This week’s How to CEO podcast gave me the opportunity to talk to Rana Gujral, an in-demand entrepreneur, business leader, and CEO.
Rana began his career in a corporate environment where he built hardware, software, “and everything in between”. He soon had the opportunity to lead the successful transformation of a tech company on the verge of bankruptcy. During this time, he learned what really makes a company successful.
Currently, Rana is the CEO of Behavioral Signals, “the fastest growing robust Emotion AI engine.” Behavioral Signals is a deep tech company that extracts emotion from voice conversation and speech. I was lucky enough to get a lot of insight from Rana, including the following:
Manage now, but don’t lose sight of the goal
When I asked Rana what kind of personality is required to be a good CEO, he told me that you need to be able to process huge amounts of data while staying focused. It is also important for a CEO to be able to deal with people effectively and understand many different perspectives and perspectives.
Also, he told me about the importance of seeing the forest through the trees. You always need to look ahead of what you are currently working on. What often holds back talented leaders is their tendency to focus so much on the things around them in the present that they lose sight of what lies ahead. A good CEO keeps his eye on the ball.
resisting pressure and understanding what needs to change
Rana has not only founded companies, but he has also joined existing companies to help them achieve successful transformation. So I asked him how coming on an already existing executive team is different from setting up a company. What are the challenges?
He told me that as an outsider, you have to build trust. You also have to understand that not all that has been done in that company so far is “waste”. You have been brought in as an agent of change, but you have to resist the pressure to change everything. Be smart and know what to keep and what to change.
He also advised that when you’re helping a company turn around, there are often many little things that need to be changed. Watch out for small mistakes that are constantly overlooked. Companies often need an outside perspective to come and see the things they do.
a passion for innovation
I was curious to know what specific superpowers Rana brought to the companies he has helped. He told me that he brought perspective on how to take incredibly innovative technology, monetize it, bring it to market, and refine the commercialization model.
“That’s the part I’m most passionate about,” he said. “I am most passionate about working on revolutionary, innovative technology opportunities that will help us build a successful business outcome.”
Know who is crying with you and who is crying against you
Change is hard, especially when helping a company turn around. I asked Rana how he does everyone’s shopping.
He told me that you have to be a great communicator first. In any change, you are essentially changing the direction of the boat. You are pivoting, and you need to explain the direction change first, and why the change is needed. It also helps to be able to communicate through storytelling, which is a complex skill.
Another aspect of people-trading is understanding who is rowing with you, who isn’t rowing at all, and who is rowing against you. You need to know who to help and how to help people implement your vision for change.
fare fast, fire fast
I asked Rana for some suggestions on hiring and firing. “I believe in fast hiring and fast firing,” he said. Moving fast and taking decisive action is imperative as a startup because you don’t always have the luxury of finding the absolute best fit.
“You have to bet on people,” he told me. “You have to bet on their instincts, you have to bet on their passion, and you have to bet on some strategic value they will bring to the team.”
Once you realize that someone is not the right fit for your team, you have to take decisive action. The longer you wait, the worse the outcome for the individual and the company. At the end of the day, the best thing for an under-performer is to let them go so they can thrive elsewhere, where they fit in better. Don’t push them.
Playing it safe isn’t worth the risk
I asked Rana what advice he would give to his young child. His advice would be, “Don’t play too safe. It’s not worth the risk!” He told me that our whole mindset about taking risks is completely skewed by society. “What we hear about risk taking, and what risk really is, and not taking risks What do you mean, it’s so old.”