Guest Post By:  Eric Bilginoglu

I’ve seen a dozen of Emerging Market entries by Big Multinationals in the last 10 years, which had to go through turnarounds or drastic management changes as early as in the first two years.

A pattern repeating so often cannot be a coincidence, can it?

When one analyzes the way these start-up’s were “realized”, a list of typical common points is easy to catch:

Mindset: Most of the time, Headquarters or Regional Head Offices see these “new offices” as “nice to have” ventures.

Leadership: With a mindset defined above, it’s not expected to see real movers sent to take the start-up jobs. Companies rather send to these “bumpy” roads, people who are bored or jammed in the corporate promotion ladder.

Team: A leader sent to “take care of” the businesses would simply end up being a “care taker”…doing trivial searches and bringing in people who have mainstream management skills, instead of looking for movers with “make things happen” approach.

Unbearable lightness of having excuses: Excuses are life vests of Emerging Market Start-up (mediocre) teams. It’s typical to hear the team –starting from the leader- constantly murmur about “how difficult it is to operate in this corrupt country”, “what a big challenge it is to overtake the legal/bureaucratic/cultural hurdles put on the track”, “what a bunch of lazy peasants they have to deal with”, “what a vampire the distributor/ dealer/supplier is”, “how difficult it is to educate the receptionist/secretary/plumber…”, etc…

Certainly, some or most of these excuses might have a ground; but hey, the job of the leader and the team is to “make things happen”, right? Wait…yeah, the mindset…

One of my ex bosses who had earned himself a rightful nickname of “pitbull”, used to say: “Once you start listening to excuses, start preparing a really good list of excuses why you failed or simply sit and write a resignation letter…”

I can hear some of you, shaking their heads, say: “What about support from Head Office?!”


If you are not a self energizer, able to do the right things yourself with your team (YOU have gathered) (yes, you DO need the best team!), without any mentors or instructors thousands of miles away, simply do NOT take the job!

Start-up’s are all about speed and efficiency.

You’re only as speedy as the speed of your hiring and firing in a start-up.

The most crucial phase of a start-up is the first couple of months, not more!

Being late for a date is bad. Being late making decisions during a start-up is fatal!

So, what are the key elements of success for a start-up?

1)      Send the best, not the bored!

Make sure you send your best people to Start. If You think that venture in that exotic country is just a try or an adventure, simply do not enter that market and focus on your plate…If, you really want to create a sustainable and profitable business there, find and send the best! Make it clear and agree before giving the job offer, that you will accept NO excuses whatsoever for failures and the DECISIVE assessment will be as early as in the first three months. Whoever will sign under that is either CONFIDENT or DESPERATE and these both are great qualities for a Start-up Leader.

2)      If you are not sure that you have the best person there on the job (you should have been, but anyway!) Schedule a 15 minutes (NO MORE) call with the leader you sent there at the end of the first month. Do not ask questions, just listen:

It’s BAD if he/she starts the MONOLOGUE with complaints about meals, traffic, polluted air or unhappy spouse…  It’s WORSE if he/she mentions challenges only without talking about opportunities or ways of making things happen…

Well, if he/she gossips about skills and competencies of his/her team, just hang up and call the HR!

3)      Once the 15 minute test is passed, give him/her a list of very clear KPI’s to be fulfilled till the end of the third month.

Do I sound cruel? Let me tell you what is cruel…

It’s cruel to waste millions of dollars of the corporate money to TRY something you are not sure you want!

It’s cruel to exit a market a year or two after your entry ruining your corporate and brand image!

It’s cruel to lay off people for simple management/leadership defects!

It’s cruel to send (and destroy the life and career of) someone, who is not able to use a water gun, to the front!

You want to know more and get a list of “out of the box”, S.M.A.R.T.  and proven KPI’s? Then be back here on 14.11.2011 to read my next article…

Keep up the good work till then!

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