Evidently, innovation is the key to success in any business. The innovative ideas are like seeds of success, which need to be implemented successfully and having a strategic plan is essential to implement those ideas successfully. Innovative leaders are built upon the seeds of those innovative ideas by implementing them to contribute to a meaningful purpose. They like to pursue challenging tasks, and they grab the opportunities diligently and make them count. Manju Mastakar is one such innovative leader, who believes that innovation means improvement. Having worked with highly reputed international and Indian firms with the likes of HSBC, MF Global and Motilal Oswal, has given her the confidence to venture out on her own to establish Armstrong Capital. She is the Founder and Managing Director at Armstrong Capital & Financial Services Pvt. Ltd. Manju’s ability to lead a small yet highly effective advisory team with the highest efficiency has made Armstrong grow into a significant player in the market in a very short time. Armstrong looks forward each day to innovate in the three areas of innovation namely, product innovation, sales innovation and process innovation.
Providing Clients End to End Financial Planning
Armstrong is a Financial Planning and a Wealth Management company. Every relationship in Armstrong starts with a Financial Plan. Before it advises, it tries and understands all the financial commitments the client has in near and far future. Then all the investments that client has done, it buckets that into respective goals. Later, it shows them a complete picture as how the financials will look 10 years from now and what would the Annuity be by the time they retire. This complete end to end financial planning is what they do at Armstrong.
Working on an Innovative Idea
Manju got her seed capital very easily, but she had to struggle while raising the growth capital. For any entrepreneur to get funding they need 3 things, Idea (need), Execution, and Market. They may not have all 3 things at the beginning but even if they can have 2, they will have a fair chance of finding the right kind of Investor. Manju had execution skills, she was doing what she had been doing for last 10 years and there was a huge market for it. Anyone who was earning could be their potential client. The Idea/ innovation/ differentiation is what Manju worked on over a period of time to get it right. She says that the best way to fund one’s business is profits.
Fighting and Overcoming Challenges
Manju states that the most important differentiator as an entrepreneur is that they don’t have a concept of “Resignation”. When one is in a job and when things start getting really tough and when a person can’t handle, they have an option to resign and come on the side, but as an entrepreneur one doesn’t have this option. They have to face it, fight it and overcome it.
Manju further opines that the first 3 years are very crucial for any startup, as the burn rate would be creeping up and the revenue doesn’t keep pace as what one would have projected in the excel sheet. Even for Armstrong there were three times that they ran out of cash, and they could have closed down. Each time there was a different strategy that Manju adopted to pull out. Some of the strategies were to sell competing products because, it will fetch revenue, which was the need of the hour. Manju had an entrepreneur friend with whom she would share the office space and admin resources so that the Fixed cost in the business would come down. She would hire part time interns for 4-6 months so that the less productive job was done at a minimal cost. She would use freelancers / Gigs for the advertising and marketing campaigns.
Armstrong business had a wafer-thin margin, and the payouts would grow as the clients’ portfolio would grow. Thus, the firm was very canny about every penny spent, after all it was team of Financial Advisors who know this better.
Investing Into Business Process to Increase Efficiency
Investing and ploughing back profits into business is very necessary but at which stage of business where to invest is the puzzle. Just to throw some light with Manju’s experience she divides the Business Journey into 3 stages –
First 2 years – Invest into developing the product/ the main offering to the customer. If possible, give it free or at the least cost to the initial customers who will use it and tell you where to improve on. Have limited resources and a very basic office space.
Next 3 years – Invest into marketing & sales recruit people who can pitch for you and take your product to the customer. Take care of existing clients because they are feeding you.
Next Exponential Growth – At this stage, a business will have good cashflows and it will be growing at a 50-80% growth rate. Now invest into a good office space because you need more people. Invest into business process and automation to increase the efficiency.
Looking for Values and Passion in Candidates
Armstrong has a very different way of hiring. It does not look at CV, instead it gives out a form and the candidates has to write about their childhood, what they have learned from their parents; what books inspires them; what social causes did they support; and few more questions. This gives Armstrong a good understanding about the person and their approach towards life. Armstrong generally intakes freshers and Manju looks for values, passion for following the markets and storytelling ability. Integrity is something which cannot be judged at the interview level and integrity cannot be bought by paying higher salary. Manju believes that integrity can be developed by giving employee chance to put their ideas to practice and take up the ownership of making it work.
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