Haris Ahmed, Chicago Consultant: Top 3 Reasons Why Startups Fail

In the business world, one of the things that Haris Ahmed (Chicago)-based management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting, Inc., finds most unfortunate is that companies consider consulting services when it’s too late; often turning to management and business consultants only as a last-ditch effort to save the company from going bankrupt. And sometimes, not even the best management consultants can save the company because the issues are far beyond repair—or if they are, it would cost more than what the company is worth. Cutting losses would be the best option in such cases.

This post looks at some of the most common reasons why startups fail; and while there may be several factors that are at the root of these common causes, the underlying, and arguably most relevant factor, is leadership. Haris Ahmed, Chicago management consultant, believes that everything starts with leadership; now whether this will take the business to profit or loss all depends on the leader and his leadership style.

According to an analysis conducted by CB Insights, the top 3 reasons why startups fail are: there isn’t a market for the product, the company had problems with cash flow, and the company wasn’t backed by a solid and competent team.

Haris Ahmed  (Chicago) expounds further:

1. There is no market for the product. To be more specific, the startup’s target audience doesn’t need the product that they are offering. The concept may have seemed promising at first, and on paper, everything may have looked as if it will take off in a matter of weeks. But when the product hit the market, no one was buying. If no one is buying, you won’t have a business for long.

2. Problems with cash flow. Poor financial management, lack of financial backers (i.e. investors), lack of foresight and anticipation, or all of these, could eventually leave the company’s coffers dry. And when there is little money to run operations or pay for unforeseen expenditures, this could only go one of two ways: the startup falls into debt because of heavy borrowing from loan sharks (easy to get, hard to pay) or it could shut down operations for good—in most cases, both.

3. No competent team to help the startup achieve its goals. One of the most common issues that Haris Ahmed (Chicago) and his Chicago management consultancy team see in organizations that have sought their help is underperforming personnel. It could be because the leader isn’t good at motivating the team, some employees were hired based on recommendations alone, there was lack of training or none at all, and a lot of other reasons. The bottom line is, if the company doesn’t have a team it can rely on, a team that they don’t have to monitor all the time, a team they know will do a great job, and a team that knows the company’s goals and takes positive action to help the organization achieve it, then you can expect to encounter issues down the line. All businesses need an exceptional team to back it up, and it’s more important for a startup because your future is at stake here. Everything and everyone involved in your startup is a key player, and each of these players should be handpicked by you, the leader/business owner.

 

 

Haris Ahmed, Chicago Consultant: Top 3 Reasons Why Startups Fail

In the business world, one of the things that Haris Ahmed (Chicago)-based management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting, Inc., finds most unfortunate is that companies consider consulting services when it’s too late; often turning to management and business consultants only as a last-ditch effort to save the company from going bankrupt. And sometimes, not even the best management consultants can save the company because the issues are far beyond repair—or if they are, it would cost more than what the company is worth. Cutting losses would be the best option in such cases.

This post looks at some of the most common reasons why startups fail; and while there may be several factors that are at the root of these common causes, the underlying, and arguably most relevant factor, is leadership. Haris Ahmed, Chicago management consultant, believes that everything starts with leadership; now whether this will take the business to profit or loss all depends on the leader and his leadership style.

According to an analysis conducted by CB Insights, the top 3 reasons why startups fail are: there isn’t a market for the product, the company had problems with cash flow, and the company wasn’t backed by a solid and competent team.

Haris Ahmed (Chicago) expounds further:

1. There is no market for the product. To be more specific, the startup’s target audience doesn’t need the product that they are offering. The concept may have seemed promising at first, and on paper, everything may have looked as if it will take off in a matter of weeks. But when the product hit the market, no one was buying. If no one is buying, you won’t have a business for long.

2. Problems with cash flow. Poor financial management, lack of financial backers (i.e. investors), lack of foresight and anticipation, or all of these, could eventually leave the company’s coffers dry. And when there is little money to run operations or pay for unforeseen expenditures, this could only go one of two ways: the startup falls into debt because of heavy borrowing from loan sharks (easy to get, hard to pay) or it could shut down operations for good—in most cases, both.

