know is that we will be making software, which is precisely the only thing I knew for sure when I started the company. Maybe that’s the reason why I chose my company slogan to be something as general as “Software Made Simple”. I like to keep my options open, wide open. If at all I make any business plan it is always a short term one. As far as running a business is concerned, I believe that you don’t need a plan. All you need is a direction and the capacity and/or will to change it if required.

As Jim Collins put it in his foreword to the book The HP Way“Bill Hewlett and David Packard’s greatest product was not the audio oscillator, the pocket calculator or the minicomputer. Their greatest product was the Hewlett-Packard Company and their greatest idea was The HP Way”.

  • Wonderful and inspiring story deelip.
    I’ve been watching you since your started this blog and have been hearing a lot of good things. I wish you all the luck ahead.

    Thanks
    Deelip
    Kathmandu

  • Wonderful and inspiring story deelip.
    I’ve been watching you since your started this blog and have been hearing a lot of good things. I wish you all the luck ahead.

    Thanks
    Deelip
    Kathmandu

  • Thanks, man. Hope to visit Nepal one day. The closest I have been is Darjeeling, where I saw Mount Everest, the tip of which is in Nepal, I believe.

  • Thanks, man. Hope to visit Nepal one day. The closest I have been is Darjeeling, where I saw Mount Everest, the tip of which is in Nepal, I believe.

  • Deelip,
    Great writeup and congrats for crossing the 200 products barrier… 🙂

    I appreciate your entrepreneurial journey and the way you want to promote entrepreneurship to others.

    I remember that you had a shared a story with my about “Paris City”. I am sure your blog followers would be benefited to hear the same 🙂

    Regards,
    Rajeev Lochan
    http://www.smallguru.com

  • Deelip,
    Great writeup and congrats for crossing the 200 products barrier… 🙂

    I appreciate your entrepreneurial journey and the way you want to promote entrepreneurship to others.

    I remember that you had a shared a story with my about “Paris City”. I am sure your blog followers would be benefited to hear the same 🙂

    Regards,
    Rajeev Lochan
    http://www.smallguru.com

  • Rajeev,

    Yeah. Maybe one day I will write about Paris.

  • Rajeev,

    Yeah. Maybe one day I will write about Paris.

  • Dave

    Deelip, this is dangerously bad advice.

    Are you really advocating starting a business without a business plan? I mean, I see your point that analysis paralysis is a bad thing. But you go way too far in extrapolating your position into thinking you’re some ‘captain of industry’ full of wise advice.

    You should be made aware that your success is a happy accident of history. Your company benefits from running in a lower-cost environment (lower cost of living, lower wages, beneficial exchange rate, etc). American business has outsourced work to you costing Americans jobs.

    HP was also lucky to be in the right place, at the right time. It was almost difficult to fail in the silicon valley during the electronics & computer revolution. I know, I live there and have benefited from that very time & place. Things nowadays are much different, however. And their success didn’t come at the pain of others.

    Your success was based on luck, nothing else.

    It takes very little capital to start a service business in a beneficial environment. But try starting a business in anything more capital intensive and you will see things very differently. Unless you have the money to capitalize your business, you need to borrow or find investors. You won’t get very far without a well thought out & documented business plan.

    I would suggest you think about the big picture, sitting in your single room. How many jobs have you cost the inventors of the tools you use & exploit to your advantage? How much of the tools you use did you have a hand in creating? Very few, I’d wager.

    To those who might consider taking Deelip’s advice: Think carefully about your jump into business. Plan. Criticize your plan from all angles. Re-factor the plan. Get advice from someone from experience. And when you have a geniunely good plan, something that does more than provide a lower-cost service: Execute.

  • Dave

    Deelip, this is dangerously bad advice.

    Are you really advocating starting a business without a business plan? I mean, I see your point that analysis paralysis is a bad thing. But you go way too far in extrapolating your position into thinking you’re some ‘captain of industry’ full of wise advice.

    You should be made aware that your success is a happy accident of history. Your company benefits from running in a lower-cost environment (lower cost of living, lower wages, beneficial exchange rate, etc). American business has outsourced work to you costing Americans jobs.

    HP was also lucky to be in the right place, at the right time. It was almost difficult to fail in the silicon valley during the electronics & computer revolution. I know, I live there and have benefited from that very time & place. Things nowadays are much different, however. And their success didn’t come at the pain of others.

    Your success was based on luck, nothing else.

    It takes very little capital to start a service business in a beneficial environment. But try starting a business in anything more capital intensive and you will see things very differently. Unless you have the money to capitalize your business, you need to borrow or find investors. You won’t get very far without a well thought out & documented business plan.

