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Success Story Podcast

Sandeep Chennakeshu – Author, Business Transformation Veteran & Technologist | Your Company Is Your Castle

By June 24, 2023September 24th, 2023No Comments

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About The Guest

Sandeep Chennakeshu is a distinguished technology and business professional. With a background in electronics, he holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University. Throughout his career, Sandeep has played pivotal roles in leading technology companies, including serving as CTO of Ericsson Mobile Phones and Sony Ericsson, president of Ericsson Mobile Platforms, SVP at Freescale, president of BlackBerry Technology Solutions, and EVP of AMD.

With a deep appreciation for global businesses, Sandeep’s extensive experience spans managing operations in fourteen different countries. He has successfully transformed underperforming businesses using the principles outlined in his book, “Your Company Is Your Castle: Proven Methods for Building a Resilient Business.” Currently residing in Austin, Texas, Sandeep is passionate about sharing his knowledge through writing and mentoring, as he continues contributing to the technology industry.

As COO at Uhnder Inc., a pioneer in digital-imaging radar, Sandeep remains actively involved in the start-up world. He also serves on the advisory boards of several exciting tech start-ups, leveraging his expertise and insights to guide their growth and success. Sandeep’s remarkable career, extensive patent portfolio, and status as a Fellow of the IEEE solidify his reputation as a respected and influential figure in the technology and business landscape.

Talking Points

  • 00:00 — Intro
  • 03:22 — Epic Beginnings: Sandeep’s Origin Story
  • 05:39 — Life Lessons: Insights from Sandeep’s Career
  • 11:11 — Ascending the Corporate Ladder: Secrets to Landing Top Roles
  • 14:10 — Venturing Beyond: Sandeep’s Transition from Big Corporations
  • 19:15 — Startup vs. Big Company: Choosing Your Path
  • 21:27 — Your Company, Your Castle: Unlocking Sandeep’s Wisdom
  • 27:26 — Learning from Mistakes: Case Studies of Castle-Building Failures
  • 32:46 — Profit vs. Scale: Perspectives on Unprofitable Success
  • 37:10 — Winning Investor Confidence: Strategies Revealed
  • 38:52 — The Power of ‘Stickiness’: Unveiling Product Appeal
  • 45:00 — Building Long-Lasting Companies: The Key Unveiled
  • 53:30 — Striking the Balance: Confidence for Customers, Shareholders, and Employees
  • 58:38 — Parting Wisdom: Insights and Advice from Sandeep
  • 59:43 — Connect with Sandeep: Unleashing His Socials
  • 1:00:36 — Decoding Success: Sandeep’s Definition Revealed

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What is the Success Story Podcast?

On this podcast, you’ll find interviews, Q&A, keynote presentations & conversations on sales, marketing, business, startups, and entrepreneurship.

The podcast is hosted by entrepreneur, business executive, author, educator & speaker, Scott D. Clary.

Scott will discuss some of the lessons he’s learned over his own career, as well as have candid interviews with execs, celebrities, notable figures, and politicians. All who have achieved success through both wins and losses, to learn more about their life, their ideas, and insights.

He sits down with leaders and mentors and unpacks their stories to help pass those lessons on to others through both experiences and tactical strategies for business professionals, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.


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Machine Generated Transcript


business, company, people, build, learn, stickiness, customers, product, startup, career, castle, book, bravo, elements, strategy, Shopify, NetSuite, create, led, work


Sandeep Chennakeshu, Scott D Clary


Scott D Clary  00:00

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Sandeep Chennakeshu  01:38

I was sitting and reading an article on mobile colts this is what I want to do. All my reservations, he told me why doing this famous company saying that there’ll be a


Scott D Clary  01:52

deep cashew


Sandeep Chennakeshu  01:53

I’m 65 I’m electrical engineer turned into a business manager who had the fortune of working with different companies. So one thing that I wanted to do was to actually play cricket. And that was just not good enough


Scott D Clary  02:08

Stakeholder confidence if three stakeholders so we have customers, we have shareholders, and we have employees, how do you balance creating confidence across those three groups so that you serve all of them?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  02:19

If I take a poll across the room of all the people I worked with, I would get some sort of one closing note in my book. You know, I always tell people that look in life to


Scott D Clary  02:34

Welcome to success story. I’m your host Scott Clary success stories part of the HubSpot Podcast Network. Quick question before we get started. Did you ever play the game telephone as a kid you start with one message but as people share it, it gets more and more distorted sometimes work and feel that way but the last thing you want for your business is to get a distorted message across your team HubSpot helps you say goodbye to that chaos by helping you get all your teams on the same page. It’s all in one your customer facing teams will absolutely love it you track leads, deals support tickets, and everything in between all from one spot. You need to know what your sales team is up to done want to see how your marketing campaigns are performing you got it covered HubSpot gives you and your teams all the vital customer info they need to create the best possible experience no matter where they are. Save yourself the headache see how powerful true connection can be give HubSpot a try your team and your customers will thank you later get started for free., a lifelong student and aspiring teacher with a heart for technology and a mind for business with a bachelor’s degree in electronics. He earned a postgraduate diploma in Industrial Management from the Indian Institute of Science, an MS in electrical engineering from the University of Saskatchewan and a PhD in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University. After completing his education, Sandeep entered the electronics industry, where he was fortunate to lead the development and launches of technologies that billions use every day via cell phones, laptops, wearables, satellites, medical equipment and cars. As a fellow of the I II and a named inventor of 180 patents, she has made huge impact on the industry. After spending two decades in corporate roles as CTO of Ericsson mobile phones and Sony Ericsson, president of Ericsson mobile platforms SVP at Freescale president of BlackBerry technology and EVP at AMD, he returned to consulting in the startup world he’s currently CEO  at under Inc, a pioneer in digital imaging radar and sits on the advisory board of exciting tech startups. Over the span of his career he has managed operations in 14 different countries, which gave him a deep appreciation for global businesses. Through his cultural journey. He led the transformation of three underperforming businesses using the principles outlined in his new book. Your company is your castle proven methods for building a resilient business?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  05:00

