The changing roles of product managers in today’s product development

One of the side-effects of increase in the consumer internet start-ups activity is the number of people claiming to be a product manager in the market today. A quick look around will tell us that there are people with 1 year of experience to people with 20 years experience – all having their designations as product managers. Given that a product management team isn’t typically a large team (unlike developers and QA), it is baffling to see such a variance in the years of experience.

We hire quite a few Business Analysts and their career path is also on the lines of either gravitating towards becoming a project manager or a product manager. And I have seen much larger interest on the product manager side. This is not too surprising given that a project manager is largely an operational role whereas a product manager role looks sexier with terms like consulting, strategy, design and user experience thrown in. Why a lot of people find strategy and consulting sexier than operations at a lower experience level is alarming and may need another post, but this post is generally to write my thoughts on how I think the role of a product manager has changed over time.

When I started my career over 12 years back, I saw the world focusing more on specialised skills when it came to creating software products and services delivered through the internet and consumer devices. So, there was a need for a product manager whose job was to focus on features and create storyboards / wireframes, and then there was a designer who would convert this to photoshop files and then a web developer who would cut the same into HTML and Javascript and then a developer who will integrate this into the backend to create a final product. Naturally, this had many advantages because of higher skills being employed to do different roles. At the same time, there were 2 big disadvantages to this model: first being the need for at least 4-5 skills / people to create even a simple POC thereby needing “management time” at the very beginning. The 2nd disadvantage may not be very obvious but is the most painful and that is the level of coordination required to finally come up with a end UI – this is because designers / product manager who interact with a customer will likely create a design that is most appealing visually but may not be the most efficient from a technical implementation perspective (and a developer has the complete opposite view of the world, which is again not right). I have seen teams struggling to get this very basic right, and we at Kellton Tech made some changes to our processes to make it slightly better, yet not completely right. And this problem is not common to a front-end of a product, the problem is similar on the backend too.

Fast forward a few more years, and we saw the rise of specialised front-end UI frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap which got mass adoption – and I attribute much of that to the fact that people didn’t want to deal with the above 2 problems I talked about earlier even though it may not be the best technical solution from a purist standpoint. This is where unfortunately I have seen mis-alignment in the various product managers that I see in most of the companies – many of them just haven’t kept themselves updated.

The role of a product manager really is to first find the best process that gets a product developed most efficiently and with least iterations. They can choose to be a purist, a manager or obsess about certain tools later. And this is not a one-time activity, with the speed at which technology changes it has to be likely assessed very regularly and as a part of job. And this is where a combination of curiosity and experience is required, that has not been so common in especially culture like ours. I will, any day, be happier to see this kind of analysis coming from the different product managers and presenting it to their respective product teams and making sure they drive this to adoption.

We have been working on making this change at Kellton Tech and get this in our DNA, and I hope I see the same change for all the other product managers that I may or may not know of.

Will online freelance marketplaces stay relevant?

We recently read about merger of oDesk with eLance. The interesting part is that this is a merger and there isn’t a cash exchange that has happened between the shareholders of the 2 companies. The 2 companies have together raised over $140 million in venture funding over the last 10+ years and very likely some part of the funding has been written-off by their venture capitalists because of the timeline that the VC firms operate in. Even by going a modest 10x return that made sense some 3 years back, unless these companies are valued at $2 billion in the primary or secondary market – it won’t be a sweet deal for the investors. And going by the current revenue / profit numbers and their B2B model, that valuation looks very steep.

Then there are other outsourcing marketplaces like Guru.com, TopTal.com that are out there and I see at least half a dozen new ones opening every year. I also had tried my hands with a start-up in this area by co-founding a company USourceIT, raised a Series A round from a VC but couldn’t really create a success out of it. Naturally, I was very emotionally involved in this venture even though it was a part-time role for me and didn’t talk about this until a few months back.

Looking at the top-line numbers for these marketplaces and the business focus, it is baffling how less relevant this market has become and not really growing at a pace that makes it interesting for an investor. And don’t just look at the total transaction, let’s also look at the successful transactional volume (the projects which gets successfully completed!). I bet that those numbers are even smaller – simply meaning that these marketplaces aren’t really solving the problems that they started to solve. So, what does it mean – will these marketplaces die their natural death, or become a services-like lifestyle business, or is there a need for them to pivot to something that no-one has tried so far – at least publicly?

