When you open WordPress editor to start writing, they share a prompt – what’s on your mind.
I think I needed this trigger.
So, what’s on my mind?
One-line answer – A lot!
Lemme elaborate. Like most times, I will make a list. Here are the things that I am thinking about and these are making me anxious and unhappy and all that. And yes, these are in an order – these came to my head as I started to think about things!
What if the run that I am on doesn’t continue in the next year? For context, in this year I have scaled C4E (revenue, profits, clients, people) at least 2X compared to last year. While our base is extremely small (we are still a Micro enterprise as per GoI definitions) but to me, it is big.
So what if this dream run doesn’t continue?
Ok, I am not the one to affect me, normally. I believe this too shall pass. I know we are in a good place. We have a good mix of long-term clients and short-term projects. Team is stable, engaged, passionate and active. And while they are atamnirbhar, as the oldest member of the team, I feel responsible for them. And that’s the challenge. What if I am unable to pay for them?
How do I scale? Now that I have seen a good year, the ambitious man in me seems to have started to stir. And this means I need to do more and at scale. And this means I need to work harder. Just that I don’t know which direction to work hard in! I mean we offer communication services to people and there are a million other companies that do this. And they do it cheaper and better. Why would the client choose me? Why would I use my time to build this? Did I learn all I learnt to just offer communication services? No, I don’t mean to be disrespectful. Different people have different battles and a communication agency is not mine. Not at this time at least. Maybe in the future. Never say never. So, coming back to the scale question, I need to work on that. And that is what keeps me up at night.
The chase of cool things. If you know me at all, you would know that I love shiny toys more than anything else. I’d rather spend my life in chase and not in actual deep, building of things. My joy is in zero to 1 and not in 1 to 100. This is something that Aditya Sir made me realize long ago! And the world we live in has a million shiny things to be honest and I have access to none of those. So, I am mindfucked about not having access to those cool things. I know that there’s no end to this. And I know better to not make that a pain point!
How do I build distribution? I’ve realized that everything in life boils down to one thing and one thing only – distribution. Once you have that, you can touch the sky and reach the moon and all that. Today I have pathetic distribution and reach. I may have 1000 followers on twitter but I don’t have an impactful reach and I need to build that. When I say impactful, I mean I should be able to reach people that matter. And they must know who I am.
On the internet, people agree that there are a few ways to reach there –
a, create polarizing content in polarizing categories (religion, celebrity, sports),
b, showcase your talent as a person of talent (humor, acting, opinions, wit etc),
c, identify a niche for yourself and create consistently on that, and finally,
d, spend money!
Now, I don’t have any of these 4. Plus I refuse to be siloed into one category – I am a free bird (lol). And thus the mindfuck.
How do I ship more things? The other question I keep asking is, how do I ship more. I agree that all the things that I have mentioned above need a tiny element of luck but this one, the one on shipping, is pure hard work. No luck. Once I ship, things may not work out or things may bomb or things may be substandard quality. But I know that shipping is single-handedly a thing that I can control! So that.
Maybe once I start shipping things, I will feel good? After all it’s been AGES since I’ve shipped something by myself!
Oh and thanks to this brain dump, now I know that since shipping contributes this much to my happiness, I need to probably amp up my shipping game!
A random rant that I felt like publishing on my blog. Read if you’d like to.
I have this drafts folder in my notes that I update thru the day. I take note of things – some important, some random, some to be used temporarily, some to be sent into my permanent storage (Roam at this time). Most days as I end the day, I delete this note and move on.
However, yesterday I wrote a note and I realised if I made this public, it would probably nudge me to be a tad better. How? Well, it would make me journal what I think and how I think. I would make me live more in public. And it would help me become more conscious about how I live. Making it public would be a good method for me to ensure that my thoughts, actions and reality are in coherence.
