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  • Writer's pictureGreat Companies

Kurush Khodaiji, Founder at Imageine Consulting

Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Kurush Khodaiji : Prior to founding Imageine Consulting, I had a long stint working in the the business development and strategy space in industries such as Hospitality and Media.

All along this journey, I had always wanted to work for myself. It was nice to gain experience and be a part of esteemed organizations but somewhere deep down I had this desire to make an impact in a manner that was unique to me and that is where I zeroed on the idea of founding an enterprise that focused on people and problem solving.

Before embarking on any specific plan or heading in any particular direction, I decided to ask my-self What is the HIGHEST I can offer or Where does the maximum value lie? What is it that people seek the most in a transactional society? The answer I got was Success. Society has hard wired us into buying the idea of societal Success. We talk about good people, happy people, upright people and many other kinds of people but nothing stirs us up quite like when we talk about Success. "He's made it". "You know she just bought that new expensive car". This kind of conversation really gets people going.

I went back to my working days in senior management and introspected: what was expected of someone like me? The answer is straight forward; to be able to successfully get clients on board -increase profitability and to manage a team internally that could help this cause. In short, like everyone else in their walk of life, I had to be perceived as SUCCESSFUL. I had to do things that moved my organisation to the path of Success within my assigned role. Then I asked my-self another question having zeroed down on Success as possibly the highest that humans strive for in a transactional society - What exactly constitutes Success? We keep talking about it, millions of books are published every year on it, scores of videos made on it and despite all of this, we still are hazy or lack complete clarity on What really is SUCCESS? What constitutes success in its sub-text and not the generalization of it.

And....therein I found my premise- the base on which I would evolve my idea, my proposition and my concept.

I went back to my reference point; my working days and the several years and the varied experiences - yes the qualities of knowledge, skill, focus etc were definitely needed but more importantly how I positioned my overall proposition to the client externally and to my stake-holders internally is what eventually gave me the best chance at success. I did not stop there, I took it a step deeper. I was not convinced with just this.

I hit upon what I called the critical missing link to Success; the critical missing link to Success is that atleast ONE person other than you must believe or deem you to be Successful. This is critical as you cannot label your-self as a Success by your-self -others or atleast ONE other person which is not you has to declare or deem you to be successful. No matter how good, how efficient you think you might be, no matter what your qualifications are, if the above critical missing link of the OTHER is absent, you can never be successful. In short, what is the OTHER or your relevant stake-holder thinking? I realised that just to survive or thrive, which ever way you choose to look at it, I was applying the critical missing link. I quickly realised, you cannot just put your product and service out there, one has to try and decide what is the OTHER, in this case my client/s thinking about me. What kind of approach do they like. Are they happy to hear from me? What are they noticing about me? Does how I dress make an impact? Does what I say and how I say it make a difference? If so, then how much? Is it significant for me to actually try and enhance all of this and in turn enhance my perceived value. The answer was most certainly, yes. What I did made a huge difference to the overall proposition.

Subsequently, I decided to randomly ask about a hundred people from varying walks of life what does it take to be successful according to them? I got varying but rather cliched answers of hard work, focus, diligence, skill, knowledge, educational qualification, being passionate, being meticulous & a few others. The one underlying mentality that ran across all the participants was that they only spoke of qualities. They believed that either one or a combination of qualities such as focus, knowledge, skill etc were enough to pass muster. Is this really true?

It immediately dawned upon me that most people had bought into the societal text book idea of Success. The idea that if you developed your-self through qualities, you were bound to find Success sometime. Sadly and has been proven time and again, this is not entirely true. This is a very linear and simplistic way to approach Success. Qualities are only a part of the Success Solution.

The Problem:

Qualities are intrinsic or inside a person -this means no one can actually see them at first.

Success means how relevant others view you:

If how others view you is so crucial to your Success, let us address this straight; How do others view you? What are they looking for? Others FIRST look at you -your visual appearance. What about the visual appearance? What are they concluding? How soon are they making this judgement -whether negative or positive?

