Accidental Entrepreneur: Numbers Matter!!!

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to my 10th weekly article on how numbers and basic math principles can be tied together to help solve complex problems.

This article is also dedicated to the late and great Mr. Ambalavanar, who was my math teacher from 6th to 10th grade.

Also be sure to check out my Youtube channel for this week’s vlog.

Feel free share with friends/family that would get value out of this type of content.

My goal is to be able empower folks to go after their goals and reach their full potential!

“எண்ணென்ப ஏனை எழுத்தென்ப இவ்விரண்டும்

கண்ணென்ப வாழும் உயிர்க்கு.”

— திருக்குறள் (392)

“Letters and numbers are the two eyes of a human.” — Thirukkural (392)

As I think back and appreciate all my accomplishments, one question everyone asks me is how to manage to prioritize actions and remember the most impactful important things? Even though I present myself as having a good memory, I use one specific tactic which helps me portray myself in such a way. The tactic is using simple numbers to remember things by associating a number of supporting factors with each action. This came from our strong mathematical and data analytical background. For example, a Thirukkural, which I quote in each of my articles, is written with two lines (couplets) and each couplets composed using exactly seven words.

The education system where I completed my primary and secondary school, Sri Lanka, had a very strong Mathematical and analytical foundation. We didn’t use many books, some grades, and occasionally NO academic books. We had great teachers who passed that knowledge from one generation to another. In that process, I must give credit to one of my Math teachers, Mr. Ambalavanar, who taught me math from grade 6 through 10. He taught basic mathematics, algebra, and geometry. His way of teaching the principles and then giving us questions to challenge us to solve those problems creatively in an organized manner. That process helped us backtrack and identify the mistakes when we didn’t get the right answer. While I have forgotten many of those mathematical theories, I help my kids solve their algebra and calculus mathematical problems by following the process.

As I recall his contributions to my success, I must pay tribute to his life as he was a casualty of the Sri Lankan civil war. One fine morning I saw him leaving for school early in the morning to open the gates of school as he was the vice principal at the school he was teaching. There was some fighting between rebels and military during the night and as he rode his bike towards the Main Street, he was killed along with another 12-innocent people. The chilling incident was that we didn’t know what had initially happened. After a few hours when the gunfire subsided, my best friend and I went looking for him. We ended up finding him lying down in the street along with his bike. As we lifted his still smiling face, we realized a gunshot had gone through his head and killed him. I still get chills remembering his gut falling out his head as we lifted. Apology for being very graphic but this story had to be told. Ambalavanar sir, you left us at a very young age but your memories and what you had taught us will be carried over for many generations. Thank you.

My transition from a very intense math-based system to American education and work systems were a bit different. As I said, we learned fundamentals very deeply and used to master those by doing a lot of repetitive and complex problems. On the other hand, the US system had two things in mind. One is to know the materials broadly and teach as many people as possible to understand the basic concepts without going deep. That provided opportunities for creating a very large workforce. Then, as needed, they would teach how to go deep on necessary areas.

After all these mathematical foundations and hard work, when it comes to applying these principles in industries in the US, they try to make it simple and easy. They associate single digit numbers with some activities for people to easily remember and repeat. Below are examples of how I was trained to think and associate numbers with key activities:

One: To achieve success as an entrepreneur or corporate employee, one needs to have single mindedness. Some of the situations are:

> There needs to be one overarching VISION for success.

> One LEADER to follow by everyone and lead the team/company

> One GOAL for everyone and minimal confusion

TWO: Just like couplets in Thirukkural which provide concepts and examples together to reinforce the principles, it is important to find partners that compliment you. Some of those Yin and Yang are:

> To create successful startups, it is important to have a business minded person to partner with technology or product people. Great partnerships such as this with trust help navigate critical times easily.

> Go to market (GTM) involves complex and multiple parties. The effective solution to the enterprise market is the dual approach of creating opportunities by going to the end user/customer while working with channels to scale the success.

Three: As things get complicated, we tend to add a very long list of items and struggle with prioritizing or focusing. Successful people who are able to extract three important and impactful items and focus on them. Few such items are:

> When a person meets with their managers or mentors, clearly identify three items to discuss and less than three asks.

> During my writings, to simplify the process and be easy to understand, I tend to go with three supporting paragraphs, mostly.

There are similar concepts to go from 1 to 10. I am here leaving with titles for others to explore further:

Four: 4Ps, People, product, process, partnership

Five: PLC (Product Life Cycle) phases

Six: Six sigma for quality

Seven: 6–8 Number of direct Reports for effective management. I average 7.

Eight: 80/20 rule which I wrote about in another article.

Nine: In the enterprise market, reliability or latency is measured using the number of nines in the response. Eg: 99.9999 (Four nines, 6 nines for quality or response).

Understanding and applying basic math principles by associating those numbers with actions makes it easier to implement these concepts. Those concepts turn into projects and companies. Rather than making everything complex and explaining them using convoluted language, as a leader, it’s important to simplify those requirements into simple number schemes. My foundation was clearly set up by the late Mr. Ambalavanar and many other teachers in Sri Lanka. After that it was about scaling those concepts into products and companies set by USA education and early career development. Numbers make things so easy and thanks to all those helped me achieve the results.

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Entrepreneur, Founder of multiple successful startups, Mentor/coach, Angel investor (Sandhill Angels) and Positive thinker

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Ruban Kanapathippillai

Entrepreneur, Founder of multiple successful startups, Mentor/coach, Angel investor (Sandhill Angels) and Positive thinker