3. No competent team to help the startup achieve its goals. One of the most common issues that Haris Ahmed  (Chicago) and his management consultancy team see in organizations that have sought their help is underperforming personnel. It could be because the leader isn’t good at motivating the team, some employees were hired based on recommendations alone, there was lack of training or none at all, and a lot of other reasons. The bottom line is, if the company doesn’t have a team it can rely on, a team that they don’t have to monitor all the time, a team they know will do a great job, and a team that knows the company’s goals and takes positive action to help the organization achieve it, then you can expect to encounter issues down the line. All businesses need an exceptional team to back it up, and it’s more important for a startup because your future is at stake here. Everything and everyone involved in your startup is a key player, and each of these players should be handpicked by you, the leader/business owner.

 

 

Haris Ahmed of Chicago Firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc. on Public Speaking Coaches

Haris Ahmed (Chicago) management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc. has personally coached over 100 leaders from public and private corporations alike, not-for-profits, and the federal sector.

There’s no doubt that honing one’s public speaking skills can bring tremendous personal and professional benefits. But should you join a respectable organization like Toastmasters or hire a dedicated public speaking coach to train you?

Toastmasters vs. Public Speaking Coach

To begin with, both options are viable means to improve your communication skills. Toastmasters is known for grooming some of the most confident and persuasive public speakers who have become leaders. They have put up numerous chapters all over the country so chances are, you can find a local Toastmasters club not too far away from your home or office. They also take pride in building a supportive atmosphere where you can learn and grow from the feedback given to you by other members who happen to be on the same boat as you are. All in all, Toastmasters remains the incubator of choice of many business leaders, executives, coaches, and other professionals who want to polish their communication skills.

What about public speaking coaches? With a coach or mentor, you can get one-on-one training and tweak your sessions according to your goals. For instance, if you’re pitching a business idea or giving a speech for a loved one’s wedding, you can ask to be guided on that specific task and still have a supportive environment with constructive feedback. Public speaking coaches are great when you want to hone your skills faster because it’s their job to ensure you’re making progress. This doesn’t mean, however, that you’ll be left alone in Toastmasters; it’s just that you’ll have the luxury to delve deeper into your communication issues and work on fixing them when you collaborate with a public speaking coach. For instance, he/she will evaluate your tone, pacing, word choice, and gestures, to name a few.

If you think you’ll thrive better alone, or are more comfortable with the idea of practicing in front of a few before you face bigger crowds, then working with a public speaking coach may turn out to be a better experience. A short engagement may also work here as well. The only caveat to public speaking coaches is that you may have to spend time finding one that you’d jive well with. This is because public speaking coaches vary in their styles and strategies. You want to find one who will work with what you already have and make them better. A coach that may dictate too much of this and that can make you appear forced and contrived to the audience. Safe to say, this lack of authenticity or rigidness can backfire on you and your speech.

In this sense, Toastmasters has one up over public speaking coaches. Their program has been tried and tested on thousands of individuals and they have an established pathway to your transformation as a distinguished public speaker.

Stay tuned to this page to read more from Haris Ahmed (Chicago) management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc.

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Haris Ahmed Chicago Consultant Asks Should You Join Toastmasters or Hire A Public Speaking Coach?

Haris Ahmed (Chicago) management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc. has personally coached over 100 leaders from public and private corporations alike, not-for-profits, and the federal sector.

There’s no doubt that honing one’s public speaking skills can bring tremendous personal and professional benefits. But should you join a respectable organization like Toastmasters or hire a dedicated public speaking coach to train you?

Toastmasters vs. Public Speaking Coach

To begin with, both options are viable means to improve your communication skills. Toastmasters is known for grooming some of the most confident and persuasive public speakers who have become leaders. They have put up numerous chapters all over the country so chances are, you can find a local Toastmasters club not too far away from your home or office. They also take pride in building a supportive atmosphere where you can learn and grow from the feedback given to you by other members who happen to be on the same boat as you are. All in all, Toastmasters remains the incubator of choice of many business leaders, executives, coaches, and other professionals who want to polish their communication skills.

