How do I make my Saturday Night is the most Productive Night of the Week

From the very beginning of my career I tried to become as much organized as possible. And that’s why I have read a lots of books, articles and blogs related to personal productivity and efficiency. Based on all the learning I got from these books, articles and blogs, I have developed my own recipe to be more productive in the work. Yes, I also maintain a daily To-Do list and reflect in the end of the day and again focus on the preparing the To-Do list for next day but the most of my plan is depended on the plan I developed on Saturday night (Yes, in Bangladesh Saturday is the Sunday!).

The following steps I follow to make the Saturday Night, most productive night of the week –

  1. Usually around 9 or 9:30pm of Saturday night, I grab a cup of coffee and sit in my desk. Before that I make sure my desk is clean and tell my family members not to disturb me for next 30-40 minutes.
  2. Gather my notebook and open my calendar and Evernote. I am big fan of physical notebook but I also use Evernote for quick thoughts and notes.
  3. I write down the overall goal of the week. Make sure you also put not only your professional goals, but also your personal goals. If you done have any goals, no problem. You can focus on the projects you are planning to do in coming week.
  4. Fill in the specific tasks under each of the projects. Please note that there might be some projects which were carried forward from last week. Please also considered those projects and the unfinished tasks.
  5. After listing down all the tasks, decide which tasks need to be done on Monday, Tuesday etc. If possible, highlight the each day with different color highlighters.
  6. Then open my calendar and Microsoft To-Do app to list down all the tasks and reminders. I also send meeting requests which I need to do in the coming week.
  7. Then review the tasks and the goals and make sure those are aligned.

I hope my way of planning the week will help you all. Don’t forget to account your personal projects / tasks in this plan, else your overall plan might get hampered.

Please feel free to share your planning process too so that I can learn from your too. 

Why Partnership is Important to Grow your Business

The term Business Development is difficult to define as companies tend to modify the scope of work of that role based on their unique needs. In some companies, business development means sales, but more often, business development means a bunch of activities to generate leads to fill the pipeline for the salespeople. Among those bunch of activities, partnership development is one of the best ways for a business development person to generate enough leads to impact that pipeline. Sometimes it takes time to develop partnership but the time invested in developing the partnership pays off in spades over time.

Business partnership is important for all companies but it is really important for those companies who has launched new products in the market or really need to increase the efficiency in the processes like in operations or growth. Through partnerships with companies that have the tools and audience to help you grow, you can create much more impact in a shorter period of time. These organizations have spent years building their reputation. Aligning with them in a smart way will enable you to tap into that reputation and give you the tools you need to thrive in a new market or operates more efficiently in new market.

I worked as a Head of Business Development at JITA Social Business (a micro-distribution company, which developed a network of sales ladies in last mile) from 2013 to 2015. During that time, we have developed a partnership with SHISEIDO, a premium japanese cosmetics company developed a partnership to test and launch one of their product in the rural Bangladesh, Les Divas. It was the first products line that has developed by SHISEIDO for the BOP market. As JITA has already presence in the last mile and have an established distribution in hard to reach areas, it was beneficial for SHISEIDO to use that network rather than built their own. Through this partnership, SHISEIDO is not only expand its product distribution to last mile, but also with the help of brand value that JITA has, it has created a lasting impact in consumers mind. And on the other hand, JITA has also introduced a new quality skin care product line in its distribution network which has increased the value of its product baskets and Aparajitas (Sales Ladies of JITA) were also able to generate a moderate income from this.

In Jeeon, recently we have launched an e-learning platform for Informal Healthcare Providers like village doctor, chemist, community paramedics, Community Health Workers and others. This app can play a catalytic role in this integration. It can be used to upskill village doctors at scale through interactive educational and knowledge content and long term testing of learning and retention. It can also be used to connect village doctors and their patients to qualified physicians, through telemedicine, for diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of medical issues that are common in rural Bangladesh. Finally, it can play a transformative role in tracking and managing the referral network, minimizing patient exploitation and inconvenience, and formalizing the chain of escalation. Finally, it can play a transformative role in tracking and managing the referral network, minimizing patient exploitation and inconvenience, and formalizing the chain of escalation.

One of the challenges we have faced during launching the product was identifying the right segments of our products. Initially we have tried this with our own workforce and it was good. However the cost of identifying a right users was very high, around BDT 300 and cost of engaged users was around BDT 900/-, which means in every 3 users, 1 was converted to engaged users. And if we go like this then to reach 1000 engaged users, we have to expend around BDT 100K which was not operationally viable. Along with the digital marketing we have also developed some partnership. Initially we have a partnership with ASTHA, a project of Swiss Contact.