There are certain observations:

1. Bulk of the projects that these companies cater to is the outsourced product development area – and I genuinely believe that the marketplaces with matchmaking service, the way it happens today, is a bad idea. There is no trust, there is too much of competitiveness to be able to differentiate between quality and price parameters. These marketplaces continue to allow buyers to write bad project briefs and let service providers respond to those with equally bad responses, if not worse. Worse, people who realise this are building tools trying to solve the problems of buyer writing better project briefs and service providers expecting project brief – whereas today’s technology has moved away from the direction where project brief is hardly a step that should be carried out for anyone who is creating consumer internet products.

2. Mis-trust based systems – When you look at oDesk tools (and others too) that takes the screenshot of a computer of the service provider and makes it available to buyer as a proof of work, it makes you cringe. It is equivalent of telling someone “hey, go create this stuff and since I don’t trust you, I am going to put a camera to track you”. This doesn’t excite any above average guy to participate and use the system. And a good product development doesn’t get done with the average guys. I don’t have the numbers but I am reasonably sure that bulk of the products that gets delivered through these marketplace developers nowhere match the product that it was supposed to be. And it is not one party’s fault – the system is hardwired to reach that destiny.

3. The buyers on these marketplaces are not exclusive to them, and many of the good ones actually use these systems to “get a sense of” the cost / timelines or “at best create a prototype” before working with a team they found through another source. At Tekriti / Kellton Tech, we get more revenue from customers who find us through Google or search-engines than these marketplace portals even though one of our subsidiary is a top ranked service provider at one of the popular marketplace.

So, what is the solution? Is there an alternate marketplace model that may work for matching these software service providers and buyers? Or will the world move towards a intelligent classifieds model where these providers / buyers will be ranked as per their expertise and the fulfilment be left in an offline way? Will Google eat all these companies for lunch too?

I still will want to attempt solving this problem one more time, so if you have any ideas please drop me a line / email or leave comments.

Business with middle class mentality

I am immensely proud about my upbringing and family values that my parents have instilled in me, and it will be an accomplishment if I turn out to be half as good a father to my kids as my father and mother were to me and my siblings. My dad, who is the most popular doctor in my hometown, brought us up in a middle class setup for the largest time of my childhood. And I was proud about my middle class values, almost looking down upon many others who did not have the same sense of strong values.

Then came the time when I started a (and then more) start-up which became businesses and started generating profits – decent amounts. This is when, to better appreciate various business strategies, I started closely examining the books of other businesses generating lot more profit. This closer look combined with the other information available in public and not-so-public domain told me that many of their values were exactly what I used to look down upon earlier. A business, where more wealth is usually the sign of more success, forces you to re-look and re-examine your values and I wasn’t untouched by that. This is when I went back to questioning my middle-class-values and almost wondering if my parents taught me the correct things, or perhaps they were just too naive because they had never done business before, or probably both.

Like in many other things, the way to strike a balance is to first touch both the extremes and then coming to the equilibrium. This equilibrium moment (on evaluating values) came to me only after I analysed and studied the middle class values in greater detail. It started getting clear to me that most of the middle class values were designed beautifully, and one that will lead to a happier life in more cases than not.

However, there is an issue: a core component of middle class mentality is basically putting yourself 2nd to the 1st cause that one is committed to.

I have lived this value so many times in my life. When I started my business, I put the interest of my business over mine – many a times taking decisions that were not in my favor because those wouldn’t have been as good for the organisation. At home, the interest of my family has always been more important to me. I used to stop myself many a times from getting certain comfort, irrespective of how easy or difficult it was for me to avail it, that most “middle class” people couldn’t or shouldn’t (in ┬ámy book) avail. I am sure many will agree to it, and many would argue that this emotion is valuable in the context of a family but very few have been found practising this at work.

Naturally, there are many pluses to this emotion – it creates more loyal employees, and it gives people a reason other than money to be associated with an organisation as this kind of sacrifice is almost always contagious. At the same time, there are minuses to it too when one pisses off an associate who may not have the same emotion thereby causing a conflict.

I believe I am still learning and my thoughts will evolve further but it is becoming clear that as one’s financial and social status change, it is important to at least be appreciative and accept (if not convert to) the other values that may be completely opposite to what your original values were. I am forced to conclude that in trying to change your social and financial status, there is a good chance that you may become a person that you won’t like yourself. But not accepting that change may even be worse for the very cause that you are trying to further. The choice is clear – this is the 1st large instance where the middle class values are challenged strongly, perhaps still being the beginning of many such inner conflicts to come in future. Reading again about Chanakya isn’t a very bad idea – he was a genius.