What about public speaking coaches? With a coach or mentor, you can get one-on-one training and tweak your sessions according to your goals. For instance, if you’re pitching a business idea or giving a speech for a loved one’s wedding, you can ask to be guided on that specific task and still have a supportive environment with constructive feedback. Public speaking coaches are great when you want to hone your skills faster because it’s their job to ensure you’re making progress. This doesn’t mean, however, that you’ll be left alone in Toastmasters; it’s just that you’ll have the luxury to delve deeper into your communication issues and work on fixing them when you collaborate with a public speaking coach. For instance, he/she will evaluate your tone, pacing, word choice, and gestures, to name a few.

If you think you’ll thrive better alone, or are more comfortable with the idea of practicing in front of a few before you face bigger crowds, then working with a public speaking coach may turn out to be a better experience. A short engagement may also work here as well. The only caveat to public speaking coaches is that you may have to spend time finding one that you’d jive well with. This is because public speaking coaches vary in their styles and strategies. You want to find one who will work with what you already have and make them better. A coach that may dictate too much of this and that can make you appear forced and contrived to the audience. Safe to say, this lack of authenticity or rigidness can backfire on you and your speech.

In this sense, Toastmasters has one up over public speaking coaches. Their program has been tried and tested on thousands of individuals and they have an established pathway to your transformation as a distinguished public speaker.

Stay tuned to this page to read more from Haris Ahmed (Chicago) management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc.

For more information please follow me on Twitter at Haris Ahmed Chicago

 

 

Haris Ahmed of Chicago Firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc. on Stage PresenceHaris Ahmed Chicago Consultant, Speaking for Success with Stage Presence

Haris Ahmed (Chicago) management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc. is an experienced facilitator and has led numerous leadership workshops and team-building sessions. Read his blog below about developing one’s stage presence.

Public speaking is performance – remember this and you’ll never have to worry about whether you’re good enough. Fear of public speaking is far more common than you think. Unfortunately, most of the time, people bring their insecurities up with them on the stage, which is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. However, by truly understanding that public speaking is a performance, you can disassociate from those insecurities and perceived weaknesses running amok in your mind and concentrate on the task at hand.

Many people view public speaking as an intimidating activity. This fight or flight scenario triggers the sympathetic nervous system, which causes symptoms such as a faster heartbeat and shallow breathing. While little may be done to fight such physiological responses, speaking for success isn’t impossible. Just take a cue from theater actors, comedians, and anyone else who’ve had to make a living performing on stage. They seem to be full of charisma and their stage presence is often commanding. They make public speaking look like a cinch. Fortunately, the skills needed to master public speaking can be learned and honed. Here are little things one can do that can make a big difference in their performance:

1. Be confident – Remember those insecurities you unwittingly bring up on the stage? It’s normal to have insecurities, but you’re putting on a performance here, so the next few minutes will now be less about you, and more about the audience. This means that you should radiate confidence. Those insecurities are not you; they do not define you nor do they guarantee your failure. As mentioned, public speaking is a common fear. As such, you should take pride in the fact that you’re brave enough to go up on stage and speak in front of hundreds of people. Few have the courage to do so and this thought should help boost your confidence.

2. Own your message – The point of using note cards should be made clear; these keep you on track when you forget what to say next, ensuring your speech stays cohesive. Note cards should not be read from. In fact, doing so might give off the impression that the speech you’re presenting is not your own. That said, you can effectively own your message by practicing and inserting your own stories and experiences in it.

3. Dress the part – When you wear clothes that make you look chic or dapper, you give yourself a big confidence boost. It’s like putting on new skin that makes it easier for you to act your role. For your next big speech, try wearing the clothes you’ll have on during your presentation whenever you practice. This may help put those nerves at ease faster as you would have gone through the motions of your speech several times before already.