What most people like my hundred participants for my exercise miss is just this, that people unfortunately cannot see inside you. They simply cannot judge if you are focussed or hard-working or passionate unless -this is important - unless they can VISUALLY see it first and then by your body language, your non-verbal communication and then by how you speak -your verbal Communication.

The Solution:

In short the key to who you are -the Inside is judged on what your outside looks like. People will assume your qualities based on the perception they form of you simply looking at you and by hearing you speak.

Think about this:

Now do you understand that despite the thousands and lakhs of books, videos and other content, Why Success eludes us?

People who should be cruising in the lap of Success, who have everything it takes are simply falling short because they have never understood this critical missing link and how to apply it.

In a nutshell, this is what I do at Imageine Consulting -provide wholistic SUCCESS SOLUTIONS and then break it down to smaller sub-sets of nuanced communication, quality building, knowledge enhancement in key areas, raising awareness and a plethora of other aspects are touched upon so the individual or the group starts approaching Success as a Solution working on both the INSIDE as well as the OUTSIDE and not just on quality enhancement. This approach tremendously enhances their perceived value to stake-holders and vastly boosts their chances of Success as now they work for Success the way Success works in the real world.

Universality & Relevance:

An idea must have both universality and relevance. The above approach can work with people from any walk of life, any strata of society, any age group ( preferably 13 upwards), employed or unemployed.

I undertake both - individual consulting sessions and group training programs. Every individual or group is treated as unique in terms of what they need in terms of goals and orientation. The degree of Success lies in how finely and how I customize the program and in working very closely with the participant/s.

Great Companies: What are the various Services provided by Imageine Consulting

Kurush Khodaiji :

Our offerings include both:

a. Individual Consulting

b. Group (Corporate/educational/ other organisations/ select groups).

All programs are customized and highly personalized. A Success Solution cannot be effective in a template.

Success Solution based Individual Consulting signature program:

1. 'I GET YOU'- Are you missing the smaller picture??

2. Quintessentially You - arriving at a better you

Success Solution based group open workshop:

1. You Turn -sometimes all you need is a change in direction

Need based Customization:

2. Customized training for organisations

3. Customized Training for groups as per requirement

Elaborate descriptions have been given on the website for all offerings including client profiles, case studies and other interesting content. Alternately, any interested individual can also get in touch with me for the same.

Great Companies: What makes Imageine Consulting different from hundreds of other similar consulting & Training firms ?

Kurush Khodaiji : This is a very good question and I wished more clients at the prospecting stage would ask me this. At the very outset, I would like to say that no two firms are the same- yes they may be similar as what we are or what we gather is simply a sum-total of our experiences. We may not be fully conscious but our minds are simply a smaller collective of the larger collective, which is the influence of people around us and society as a whole. The question is how aware one is of this very strong influence. It is only when you are aware of your mind being a gathering pit or a sum total of all you encounter, can you actually rise above it and then subsequently create something unique via inclusion and innovation. I personally know a number of individuals and firms doing or attempting to do some very good work in this space.

The question is not what makes me different. There is no real merit or value in being different per se, the question I ask my-self is Am I giving a client a one dimensional consulting or training or a Solution that works holistically? This is where the real value in being different kicks in.

I'd say how I am different is that I have never identified my-self to any thought, school of thought or philosophy on how to train. Let me clarify this so it is not misunderstood- this does not mean I have not undergone any formal coaching and training my-self. I have trained rigorously, have imbibed a lot of knowledge and also have domain expertise in the form of being a qualified Image Consultant. Whatever I undertook, I took in not to identify with it but simply used everything as a ladder or a medium as my obsession and my aim is to find the optimum or the highest solution I could find depending on whether it was an individual or the group that was in front of me, as simple as that.

As I had mentioned, in the earlier question, that highest has been identified as Success and hence the best I can do for a client is to help him/her to find a Success Solution that works uniquely for them.