Yep. So, Scott, first, thank you for having me on your show. And your question that is actually a really good one. Because I’ve contemplated a lot on that single question. I’ve had many moments in my life that have changed things for me. But probably the most transformational was in 1984. Actually, 83, sorry, it was 1983. I was sitting in, in the library in the University of Saskatchewan, in the engineering building, and reading an article in winter on mobile phones. And I was fascinated by the concept that Bell Labs was working on. And I went to my professor and said, you know, this is what I want to do the rest of my life. And he said, wonderful, I can’t supervise you anymore, if you want to do this, go apply to school in America. And of course, I got a scholarship to go and pursue a PhD in mobile radio. But all my friends, all my well wishers including a lot of professors told me, Hey, why are you doing this? This is this field is going nowhere, by the way of famous companies saying that there’ll be only a million phones in the year 2000. And why don’t you go into signal processing where you can have a real career. And, you know, when you’re young and impressionable. All of that is daunting. Because you know whether you’re making the right choice, because you’re getting highly specialized. And I actually decided to pursue, I’m sorry about this ringing sound in the background?


Scott D Clary  06:39

No, no, it’s fine. I decided to


Sandeep Chennakeshu  06:41

actually pursue my career in mobile phones, because I believe, you know, these things that were strapped onto people’s backs, with backpacks, was going to change as old technology does. It’s the best decision I made. And it taught me about conviction. So I went ahead, I did a PhD. And as soon as I graduated, I got I said, I’ll take the first job I got. And one thing led to another, and I had an amazing career for the next 20 years.


Scott D Clary  07:16

So what are what are some of those things that led to another I’m very curious, because the the the levels that you have operated at, are of some of the most senior levels and some of the largest companies in the world that are very, very well known household names. So I don’t want to spend too much time on on career because there’s a lot of lessons that we’re learning that can apply to people that are are not working at some of the largest organizations in the world. But it is interesting to know, like, how did you get to those types of positions? You said 20 years? Was it? It was just spending the time? Was it strategic? Was it looking at certain companies that were disruptive or paving the way? Like maybe there’s some career lessons that you’ve learned as you as you grew?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  08:03

Yeah, I think that a few lessons, you know, so I was a researcher. And I was doing basic research on mobile phones, and wireless technology. And I was highly respected. And in because of the papers I wrote in the teams, and the team I built, which was a very, very good team. But I realized that, hey, I was researching products that I could not build, I had no idea of building products. So I had to get out of my comfort zone. That’s the first lesson lesson I learned. I said, get out of your comfort zone, and go and learn to build a product. So I basically went into I got an opportunity, there was a manager who was they were recruiting for manager to run ASIC development, or chip development for cell phones, I volunteered. And I realized getting out of your comfort zone is the hardest thing. Because once you learn it, you can do it over and over again. But I suddenly went from being the expert to someone who knew nothing about product development. And my own team, you know, was wondering, why did they bring this guy and so I, it gets a little you, you have to get a little used to being the runt of the litter, you know, when you make a switch like that, but I realized you know that it is a way to adapt. So I started getting up every morning, and studying for everything I could learn from books. And then during the day, I would dissect the products that we built, go to the lab, make measurements, have people who could make measurements teach me about it. And I learned from anyone and everyone who would teach me and in a couple of years I got really strong and in this development aspect, and I was able to lead better and when That confidence, and I was also able to contribute. So with that confidence, I’d regularly rotated through multiple jobs in the company, always remembering that I would no less initially, but learn more with time. And in a few years by doing this repeatedly, I probably had a toolkit that not many possessed. So they promoted me to being the general manager of the business. And once again, I made huge mistakes, because I didn’t I knew about technology and operations, but not about business. And so I had to learn business. And you know, you make a lot of mistakes. But every stumbling, I always use this phrase, every stumbling block became a stepping stone for success. And with time, I was able to learn how to run a business. And then once again, I said, Hey, you know what, I got to not now not only learn to run a thriving business, but how could I volunteer for jobs where I have to fix a broken business, and especially in a foreign country, where the culture is different. And I got an opportunity to do that. And that turned out to be successful. And I kept doing that for a while. And then a little later, I said, You know what, maybe I should leave my corporate role, and go and become a independent consultant, and start my own company. So now we’re going to look at companies outside in I would have no background of what problems they had, I’d be thrown a problem and had to go solve it. And because that was a completely new experience, and I learned to do that, and then I got back into the corporate world, because the last company I analyzed and said, you know, this is what we need to do to fix I had to go back and actually fix


Scott D Clary  11:49

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Sandeep Chennakeshu  13:40

So by repeatedly getting out of my comfort zone, and learning, Ghana gave me this perspective. And also, you know, I got picked, because of the toolkit I developed, I got picked for senior jobs. Actually, the odd thing is I’ve never applied for a job in my life. I was always been


Scott D Clary  14:00

really, yeah. And so when you’re looking at so I’m looking at the short resume that I have in front of me with some of these roles, right, so we’re talking, there was a CTO of Ericsson mobile phones. You had President of Ericsson mobile platforms. You had senior vice president at Freescale president of BlackBerry technology solutions, executive vice president at AMD. These were roles that you were picked for. You were


Sandeep Chennakeshu  14:26

I was always invited to take the role. I never applied for any of these jobs.