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Haris Ahmed (Chicago) Consulting Firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc. On Basic Techniques of Public Speaking

Haris Ahmed (Chicago) management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc. has personally coached over a hundred business leaders, and is an experienced facilitator, having led numerous team-building sessions for public organizations and private corporations alike.

Whether you’re a new graduate or a seasoned executive, strong communication skills can greatly boost your career, particularly public speaking. While the opportunity to speak in front of a large audience isn’t given to everyone, the lessons learned from public speaking can still be applied to many things. For instance, the manner with which you present yourself and get your ideas across can influence decisions in your organization. That said, if you have little experience with public speaking, here are some of the most basic but tried and tested techniques that can make up the core of your presentation strategy:

Engagement – Believe it or not, public speaking is less about the speaker in front or at the podium, and more about the audience. Many public speakers today still turn to engagement to help ensure that their audience is listening and able to keep up with the thoughts and ideas presented to them. Engagement entails the audience’s active involvement, whether they are asking questions, or participating in games and icebreakers. Engagement doesn’t always have to be done at the beginning of a presentation as well. You may be able to catch your audience’s attention with a hook, but holding that interest throughout the duration of your talk is another matter. Therefore, when it comes to engagement, use it as often as needed to check in on your audience.

Storytelling – There are many kinds of hooks, each with its own merits, but storytelling is possibly the most powerful. This is because oral storytelling is as old as human language itself, which means to say that for thousands of years, storytelling has been used by primitive cultures to communicate, entertain, and educate. As a rule of thumb, personal stories are best, as they can make the presenter seem more relatable or less intimidating.

Of course, the impact on the audience will depend on the kind of story you want to share, but know that light and humorous stories can just be as effective as tragic or dramatic ones. Impact will depend on your delivery as well. If you go with the former, other factors may come into play, such as wit and comedic timing, but even if you suspect your story isn’t as engaging or compelling, as long as you tell it in a way that’s authentic, then the battle is half won.

Body language – Have you ever thought about what signals your face or body could be giving away while you’re up on stage, speaking? Body language, in fact, is a powerful tool that can make an impact on your audience. Do you unwittingly raise your eyebrows too much, or make hand gestures? Think about how you space as well, whether you tend to stay still or move around to get closer to your audience.

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Haris Ahmed, Chicago Consultant: Who Should Be Your Company’s Spokesperson?

Haris Ahmed  (Chicago) management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc. has more than two decades of experience with change and leadership. He has taught more than 100 executives on the finer points of change management, skills development, and public relations.

Before a crisis can unfold, it’s important for businesses to have designated a spokesperson. This way they can immediately respond to the situation and face the queries and complaints that come their way. The spokesperson may carry a different role from that of the PR practitioner but they may also be one and the same. There is, however, one rule of thumb when it comes to handling such reputation-defining events: the more serious the crisis is, the better it is to have a spokesperson that is high up on the corporate ladder. This doesn’t mean the CEO right away. In some cases, it could be another senior official or corporate officer. This way, the CEO may still be able to step in and address the issue, in case further action is warranted.

Why is it important to choose the right spokesperson? For one, his/her status could say a lot about the crisis. Think of it this way: when terror attacks hit the country, no less than the President of the United States steps up to the podium to deliver a unifying speech. This isn’t any different from a large firm being plagued by a scandal. The CEO’s presence sends a message that they are taking the matter at hand seriously. If anyone of lesser stature were to be thrown into the spotlight, the firm runs risk of giving the impression that they are not taking the matter seriously.

It’s understandable for CEOs to be uncomfortable in the spotlight. Although it would be much more advantageous for a company to have a CEO that can think on his/her toes, is articulate, and has a high degree of professionalism and emotional intelligence. One need only look at what happened to British multinational oil and gas company BP to understand this point. Back in 2010, the US saw one of the most devastating oil spills in the history of its waters, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP pleaded guilty to their negligence where around 5,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil had spilled per day on the ocean floor. As much as oil leaks are part of the nature of the industry, what isn’t was the CEO’s response to the crisis. Then CEO Tony Hayward is remembered for having said, “We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused to their lives. There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I’d like my life back.” A PR nightmare of a response, wouldn’t you say?

