How was 2021 @ Prequate?
Progress Compass, Kaizen & Itadakimasu
We have, as a planet, gone through a very tough phase in 2021. No simulation would have told us how a 365-day period could have dealt so many blows (personal and work) and economic miracles in such quick succession (resurgence, IPOs, funding rounds, GNP).
But an even bigger rollercoaster year at Prequate.
At Prequate, 2021 was defined by two words –
Kaizen (continuous improvement) &
Itadakimasu (gratitude to the people & the process).
Across various channels, we have been in touch – I’ll admit, not as active as some of the other years. But what happened this year and the rest of this article may make you feel that this literature is a lot more personal to you.
This article is going to be a progress compass check (coined by Chase Jarvis in ‘Creative Calling’), introspections and a proclamation.
But like every year, in true Prequate fashion, this email is slightly different from what came the year before.
My guarantee, like every year - your 10 minutes of reading this is going to be well worth your time if you enjoy leadership and business stories or just care about anyone in Prequate in general.
This is a nut graph of 2021.
It's our harbinger of what we see to happen because of deeper moments of introspection.
Also, a bare-all of sorts.
Let’s dive head in.
We did a lot more in 2021
2021 was a good year by any standards.
What started as a lukewarm recovered had us reaching a new business peak as we ended the year with the most powerful Q4 in our decade plus history.
We closed the year 190% as compared to 2020.
for a lot more exceptional organizations
In 2021, we worked with 40% more clients in the year. Our clients included the portfolio of some of the best venture capitalists on the planet and the winners of some of the most coveted business awards in the world.
from across the globe.
This year we also added China, The Netherlands and Qatar to our client locations taking our total client operational (KDM) country tally to 26 over the last 10 years.
Our relationships in 2021 came from organizations in China, India, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Singapore, UK, US & Qatar.
We were fortunate attracting talent
In 2021, we perfected our job descriptions to match exactly the skills we wanted for the work we do at the firm. Our Engagement Associate hiring attracted 885 qualified applications from across the country.
PS: We have a whitepaper on our hiring process coming up later this year.
& were able to share our growth
In 2021, we revised fixed pay structures for all our team members to match our ethos that the firm’s growth was OUR growth.
This pay revision, lead to an increase, on average, by ~47% compared to pay in the previous year.
as we built out a stellar team.
Our thesis that diamond-shaped structures are the only way to build high impact + lean teams has become a closer reality.
In 2021, the dynamics further sharpened our belief.
Our visibility outside India gained some momentum
In 2021, our messaging changes and clarity in positioning had us appealing to an audience outside India where performance led finance is a more accepted and understood market.
with more focused quality on target buyers
Over the last quarter of 2021, data showed that the number of people looking for us on LinkedIn was moving significantly towards the KDMs of organizations/ management levels.
~25% of the visibility came from Management/ KDM levels (Investors, founders, CxOs, Board Members, Senior Managers).
& significantly higher engagement with our thought leadership.
When studying our thought leadership, we noticed that we had significant improvements on 3 very crucial aspects which could be an indication of progress towards a visible expert:
The missed opportunities
We barely scraped in more visibility.
As compared with 2020, we managed to get only 10% more digital visibility to ourselves. In fact, India as a target market dropped by 5% in our total exposure though we added the most accounts in India. Worrying.
Needs fixing in 2022.
We did much less to tell the world about us.
In 2021, we published 33% less thought leadership than 2020. We spent more time overall than the previous years but managed to put out a lot less content. This really matters for us as organization that is known for its presence.
We were not as effective in communicating our value to prospective buyers.
In 2021, our win/loss ratio dropped by 9% on prospective accounts compared with 2020. We closed approx. 72% of leads that came in during the year as compared with 78% during 2020. This meant that we were either not doing as good a job communicating or were not able to display our skill-sets in a manner that favoured their decision criteria.
We lost some patrons of our thought leadership.
Our reader list during 2021 were less excited to view or interact with our content than the previous year. Our open rates fell by 3% as compared with the previous year. This could be a signal that our content quality was affected or that the wrong type of regular content was published.
Or maybe, fatigue.
We did not make the cut always.
In 2021, only 2 out of 3 offers made were accepted as they met the expectation of us and the prospective hire. This could be a signal that we are doing a great job validating but erring somewhere else.