Scott D Clary  14:31

Wow. Fascinating. Hmm. And when what do you think what do you think differentiated you in the corporate world? Because I think that there’s so much focus now on again, entrepreneurship, which is very important, even even like the book that you’ve wrote, and I’m assuming some of the lessons from it. They can be very much applied to people that are coming up and building businesses from scratch and founders. But I mean, a lot of these lessons came from your your corporate experience. So what, as an individual? First of all, what did you do? You said you, you, you made yourself almost the linchpin because you had so many different skill sets that you accumulated over your career. But even with that, is it seems so basic, so simple. So for somebody that is not interested in building a business or being an entrepreneur, you’ve you’ve been placed at the highest levels of corporate. So you learn all these different skill sets. But then how do you position yourself to be picked for President CTO of a multibillion dollar corporation?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  15:41

I think there are a couple of things, right? You know, the, you can acquire as much knowledge and experience as possible. In any field, you don’t have to be trained to be a general manager, you can be an expert in sales, or you can be an expert in marketing, I could be expert in product management. But one of the things that I feel it depends on how you get, you know, the true test is when you’re battle tested, and you get results. Okay, you have to basically go through like when you playing a game, I love cricket a lot. And I played some decent cricket. And you know, I always said that the people who are the best players have three things. They have talent, they have technique, but they have to have the temperament. Otherwise, you can never succeed at the at the senior levels. And what all your knowledge, and everything you learn on the job depends on your talent and your skill, which is a technique. But how do you basically deal with difficult situations and bring results? Your ability to solve problems on the job in a practical manner, and get results is what matters? And I think that’s what differentiates people, you know, in tough situations, can you actually deliver? You know, how do you deal with adversity? How do you learn from success and failure? How do you say, stay true to yourself? You know, and how do you basically deliver, you know, to the requirements of your stakeholders, which are your investors, your customers and your employees. That’s what differentiates people.


Scott D Clary  17:36

Now, as you as you go through your career in your journey, there was a point where, and you mentioned this, and I want to understand the timeline. And what prompted you to move away from working for large corporations move away from some of these roles? Consulting startup, writing a book based on your learnings? What was that? What was that transition in your career? Why did you move away from this? Why did you do something that you wanted to take on? I’m curious about sort of your lens at what you looked at, like your future growth?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  18:07

Yeah, I constantly like to stretch myself.


Scott D Clary  18:11

You know, as I see a theme, I see a theme now,


Sandeep Chennakeshu  18:14

it’s because you know, like, even today, you know, on weekends, I write about finance, economics and technologies that I don’t know about, because I tried to learn. And I sent it out to experts to say, you know, am I on the right track, because I write papers. But one of the things I found when I was in a corporation, as I grew up, went up the ladder, even though I’m most people who worked with me know, I’m deeply hands on. Right? I felt that I had an army of people who were helping me, and all my success I attribute to my teams. Right? If I had failures, it was because of me. But if I had success, it was because of, you know, my teams. At some point, I felt Look, can I do things myself? Or am I too reliant on everyone who helped me? So my foray to start my own consulting business? You know, when I was doing restructuring of other companies, and doing strategy analysis, and solving difficult technical problems for them, I had to do it myself. I have no team. Right? And it’s easy, because when you’re a consultant, right, if you mess up, they never invite you again, and your reputation is damaged. So it is it is a high risk. So you know, and I have to basically prove to myself, I could do that. The same thing with going to a startup, you know, I’ve been offered big CEO jobs four times in my career, or maybe five times and I’ve always had no, because I liked the operation part. I don’t like the front facing parts. And so anyway, but going to a startup is completely different because in the startup, you have two things. There are constraints one is you never have enough money. You’re constantly raising money people give you enough for the next milestone. Okay. And the second thing is, you have a lot less people. And so you have to be a switch hitter, to use a baseball term. You know, you have to do multiple things. And, and that’s what you learn to do. So you’re actually again, growing your toolkit anonymously. And so the theme is quite quite. It’s a standard theme, right? You, you stretch yourself, you try to find new things, you find out what are your limits? And writing the book was really cathartic. Because, you know, I had to write about both my successes and my failures. Because that’s how you truly learn. And it’s hard sometimes to admit where you messed up. We’ll just



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Sandeep Chennakeshu  21:46

And so when I wrote the book, I had to ask myself in a really hard questions, hey, when you failed here, why? Why did you fail? Right? The other thing is, when you send the book out for reviews, you get harsh feedback. And that’s great. Because initially for two days, you’re upset, and I had to go and run a lot, just to get it out of my head. But then after you basically get over that, and you say, You know what, actually, I got to look at this book from the lens of the reader, not from my lens. And then you start, you know, internalizing what the reader says, and you make corrections. And I did 51 revisions of my book. And my the way I said it enough, when I sent it to have a number of professors and CEOs that I respect very highly, who I didn’t know very well. And if they gave me an A grade, I said, Okay, then I’ll publish.