    I would suggest you think about the big picture, sitting in your single room. How many jobs have you cost the inventors of the tools you use & exploit to your advantage? How much of the tools you use did you have a hand in creating? Very few, I’d wager.

    To those who might consider taking Deelip’s advice: Think carefully about your jump into business. Plan. Criticize your plan from all angles. Re-factor the plan. Get advice from someone from experience. And when you have a geniunely good plan, something that does more than provide a lower-cost service: Execute.

  • I agree that a new business becomes successful due to luck, having the right item at the right time, etc. Hard work helps, too.

    I disagree with Dave that detailed planning is required. Instead, new and existing companies need to adapt to changing conditions quickly, and be prepared to “kill their baby.” The Plan becomes meaningless when business conditions change.

  • I agree that a new business becomes successful due to luck, having the right item at the right time, etc. Hard work helps, too.

    I disagree with Dave that detailed planning is required. Instead, new and existing companies need to adapt to changing conditions quickly, and be prepared to “kill their baby.” The Plan becomes meaningless when business conditions change.

  • Dave,

    Looks like Ralph understood my point of view a little better than you.

    My point is less about the lack of having an iron clad business plan and more about having a clear direction. The plans will automatically follow. The problem with air right business plans which have be crafted to perfection is that they end up being quite difficult to change.

    And I am glad that you think I am successful. To me a four man company running from a one room office is not success. I believe success is a long way from where I am.

    About Americans losing jobs due to outsourcing to places like India and China, I suggest you take up that issue with your government. You elected them, I didn’t. I find this whole job loss argument pretty disgusting specially since countries like the US “forced” countries like India to open up their economies in the 80’s and 90’s and flooded our markets with their products, thereby killing off local companies. And now when we have “tooled” ourselves up and have opened shop for global trade and services, people in the same countries are saying stop. Where were you when Indian companies were closing and people were losing jobs here?

    This is capitalism, something that you guys invented, not us. Next time I suggest you think twice before you invent something whose consequences you cannot handle.

    BTW, the Chinese are flooding our markets with their goods. Instead of bitching about it, we are adjusting our businesses to take up the challenge head on. Which brings me back to the part of my post that you seem to have missed.

    “As far as running a business is concerned, I believe that you don’t need a plan. All you need is a direction and the capacity and/or will to change it if required.”

    Unless you are completely incapable of running a business, you will automatically create the plans required to go with your direction. The plans are not the problem. The inability/unwillingness to change them is. And that’s where direction comes into play.

  • Dave,

    Looks like Ralph understood my point of view a little better than you.

    My point is less about the lack of having an iron clad business plan and more about having a clear direction. The plans will automatically follow. The problem with air right business plans which have be crafted to perfection is that they end up being quite difficult to change.

    And I am glad that you think I am successful. To me a four man company running from a one room office is not success. I believe success is a long way from where I am.

    About Americans losing jobs due to outsourcing to places like India and China, I suggest you take up that issue with your government. You elected them, I didn’t. I find this whole job loss argument pretty disgusting specially since countries like the US “forced” countries like India to open up their economies in the 80’s and 90’s and flooded our markets with their products, thereby killing off local companies. And now when we have “tooled” ourselves up and have opened shop for global trade and services, people in the same countries are saying stop. Where were you when Indian companies were closing and people were losing jobs here?

    This is capitalism, something that you guys invented, not us. Next time I suggest you think twice before you invent something whose consequences you cannot handle.

    BTW, the Chinese are flooding our markets with their goods. Instead of bitching about it, we are adjusting our businesses to take up the challenge head on. Which brings me back to the part of my post that you seem to have missed.

    “As far as running a business is concerned, I believe that you don’t need a plan. All you need is a direction and the capacity and/or will to change it if required.”

    Unless you are completely incapable of running a business, you will automatically create the plans required to go with your direction. The plans are not the problem. The inability/unwillingness to change them is. And that’s where direction comes into play.

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Deelip,

    To a great degree I agree with your original posting and comments and, RalphG adds to it.

    But each of us see history from a our own perspective and experience and it is not always good to round that out as being what may have occurred overall.

    For instance, I am old enough to know of a ‘nasty colonial’ company who went to a great deal of trouble and expense to setup a manufacturing company (circa 50’s) to manufacture its products – for use in your area of the world – for agriculture.

    It was not to ‘flood’ your market with their products at all; indeed it meant those same products would not be made at the parent plants (less work at home). It was an expansion of the company (right or wrong?) but it not only made local production possible, it assisted in developing both manufacturing and agriculture and more importantly it gave local people new opportunities and a reason , for some, to become engineers, tradesmen, managers etc! Only several experience managers and engineering personal were initally planted and then only for a relatively short period of time.

    Undoubtedly it played a role (good or bad others can comment on) in starting some significant changes in your area of the world but equally it also played a part in helping countries/people in your area as well.

