The “Silicon Valley” approach to business operations – often the traditional method of building and running a successful business through outside investment and operating with the interests of outside shareholders in mind – is not always the best option
Instead, being private and seeded should be taken very seriously by businesses. It allows founders and owners to retain control of corporate policy and financial discipline, and provides unique freedom of experimentation without external pressures from third-party partners or controlling investors.
This eliminates the need for a short-term approach to appease stakeholder demands, giving a business the ability to operate exactly as it wants. It can be prioritizing creativity, consumer experience, or even maintaining inherent brand values that typically don’t “play” well with the industry-approved way of doing things. In short, there is real freedom to innovate.
Owning the whole business also gives the ability to plan for the long term and allow the business to weather less profitable quarters and years in favor of R&D, knowing that this will result in a superior bottom line later on. . Additionally, independence from wider stakeholders means a company can invest in its surrounding communities and even wider economies. This potential for long-term customer relationships can also create a level of trust and create a superior customer experience that cannot be surpassed when all parties know the supplier has an exit in mind for their end goal.
But how does opposing this trend actually work in practice?
Zoho has been a strong advocate of this approach to business operations since its inception in 1996.
This has allowed us to prioritize what really matters to us, including advocating for ‘rural renaissance’, adopting a ‘customer-centric’ policy and adopting a ‘ privacy by design” for data practices.
All of this is made possible because we own and manage the ‘full stack’, including the data centers, so we can be absolutely confident in making promises to our customers. With no outside or third-party services to rely on or have access to our systems and their data, it’s easy to make promises that remain truthful and ethical when your trusted business decision makers are the ones making the decisions and follow them.
Certainly, making promises such as that customer data will never be monetized is giving up short-term profit and marketing opportunities that are being used by competitors, but the customer relationship remains the priority. In a typical company, this approach would be enough to make outside investors and shareholders nervous, forcing most companies to forego long-running or even “risky” projects. After all, profitability at all costs is usually the ultimate goal in this type of business operation.
Not only that, but independence from wider stakeholders means we can invest in our surrounding communities and even wider economies. For example, Zoho’s headquarters in Chennai, India is home to Zoho Schools, an alternative outlet for higher education that provides students with a stipend to attend, and translates into many jobs at Zoho after they graduate. There is also an on-site school for employees’ children, as well as an on-site doctor.
Zoho is also a firm believer in rural renewal and wonders why ‘traditional’ businesses feel they have to locate their headquarters in busy, congested cities, which ultimately robs rural areas of talent and the ability to create their own. economic health, resulting in ‘topsoil talent erosion’ as talent migrates to where the work is. Before and during the pandemic, we set up many rural offices around the world, to help stop this erosion. It also contributes positively to our employee experience, as employees can have a better quality of life with more affordable housing, less congestion, and more open space around them for a healthier lifestyle.
When it comes to more common business, going bucking the trend of the traditional “Silicon Valley” approach to operations creates a more adaptable and smoother business, even for a global enterprise, which employs hundreds of people in several territories.
Regarding our freedom to help communities, in response to the pandemic, Zoho has introduced several initiatives, free trials, and support programs to help struggling businesses navigate through one of the toughest times in modern business. . This included the introduction of a free set of ten apps that support working from home for free. Named Zoho Remotely, it remained free for most of 2020 to help businesses adjust to full-time remote work. The package incorporated applications enabling communication, collaboration and productivity.
Zoho has also provided free meals to many members of our catering team in the Chennai area and continues to offer vaccination campaigns and other forms of support to staff and local communities wherever possible.
Many companies are not in the same position in terms of private ownership and profitability – so they cannot take this exact approach – it is quite unique in our industry. However, it’s important that this different approach to business operations, and one where we have the ambition to stay private and focus on what we love, gets the same column and credibility as its open company alternative.
We have had 25 years of success in the industry and will continue to focus on global expansion, while proudly and fiercely keeping our brand values and the attributes that make us different at the heart of what we do.
About the Author
Sridhar Iyengar is MD at Zoho Europe. Zoho offers beautifully smart software to help you grow your business. With over 75 million users worldwide, Zoho’s 50+ products meet your sales and marketing, support and collaboration, fundraising and recruiting needs, leaving you to focus only on your business. Zoho respects user privacy and does not have an advertising revenue model in any part of its business, including its free products.
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