Naturally, Hayward’s statement was heavily met with criticism, even by the US President at the time, Barrack Obama. Hayward’s PR gaffe ended up costing him his job. He was shortly replaced by a new CEO three months later. Could this have been avoided? Certainly, once CEO’s understand the important role PR practitioners play.

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Haris Ahmed Chicago: Using PR to Respond to Disasters

Haris Ahmed (Chicago), is the CEO and founder of Pragmatium Consulting Group, Inc., a consulting firm that performs public relations functions for both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Pragmatium provides creative yet grounded PR responses to all sorts of situations, resulting in sustained positive brand perception and engagement for its clients. Today, he writes about the role of public relations in managing disasters and similar crisis situations.

I’m no prophet of doom, but I’d be lying if tensions over security and personal safety are not at an all-time high. Since Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 went missing over the Indian Ocean in 2014, companies and governments alike have realized the importance of proper public relations in either raising awareness of a situation or deflating it altogether. The said incident highlighted the company’s and the Malaysian government’s lack of experience in dealing with crisis situations, and PR practitioners around the world expressed dismay about the Malaysian Airlines PR team’s handling of the event.

One veteran crisis expert, Robert Jensen, observed that crisis communications is all about not making a situation worse, simply because things can’t get any better. Because Malaysian Airlines was a national carrier, it was expected that they would’ve handled the situation better. However, there were reports of inaccurate information being disseminated by the combined PR teams of the airline and government to the media, with retractions coming after a few hours or days.

PR Week observed that Malaysian Airlines did not engage any external PR firms in its crisis management efforts, relying instead on the Malaysian government’s communications channels. It did, however, get advice from a firm in the UK. As time went by, it became apparent that the lack of coordination between the government and the airline made a bad situation worse. Instead of having the CEO face the public, Malaysian Airlines appointed someone relatively lower in the hierarchy to deal with the PR fallout.

This could have been averted if the carrier had reached out to an external PR agency right away. A PR agency with experience in crisis communications would have been mitigated, if not manage, the news of the plane as soon as it was confirmed that it had gone missing. The agency would’ve also been able to gauge the appropriate response to the situation and frame it in the context of similar events while maintaining respect for the victims and their loved ones. Jensen says that finding the plane had become secondary after a few weeks; instead, the focus should have shifted to helping the victims’ families heal and move on from the event.

Plane crashes and similar disasters cannot be predicted. However, their effect on organizational and national morale and image can be mitigated with proper public relations. This fact is not lost on PR practitioners across the U.S., including Haris Ahmed. Chicago, the site of Pragmatium Consulting’s headquarters, is also the transport hub for the Midwest and has seen its share of air-related disasters. Thus, PR agencies in the area are able to respond to disasters quickly and effectively.

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Haris Ahmed, a Chicago Consultant, Talks About Cultivating a Corporate Culture That Embraces Change

For Haris Ahmed, Chicago-based executive coach, business consultant, and CEO of Pragmatium Consulting, Inc., change is inevitable. Hasn’t it been said time and again that “change is the only constant in life”? Whether in the workplace, home life, or friendships —these will go through changes; and how you deal with them will determine your experience—including the benefits and losses. For first-time visitors, this blog site is all about change: adapting, adopting, aversion, acceptance, as well as the rewards and repercussions.

On the outset, change is such a scary, big word. Who wants change when you’re perfectly comfortable where you are right now? Never mind if you’re not living up to your full potential, or your company isn’t at the top of corporate rankings in your industry. So long as you’re surviving, you’re earning profits, and you have enough cash flow to cover operational and overhead costs, you’re in good waters, right? Why disrupt all of these when you’re not even sure what that change will do for your company, not to mention, your people?

But here’s the thing, unless we learn to adapt, adopt, or innovate, we’ll always be in the same boat. Soon enough, you could find your business lagging behind companies in your industry that you didn’t even consider as worthy competitors years ago. That’s the problem with not embracing change, you stay stuck; almost immovable.