    It is an interesting take on events you pitched back at Dave and, as I said, whilst I agree with your initial comments I am not sure I would have served up what you did in retaliation.

    Economic wheels will continue to turn and it will not be long before the emerging powerhouses will soon see the route being followed is not in your citizens or Chinese citizens interests to follow the lead you have been given or to place blame in the manner you did. Dave may also benefit by revisiting his thoughts!

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Deelip,

    To a great degree I agree with your original posting and comments and, RalphG adds to it.

    But each of us see history from a our own perspective and experience and it is not always good to round that out as being what may have occurred overall.

    For instance, I am old enough to know of a ‘nasty colonial’ company who went to a great deal of trouble and expense to setup a manufacturing company (circa 50’s) to manufacture its products – for use in your area of the world – for agriculture.

    It was not to ‘flood’ your market with their products at all; indeed it meant those same products would not be made at the parent plants (less work at home). It was an expansion of the company (right or wrong?) but it not only made local production possible, it assisted in developing both manufacturing and agriculture and more importantly it gave local people new opportunities and a reason , for some, to become engineers, tradesmen, managers etc! Only several experience managers and engineering personal were initally planted and then only for a relatively short period of time.

    Undoubtedly it played a role (good or bad others can comment on) in starting some significant changes in your area of the world but equally it also played a part in helping countries/people in your area as well.

    It is an interesting take on events you pitched back at Dave and, as I said, whilst I agree with your initial comments I am not sure I would have served up what you did in retaliation.

    Economic wheels will continue to turn and it will not be long before the emerging powerhouses will soon see the route being followed is not in your citizens or Chinese citizens interests to follow the lead you have been given or to place blame in the manner you did. Dave may also benefit by revisiting his thoughts!

  • Paul,

    The tone of my reply was largely decided by the tone of Dave’s comment. I usually do not reply to commenters this way, but neither do I take senseless statements like the following lying down: “How many jobs have you cost the inventors of the tools you use & exploit to your advantage? How much of the tools you use did you have a hand in creating?”

    What kind of nonsense is that? Does Dave mean that people should use products which have been developed in their country by their citizens only? In that case, why does the US export anything at all? And why do Americans use stuff imported from other countries? Isn’t that precisely what your fight against socialism is all about? Isn’t that why you want other countries to open up their economies for you to market your good there? So Dave wants the US to export to other countries but does not want these countries to use the products against the US. Crazy!

    We live in a global economy. The sooner people start to realize this and learn to accept it, the better. Looks like some people don’t like playing a game whose rules they created when they think they on the losing end.

    I found Dave’s statement, “Your success was based on luck, nothing else.” particularly offending. We work hard here in India and China. We don’t take two day long weekends. Sunday is more than enough to recharge our batteries. That’s 52 days a year, almost two months. The way we see it, Americans take two months off while we continue work. Ever thought about that? Or maybe Dave thinks that’s an undue advantage as well.

  • Paul,

    The tone of my reply was largely decided by the tone of Dave’s comment. I usually do not reply to commenters this way, but neither do I take senseless statements like the following lying down: “How many jobs have you cost the inventors of the tools you use & exploit to your advantage? How much of the tools you use did you have a hand in creating?”

    What kind of nonsense is that? Does Dave mean that people should use products which have been developed in their country by their citizens only? In that case, why does the US export anything at all? And why do Americans use stuff imported from other countries? Isn’t that precisely what your fight against socialism is all about? Isn’t that why you want other countries to open up their economies for you to market your good there? So Dave wants the US to export to other countries but does not want these countries to use the products against the US. Crazy!

    We live in a global economy. The sooner people start to realize this and learn to accept it, the better. Looks like some people don’t like playing a game whose rules they created when they think they on the losing end.

    I found Dave’s statement, “Your success was based on luck, nothing else.” particularly offending. We work hard here in India and China. We don’t take two day long weekends. Sunday is more than enough to recharge our batteries. That’s 52 days a year, almost two months. The way we see it, Americans take two months off while we continue work. Ever thought about that? Or maybe Dave thinks that’s an undue advantage as well.

  • And BTW, the purpose of letting people comment anonymously or use pseudo names like “Dave” is to give them a chance to speak their mind about their employers and other associations that they may want to talk about without running into trouble. Not to make accusations and launch personal attacks on me or any other commenter while hiding behind anonymity. I see no reason why this person called “Dave” couldn’t find the courage to put his real name to what he said.

  • And BTW, the purpose of letting people comment anonymously or use pseudo names like “Dave” is to give them a chance to speak their mind about their employers and other associations that they may want to talk about without running into trouble. Not to make accusations and launch personal attacks on me or any other commenter while hiding behind anonymity. I see no reason why this person called “Dave” couldn’t find the courage to put his real name to what he said.