Here’s the post (very very lightly edited to remove personal details of others)…
1/ Its 4. Jsut woke up. Havent slept well in last 3 days. Random XXX crisis – it sucks energy but I am hopeful that it will be better now that there’s a change at the top
2/ “co work” is good but actual productivity is lot less. At least for me. I get more things done when am with strangers at a coffee shop than my loved ones anywhere. so I will limit my trips to starbucks when others are around
3/ beach at 545 everyday – I will do more of this. I am thinking of starting a tradition – each day when am there, we will talk about a lesson from life and generally talk and take it from there. not gyaan but how it is pertinent. I will try to invite people there. this is our version of party of 9.
4/ am getting sucked in day to day things at C4E and thus havent thought about sog book, sog 2024, growth with c4e, dubai, BD etc. I need to be out of it 100%. I am 90% out to be honest. But I still do those things.
5/ not working on health. need to action. Lemme do 5 knee push-ups and come back.
6/ back. did 10 knee-pushups
7/ I do my best work at morning. I need to probably end my days right after the walk at beach and a workout post that and readin. So, say beach by 630 – workout from 630 to 730 and then wind down. And wake up at 4 AM or whatever and work from home till 8 and move.
This means I will have lesser metings that I would want to. And thats ok? I have people that I trust now that can take things forward
8/ Need to work on personal brand.
9/ Lot of parked ideas. Here’s a list…
Freelancer Creatives Agency – this is also an idea that XXX had told me last year – C may recall
Third world hiring
10/ read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemline_index and was fascinated.
11/ when someone I love talks to me rudely for no reason and piles on me, I lose it. Brain stops braining. I don’t know what to do about this. I have to be in touch and I cant cut off. Some people understand. Some don’t. So that.
12/ need to “hang out” less often.
So that. The drafts folder. Lemme know what you think.
PS: I tried this when I lived in Goa during the pandemic. Here I am, again with it!
A short-post on something that I’ve on my mind (and not too keen on talking to anyone else about).
At am in a good place in life. Things are moving for me and I want to do more. I am surrounded by people I love and people that love me. We are doing ok work and we are respected by the ones around us. A lot of our experiments seem to be paying off. A lot of the ones that we are not hopeful about, I have decided I would shut those.
The point is, I am at a very interesting juncture in life – things look bright and cheery and nice from here on. I need all it takes to be able to do more. And anything that stops me from doing more, I want to stop doing those. Anything that enables me to do more, I want to do more of those.
Among the things that enable me (and / or stop me) is health. And I am fucking up on it. I am eating carbs, snacks, and whatnot. I am not working out and I can feel random pain in my chest, in my knees, my back (that reminds me, I need to go to a spine specialist) and a lot of other places. And no, none of these are battle injuries. These are merely lifestyle ones.
Oh, I’ve been unwell the last 2 days. And I am missing important deadlines – for clients (both old and new). And more importantly, I missed two things – P’s birthday party and M’s “farewell”. I also have a potential team member from C4E in Bom (from Delhi) and I wanted to spend time with her. But clearly am not being able to do that. So that.
Someone said, that maybe its 70+ hours that I talked about in this post that’s catching up on me. May be. But here’s the thing. I am not scared about missing work. I am merely cataloguing it here, acknowledging it and deciding that I would do better. And that, ladies and gents is the short post for the day.
Here’s hoping that I am better from here on 🙂
PS: Whoever is reading this, when am unwell, I don’t want to be talked to about it. I can order my soups, I can order my meds, I can find a doc if I have to. I do NOT ever want anyone to talk to me as if I where dying. In fact, I know that when I die, I don’t want to be around the ones I love. More on this later. Time to go make some mindmaps!
PPS: Oh the irony, as I write this, there’s Outlive on my desk staring at me!
And Obonato became the word of 2023 for me. And for some of us at C4E. Pooja introduced us to the word and it purportedly means “I exist because we exist”.
2023 was a testament to that.
I had a great 2023 because of “we”. We here is an entire village of people who have cared for me, worked with me, trusted me, given me work, allowed me to be me, hosted me, tolerated and even did not like me as much as I would want them to!
I will come to the review and lessons from 2023 shortly but right at the top, allow me to talk about the word for 2024. It’s “ruthless consistency”. Inspired by AK. I’ve realized that if I have to do more with my life and make the lives of those around me stronger, better, happier, sustainable and all that – I need to be consistent. And that is what I would chase. We’d get to this shortly. For the time being, let’s get started with a report card for 2023.