Scott D Clary  22:42

Would you recommend one last question on last question on I guess, career advice for people? Before we dive into some of the topics that you wrote about? Would you recommend that somebody earlier on in their career follow a path similar to yours, where they go into a large corporation, and jump into roles that they maybe are not quite ready for and learn? Or do you think it’s more beneficial for somebody to work in a startup?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  23:05

No, it depends. It depends. You know, they’re both different, they’re very different. And it depends on each one’s personality. You know, I went into a big company, because there’s so much more to learn. And in every area, because it’s quite established. Right. So there are a lot of people you can learn from, and you can you can go from, it’s one compartment to another compartment and become, you know, learn more and more in the startup, it is not as organized, it is a little more chaotic. Okay, and you have to basically be extremely, you know, you should have a lot of knowledge to kind of rotate the department or department. And so it really depends, if you’re someone who’s very structured and you have a particular way of learning that I would say a big companies better. You know, if you’re somebody who actually thrives with an informal structure, then a startup is definitely better. So it’s a little difficult, right? I, I found my journey, I learned a lot more in a big company, and I could contribute more to a startup when I went there, because I can bring all that knowledge from and structure, systematic structure that I built in a big company into a startup without bureaucracy.


Scott D Clary  24:26

Very good. I love that answer. And I think that’s just wise words for somebody that I think there’s a little bit of an overemphasis and excitement to join startups. And I’m a big advocate for helping people understand what they’re getting themselves into. Sometimes if they don’t quite understand what a startup really is. And it’s not as it’s not as fun sometimes as maybe, maybe some, some college grads think it is when they’re jumping into it, and it’s very stressful. So, let’s talk about let’s talk about the theory, the thesis of of what you’ve written. So the thesis of why Have you written is that your company is your castle, which is also the name of the book. And obviously, that’s all gonna go in the show notes and people can go check it out. But what does this thesis mean? Your company’s your castle, I’ve heard the term moat before when it comes to business in terms of business analogies, but I’ve never heard the the analogy of the company, the entire company is a castle. So walk me through what this means.


Sandeep Chennakeshu  25:19

Yeah, so I asked the question, I actually read this in a in an article in Forbes, that why do two thirds of all companies fail within 10 years, you know, 20% fail within two years, 45 in five years and 65% in 10 years, and then a whole bunch of reasons. Okay. It’s well chronicled. And so I said, you know, I, I thought about my own career and why companies that I worked in, went to the highest of highs and fell down to the earth way. And I, the common answer, to what I’ve read, researched and experienced in my own companies is that sometimes, speed is not as important as systematically building structure. And when you when you go for speed, you miss a lot of things. And, and so I basically said, Okay, if I want to basically build the way I’ve been successful in building companies, I began with, you know, this company called Ericsson mobile platforms were ever sent to Sweden, to help realize its potential. In the company had invested a very large amount of money, we had nothing to show, we were bleeding. For every dollar we made, we lost $1. Our customers were getting anxious. And everybody was contemplating our failure. And I put this framework to work. And in a year, we became profitable. And within a few short time, thereafter, we took 30% market share in the world. And I said, What was the structure? And of course, I repeated this formula multiple times. And it always worked. It’s even working in my startup now. So So what was this? And I said, The analogy I used, as I said, Take a medieval castle. I was looking for an analogy and an extended metaphor, and I said, Look at the castle. medieval castles have lost it. Some of those that have lost they’re lost in 500 years plus, all around the world, whether it’s in Japan, in India, in in England, Wales, the Czech Republic, etc. So these castles had a number of structural elements that have made them withstand nature’s elements over the centuries, as well as invaders. And accompany likewise needs to withstand macro economic factors like recessions, depressions, pandemics, etc. And hordes of competitors. So it was a nice analogy. And I said, What are these elements? So I said, if you if you look at a castle, you have to find the right location, which is unassailable. Hopefully, you need a solid foundation to take the weight of the castle and build it on castle. You need a perimeter wall that protected it from invaders. And right in the center was the key where people lived. They stood granaries, they stood there emanations, etc. And that turns you know, that has a certain meaning. And then you have to protect the strategy, which is the perimeter wall with towers, because you don’t want people scaling these long walls around protected, or you don’t want them tunneling underneath. And then you also talk about so there are a number of towers, and then you talk about, you know, the, the central portion of the cost of the key needs roof to prevent it from enemy arrows and from hail and snow and rain etc. And so, you know, I took these elements and said, I liken them to a business and in my analogy, I said, you know, the, the picking of the location is the business model. You want your business model to be as unassailable as possible. The foundation is cash flow without cash, you can’t do anything without cash, you can’t build a big big business. And then they said the perimeter wall of this was the strategy. The strategy is runs the entire business and that wall has to be protected by a number of towers and those towers are product creation products or services, it could be either product creation, product delivery, you know sales channels, and execution. Because each of these any of these fail, the wall is not going to stand for long. And the central portion of this castle the key is the culture. In a strategy is what you want to get done. But culture determines what you actually get done. And when culture falls, the entire cost falls because it doesn’t matter, the walls are standing. And so I talk about culture as the key. And then the roof on the key is stakeholder confidence. And there are three stakeholders, you have your investors, you have your customers, and you have your employees. And then the triangle of trust, if you break the trust with or any of them, you’re toast. So I go on to explain how these elements actually build a very, very strong Castle, or a strong company, and how they’re interrelated. And then the last part of my book is, I talk about now that you’ve learned to build a strong castle, and they give you a lot of recipes, and checklists. But at the end of it, I say no, how do you basically build yourself to run such a castle. And that’s the whole book.