Bootstrapping a new business?

Being an entrepreneur for many years now, I do get an opportunity to meet lots of budding entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs are in different stages of life – some of them are fresh graduates, some who have spent a decade in their jobs, some who have just completed their MBA from good business schools after spending 5-7 years in job and some of them are still students. The experience is highly enriching, and fun.

One question that invariably comes almost always is how to bootstrap the business first, while one is still defining the product that they want to pursue as part of their business. While there is no easy answer for this, I will mention the various options possible and my thoughts on those. The below stands true for businesses which do not give immediate revenue and not so much for services business where the business model itself is revenue first.

1. Starting while being in a job: This is something that is the most popular, and many people do this. There are obvious pluses in this model and it is least disruptive for one’s lifestyle. One stretches themselves beyond the regular work-hours and work on refining the idea and the prototype for the same. I have seen enough people endorsing this as a great idea, but I disagree there. Not only is this borderline unethical as per most company’s rules, I am also convinced that you don’t push yourself enough to go over the tipping point to finally do something about it. Also, most ideas change drastically when you start working on it – and for that you need to be working full time and talk freely about it with others. This is not so easily possible when you are in a job and have not disclosed your plans to the company already. So, while one can start thinking about what they want to do while in a job, I will always prefer one to be transparent about this with their companies and plan accordingly.

2. Starting with consulting on the side: Consulting on the side in the space / area that is their current consideration is ┬ávery good step, if that option exists for one. Besides generating some income to support themselves and make investments, it also lets one understand the space and their problems far better. Naturally, it is important to know how much do you want to expand this consulting so that it doesn’t take the focus and hunger away from your original plan of creating a product.

3. Starting by making personal sacrifices and working full time on the venture without a salary: This approach is obviously the hardest and is possible only when either your personal recurring costs are very low or you have savings to support you in this period. This is where I think expensive MBAs or education is a deterrent because one is on EMIs that are not easy to support without a full-time salary. But if one can support this model, doing this has huge advantages. It will keep one on their toes and will ensure that you are the most efficient in trying to figure something to your liking. All of us have heard about the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” umpteen number of times for a reason.

4. Entrepreneur in Residence / Business Incubators / Accelerators: Not all but a very few Venture Capital firms offer Entrepreneur in Residence programs and then there are many incubators / accelerators which are becoming mainstream now. I can’t say with a lot of certainty but I don’t typically recommend one to choose this options initially. Entrepreneurship is lot about discovering yourself when you have to work without resources, and not just an idea / product and having bosses may not be very fruitful at that time. However friendly the VC / incubator may be, it is hard not to be judged by them once you start, and so unless you really know what you will be working on – you may want to avoid that scrutiny.

I love to talk to entrepreneurs, so if anyone believes that I can help them clarify certain thoughts in their head, please reach out and I will be happy to talk.

Happy New Year 2014!

2013 was a great year for me – the best part was me welcoming the arrival of my beautiful twins, one that has already amplified both my emotions – happiness and pain – at different times. The personal life took priority over professional life in this year. I look forward to discovering more of my parenting in 2014, while bringing some balance to the professional career too.

I wish all of you a great and very Happy New Year 2014! I am sure I am going to be more social this year – online and offline. Kids will remain my priority, I have earned the privilege of spending time with them when they are this young!

How to successfully outsource software product development

When I look back at my career over the last decade, it is interesting that I have spent most of my time working with companies that has software product outsourcing at its center. The company that I have spent most of my time at, the one that I founded and was CEO of – Tekriti Software, was a core outsourced product development company (OPD) and Kellton Tech also has OPD as a significant percentage of the business. So, naturally, I get asked a lot about the various models with product outsourcing and the best way to take advantage of this to build software products.

Kellton Tech has given me enough flexibility and time to actually think on these various models that I was unable to do with the other companies that I founded / co-founded and was involved far more operationally. In addition to this, I have spent some time talking to companies of different sizes and from different geographies including Asia, America and Eastern Europe. I have also spoken to a few Venture Capitalists who regularly fund the companies that create these software products.