ASTHA (January 2015 – December 2018) has been designed to facilitate the development and integration of Community Paramedic services in rural Bangladesh, particularly in Nilphamari, Patuakhali and Sunamganj districts. Its focus is to improve access to healthcare service in rural areas, with special attention to Maternal and Child Health, Family Planning and basic primary healthcare services. Under this projects they have around 800+ CP who got the CP training and now working as a healthcare providers in different institution or their native village. Jeeon has developed the partnership with ASTHA to disseminate its app to these CP so that they can also increase their skills and knowledge and can involved in the platform to provide other types of services. It will not only enhance their knowledge base but also will create new income sources by providing different types services in his/her community. There is around 100 CPs who are engaged with the app on weekly basis and the cost of per engaged users is only around BDT 54/-. We have reached them through digitally. Eventually we are going to approach all the 800+ CPs by end of this quarter.

Jeeon signed a MoU with DMF Platform, a platform of DMF medical professionals of Bangladesh. The objective of the MoU is to ensure the free access to all DMF medical professionals in Projotno E-Learning App where they can improve their medical knowledge by reading different contents and also solving different types of medical cases.

I have read a wonderful article on How to Grow Your Business With Partnerships where the author nicely describe the critical first steps to develop a new partnership.

Clarify Your Goals: Before your partner can help you grow, they need to know what type of growth you’d like to see. Without clarifying your goals, you make it difficult for your partner to help you. Make it clear what you’re trying to accomplish. This will guide your partner to know how and when to talk about your business. Clarify your goals and show your partner how they fit in. The better you can do this, the better help they’ll be to your overall growth.

Make Your Partner’s Job Easy: Your partner has their own business to grow. They cannot focus on growing yours in addition to their own. Although they’re happy to help and look forward to positioning their company with yours, you must make it as easy as possible for them to help you. Give your partner marketing materials they can use to promote your products. Offer demos to their customers to make it easier to close the sale. No matter what you do, make the job of your partner as easy and straightforward as possible. Doing this will ensure you get the maximum exposure.

Make it Worthwhile: In the end, every partnership should benefit both parties. Focus on how your business will help your partner’s growth too. The more you can show your business partner that you’re watching out for their success, the stronger your relationship will be.

From my last 5 years of experience in business development, the team should on strategic partnership like a plant seeds, that requires some time and intensive care in initial period so that it can give you fruits for years to come. And treat your partners with the mutual respect (whether it’s a big corporation or a small business) and that you would bring to any healthy relationship to boost your lead generation efforts and your bottom line.

Currently in Jeeon, we are looking forward for new partnership opportunities which will help us to grow our users base and create access to different types of referral services in the last mile. On the other hand, through these partnerships, our partner can also develop a distribution of their services in the last mile and also can create a sustainable learning methods for its beneficiaries/users/employees.

Rising from the Ashes: A Journey of a Community Health Entrepreneur

From August 2013 to September 2015, I worked as Head of Business Development at Jita Social Business Limited (a joint venture of CARE International and Dannone Communities). During that period, I had lead to lead lots of varieties projects, like from rural market activation to health entrepreneurs development to establish micro franchisee development in Ethiopia. Due to work in diversified projects, I have gathered lots of learning and stories during that time. Today I would like to one of those stories with you.

One of the major projects of mine in JITA was CARE-GSK CHW Initiative project. The main objective of the project was to improve health outcomes of women and children below two years of age in under served and poor communities. The project was funded by GlaxoSmithKline. To make this initiative more sustainable, CARE has signed a partnership agreement with JITA with an objective to develop sustainable and economically viable business for 56 P-CSBAs (Private Community Skilled Birth Attendant) through introducing new and innovative sources of revenues, contextualization of services offered and individualized business development support. Initially we had provided a 3 days long entrepreneurship development training to all 168 P-CSBA, but in this term, we worked with only 56 P-CSBAs.

P-CSBA Rehana was one of the 56 P-CSBA with whom JITA will work. Rehana Begum lives in Dowarabazaar Upzila, she was 32 year old. She got training from CARE on how to provide MNCH services and started working as a P-CSBA from November, 2013. She is a widow and mother of 2 children. Her target customer is women in reproductive age (15 to 49 years old). In her working area, the around 1700 women were in that age limit. From the initial market assessment conduced by JITA, we found that it was quite possible to earn BDT 8000 to BDT 10000 for her. However, her income per month was only around BDT 1300/- per month. As a part of internal and external assessment of PCSBA, JITA dig down the reasons to identify why her income is not up to the minimum mark (BDT 5000). Even when we have asked her for the first time why her income is such low, she didn’t share any concrete reason with us. She just told her that its not possible for her to make more money than this. We found her really demotivated and depressed.