Scott D Clary  30:51

I love it. Let’s go into let’s go into some of makes a ton of sense. I love I love the analogy. Let’s go into some of the let’s go into some of these strategies so that people can at least take some really tangible things away. So there’s so many different elements. And I always hate asking like, what’s, what’s the most important because they’re all obviously very important. That’s the concept of the castle. It’s none of them can exist without the other entities. And holistically they create this ecosystem that leads to a strong business. And alas, actually, I’ll ask in a second, maybe some of the more tactical strategies for pick pick an element or two. But before we do that, what are what are really glaring examples of companies that that haven’t done this properly? And what is the pick a company that has failed? What is the thing that they missed the mark on to sort of highlight the importance? I’m sure you have some thoughts on different companies that have grown too fast, but like I’m not going to make you are not going to make you talk about the ones you don’t want to talk about? But other companies, for example? Yeah, I’m good. What are some of them?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  32:03

I’m going to be a little political and no problem. Because, you know, the two most important things, because you brought up the what are the two most important concepts? I talked about eight elements, but what are the two most important? I think that you must have? Actually, there are three very important things that mentioned the three most important, the three most important is when you build a strategy, you have to think it through very carefully. Okay, there are three elements of a strategy that if you get wrong, you’re invariably going to fail. So the three elements of the strategy are, how big is your opportunity you’re addressing, don’t go up to little opportunities go up to big opportunities. You want to go and fish in lakes full of fish, so that you can basically catch something reasonable. Okay. And especially, I call it open spaces go to somewhere where no one else is fishing. So you can catch something. Okay. The second is, is your product relevant to the market? How do you make sure it’s relevant? Right, a lot of products have been launched, which either customers did not like, there was no need. And I make a lot of I talk a lot about these are given examples in the book. Or they come too late when others have already been entrenched. Okay. Now your biggest opportunity there is the example I give is the iPhone, you know, they entered when they were the leader had for over 400 million phones, there was selling 4 million phones in the market. But the leader basically then missed out a major issue. They did not realize the value of an application store. And the user interface, which the iPhone salt, that was a fundamental customer need. And they toppled an entire industry and rose to the top. So product relevance, knowing what your customers want, and need is most important. Find out what your competitors are not doing or will not do, and see if you can address it. All of that relates to relevance. Make sure you have sustainable differentiation. So that’s the second element of the three in strategy. The third element is do you have the capability to execute on your differentiation and your relevance and capture the opportunity? If you don’t, you’re not going to succeed our brilliant your idea is so that’s about strategy. The second aspect is culture. You know, as I said earlier, strategy is what you want to get done. A culture is determines what you actually get done. How do you build the culture to execute and build and in my book, I talk about two things, I call it raising the right army and leading the right army. It’s both the combination of leadership, and instilling the set of beliefs that you need in your team in order to execute this strategy. Okay, I won’t go too much into this, it’s in the book. And the third part is you have to be able to generate cash. Nobody trusts a company that bleeds constantly, and does not meet its promises. So it’s I devoted an entire chapter to basically managing cash and managing risk, and figuring out how you generate more cash. Okay. And fiscal prudence is extremely important in doing this. So those are three elements that stick out as it’s, it’s very fundamental to how I run my businesses. If I can’t get these three things, right, everything else doesn’t matter.


Scott D Clary  36:12

I’m curious about what your thoughts are on companies that have scaled without being profitable. And I think that that’s something that we saw in, you know, in Silicon Valley with some companies that grew too quickly. And I feel like I just had a conversation with a friend the other day about how capital is more scarce than it has been before. There’s a lot of dry powder on the sides for investing. But people are looking at profitable companies, companies that are cash flowing companies that aren’t bleeding money. Do you think that this is? I mean, what I would actually rephrase, why do you think companies didn’t adhere to this? Why do you think companies like for example, Amazon, their investors waited 20 plus years for them to be profitable? But it seems like that’s a very risky move.


Sandeep Chennakeshu  37:02

Yeah, it’s, it doesn’t work for everyone, it may work for a few companies. I mean, Uber was not profitable for many years. I mean, Airbnb was not profitable for many years. And of course, now they make money. So there are some companies that are disruptive, that can, can have a strategy like that. But by and large, most companies, you know, especially if you’re venture capital funded, is at some point, the venture capitalist have to cut their losses if you’re not going to make money. So it’s extremely important to focus on how to make money to fund your development. Because take, for example, if you take a startup like mine, you know, where I’m the Chief Operating Officer, it’s a brilliant startup, I mean, nobody has done digital radar, at the size of your thumbnail, right, and is able to do what we can do. And we’ve been funded to get the product so far. But we are in the automotive world. And in the automotive world, you need that product to be have a lot of compliance. So it’s not good enough to be technically brilliant, you have to have the right quality, you have to make sure it is you pass all the safety certification. You have to make sure your software is compliant to certain processes that have extreme rigor. And that rigor is not found in consumer electronics. Okay, you need to have volume production, with very, very stringent conditions, again, not found in consumer electronics, and you so you have all these conditions that you have to engage that you have to go through. Otherwise, you’ll never be successful, because nobody will buy it from you. And this is capital intensive. So you have to consistently demonstrate to your investors that you’re on the right track. If you’re not, nobody’s going to fund you. So it’s extremely important to have structure. Otherwise, you’re going to just fail because you’ll have a clever idea and you’ll run out of money.