Recap of 2023
I will divide this into the following categories – C4E, SoG, SG, and Lessons.
I’ll start with people. Not revenue. And I will end with the direction I want C4E to take in the years to come.
People. We are now almost 15 people strong. This time last year we were 7. We continue to remain a unique business – there are no full-time “employees” and yet most people are married to C4E. We are all partners in the village!
And like in a village, each of us loves each other, respects each other and supports each other. This has to be my biggest win of 2023.
In the words of one of our former clients and ongoing friends, like their company (CynLr), “We are a platform for opportunity exchange”. Each person at C4E has the opportunity to do more and think more and meet more people and chase their respective bliss and choose their own adventure.
In 2023, we paid at least 30 people EACH month – a fee ranging from 5K to 200K. 5 to interns (we don’t have any unpaid interns) and 200K to one of the partners (most people at C4E are partners). And no, I am not the highest-paid partner at C4E. And this does not include the manifold that we paid to our suppliers.
All this while, the focus has remained on people and culture. With time we have made our hiring process more particular. If you want to work with C4E – you need to invest at least 2 hours on pre-reads listed on this page, fill in a long form, meet us a few times, do a paid assignment and then you may have a chance to get in. No, we don’t offer perks that even the smallest of companies offer but if you are in, you are treated as a human and not as a resource. And we promise a place that would give shoulders to your dreams.
Village. I read this quote (apparently by Kabir) and it has left an indelible impression on me.
साईं इतना दीजिए, जामे कुटुंब समाए मैं भी भूखा न रहूं, साधु न भूखा जाए
C4E is an excuse to support the entire kutumb (aka family) and the ones that need it. The best representation of that is in the shape of villages of the yesteryears – where each resident has their own thing and the collective contributes to that thing. And vice versa. More on it here.
So, the C4E Village is a safe space for people to experiment, do and learn from different perspectives. If you think you want to support C4E and be a part of the village, please let me know and I’d love to have you around!
Revenue. In the year that ended on Mar 23, we did almost 2 crores of topline. I wanted to end Mar 2024 with 20 crores. We would end at 4+ crores. So, on one side I failed to get us to 20. And on the other, we did very well to grow more than 2X. All credit goes to people at C4E.
The best part? Our biggest client accounts for less than 40% of the top line. We offer 4 distinct kinds of services and none contributes more than 40% to the top line. So we are well diversified, derisked from ruin and at a great place to scale from here on!
Clients. We added some great names to our repertoire. We now have a mix of startups, global conglomerates, individuals and our own projects. And I love that we are challenged by a wide range of problems. Some of these were…
Brand design / redesign for a global tea brand, a technology outsourcing company, a real estate giant and others
Brand consulting for businesses operating in undergarments on one side and enabling solar adoption on the other and many more in the middle
Manage social media presence for the likes of a global healthcare giant, a concrete equipment leader, a construction equipment player, a couple of insurance companies, a fintech festival and more
Content for the likes of a Tourism department, a Swedish furniture giant, one of the largest global technology companies and others
Personal brands for a few CXOs
I am sure there’s more. But these are at the top of my head at this time.
I am proud to say that we stopped working for a few clients and returned money when we realized that our culture and ethos were not in alignment. We don’t know if they were wrong or we were. But we didn’t see alignment and decided that it was better to part ways.
And if this is of any interest, one of the short films that we made got a famous actor (Manav Kaul) his first ever Filmfare Award!
As I end the bit about C4E, I maintain that all of us at C4E know that our Mahabharata is around the corner and we want to be ready when we get to it.
Projects. We invest all that we make into projects. These are independent of C4E but are run by people at C4E. Our projects around books, films, podcasts, and women continue to help us learn more and scale. I would’ve liked them to become independent by now but they are not. This is one of my big failings from 2023. As I build more projects, I will be mindful of this and will aim for revenue from day 0.