May be on that time, it was pretty easy for me to say that she doesn’t has the materials to become an entrepreneur. But as a development practitioner, I know there are some hidden reasons. It was true to almost all 56 P-CSBAs. To find out those reasons, I designed an external and internal assessment tools to assess their personal motivation to supporting environment along with external environment assessment.

After the assessment, we have found the following reasons –

  • As she has 2 child of age, one is 3 years old and another was 6 years old that time, so it was not possible for her to go out of her house for more than 2 hours. Her Brother-in-Law and his family lived to the next house but they didn’t supported her in this regards. That’s why she spend only 2 hours in this work.
  • There are around 12 villages in her working area. However, she is a widow, so she feels insecure to visit new areas. She can cover upto 4-5 villages which were nearby to her house, but to cover the other villages, she need to cross the market and she was not comfortable to cross the market. That’s why she always visit those 4-5 villages, only 30% of her market.
  • As she was not roaming around her target areas and talk to people of community about the safe motherhood, so her community people are not well aware about her presence in the community and also what services she provides. She also felt shy as she didn’t do anything like this in her whole life.

After finding the above reasons, me and one of my team member Mr. Salahuddin sit together and developed an action plan for Rehana. We both have agreed that before taking any business intervention, we had to take some social mobilization interventions first to break the barriers. So we had taken the following actions to break the social barriers –

  • Talked to her extended family members and motivate them to support her. We have engaged her family members in a way that they will provide the support willingly. Mainly the support she needs to arrange lunch for her children when she will be in service. It helped her to give 4-5 hours in her job daily instead of 2 hours only.
  • Discussed the insecurity issue with her family members and also local elite persons and they ensured us that they will provide necessary support and protection to her. Moreover, Mr. Salahuddin went door to door with her for 1 week to ensure that she feel secure to move in her working areas.
  • We arranged small yard meeting in her working areas to ensure that community members know her and the services she is providing. These yard meetings create an access to community for Rehana and also create a credibility of the her as P-CSBA. During these sessions, the local elite persons were also participated.
  • With the help of local elite and local CARE staffs, we have developed community volunteer in her working areas who had informed Rehana if any women get pregnant or any households face any MNCH problems or anyone need delivery support. The volunteers were also worked as a spoke person for Rehana in the community.
  • We also helped her to plan what sorts of health, hygiene and nutritional products she can sell apart from providing the services. We developed a root plan for her, so that her customers know when she will come in that area.
  • We had linked her with the local pharmaceuticals wholesaler so that she can buy OTC drugs, health and hygiene products in a discounted prices and sell those products in her community.

As I mentioned, before taking this initiatives, Rehana’s average income was around BDT 1,300/-. After implementing the above mentioned actions, her brother-in-law and his family gave her full support she needs, and the local elite also gave their full support so that she can move around the community without any hesitation. And if possible, they also attended her yard meeting to introduce her to the community.

Due to the social mobilization activities, the community people now know her and as a result now she is more confident to move alone in her working areas. After intensive support of 2 weeks, she has earned around BDT 3,300/- and at the end of the month, she earned around BDT 8000/-. In next 2 months she earned around BDT 9500/- and BDT 11000/- consecutively. She had more confident that she can earn around BDT 15000/- per month if she also started selling some health and hygiene goods in that area. So she started accumulate some capital to invest in her product selling interventions and within 3-4 months, she started selling health and hygiene products like oral saline, women hygiene products in that community and earned around BDT 15000/- as she targeted.

I still remember what Mr. Salahuddin said when I talked with him about Rehana for the first time. He told me that Rehana can’t do it, as she had lacked of motivation and interest and she was happy with her current income. After 1 month of intervention, I asked Mr. Salahuddin whats his feeling right now and he told me, “Bhai the whole situation was like an iceberg. It was pretty easy to say that its not possible for Rehana. But exploring the whole problems, I understood that if I was in her position, I might not earned that BDT 1300/- even”.

From this project, one of my key learning is that providing capacity building and financial support is not enough to develop an entrepreneur (whether a micro entrepreneur or a million dollar entrepreneur). To guide him/her to develop the plan, to coach him/her to solve the problems an entrepreneur faced and mentoring him/her to develop specific skills and knowledge is ultimately help an entrepreneur to develop his/her business and shoot for his/her vision to achieve.