  • Karldino

    To some degree, I agreed with Dave about “You won’t get very far without a well thought out & documented business plan.”, but comparing to plan, direction is more important.

    “You should be made aware that your success is a happy accident of history. Your company benefits from running in a lower-cost environment (lower cost of living, lower wages, beneficial exchange rate, etc). American business has outsourced work to you costing Americans jobs”

    It is so rude to define anyone’s hard work as “happy accident”, and the features Dave pointed out, e.g. “low cost” is one of the competitive advantages of SYCODE. and because of economy principles, people chose SYCODE, thus instead of bitching about losing jobs, the americans should thank Deelip for providing them the benefits.

    And this paragraph

    “I would suggest you think about the big picture, sitting in your single room. How many jobs have you cost the inventors of the tools you use & exploit to your advantage? How much of the tools you use did you have a hand in creating? Very few, I’d wager.”

    is all pathetic jealousness.. nothing else…

  • Karldino

    To some degree, I agreed with Dave about “You won’t get very far without a well thought out & documented business plan.”, but comparing to plan, direction is more important.

    “You should be made aware that your success is a happy accident of history. Your company benefits from running in a lower-cost environment (lower cost of living, lower wages, beneficial exchange rate, etc). American business has outsourced work to you costing Americans jobs”

    It is so rude to define anyone’s hard work as “happy accident”, and the features Dave pointed out, e.g. “low cost” is one of the competitive advantages of SYCODE. and because of economy principles, people chose SYCODE, thus instead of bitching about losing jobs, the americans should thank Deelip for providing them the benefits.

    And this paragraph

    “I would suggest you think about the big picture, sitting in your single room. How many jobs have you cost the inventors of the tools you use & exploit to your advantage? How much of the tools you use did you have a hand in creating? Very few, I’d wager.”

    is all pathetic jealousness.. nothing else…

  • Karldino

    What is capitalism? chasing the surplus value (e.g. money, profits) and it is the natural and right thing to do, everyone understands it nowadays. Thus happenned the global economy.

    but don’t try to moralize it by saying you’re giving out jobs and opportunies because you care about people, nobody will buy it, pal, seriously.

  • Karldino

    What is capitalism? chasing the surplus value (e.g. money, profits) and it is the natural and right thing to do, everyone understands it nowadays. Thus happenned the global economy.

    but don’t try to moralize it by saying you’re giving out jobs and opportunies because you care about people, nobody will buy it, pal, seriously.

  • Karldino,

    Cynics may say that you cannot use the word morality and capitalism in the same sentence.

    The way I see it capitalism is all about opportunity. And that’s perfectly all right with me. Great companies and countries were built by seizing the opportunities that presented themselves at different points in time.

    … and they will continue to do so in the future.

  • Karldino,

    Cynics may say that you cannot use the word morality and capitalism in the same sentence.

    The way I see it capitalism is all about opportunity. And that’s perfectly all right with me. Great companies and countries were built by seizing the opportunities that presented themselves at different points in time.

    … and they will continue to do so in the future.

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Intersting perspectives all.

    I comment once said to me by a person trained in economics stated, capitalism is the best of a bad bunch of systems. Individuals greed, at the expense of others, is its what makes it fail as a good system.

    There is a moral link here and something for all to think about .

  • R. Paul Waddington

    Intersting perspectives all.

    I comment once said to me by a person trained in economics stated, capitalism is the best of a bad bunch of systems. Individuals greed, at the expense of others, is its what makes it fail as a good system.

    There is a moral link here and something for all to think about .

  • Tony

    Sycode is a success — at least in the US, the failure rate for new small businesses is very high. So having a profitable 4-person company is a success. And I think Deelip would’ve been successful in elsewhere, too; for example, if he lived in the US, Canada, or Australia.

    It’s true for most mega successes, like Microsoft and Apple, luck is also required. But becoming a billionaire isn’t the definition of success.

    And what’s great about free enterprise is that you have the chance to become successful based on what you are doing, not on political connections.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for two principle ideas of lean manufacturing:
    1. Eliminate waste
    2. And just as important: respect for people.

  • Tony

    Sycode is a success — at least in the US, the failure rate for new small businesses is very high. So having a profitable 4-person company is a success. And I think Deelip would’ve been successful in elsewhere, too; for example, if he lived in the US, Canada, or Australia.

    It’s true for most mega successes, like Microsoft and Apple, luck is also required. But becoming a billionaire isn’t the definition of success.

    And what’s great about free enterprise is that you have the chance to become successful based on what you are doing, not on political connections.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for two principle ideas of lean manufacturing:
    1. Eliminate waste
    2. And just as important: respect for people.