Apart from these existing ones, we started one around sustainability and that could not see the light of the day. The ones about alcobev and casting have just started and I should have something to report by the next year.
If I had to pick highlights from these projects, I would single out Purple Pencil Project. We’ve worked on finding our PMF and the best part is that we are now an accredited Publishing company with our first book on its way already!
SoG is Shoulders of Giants and no, it’s not inspired by my initials! However, I’ve come to realize that this is my life’s work and this was my biggest failure in 2023. Going forward I would fix this.
Here’s what you’d see from SoG in 2024.
SoG Grant. This idea has been pending execution since 2021! Time flies! In 2024, it will see the light of the day. The idea is simple. I will give an equity-free grant to people who want to chase a large goal but are unable to because they need some financial stability.
I am putting in 100K of my own money. Krishna has agreed to put in about 25. In case you want to put in as well, let me know. This is the least we can do to support young people.
SoG Book. I have AK helping me with this. So odds are, we would ship it. The book is a compilation of letters that I wish someone had written to me when I was young (to help me get wise). Think of Poor Charlie’s Almanack. Or Naval’s Almanack.
SoG 2024. I need to get more young people to be part of the 2024 cohort. If you know any sharp young people, send them here – SoG Application.
Party of 9, SoG edition. An in-person meetup of smart people. For young people. If you know young people between the ages of 15 and 19, please do send this form to them.
Apart from these four, I would try and build campus and city chapters for SoG.
While I’ve had a great year in terms of work, at a personal level, I haven’t had a good one. I realized that my life is centred around work. I no longer relate to most of my friends. And I continue to spend all my time on things, ideas, thoughts and people from work. So, I may very well be living in an echochamber!
I did not care for my health, I was not a good son, I failed at keeping relationships, I continue to miss having a special someone in my life and most importantly – I am not consistent at all.
Report card from 2023
I stated that in 2023, I would do three large things – write book2, get fit (do a sub-5-hour marathon) and make money (pay back my debt and pay each person at C4E more than what the market would pay).
I failed at and missed the first two. Truth be told, I’ve been missing them for more than 10 years now. And I refuse to give up!
On the third one, I was able to pay back a large part of my debt. I had decided that if I could not pay back my debt by the end of 2023, I would quit. I am happy to report that at least on paper, I have paid it all back.
On people, in most cases, I think I pay more than the market (at least more than their last income or more than what they ask me). I want this to grow as we scale in 2024.
Apart from these three large ones, I had numerous smaller ones. I got some, I did not get some. And while I can beat myself over those, I don’t want to. I don’t want to overinform here but if you want to know more, a detailed report card is here.
In 2024 I plan to work on being consistent and one way to do so is to live in public. Here is where I would track various things that I think will make me better.
So this brings me to the lessons I learned in 2023.
Lessons from 2023
2023 was a remarkable year. I saw a lot of interesting things in action and my thoughts were often challenged. Here are some lessons that I would like to put on paper and share with whoever is reading.
No one owes you anything. You have to work hard to get it.
Money talks. This year I made some money with C4E and when the world saw I had money, I saw people change their behavior toward me.
You get the respect that you ask for. Not what you deserve.
Unreasonable people move you forward. I want to talk about two women here. Aastha and Arti. Aastha is the founder of sya and taught me that you could be unreasonable about work and everyone falls in line. Arti taught me the same when it comes to personal goals and milestones. Thank you, ladies.
Time is painfully short, limited and unpredictable. You plan for the next year and before you know it, you are dead. So, do things now.
Karma does not exist. I used to be a big believer in this but I no longer believe in it.
It’s easy to spot people who fake things. So, never fake.
Actions > Words.
Say yes more than I say no (probably sparked by a recent conversation with friends). All that I have in life has come to me because I’ve said yes more than I’ve said no. This year too I could make money because I said yes. The biggest client came to me because I said yes to cutting my holiday short and meeting the client.
Be the person that’s willing to put in 70+ hours a week. Find more people who can outwork you. If you are not someone that likes this 70+ hours thingy, it’s ok 🙂
You can build luck – my entire life is a testimony.