I have undertaken various training sessions on various aspects of Image Management, Sales & Customer Service, Effective Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Executive Presence, Last mile programs and a variety of programs but what I realised is a lot of these programs do have some value in terms of effectiveness and have transformation potential but just undertaking a 1 or a 2 day program as a workshop for groups and organisations has its limitations, both in terms of time spent and the lack of individual attention in that limited span of time. Also, this kind of intervention lacks sustained transformation -growth and change can only take place when you have an opportunity of setting quarterly goals and then breaking them down into monthly and weekly interventions and not just with one department, these work best when every department or a majority of the departments in the said organisation are involved. This gives one the opportunity to implement Success Solutions that work and inter-department sync comes in finally facilitating how the company is perceived to outsiders which is critical to its success. It takes time, effort and a strategy to make this happen.

Herein lies the difference- in such a scenario, one cannot just operate like a facilitator or a trainer. Your identification as soft-skill expert or Image expert or Sales trainer, as novel as it maybe, poses limitations if you are looking to do whatever it takes to find that optimum success solution. This is why I say I try to not identify my-self with any branch or school, thought or philosophy of training for however good a sub-set might be, it is only part of a Success solution and not a Success solution in it-self.

Let me give you an example: An organisation that wanted to hire my services typically wanted me to conduct a "soft-skills" kind of training only for the Customer Service department first and then for the Sales department separately on another date. On further probing, I realised that soft-skills were just the tip of the iceberg. I got some very pertinent information that infact due to an absolute lack of inter-departmental communication systems in place, the sales department on a few instances actually went ahead and pitched new business in the form of upgrades etc to an old client when in fact there were serious maintenance issues that were not sorted from the customer service end. This resulted in not just irritating the client but pointing out the glaring communication lag. Like everyone, this company also wants Success as its highest. Is this problem not taking away their chances at optimising profitability and making them lose their positioning and Image? Certainly, yes.

A soft-skills or effective sales or a templated business etiquette training won't help much here and this is not an uncommon scenario. A communication failure at any level means lack of Success eventually. A communication failure is not just lack of understanding, it is the lack of awareness, an attitudinal problem, an aptitude problem, a leadership problem and on deeper diagnosis a plethora of others problems.

The solution lay in not segregating the program between sales and customer service to start with and secondly instead of just going through the motions of a soft-skills type workshop, it made far more sense to approach it like a success solution where we openly spoke about all the problem areas like intra department communication lags -we delve into the inner psychology of why this behaviour and the practical causes of this non-communication and then how we can practically set up a workable and simple system in real time to tackle this. This not only creates the required awareness amongst Individuals in the respective departments, it creates sharp clarity on the roles and most importantly one can set systems there and then that work, that solve the problem and are practised in real time after the training is over. This is where the true value of what you do comes to the fore.

This is just one example. Organisations, depending on the industry type and other dynamics are full of such problems and lags which hamper success and hence the difference of approaching every new challenge in the form of a Success Solution is my way of approaching this.

In the case of Individual Consulting, a SUCCESS SOLUTION approach is all the more required. The extent to which I am truly able to gauge the individual emotionally, psychologically and the awareness levels and then create a turn-key customized program spanning over 10 to 15 robust sessions and simulating a real time scenario incase there is an absence of one is the key.

The idea is to have every identification like a soft-skill trainer, image consultant, Emotional intelligence expert or a Sales or a Customer relation domain specialist but only knowning what to use and when to use it with the aim of creating a real time solution -real life is not about just enhancing your soft-skill awareness of improving your image or improving communication, more often than not there is an INSIDE -qualities, emotions, psychology aspects to why things don't work and an OUTSIDE - Communication, appearance, behaviour through body language which determines positioning. More often than not both these aspects come into play and have to be addressed as per the outcome one desires. When we address every aspect, it automatically means we are in effect setting the wheels of a customized SUCCESS SOLUTION in motion. This is the difference if you would like to call it that.

How exactly we go about doing this on the ground is something that requires customization and a detailed understanding of the individual or the group in question. I would love to talk to you about. Please do visit the website and/or get in touch with me.

Having said that, there are organizations and individuals who only want a sub-set or a part of the Success Solution and I customize accordingly.

Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?