Now that you’ve acknowledged the importance of embracing change, in business or even in your personal life, how do you cultivate a culture in your company that embraces and encourages change? In my opinion, the first thing you must do as the leader of your organization is to be open to change yourself. Remember that you, being the leader, set the example to everyone in your organization. If you give off the vibe that you’re not entirely open to change, and appear quite vocal about trends and shifts in your industry, harping on all the negative scenarios that could happen, then guess what? Your employees, soon enough, will pick up this vibe and follow your example. And those that don’t? You can expect them to walk out the door to look for a company that they feel they can grow with. Change is an effective tool that can grow your business by leaps and bounds, but only if you accept it and take positive action.

I mentioned here that being open is a key component to embracing change. And by being open, I mean communicating with your teams. Everything starts with proper and effective communication. Remember that communication is a two-way street; you talk, they listen; and when they talk, you listen too. Hear what your teams have to say, take note of their inputs and thoughts, welcome innovations that they may present to you, and then discuss, plan, and strategize.

Cultivating a corporate culture that encourages change is a team effort, but it all begins with you, the organization’s leader. What are your thoughts on this? Please feel free to share them with me, Haris Ahmed of Chicago, in the comments section below.

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Haris Ahmed from Chicago: 5 Events That Changed the Business Landscape in the Last 30 Years

20 Fenchurch Street, architecture, business

Hello, I’m Haris Ahmed of Chicago-based consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc. and I have worked with organizations from various industries teaching them how to adapt to change.

Change—it’s all around us, the only constant that keeps business owners and managers awake at night, ruminating on how to adapt to it and break any potential fall. In most cases, businesses are able to adequately prepare for change, ensuring a smooth transition as much as possible. However, there are times when preparation is also rendered futile because businesses simply do not have the capacity to accurately anticipate or forecast what type of change will hit them next. We’ve seen this happen with climate change, which continues to pose a threat to everyone, but this isn’t the first time such a change of this magnitude had greatly impacted the way business is done in the country.

In the last 30 years, we have witnessed several major events that caused, not just mere ripples, but high tides of change that affected businesses. Here are some of them:

1. The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989 – The end of the Cold War in 1989 brought about a never-before-seen revolution for American businesses as it opened new markets in Europe for American products. Some examples of companies that dominated and benefited from this sudden embrace of all things Western are Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Microsoft.

2. Netscape’s IPO, 1995 – A big segment of the workforce today, specifically millennials, were too young to understand the implications of Netscape’s IPO in 1995, but it’s worth looking back on this fortuitous event. This is because it paved the way for the World Wide Web’s successful shift onto the mainstream, changing the course of business forever. For many young professionals, the idea of an Internet-free world is unbelievable.

3. September 11 Attacks, 2001 – The terrorist attacks that happened on September 11, 2001 left deep scars on the business community, so much so that many still harbor fears and paranoia up to now. On that fateful day, the country saw its stock market crash and commodity prices such as oil and gas shoot up, which affected small business owners the most. In New York alone, it is estimated that 9/11 directly affected some 18,000 businesses, either abruptly ending operations or displacing them.

4. The Global Financial Crisis, 2007-2008 – No one saw it coming, but the housing bubble serves as a grim reminder of the brokenness of the financial system. When the bubble finally burst, small business owners suddenly found themselves with less access to credit, effectively paralyzing their business activities. Based on a report by Business Journals, the financial crisis killed some 170,000 businesses from 2008 to 2010, showing how the crisis’ effects have a lasting, haunting impact on entrepreneurs.

5. Fed Interest Rate Hike, 2015 – Finally, after close to a decade, the Federal Reserve finally found its foothold to hike interest rates from 0% to a range of 0.25% and 0.5%. The figure may seem small, but it nonetheless affected millions of investors, home buyers, and entrepreneurs, as well as college students.

To read more from Haris Ahmed of Chicago-based consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc., stay tuned to this page.