Ok. The 2024 plans, goals, ideas, thoughts etc. Here we go…
The “word” for 2024 – Ruthless Consistency
The theme for the year is Ruthless Consistency.
Thanks again AK for this. This year I want to become a consistency machine. This year I would start my days with writing and end with chasing the sunsets. I started the first day of 2024 with writing (this letter). And I hope that I can go see the sunset as I end the day. I went today 🙂
I plan to make a WA group to help keep people accountable – we declare what we want to do every day and we post a photo of that task at the end of the day. Right now there are two of us. If you want in, tell me what would you like to do every day and let’s keep each other on track!
Coming to the goals for 2024, along with the ones I’ve listed already in this letter, here are my top three goals for 2024 on a personal level.
Build SoG – this is the single most important goal I will chase in 2024.
Build brand SG – my personal brand. I’ve realized that if we don’t have distribution, you could do the greatest of things – you would get no ROI. So I want to reach 100K people on various platforms. This may take any shape – podcasts, solocasts, blogs, books, whatever.
Run a sub-5-hour marathon.
On C4E, the goal is just one – make C4E more stable. I will do this by taking the following actions…
1/ Build people. Obnato will continue to be a theme C4E will only grow if people at C4E grow. And I will do whatever it takes to help my people grow.
I would also try and detach C4E from SG. Right now, most of the work comes to Saurabh. And SG can choose to work as C4E, B4U, ABC or whatever. I want C4E to stand on its own legs. We have started to action that already. In 2024, more and more decisions on C4E will be taken by the team.
2/ Build design chops. We continue to be without a design leader. I will fix this in 2024.
3/ Expand in another territory. I will try and set us up in Dubai. Multiple reasons – currency arbitrage, proximity to India, likeness of people, and a few friends. If you know people in Dubai, please connect me. I will be there a lot in 2024.
4/ Build communities. We already have an interest in books, films and more. I want to expand more on these in 2024 and build stronger communities.
5/ Build products. We are a services company and like most services companies, we are at the mercy of a variety of opinions. I want to change that. I don’t know how it would happen but building some productised services or a B2B product or some IP looks like a good idea. Need to think more about this. Oh, I would work hard to make Femela a reality.
6/ Grow business. I will also ensure that we focus on acquiring more clients (and for that, build brand C4E, redo our website, build the scout program, find more partners), quit unprofitable accounts, shut projects that don’t perform, build assets, get prudent about money and all that. I want to end 2024 with 40 crores of topline.
7/ Apart from the 6 listed above, I have a few more things that I want to work on. There is no science, or reason for these but I want to. Here they are…
Build C4E Base
Chase 100 rejections
Teach at some college
Initiate SoG SOTY Award
Be 30” around my waist (lol)
Fix my relationship with money
Learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube
Operate from a place of abundance
Put my photo on the internet (maybe)
Be more groomed and better dressed
Learn Webflow – I tried in 2023 and failed!
Scratch my itch to be around creative people
Learn how to play top-25 most heard songs on Uke
Put some website / page on each domain that C4E owns
Design a tool to review life and may be a planner, while I am at it
Oh, here’s an epiphany. Most of these goals have remained goals for a long time now. And that means I am not growing. I am merely ageing. Sigh!
In the end
I’ll end this by reiterating that I want to be ruthlessly consistent in 2024. Please hold me accountable. I will update this sheet and I plan to send a weekly update to everyone interested. Lemme know and I will add you to the list of people that get that update from me.
Apart from this, I have a few very specific asks. Here they are.
1/ Help me connect with people in Dubai
2/ Help me stabilize C4E – help us in getting more work, introducing us to more people that we can work with
3/ And the most important ask. Tell me your goal for 2024 and I will do whatever it takes to make that come true. Allow me to help you chase your personal bliss in 2024.
And yeah, that’s about it!
Here’s wishing you a glorious, fascinating, fulfilling 2023. May it be the best year of your life.
Thank you for reading! Thank you for your support and patronage!
Gratitude and Regards, Saurabh Garg Jan 1, 2024 Mumbai