The Road to Humility

Part Five (5)

If you haven’t read Part 1 Being EntrepreneurialPart 2 An Idea is BornPart 3 Developing The Strategy and Part 4 Location, Location, Location before reading this blog, it would be best to start at the beginning, to gain context and truly enjoy this post, which is the final piece in the story.

When I was 22 years old, just a young man with an abundance of energy and an intolerable attitude, humility and humbleness were a distant way of being. I just couldn’t care less. Unfortunately, this meant, I had the ability to create a lot of stress, of which I would thrive upon. But this would often burden my partners and co-workers (yes, I had a lot of growing up to do).

Within the coffee chain that I was helping to grow, I had proved myself to be an integral member; by helping it to expand via my network of connections; by having the ability to recognise ‘good sites’; and by earning a reputation as a favourable person to do business with. And I was fast becoming a success.

The newly appointed CEO tried to bring in a lot of structure and vision to the business. I thought I was above all he had to introduce, as every weekend my reported sales from Mumbai would beat the national average sales.

However one time, on one of his visits to Mumbai, from 2 of the 7 stores he visited he found the bathrooms to be poorly maintained and he made an especially big deal about it.

The next day the decision makers of the business met (remember, I had just made a handshake agreement) and in that meeting they decided to suspend me as the manager for Mumbai for one month without pay for bringing the company into disrepute. This was one of the first most uncomfortable experiences of my life. I was completely in disbelief and shock. It felt like I had lost the house that I had built with my very own hands. Up until this day, I had worked for 15 months straight, without a single day or hour off.

The news of my suspension spread quite rapidly across the stores to the managers and I knew they wouldn’t be happy without my support. I had the inflated belief that the show would not go on without me.

Without my knowledge, most of my store managers had had multiple meetings of their own and within two days had decided to either close Mumbai operations or get me back. Of course, this did not go down well with the owners and because of that imminent threat I was back in business within four days of the suspension decision. Now here was the beauty of the ‘handshake agreement’. Where before it had the ability to sever all agreements suddenly, now it had the reverse power to reinstate me, with a simple action.

I am a quick learner. Lots of lessons were learnt in those four days that I was down and out. It allowed me to asses my humility levels and my attitude. With no mentor or guidance in place, only quality academic business education, I was sure this incident would eventually help me and my entrepreneurial skills.

As soon as I returned to work I took action to sort out my position beyond my take home wages which created a lot of dispute among the owners. In the end, I had to walk away for bigger and better opportunities elsewhere. A decision I am glad I made.

This is just one such successful and unsuccessful story that I have had. At forty, with a family of my own, and many successful businesses behind me, I think of all the great opportunities I have had in my life and the things that wouldn’t have been possible without this first experience. And, faced with the choice of being a serial entrepreneur or anything else, I’d pick the entrepreneurial route every time.

One things for sure, there is a tremendous joy you get from being an entrepreneur that can’t be matched by anything else. Providing opportunities for other people and learning new things is rewarding. Though, these days you’ll be pleased to know, I have learnt how to contain my energy and channel it into more positive ways of being.