Scott D Clary  39:13

So when I started my own business years ago, I felt like I was being thrown to the deep end. And there’s a podcast and I’m talking about in just a second that I wish I had when I was building anything from scratch the podcast, some of the startups that worked in it’s called the millionaire University podcast. It’s not just another business podcast with jargon. In theory, the two hosts Justin Tara Williams, they’ve been there done that built their own multi million dollar business from scratch. This podcast is like having a personal mentor, a successful millionaire, giving you a masterclass each episode. They walk through highly tangible tactical business strategies that they have used in their own business. That will definitely make your life easier. They also bring on some of their own men. tours that have helped them in their journey as well as bring on new entrepreneurs that are figuring things out. And it’s kind of like a q&a classroom session. So if you are ready to take the next step in your business, you want to scale it to at least seven figures and beyond, you need to listen to the millionaire University podcast, they drop episodes every Monday and Thursday. And they’ve also built a community around this podcast. So if you are an entrepreneur, go down this rabbit hole, you can find their podcast, The Millionaire University podcast, on Apple, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. I wish I had something like this when I started my own business, don’t miss out on this opportunity. Trust me, you won’t regret it. And for like an example for something like that, I’m super curious. How did you create that investor confidence? Because you said it’s very capital intensive. So another sort of lesson for an entrepreneur who is in a business that is disrupting or doing something new, it’s not like they can sell the widget day one. So what did they do? What is what has been your experience and being successful with venture capital?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  40:59

So two things I think come to mind. One is you have to deliver on your promises. So if you commit revenue, if you can commit delivery accuracy, you have to hit it. Right, you can’t make excuses. And so you have to prudently allocate your funds to meet your commitments. When you don’t meet your commitments. People don’t trust you. And trust is very simple. It’s like lime and milk, you squeezed lime into milk, it kernels, you can never make milk again. So it’s extremely important to meet your commitments. The second, you have to have a credible revenue plan. So in these cases, where it says seven to nine years to before you can make money, you have to have design wins, at least, maybe you’re not getting the revenue through actual product. But people know the automotive world has the design cycle is four years. Right? But you have to show that you actually have traction with design things. Otherwise people will not trust that you’re actually in devils don’t have design wins do.


Scott D Clary  42:20

I was I was curious. Because you mentioned that cache is so important. And I think that’s a great lesson. It’s something I very much agree with. I want to understand the other core tenant. I mean, there’s, there’s levels to this, we’ve spoken about so many different levels of core things that are integral to business success to reduce that two thirds company failure rate in the first 10 years, but stickiness was another thing that you highlighted. What What do you mean by stickiness? Define stickiness? How can an entrepreneur look for stickiness in their product?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  42:55

Yeah, so So stickiness, my definition of stickiness? Is that in the face of competition? Why do customers? Why will customers stay with your product, rather than switching to the alternative? If that barrier is low, they will switch? How do you ensure that that barrier is as high as possible, in order that they stay with you? And my my answer to that is you want to make your customers, you want to be a very critical portion of your customers value system and value creation. You want them to build on your foundation, or your element, whatever you’re providing, you want them to build a skyscraper on it, because then it’s highly unlikely that they will replace you with an alternative just because the alternatives nice attributes. It is the amount the customer invests in your product. Right, whether it is personal investment, whether it’s corporate investment, whatever, you know, and some examples are take, for example, Shopify. Why do we why do companies use them? And why are they growing? It’s because people have built large stores based on this concept. What about cloud systems? When you build an entire application or a process based on such enterprise software, or a cloud system? It’s difficult to rip it apart and then go to someone else because you you kind of launched your entire business on it. Cell phones is another example. Why is it that people like the Samsung ecosystem or the Apple ecosystem, it’s because they are used, they like the user interface. They’ve invested in the user interface. They like the applications, they like the ease of use, so there’s no need to switch. Right? There must be a compelling reason to switch. And so how stickiness is all about building the customer investment in your product. So it’s not worth it for them to leave.


Scott D Clary  45:09

Is that something that can, we’re talking about? At the highest level enterprise products. But then at even a consumer level, we’re talking about, like a phone that people, you know, they spend a fair amount of money on the phone, they’re invested in it, and they expect to have a phone for a period of time, even in smaller products. Have you seen a good example of a company do that with a CPG product? Or a much lower price, which I’m thinking of even taking that stickiness? I don’t have a perfect example. But how would we even apply that to a household product that we’re absolutely in love with? What is the differentiator when it’s a commodity, but there still is a stickiness factor? I just don’t know how to. I don’t know how to pin it. But I know they figured it out.


Sandeep Chennakeshu  45:51

Yeah, it’s no, it’s that’s a really good question. I mean, sometimes it is just, you know, it’s it’s an example is the example I would give is a Tylenol. You know, why is some brands of Tylenol? It’s the same ingredient


Scott D Clary  46:08

is all the pharmaceutical.


Sandeep Chennakeshu  46:11

So, so why is it that one company is better than another? And, you know, and so I think, because I think they’ve also basically marketed it in a way to say that it has better curative effects, although the ingredients of other brands is exactly the same. So I think it’s, it’s an example. Right? So


Scott D Clary  46:39

yeah, no, I, it’s very interesting to me, because I do again, I fully understand that and believe it, and it makes a ton of sense when you’re talking about building a platform for others to build on, like, incredibly sticky, but when the switching costs are so low for consumer product, there is an element of stickiness, how do you create it, and I’m sure it’s a combination of like, you mentioned marketing, its affinity and trust with the brand. It’s, I mean, there’s probably, like, very traditional marketing things like it makes you feel cool or feel accepted or feel a certain way. And that creates a psychological stickiness that people don’t want to move away from. I mean, exactly.


Sandeep Chennakeshu  47:18

Example is Nike, right? Exactly as they voted created. And the same goes for, you know, Lululemon or, you know, there’s, there are other cases, like, you know, in some areas, the stickiness is not the product itself, but it’s the quality. So, for example, you have operating systems, like Blackberry has a company called QNX, it’s a division of blackberry, they build an operating system that is very highly rated on safety. And, you know, for two decades people have used it, and have not had returns. So, you know, forget the technical attributes, that attribute in itself, that it’s been safe, and is used in 200 million cars. Create stickiness, why? Why work with something that is not proven, and this is proven, so that itself creates stickiness? So I talk about these various factors that drive stickiness in the book.


