One of the projects that were due this semester was the valuation of an India public-listed firm of our choice. We decided to go with the airline industry, one which we understood better than others due to the cases and the general interest we had. Our airline of choice was SpiceJet, a low-cost carrier (LCC) with mostly domestic-focused operations. This airline scripted a remarkable return after being on the brink of shutting down just four years ago. The steep drop in the crude oil price may have had something to with that. Now that I’m thinking about this, I’d like to understand their turn around story.
This was the first full-fledged valuation I was doing. We had been working on this for a week, on and off, but it was only a couple of nights back that we sat down to get it done. It took the whole night. As we completed the presentation and the tear sheet, my phone showed 6:30 AM.
There was some drama during the night. My teammate lost his unsaved tear sheet work as Microsoft Word crashed on him. We couldn’t do anything about it, he just had to start over. I could not be of any help, as I was working on the presentation. But that situation demanded something. And so, I narrated the story of a celebrated flutist in India:
This flautist was a young man pursing his flute and playing for film composers during his late teen years. He had a collection of flutes, nothing fancy but he treasured it. He lost his whole collection to a fire at the studio. He was devastated. He felt he couldn’t go on and that would be end of his flautist career.
But on the counsel of his mother, he bought himself some flutes and got back to work. After that incident, he started collecting the best flutes from India and abroad. Earlier he had a collection of local flutes and post that tragedy, he has the best collection of flutes in the world. The tragedy instead of being a setback was a catalyst to expand his vision and dreams.
We faced several challenges during valuation. The underlying problem was we didn’t know how to incorporate the elements in the financial projections. While we understood most of the factors that impacted the revenues of the airline, it was too many that we didn’t know how to proceed.
We completed the valuation: arrived at a value that was almost double the valuation we found in the new articles. The target stock price was three times higher than the current market price. But this did not worry us.
What was worried us was this: We couldn’t do it as methodically as we thought we would. We were not able to streamline the influencing factors to come up with a convincing model. We will continue to work on this and make it better. I’m getting fond of valuation, but there is a long way to go before I raise my competency.
. . .
Ever heard of the imposter syndrome? I had read about it in a School of Life article. Today, I was reading a HBR article on ‘How Consultant’s Project Expertise and Learn at the Same Time.’ The central point was dealing with the ‘learning-credibility tension.’
This is not just for consultants, but anyone who faces the situation of learning and proving yourselves every day. I know this feeling too well; there is not a day that goes by without feeling this tension at a b-school. We learn new things every day, and work with a variety of people. I feel the constant need to appear knowledgeable and credible even when I’m equally clueless about the nature of our assignment or the topic. I handled it in my way, but it was not conscious. Until today, I did not have a name to put to it.
Having conducted studies with sizeable number of management consultants, the author of the article proposes three tactics to handle this tension:
- Crafting Relevance – Quickly collect nuggets of information about the subject at hand either through research or from past experiences of people and present it. The people on the other side will at least appreciate that you’ve done your homework well, and be encouraged to share information.
- Crafting Resonance – Relay the insights you’ve gained from the internal people back to them to gain their confidence. Pick-up the jargons, expressions, insights from the insiders and weave into your conversation.
- Crafting Substance – Create knowledge with whatever information you have. For consultants and b-schoolers, this would be manufacturing powerpoint figures. It might help to have a personal library of frameworks and templates. Lay out whatever you’ve got in a clear logical manner.
This leads us to the feeling of the imposter syndrome. The point is to reframe feeling imposter syndrome to managing ‘learning-credibility tension,’ a skill that is valuable.
Check out this video on Imposter Syndrom by The School of Life: The Imposter Syndrome