I am trying to outline the various points that one should consider while trying to outsource the development of a new product:

1. RFP model on the software product outsourcing is broken: If you, as a customer, are trying to create a RFP documenting product features that are to be developed, there is a good chance that you have no idea of how a software product is to created in today’s world. The ONLY way to create a product is to do it iteratively, irrespective of how good a product manager you are or you have. So if you think that you have been able to document ALL product features in the RFP and trying to invite a vendor to quote on it, do yourself a favor and fire the product manager. Instead, create a business requirement document and work with the outsourced team to convert those into system requirements per milestone – each of which should not be more than a calendar month or so long. Also, if you are a service provider, be very selective with these customers even if you can’t say No to them. You will not make money on the project, the product will not be something that anybody will use and both parties will only end up blaming each other for the failure.

2. Fixed cost vs Agile based time and material engagement model: Never, and I repeat never, engage on a fixed cost model if the effort in building your product is more than a very low few man-months effort. As I said in the earlier point, the only way to create a product is to do it iteratively. So an agile based time and material with a team that you are comfortable with is the way to go. You should definitely speak to the team-members as the product development starts and give them the confidence that you want to work as a team and are flexible with the product requirements for the optimised results as long as it solves the business requirement. Treat the team as partner and not vendor. If you have a fixed budget in mind (and you will likely have it), break the product requirements into multiple iterations and prioritize these iterations. Be transparent about your constraints (budgets / timelines) and work with your chosen team to accomplish those. So, the selection process for the team has to be capability first (and by a degree of magnitude), the cost should be a much lower criteria. This is because a capable team will actually help define your product in a way that in spite of higher per hour rate, they can accomplish the business requirements more effectively in the same cost.

3. Communication – frequency and tools: Your outsourced team has to be your partner and friend in business. So, work out a schedule with the team so that you can talk to them frequently (at least twice a week) and be updated on the general progress. And when you do this, be aware that you will see lots of work-in-progress and you need to know when to give feedback and when to just see the progress so that you don’t make the team members defensive. Motivate the team, and encourage them to do well – I have seen enough customers who will start with issues on every call and that doesn’t help anyone.

4. Technology stack, and architecture: Always understand the technology high-level architecture of your product, not because you don’t trust the outsourced team because you will yourself realize why certain features take more time to implement and may be able to tweak those requirements in a way that it takes less time as well as meet the same business requirements. As an example, the technology stack to implement a real time chat based system is to be designed different from a not-so-real-time web-service based system. Be realistic about the number of users you are expecting and design the product accordingly.

I am confident that if one follows ALL of the above points, the chances of them creating a good product will be many times higher. And, don’t make the mistake of following half of these points and then expecting the vendor / outsourced team to support you the way they would do if you were following all of these points.

Why AAP winning Delhi elections is good news

I understand that this is a controversial topic and something which has been discussed to death, but certain discussions with my friends has led me to write my thoughts on a blog that I have not updated in 5 years!!! Of course, I continue to hope that with this I will start blogging again :-)

Before I start writing on the topic, let me clarify that I am no AAP fan. In fact, I am not a fan of any political party and have voted for different political parties in the various elections – mostly because of local factors rather than national. At the same time, I absolutely think that it is important that we get a very strong (and opinionated) political leader / administrator as our PM this time. That makes it clearer for me on who I will vote for in national elections, irrespective of who the local candidate is. And if my PM candidate doesn’t indeed become the country’s PM, I do believe that perhaps the country will only lose its reputation further in the business world and that is what I care the most about.

The political discussions lately have become far more interesting, more so because of a new political party – AAP – because of the strong opinions that the “educated class” seems to be having about AAP. There is a class who certainly thinks and believes that AAP is the best thing to happen to Indian politics, it’s not common to have a 13 months old party be in a situation to form a state government in the capital of a democracy which have traditionally been held by the top 2 political parties of the country. On the other hand, the other group thinks that AAP has made unfeasible promises and have conned the general public in the name of those false promises. And even if they are able to keep their promises, they will have to follow a more extreme / Left-like policies which may not be in the interest of the middle class population and the country.

While, being an entrepreneur, I always celebrate the wins of a guy with the least resources (and hence AAP), I certainly am skeptical about the promises that have been made by the party and the policies which will have to be adopted to even get close to fulfil these promises. But this post is not about those skepticism, that time is over now. AAP is now already in power and the gutsy Arvind Kejriwal will be the youngest CM of the state likely taking an oath tomorrow. This post is about my thoughts on why, overall, I believe AAP winning and forming a government in Delhi is good news:

1. AAP has shown that a change is possible in our political system which was unthinkable just a month back. This will encourage more people to go this way, and will create political entrepreneurs. There is nothing (other than entrepreneurship) that can create faster change in a society like ours, and gives hope. Hope THAT living in India will still be an option for my kids.