Scott D Clary  48:26

I love this. Okay, one other thing that you mentioned, just so people can wrap their mind around it, we spoke about all these different factors that makes a good company, but you alluded to the type of person that one person has to be to build a company like this. So explain, is this a learned trait? Is this a personality trait? Is this the Angela Duckworth grit persona that’s great for entrepreneurship? What is the person that needs to build a company that is akin to a castle that can like Outlast these 10 years and go on forever?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  49:04

You know, Scott, it’s everyone’s journey. I don’t believe there’s a single formula. Everyone’s career journey is unique. And so it’s also personal. Right? There is no one formula. I love. I wrote this in an article. I love the definition of what makes a leader. I’m going to use something from Joel Arthur Barker’s book. He says that a manager is someone who manages within a paradigm and a leader is someone who manages between paradigms. So in order when that paradigm shift happens, and you can lead that paradigm shift, what characteristics do you have to do that because if that shift is sufficiently large, you have to have people help you? And how will they follow you? How will you convince them to make that change the leap with you? And, you know, I have seven beliefs. You know, and I’m sure others have a book that was my personal journey. And my seven beliefs were that you have to dream with conviction, because there’ll be score of skeptics, scores of skeptics who will tell you that you were wrong, when things are bad. But how do you basically stay on that path? That’s when you need conviction and courage. And you have to persevere. Okay? Because come hell or high water, you’re going to get there. And you can’t keep changing. Okay? The second is, you know, you have to basically learn to deal with adversity. You know, there’s a lot of things that will happen to you along the way. And when those things happen to you, you can’t just give up. You know, a professor, friend of mine gave me a great analogy. He said something, you know, I was very upset once that something didn’t happen, as I expected it to. And I was very upset. And he told me, he said something. Look, if you were a person who had one sandwich on their plate, and somebody took it from you, you should be upset. But if you had a number of sandwiches on your plate, and someone took one, you shouldn’t worry. You’re someone who can create opportunities. So focus on that don’t focus on what you lost. Okay, the third is, I always say I’ve talked about this earlier, I said, Get battle tested. Because that will volunteer for things that you’re not used to, in a way it kind of reinforces how to deal with adversity. And remember that, you know, Steve has created by repeatedly heating, heating and cooling. Okay, it doesn’t doesn’t become strong, unless you go through that cycle. Learn from successes and failures. You know, your successes are great and exhilarating. Failures are dampening. But what can you learn from your failures? Right, so that you don’t make them again? Right? It’s very important. The other thing is, I always say that, you know, stay true to yourself, no one will believe more in you than yourself. Okay, so make sure that, you know, you really believe in yourself and walk that path, you know, and walk your talk, don’t try to just say things and do things to be popular. You know, that’s really not what you should do. People respect you when you do what you say you do. Okay, so I think, you know, these are some things I, that have helped me on this journey. I don’t think I’ve covered all seven, but I’ll stop there.


Scott D Clary  53:10

Now, it’s very good. And, and to your point, like these seven, there’s lists of seven that you have, there’s probably listed other people have. But the point is to internalize these, these core tenants of a successful persona, and then build on that. And then you know, your seven will be a great place to start for somebody. And they can continue to build on their own and add in some of their own life learnings and lessons and insights. But I also think this, the main takeaway is the self awareness is so huge. I mean, the ability to even recognize,


Sandeep Chennakeshu  53:40

yeah, and you know, one of the things I forgot to mention, which I just came into my mind is that, you know, be curious. I went to Catholic school. And a Jesuit priest once told me is it Sunday look, you can be, you can decide if you want to be ignorant or not. And that really hit hit me in as well. Very wise statement. It was up to me. So every day since, during my regular day, when people mentioned things that I’m not familiar with, it could be a business term, it could be an operational term, it could be something I jotted down in a notebook. And sometime during that week, I tried to learn a little bit about that. Because there are no longer ignorant and I slowly built his database. And you know, and got familiar with a lot of things. Now I’m not an expert by any means or everything. But I believe that helps you with knowledge, knowledge gives you confidence, and if you use knowledge properly and you have the right attitude, it breaks down every barrier to enhance advancing