We were still black-box as far as the internet goes.
A major portion of traffic for us was still heavily lead by someone who had already heard about us and was looking us up. This means that we are still not leveraging the full potential of what we can do using the internet to interact with our target.
Lets move to the
Lessons we learnt in 2021
Breakdowns are a lot more controllable than lockdowns. Breakdowns also throw out leaders.
During the first lock-down, we were fortunate to not have too many engagements that were in the beginning stages of delivery. In 2021, this was not the case. When an unprecedented number of new relationships, all for fantastic founders, came together at the same time with the lockdown, we realized that the system was breaking.
Which is when we realized the value of the single most important resource in the organization.
The ‘we’ thinking in Prequate.
Rock-stars within the organization took it upon themselves to take charge of the situation – across every level in the organization.
They communicated the new expectations.
They planned delivery schedules out.
They coordinated on information.
They planned seamlessly.
All without needing to work tirelessly or stretch to extraordinary lengths – which is the cornerstone of a good organization in our opinion.
If you guys are reading this, you know who you are – A hat tip!
The Kaizen ways of Prequate
In 2020, I wrote to you about Kintsukuroi (the art of golden repair) which signaled how we were mending the bits and pieces of excellence in the organization to become something more valuable together.
2021 was about Kaizen or the art of continuous improvement.
Every engagement was now with a new goal – which was a lot more than to please a client.
During the year, we learnt that the key was to constantly challenge and beat our own work from earlier – that’s it.
As simple as that.
Over the course of more than 200+ engagements at the firm in the last 4 years alone, there is a fair bit of work in almost every sector to set a precedent.
But the trick was to beat every precedent.
How do we know this worked?
More than 90% of the clients we worked with during the year appreciated our work and/ or the value we brought in during the engagement either directly to the team or the founders.
For an organization like ours which works on intangibles extensively and with some of the brightest brains in the world, this is no ordinary feat.
Vanity metrics don’t matter. Your true judge is who chooses to work with you.
The real inherent value of what you do is best showcased by the organizations and founders that you work. Why?
Are you built for the best in the world?
In 2021, we worked with Unicorns, 3 Forbes 30U30 winners, TechCrunch featured companies, TED speakers, Dell Social Innovation Award winners, Aegis Graham Bell Award winners among many others.
Are you built like/ better than the best in the world?
When working with these entrepreneurs, they have already experienced the work in the best in the world. They can instantly know if you are a sub-standard provider and will immediately disengage.
You are challenged intellectually on Day 1
Great founders are usually also great builders with a high aptitude. When working with them, you are constantly challenged, and you need to be able to deliver every time.
There is no patience for gradual trust-building
The base bar at which you start at is often very high considering the talent that good founders have already worked with. If you don’t match up, you won’t last the month.
You are only as valuable as your experiences as a firm
In consulting, we bring a funnel styled approach to every organization. The wider the spectrum/ range of engagements, the more useful your insights and findings are that you can bring to an organization.
80/20 is essential thinking if you wish to remain sane in consulting.
In a consulting outfit, the world is very dynamic. The businesses we work with are unique. The founders are talented. The phase of the organization is constantly evolving.
But the nature of the beast is such that it is very easy to get excited or bogged down – sometimes both happen on the very same day.
So how do you continue performing every day and every hour without the creativity-killer of stress?
Every no is a yes for the right things.
If there is one critical skill we learnt in 2020, it was to be more vocal about saying no to certain clients or to certain engagements.
Being able to say ‘No’ (especially when there are financial repercussions) is what real wisdom and maturity is.
We turned down a lot of collaboration opportunities.
We turned down quite a few enquiries this year.
We turned down several engagements too.
All because we did not feel that our value was placed in the right manner. Either as a team or as an organization, it was not placed in the right way.
But turning them down helped.
We looked far beyond ourselves as a business.
To what we were truly building.
An amazing organization like none that has ever existed.
And we asked ourselves –
Does this fit in our vision of how we see ourselves 3 years down the line?
Your client’s aspirations are & HAVE to also be your teams
One thing that we always stood for as an organization was how committed we were to the success of our clients.
This was palpable and pervasive in 2021.
We were excited when they got new management hires.