Kurush Khodaiji : The absolute initial struggle was what exactly to do or what kind of work I should undertake in the training and consulting space. Ten years ago when I began, it was gaining momentum but unlike the mushrooming of online enterprises, the industry had many freelance players and a few companies. How and where to fit your-self in and more importantly how to position your-self as a trusted facilitator and/or consultant were questions that needed answers back then.

In the initial 2 odd years, how to pitch your business and how much budget do you allocate to business development. There were instances when clients outside of your city wanted to see a face and not just close the deal over the phone. It involved flying to several cities, expenses all now borne by you and your owned company -judgment calls on who do you meet? Who do you pass? How much of your gut do you trust? An investment in any form needs to be earned back - the buck stops with you, literally. IN 2 years this struggle became miniscule.

To me the challenge was never about content creation or delivery as such but more about how do you create maximum value? I wouldn't call it a challenge as such but more an obsession. Value in this field means a whole host of things; it can mean better commercial prospects, people seeking you, greater recall and definitely some kind of X factor. Till today I ask my-self How can you optimize value - I constantly try to broaden the range of what is on offer in terms of a Success solution -for example- I am not a trained psychologist but many a times clients do suffer from certain fears and self doubts etc which are strictly not my domain expertise but we do address them and end up finding workable solutions thus enhancing the quality of the Success solution. This is a challenge that is worth taking up if you are into providing optimum value.

Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Imageine Consulting?

Kurush Khodaiji : This is another good question. It always amuses me as very seriously most of us have no real idea of tomorrow or say the next month but we love to plan for the future. It basically stems from the "What next?" syndrome. I have often thought of this "What next?" just like we all do and I started realising it was always about being large, being bigger, expanding and in that line of thought. Yes, the same thoughts of growth trajectory, more fame and adulation certainly is a feel good factor.

Funnily enough, as time went by and a lot of the frontiers so to speak were conquered -landmarks like 5000 people trained or 200 individual clients, this idea of expansion and fame started to tone itself down in my mind. I dug deeper and started realising that despite constantly learning, customisation and several thousand clients down the road I'm still short on depth -there is enough width, a whole range of topics and a plethora of content to pick from but depth is never ending. I'd like to sink my-self into this, going as deep as I can following the path of non-identification to anything. My hope is that why only 5 years, from tomorrow onwards till I am able to do this, I am able to change the very dimension of a person who gets in touch with me. I am able to open him/her out in such a way that they, them-selves go totally beyond the scope of what they came for and I surprise my-self as to how this happened- for I know one can only plan for so much but magic happens beyond the plan and the created structure. I hope someday to move even beyond the idea of Success that has us all captured in a big way to helping finding a subtler you in a cut the clutter sort of way.

Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Kurush Khodaiji : I'd say first ask yourself why do you want to be a trainer or a consultant? Really ask yourself? You may be a good communicator or have great presence, yes that's certainly a big plus but what is that you really want to do if you were given the opportunity.

Yes, you can learn the craft from several people and places but the art here is you.

One thing for sure is document the experiences you've had that have touched you or had some impact-even a small conversation here or there. You should want to keenly observe everything around you. Your take on what you experience is what makes you unique. If you can see something the way I cannot, that is when it has the possibility to impact me. This is where you create actual value. This is how you learn to customize.Try and develop that. You don't have to force it, just keep at it until it becomes second nature.

Secondly, gain experience professionally. It doesnt matter where you work but before you venture into wanting to help others, you have got to put yourself through various scenarios and experiences. If you like the work place, document, observe, learn and if you don't like it, even better, you will learn much more. Try and not identify with the industry or the organisation you are currently working for, your designation or industry. Simply look at it as a role and a learning. Use everything to learn. In this category and slot obsessed world, people will want to know if you are an X type of trainer or Y trainer or X coach or Y coach, for practical purposes call your-self something but in your mind be limitless because life is not a soft-skills class, nor is it only about one's emotional quotient. If you are asked to do a workshop on emotional quotience, try and see how you can apply everything you know, marry it to the topic in question but eventually its true value will lie only and only if you are able to give it the super value of a SUCCESS SOLUTION keeping emotional quotience or soft skills or sales or whatever the assigned topic is as a medium or a tool to give the ultimate value, that of a Success Solution.



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