Scott D Clary  54:52

love everyone. Just want to take a second thank the sponsor of today’s episode Bravo. Now, Bravo is a game changing platform that has the potential to supercharge your business. If you want to expand your customer base supercharge your revenue who doesn’t right Bravo is the go to platform Bravo, you used to know what to send in blue is designed to fully Empower businesses to thrive. With Bravo you have all the tools you need in one easy to use platform to cultivate meaningful relationships and drive sustainable, predictable growth. Breville makes it simple and accessible to create engaging personalized email campaigns, SMS or WhatsApp messages, stunning landing pages, automated workflows, whether your goal is customer acquisition, retention, loyalty, Bravo checks all the boxes, it has a toolkit you need to turn the one time browser into the longtime customer. Beyond just marketing. Bravo is a unified platform. It allows you to streamline your business ops, scheduling meetings, managing tasks and projects all in one place. It’s an ideal growth tool for marketers SMBs, and sales teams looking for one consolidated toolbox to scale their business. It’s trusted by over 500,000 businesses across 180 countries. It includes leaders like Sodexo Louie Vito, Carrefour, eBay, Michelin, they all rely on Bravo’s robust technology and extensive integrations to deliver unparalleled customer experiences, reduce costs, drive sales, this is what you got to do get started with Bravo for free by clicking our link below or going to and use the promo code success to save 50% On your first three months of the starter and business plan. That’s promo code success and sign up for free. I love that amazing advice. The last thing that I wanted to get your opinion on. It’s a complicated topic. So one of the things you mentioned was stakeholder confidence. And I appreciate that. And I think that if we looked at the three stakeholders that we’re trying to build trust and confidence with. So we have customers, we have shareholders, and we have employees individually, it would be not not not easy, but simple enough to figure out a framework to build confidence with, with each of those three groups, you can focus on their main priorities. The more complicated question, and how I would love to ask you complicated questions, because it’s the simple questions that everybody asks, but the complicated question is, how do you balance, creating confidence across those three groups, so that you serve all of them? Because I think we see imbalance in a lot of companies, we see imbalance when we’re serving shareholders and not employees, we see an imbalance with massive amounts of layoffs. So it’s not a there’s not a one perfect answer. But what’s the best possible way that we can create balance and competence across those three stakeholder groups?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  58:07

Yeah, I think, you know, it’s a really, really good question, because it’s a deep question. And if I take a poll across the room of all the people I worked with, I would get some sort of equal division on some people saying its investors, some people saying its customers, or people saying its employees. And I maintain that look, without investors, you don’t have money to do good things. Without customers, no one’s paying you any money to continue to go do good things. And without employees, you cannot do any good things. So it’s kind of equally important, but I believe there is a framework. I’ve got a simple framework in the book that I have used to keep all these three constituents engaged, and, you know, in a way supportive. So the first is, the first is, whatever faith they have placed in you, you have to repay that faith. And that is with financial health. You have to make sure that if you’re a leader, you must make sure your company is financially healthy. If you’re not financially healthy. Your cast your investors will not invest in you, your customer, no customer is going to continue to give you a design when and products if you’re going to go out of business, because that’s too much of an investment, they will lose too. And employees don’t work for companies that lose money because their jobs are at stake. And they have families to feed. Right. So that’s the first thing. The second one is reliability. You know, you have to keep your word. You have to keep your word to investors that you We’ll do what you said you will do for them to trust you, you have to do that with customers, you cannot tell a customer, I’m going to give you a product by a certain date and be two months late, or give them the product on time, but horrible quality, that just doesn’t work. And whatever promises you make to your employee, you’ve got to keep them. Right. So it’s extremely important to keep the trust. The third is innovation. Warren Buffett basically talks about the economic moat. Wonderful term, how do you differentiate against the others? How wide is your moat? In his what is the differentiation between you and your competitors, investors love that. It brings magic to your company. Your customers love it, because they’re going to basically benefit from innovation. And I give you a number I give a number of examples of companies that were on the on death throes, which was saved by innovation. And employees love working on cool things. Because that’s what gets them up every day to continue to do good things. Right. So the the so those three things last is engagement. You have to constantly stay engaged with your district constituents. So you must spend time with your investors answering their questions, making sure you don’t have uncertainty left behind. The same thing with your customers, you got to be a partner solve difficult problems for them. Right, make sure that they interest you or trust you, and entrust their products with you. And with your employees, you have to constantly give them information meet with them. I do that through multiple methods. I have town halls, I have asked me anything meetings, roundtables, newsletters in a way and engage them even in corridor conversation so that you know, they feel they’re part and parcel of the strategy and are contributing. When you do these four things, you can keep the stakeholders really engaged.


Scott D Clary  1:02:02

I love that. Thank you. I appreciate that. I think that that’s we’ve gone through a ton, I’m going to just basically ask you, is there anything else that you would want to teach over or final closing words that you wanted to leave the audience with? Just in terms of like, education for entrepreneurs, or final thoughts? And then we’ll get like all the links in the social whatnot, but floor is yours, anything we didn’t go into?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  1:02:26

No, I think we did. We covered most of the critical aspects of what I have talked about. But I think the one you know, I, it’s the closing note in my book. And, you know, I always tell people that look, in life, do the things you want to do. Work with the people you want to work with. Right? Believe in yourself. And always trust in the bright hope that the future brings, you know, everyday looking at that has helped me for I’m 65. And I hope it helps you too.


Scott D Clary  1:03:07

I appreciate that. Not very good. Where should people go to connect? So I mean, you have a website, you have social media? Where do you want to send people? And everything will be linked in the show notes as well.


Sandeep Chennakeshu  1:03:18

Yeah, so basically your there’s my LinkedIn profile, which I regularly do posts. There is my website, which is www. And my full Okay, you can also do www your company is your Perfect, excellent, same site. And because some my last name is a little long, and it’s difficult to spell,


Scott D Clary  1:03:45

but go go check the show notes. If you want the spelling it a lobby, it’ll all be linked there. And then, of course,


Sandeep Chennakeshu  1:03:50

you know, there’s the book is on Amazon. And it’s, it’s another place you can go look, look me up and there’s my bio and other things there.


Scott D Clary  1:04:01

Perfect. Okay. And last question. I asked everyone, after your career, multiple successes, what does success mean to you?


Sandeep Chennakeshu  1:04:12

To me, success is very simple. Right? And to me, for me, the way I measure success is whatever I have learned in my career, can I impart it to others so they can build upon it? If I can do that, right, I would be really I feel I’ve been a real success. If I’m not able to impart what I have learned, and people cannot build on it, and I can’t see the people I’ve mentored do well, then who cares?


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