Conversations with the MD

Radhakrishnan B. Menon,
Founder & MD

(This is an interview with Radhakrishnan B Menon, the founder of LBW. It was conducted by Divya Joseph, AVP – Consulting & Client Engagement and what is reproduced below is a verbatim conversation).

Q: Tell me something about your career, I hear it was an unusual career ?

A: “Well, I wouldn't say unusual, maybe a bit unique! You know I had a very eventful, fulfilling career as an HR professional. I served diverse organizations wherein I was able to learn and contribute at the same time. What was special was that I became an HR leader at an early stage, say in 10 yrs, those days it was a really big deal. Thereafter, I had exciting tenures or innings in world class companies. My sense of mission all along was to create a great story in each of my innings, which I did. By innings I would mean say 6 to 7 years ? I never liked basking in my chair in that typical comfort zone. So I finished my innings and story in each of my organizations, happily placed young successors on my chair and moved on to create yet another story. I was like a good carpenter making a house and then moving on with the tool kit to make the next one !”

Q : What made you leave a great job at Cadbury and start your own venture ?

A: Somewhere along as I approached 50 yrs or maybe even earlier, I had this inner voice urging me not to typically retire at 60 and then do consulting or farming or be in an NGO etc, yeah, many people do that !

I felt I owed a lot to the corporate world, to my profession and of course to India, my country, I know it may sound mushy, but it’s true. I wanted to share it all back - to the corporate world, to my profession and a little bit of nation building.
Initially, I was scared, never fancied myself as an entrepreneur, always the corporate penguin suit guy !”

Q: So how did you pull the trigger ?

A: “Good question, Divya. It was really tough but I did it. You see, I had nine years of career remaining, I felt if I venture out let me do it when the gasoline is there ! I wanted to reinvent myself that too in a new avatar, an avatar which will clearly define my new purpose. I knew I was taking a big leap of faith, honestly, it was like a 'calling'. I mustered up all courage and launched LBW !”

Q: What was in your mind when you started LBW ?

A: The LBW purpose was simple and clear. At that time we announced ourselves as a Leadership Development consulting firm, an-end-to-end leadership firm. We strongly believed that leaders and leadership teams drive growth.

I felt I owed a lot to the corporate world, to my profession and of course to India, my country, I know it may sound mushy, but it’s true.

The LBW intent was to grow leaders and grow leadership in the organization. We wanted to be distinctive in what we do, our focus was to leverage years of experience in the leadership space. I wanted to create a unique, distinctive firm, a brand that stands for knowledge, quality service and delivery. I wanted to develop a bunch of young, bright professionals and groom them into top-notch consultants, I wanted to set a benchmark in leadership consulting.”

Q: I heard LBW had tough times in the beginning, can you share with us the initial journey and the coming of age of LBW ?

A: “You bet, tough is an understatement ! The first 18 months of LBW was indeed grueling. The timing itself was bad, 2007-08, the downturn at its worst. We had the usual teething issues of a start-up and I myself was learning to become an entrepreneur !.

But all along I was confident. I knew I had taken a leap of faith and somehow despite many frustrations I had faith in faith and slowly but surely it worked. By year two, we had completed some good projects and delivered great results.

Year three and four were very exciting and we got noticed at the right places, word of mouth helped a lot. Thereafter, our business accelerated year-on-year and now we are growing significantly.

Looking back, in the last 10 years we have served over 52 Clients, diverse clients, we have successfully completed over 100 plus interventions, touched 1000 leaders in our 8th year and most importantly we were able to discover and re-discover ourselves.”

Q: What do you mean by “discover ourselves”? Can you share more on it?

A: “Yes, we now know what LBW stands for, what we do best and also what we should be in the future. It kind of defined our existence. I still recall what an entrepreneur friend told me in my first year. He said “it takes a 1000 days for any business to establish itself”. We experienced it.

What is fascinating in this journey is that our Clients decided what we should be doing ! Today we have a whole set of little verticals, if I can call it. They are OD, Leadership Capability Building, Strategic HR, Executive Coaching and in 2014 we launched General Management. These arose out of client needs and we have built on each one of them over the years. If you see our performance scoreboard (see LBW scoreboard) as we call it, it will tell you the varied and diverse work we are doing and it also reflects the character of the firm.

Most importantly we were able to discover ourselves

...with the legendary Jack Welch

To say it in one line, we are primarily “growth consultants”, we speak a language called “good growth” which we have relentlessly shared with our clients and delivered immense results (see LBW” Body of work” ).

Q. I heard about the LBW resource model, can you explain it ?

A: “We have a multi-pronged model, developed over the years. Firstly, we have a team of young, bright in-house consultant-entrepreneurs, we call them the house of “talent”, we have a team of Principal Consultants whom we refer to as the house of “experience & wisdom”, then we have the SMEs (subject matter experts) who are from the house of “mastery” and finally, we have the “executive coaches” who are the house of “stewardship”!All these 'houses' are being built on an ongoing basis as we learn more and more about quality delivery and excellence.

The LBW resource model comprises of about 28 persons and we have their presence in pan India, Middle East, Australia and UK.

Q. What are the future plans of LBW ?

A. Yes, indeed, lot of plans ahead ! We realized that while we are 'good growth' consultants to the world we needed to figure out our own growth strategy. The next stage of our growth phase is to significantly excel in what we do, indulge in newer exciting offerings and thirdly we will spread our wings internationally including strategic alliances with best-in-class consulting firms overseas.

We are primarily “growth” consultants.

In January 2014, we made a game-changing decision as we worked on our long term strategy. We have decided to eventually become a full-fledged management consulting firm. As starters, we have already launched our General Management vertical in the areas of Strategy, Innovation, Supply Chain and most recently in Sales & Marketing. These are headed by senior Principal Consultants who have proven credentials in their respective fields. All this would mean more resources, stronger research and enhancing new capabilities within LBW. We are ready for action!”

Q : Looking back how do you feel ? Any key learnings ?

A: Oh, plenty of learnings ? I am dazzled by Consulting. Until now I knew only 3 subjects - cricket, leadership and a little bit of HR ! Now I am learning about Consulting, it’s fascinating. If I compare my last 10 years of experience at LBW, it would be equal to 20 years of my career. Such is the learning, I am humbled by the abundant learnings I have acquired – diverse businesses, people issues, cultures and the organization dynamics involved. Each client and their issues are unique to themselves and you learn something new every day.

Lastly, the world of entrepreneurship. I never realized that being an entrepreneur is so multi-dimensional, so versatile and that you are responsible to your firm, to your client organizations and in small ways, however small it may be to contributing to nation building.”

Q: “Any tips or advise to others?

If I compare my last 10 years of experience at LBW it would be equal to 20 years of my career.

A: Look I am not anyone to give advice. But I wanted to share one thing to people whether young or old ? Find your purpose, means will follow… said the Father of our great nation. I find it one of the most everlasting truths in life or profession. My invitation to everyone is to find your purpose every 5 years ! Yes, it will be a revelation, you will not only constantly re-invent yourself but you will bring out the best in yourself and others”.