C4E Review – H1 2024

H1 2024 report for C4E and the business.

6 months of 2024 are over.
And that means it’s time for a review.
Let’s go.

Also, for context, here are a couple of posts that I would use as reference points – C4E 2023-24 Annual Shareholder Report and my #in2024 letter.

I will break this report into sections. These are…

  • What is working well for us?
  • What is not working well? What are our challenges?
  • What is the plan for the rest of the year?
  • Some personal updates
  • Parting notes

Come join me for a ride.

Wait. Before we get started, here’s a postcard for you 🙂

This is from the most recent CSS (#CSS4) that happened on the 29th of June.

1/ What is working well for us at C4E?

This is my second favourite part (wait a bit for the favourite part).

So here are the things that are working well for us.

A/ We refuse to die.
To me, this is the biggest and the best thing ever. We’ve got our ups and downs but I believe that are not dying anytime soon. In fact, we are larger and hopefully stronger than ever.

B/ People seem to be happy
Most people at C4E seem to be happy.

Of course, I could be wrong since I dont get to talk to most folks on a day-to-day basis. And when I talk to clients, most clients seem to be happy with how our people conduct themselves. So the first pillar of C4E – People – is in place. They are happy. That translates into them putting in the effort for clients. Clients see that. And they shower praises. And then its a loop. So alls well.

But then I do see a challenge in making my people participate in non-work activities (such as Growth Sessions, thinking for the org, expanding our services). Apart from a few enthu cutlets, org-wide we are not really on a treadmill per se.

And in spite of that, I can safely say that my vision for the village seems to be coming to life. So that’s a BIG win.

C/ Clients
We retained our clients (though not at the money that I would have wanted to earn). We acquired new clients. And we let go of clients where money-mazaa-effort equation did not add up.

On this, allow me to elaborate. We are ok to ask for less if we have a lot of fun with work. We are however not willing to work with clients where we get paid less, we dont have fun and work is demanding beyond reason. While we are in a buyer’s market where clients get to dictate things, we continue to hold our heads high and only work on things where either we make money or we have a lot of fun. Or in rare cases, we get the benefit of the brand.

D/ Processes
As with any small business, the first chasm to cross is when you put in processes. We have started to!

While a lot of these are still not documented, we are much more structured now compared to when we started. The next step is to document these processes.

E/ Succession. Lol.
I am trying to not run C4E on a day-to-day basis. And I am almost there. The year-end review of C4E will come from the desk of Chandni. Hopefully 😀

F/ Cut losses
In the last 6 months, I’ve got out of two of my favourite projects – TRS and Podium. And the decision did not come easy. It was like letting go of a limb. Two in this case. But then I had to do it.

Of course, I continue to believe in the potential of both of these projects and I really wish I could manage them better. One ran for over 6 years. The other was for almost 4 years. I was unable to take either to profitability. More than that, in both cases, we couldn’t make decisions that would have taken us towards profitability.

I’ve learnt very very expensive lessons from both. Expensive in terms of time, money and mindspace. I will try to not repeat those as I seed DD (the only other for-profit idea that I am working actively on apart from C4E) and help Prak with PPP.

The point is, going forward, I will cut losses fast.

G/ Planted new 💣💣💣!
This means, we bought new domain names. We are now proud owners of VersovaIsHome, Decoding Duryodhan and a few more. What would each do, I am not so sure at this time. But kuch to hoga.

2/ What is not working well? What did I miss?

This is my most favourite part. Also, all misses are mine and not of the team.

A/ We remain a company that can’t pay well.
I really really want to fix this. I want to be able to pay top dollar to everyone.

B/ Cash flow is a challenge.
This has more to do with me, to be honest than anything else. I tend to bleed with experiments that don’t need our time or energy. I am investing in things that we do not need to at this time (see 1G above). I am not prudent with money at all.

And some clients have delayed our payments for structural reasons at their end (and at our scale, it is tough to sort of keep a float). I would never not pay our people because clients did not pay. So, I need to borrow. At this point, I now have more debt on me than I had at the lowest point of COVID.

So, I need to work on this. And I will do so over the next 6 months.

C/ Brand.
Our brand remains a challenge. We are still not as well known as we’d like to be. Leave the well part. We are not even known. We are far far away from the big leagues. We are unable to price our services the way we’d like to. We are unable to attract talent that seeks higher compensation.

A few months ago I decided that I would run this myself. However, I have failed at this. I will push this going forward.

C.1/ C4E Website / Creds
Our website is terrible.
Our creds are nice but I am not sure they are relevant in this day or age.

I need to work on this. We’ve made a brief but we haven’t been able to put things in motion.

However, I will push on this.

D/ No action on expansion
When we started the year I had promised that we would open up in a different geography. So far, we haven’t done anything to do that. We are very much in India. Concentrated in Mumbai.

Over the next 6 months, I will take one more shot at building our presence outside India. And I will try and sell something online. Wish me luck.

E/ One loss away from ruin
We continue to be one loss away from ruin.

We are very very leveraged as a business – we make money, we pay a randomly large chunk of that to people who work on projects (leaving C4E as an org with little and thus no savings), we move on. We don’t have a treasury per se. At some point in time, we will have to get that going.

If we lose a client, the ability to pay money to that team goes for a toss. Now that team is supporting other teams. And that goes for a toss as well. The entire business model crumbles like a House of Cards.

I need to ensure that we are not this fragile. Truth be told, I dont know how to do this. Any help?

3/ The plan for the rest of the year

So for the rest of the 6 months, need to work on a few things (as listed above). Apart from those, some others are…

A. “Corporate” Initiatives
It sounds funny to call C4E a corporate.

These include…

  • Putting in place a board of directors (would you like to nominate someone?)
  • Amping up our brand (means a new website, a new creds deck etc)
  • Acquiring new clients (see 2E)

Am sure there are more but these are the top of my head at this time.

B. One more attempt at new geography or a new business
Same as 3D. I will take one more shot at building our presence outside India. And I will try and sell something online.

So that.

4/ Personal updates

Not too much to report here (I dont think I am in the mindspace to talk about this). But here’s a list.

  1. Health is on a fast car without brakes hurling down the steepest hill you can imagine.
  2. On a personal level, I am probably at the lowest point – nothing exciting. I haven’t even been talking to my parents / sibling / friends etc. All I do is think of work and then nothing.

Nothing apart from that on the personal front.

5/ Ending notes 

As I reflect on how things have been at C4E in the last 6 months, the biggest takeaway is that the Village seems to be coming to a reality. If I had my way I would find a physical space – in Bombay or Goa or Dubai or anywhere and then build another iteration of village there.

Second, I am no longer the face of C4E and it’s now split between AK, C, Prak and others.

Third, you will notice that I haven’t talked about numbers at all. And that’s by design. We will never chase a numbers target as long as I have a say here at C4E.

Third Point One. I have also not talked about awards we won (we won none), accolades we got (many), business impact we made (we dont track – we may have to change this) or any other things that typically make the highlight of such reports. The reason is my aversion to these vanity conversations. To me, the most important thing is day to day contentment and happiness of people that have chosen to call C4E home. And there’s no way I can measure that.

Four. I would have liked to capture some lessons from the last few months. Again, I am not sure how to quantify that. So I will leave it at that.

This is it!

If you’ve read this till here, please do let me know what you think and what I can improve upon.

Over to you!

PS: I am glad I could write this. The report helps me take stock of where I am. Where C4E is. And how far are we from where we want to be and how am doing as part of the village.

PPS: Thanks to Pradeep and Prakruti for the edits.

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