We prayed when our clients pitched to investors.
We celebrated when they closed a large deal.
We high-fived when they got term sheets.
We felt committed to their success throughout the year.
We did not feel we were just a part of an engagement.
We felt that we were a part of their organization.
Process. Process. Process. Digital
One of our learnings of 2020, which we put into action in 2021, just made its value visible in 2021.
Most organizations talk about process.
We realized, quite admittedly, mistaken the value of internal processes in our hurry to work with processes in our client organizations.
This year, we had a process for everything – baked in heavily with technology.
Collaboration runs on box.
Communication runs on slack.
Hiring runs on a series of chatbots.
Business runs on one of the best CRM platforms.
Thought leadership runs on an automation tool.
All of this may seem like overkill – even to some of our new joinees today it does.
But when growth spurts hit, we were geared.
We lost no time to be able to handle the surge and we could continue working the same way.
Because with systems, we were built for scale.
Irrespective of how rapidly it hit us.
(gratitude for the people & process)
We have been fortunate.
Two times over.
For our supporters on the outside
the organizations that have trusted us over the years
Being inside fortresses of trust
Over the years, we have thoroughly enjoyed one thing –
The unrestricted access we had to the organizations and the opportunity to play a small role in your growth journeys.
This is not just words.
Unlike traditional professional services, what we do is VERY different.
Its highly forward looking and sometimes requires an organization to fundamentally question everything they thought about their business.
So for the most part, its like (organizational) clay
which we get to mold with analysis, introspection and simulation.
Founders/ Entrepreneurs and Senior leaders need to have a confidence to let someone into this space.
This is the fortune I was speaking about.
Our best work is when we get to be intrapreneurs for these amazing entrepreneurs.
And for this, we will be thankful to you.
You placed trust in us and allowed us into your businesses, shared your goals and aspirations and many a times were the first professional hire for your organization.
You have no idea what this means to us.
of the best of the best.
Over the years, we got the opportunity to work on some absolutely astounding engagements.
We helped spinoff in a listed company.
We settled international cross-border equity disputes.
We valued one of the first fintech deals in the country.
We ran strategy office from India for a listed US company.
And better yet, who did we get to do it for?
An Asoka Fellow.
An Ex-Apple CEO.
100+ Patent awardee.
An Academy Award Winner.
Multiple Forbes 30U30 Winners.
Red Dot Design winners, Cartier Women’s Award Winners, Entrepreneurs of the Year, CET Awardee, MIT IDEAS Award Winners, Fast Company / Forbes / TechCrunch Featurees……..
While not one for vanity measures alone, our clients have raised over $500M+ and 3 today are valued at over a $100M.
But this is not the most important thing.
This is what is -
They are the organizations and founders that chose to work with us
after having worked with the best in the world already
being able to still afford the ‘big’gest brands in the world
understanding quickly where the delta lied
considering us as high value partners
hiring us for work that places us shoulder to shoulder
For the supporters on the inside
the organizations that have trusted us over the years
Why we will always love you
Over the years, we have gotten an opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds.
They have joined us in our vision and taken it upon themselves to work towards a greater goal.
What is more valuable is that they put their trust in what we do – even when we were so ahead of the time on our approach or our thesis that it may have seemed incredulous.
Sometimes, when we ourselves doubted our ability to pull something off, they shared their alignment and had us stay course – sometimes pulling off the seemingly ‘impossible’.
Internally, it has always been more than just ‘resource’ thinking for us. They were friends, companions, partners-in-crime and sometimes our solace. We have learnt so much from them over the years.
A short letter to those who made us
Guys, you know how much we love all of you.
Many of you are still with us – one way or the other.
I just wanted to say,
A BIG THANK YOU.
You guys made us be better versions of ourselves, one way or another.
You know we are still just a call away.
This is home.
This year was our best year yet.
It was a lot of work. For some very great people.
We started off to a tepid year where the world was in a state of flux.
But we ended up with a 4x leap over the previous year.
We changed the paradigm - We made Prequate Advisory as a primary client as well.
But 2022 is the year we outdo again.
The year that -
We beat every precedent.
We surpass every milestone.
We surmount every boundary.
We achieve the greatness we are built for.
2022 is going to be a magical year.
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