2. It keeps every political party more honest than before. All political parties, for once, have realised that they should not make the general public suffer beyond an extreme. The revolutions still can happen in a democratic country like ours. It has happened this year, and it may happen again.

3. It is fine even if AAP fails or turns out to be a fraud. One of the argument many of my friends have is that AAP is a proxy for Congress while the other group thinks that AAP is a proxy for BJP – and they have logical reasons for saying so, none of which can be neglected. While my heart refuses to accept that any of that is true, the brain can’t ignore some really strong facts that are present. Only time will tell what is true – but even if AAP fails to perform or turns out to be a proxy, it still has given hope to political entrepreneurs. Like with entrepreneurship, in a sustained way,the 1st step is to create many entrepreneurs rather than creating a successful entrepreneur – this step is more than required to hopefully start this trend.

4. Shortening the time to make a political career. One of the many reasons why many good people never opted for a political career was the amount of time it would take anyone to even know if a career was possible or not. 13 months is absolutely remarkable and is difficult to repeat, but it again gives hope that one doesn’t have to always spend a decade before knowing if the political career is going anywhere.

So, for me, AAP winning the Delhi elections is the best political news in a long time not because I believe Arvind Kejriwal or AAP will be able to eradicate corruption (though I wish he does) but because I believe that this will start the next set of political entrepreneurs in the country. And if that happens, I know that the country can only improve from here on.

So, Mr. Kejriwal – salute to you, and even though I don’t plan to vote for your party in the Lok Sabha elections, I sincerely hope that you do well and convert many more political atheists in the country.

Tiered classification of Indian software services companies

A part of my work profile is to meet with executives from small to medium sized software companies which are into providing software services to companies in the US, Europe and other developed nations. It is a joy to say that I have learnt a lot in this process – about running these companies, their positives and the problems faced by the respective management teams. Since my company Tekriti also has a profitable software services arm, I could connect even more with these positives and the problems. Without going into the listing of the above mentioned positives / problems in this post, I will first talk about my classification of these software services companies and their characteristics and touch upon the problems in a later post. It is important to understand the various tiers to be able to create different solutions for IT industry.

Tier 1 IT Outsourcing company – These are the big guys of IT outsourcing in India and responsible for putting India on the map when it comes to IT outsourcing. Infosys, TCS, Wipro, Polaris, Cognizant are a few and notable examples. But, overall, any IT outsourcing company which typically has more than 2500 people on their rolls is classified under this category. These guys have very strong processes, from generating and capturing sales leads to closing of leads, delivery and employee training and performance appraisals. From a client’s perspective, these companies make a very strong fit for somebody who needs process excellence more than the product excellence. Testing and maintenance projects are the best fit here.

Tier 2 IT Outsourcing company – These are typically the companies who have focused on 1-2 verticals and have developed strong expertise in these domains. They thrive mostly on the testing and maintenance projects from companies who find Tier 1 companies too big for their comfort and budget. Obviously, if your contribution to a company’s top-line is very insignificant, there are chances that you will not get the necessary attention that is required. Most of these companies will have some certification, whether it is in the CMM series or ISO series. These will typically be between 350 – 4000 people strong. They will also be interested in taking development work, as long as it is not too small.

Tier 3 IT Outsourcing company: This is where the companies really starts becoming a company. The size typically range from 75 to 500 and they rely on the individual brilliance of a handful of people rather than the processes. The company has figured out that to move to Tier 2, they need to have stronger processes. These companies thrive on the new product development projects and most OPD (outsourced product development) companies define their strategy when they were still in the Tier 3 classification. In the Indian market, there is a lot of technology talent in the companies in this tier – what they lack is the expertise in sales and marketing and bandwidth for project management. Only those companies who are operating in certain niche segments here (instead of doing everything), move from Tier 3 to Tier 2.

Tier 4 outsourcing company: These are either the entry level startups or your mom-and-pop shops. More than a company, this acts more as a partnership firm. Every founding member will be involved in active project delivery and the company has not even gotten a chance to think about the processes. They are struggling to find people, retain people and unless they move fast and reach a critical mass – they will either cease to exist or convert themselves to a mom-and-pop shop. They are good for projects where the client need certain number of people on retainer for some time.

A small graph representing the classification is shown below (you will notice that the membership of these tiered companies is fuzzy instead of being discrete).

IT Outsourcing companies

Next on, I want to talk about where Tekriti currently is and also a few possible business opportunities in this sector.

National Entrepreneurship Network

It doesn’t take a lot to figure out that Entrepreneurship is my favorite subject and I have written numerous posts on the subject. There are a few institutions which has been pretty active in talking about it and organizing events around that. National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), backed by Wadhwani foundation, is one such institute that I have known for more than a year now and have also spoken in events organized by them.

Babit from NEN informed me a couple of weeks back about the re-design of the site that they had launched – which is essentially a very complete online resource for entrepreneurs in India. I have been refraining from writing about it for some time but the more I go through it, the more I think that this is an awesomely well done site and acts as a complete resource for the Indian entrepreneurs – particularly the first timers. Having spent more than a couple of years running Tekriti, I wish that this existed earlier for me to have easy access to certain things that I learnt the hard way.

All in all – highly recommended for all entrepreneurs in India to bookmark this. They have articles / answers from VCs, have a weekly coverage on various startups and tons of articles / presentations on various things that a first time entrepreneur wants access to.

What I see missing is a link to their RSS feed that I could just subscribe in my blog aggregator that doesn’t force me to go to their website all the time to read the contents.

Mantra of successful business relations: Forgive, forget and think about the common goal …

Lately I have been talking to a lot of people who are starting up or have started in the last few months. It’s always good to talk to people who have the courage to ‘move out of their comfort zone’ and do something creative. This is not to say that I don’t like to talk to people who are happy in their comfort zone ;-)

One question that I almost always get asked is “How can I trust my clients, customers, business partners, lawyers, accountants, employees and who not?”.

That is a very valid question. And this is something everybody faces – and I can relate it with my experiences. But let me turn around the question and ask you – what option do you have other than to trust? When you are small, you neither have the bandwidth or resources to hire ‘experts’ or expensive lawyers for documenting everything. At the same time, for the lack of experience, it’s almost impossible to think about a list of situations that one could run into – and hence it’s rather foolishness to even attempt doing it in its entirety. But here are certain things that one should do:

  1. Spend money on the legal contracts: When you are small, it is very common to sign contracts without seeking legal opinions – as it helps save you a lot of money. Don’t do that – absolutely don’t do that. If you are signing a similar 2nd contract, it is still OK to not get it whetted by the lawyers but do engage the lawyers the first time you are creating a particular kind of contract. You wouldn’t realize the importance of it until you become a little bigger and then know the potential downsides of not doing that.
  2. Spend time and keep an eye on all the major aspects of business: It’s good to follow the policy of ‘Divide and conquer’ with different heads for different aspects of business. But have regular meetings with the different heads and open all books (including yours) for scrutiny by all major stakeholders from time to time.
  3. Create a Shareholders Agreement: This is probably much more crucial than what it seems initially. You could survive even if your biggest customer leaves you stranded / cheats you or your accountant did something to maximize their benefits. What will hurt the most is if you or your business partners lose trust in each other. Remember that we all are humans – there will be times when the misunderstandings will creep in. So, it’s important to create a shareholders’ agreement soon enough which exactly talks about what are the authorities of each person and the team as a whole. A good analogy is that if you keep the money lying on the floor with nobody watching, many people will turn ‘thief’ and steal but very few of them would actually do it if they know that somebody could be watching.
  4. Communicate regularly with the stakeholders, customers, team-members and others important for your business: Yeah – follow all processes, have the legal systems in place and sign the right contracts but there is nothing to replace the regular communication with all the parties involved. Most people wont do anything bad with somebody they really treat as their ‘friend’. Communicate with people and be their ‘friend’ and you will mostly be in good shape. 

In spite of all this, trust people. As long as you exercise a bit of caution, you will be much better off by trusting people rather than spending your time and energy thinking about what can go wrong and who can do wrong. This is not to say that people will not cheat you – THEY WILL – most of the times unintentionally but sometimes (sad) intentionally. And if it happens, just increase the level of caution that you exercise but dont get too paranoid. Try your best to forgive and forget it and worry about the common long-term goal. But, yes, don’t hesitate in making your concerns very clear to the offending party and / or severing your ties if you absolutely cannot withstand what has happened. No loss will be as big as losing out when you become bigger.

Whatever you do, please remember that you should forgive me for being really irregular with blogging BUT dont forget even if you can’t necessarily find a common goal Instead, keep visiting the blog. :-) I do intend to be regular, though not necessarily frequent.