Ideas about Building a Great Company and Being a Great Leader from the book – The Republic of Tea

Philosophical & BusinessWisdom from The Republic of Tea by Mukesh Gupta

I picked up and started reading the book “The Republic of Tea“, based on a recommendation by Seth Godin as a must read book. I am an avid Tea lover and so reading a book about Tea and a business around tea was an interesting proposition by itself.

The book is a collection of fax messages that were exchanged between the people discussing the idea of starting a business selling Tea in the US with little commentary by the players giving some context when needed.

I read the book as two separate books weaved together into one.

Philosophical context:

The book talks about the way of the Tea life. In the words of the authors

Tea is not just a beverage but a way of life, and what a way of life it is! Slow down. Pay attention. Be grateful. Enjoy what you have. Take pleasure in the wonder of being alive. Can you imagine a better prescription for our tense, overdriven, hyper-acquisitive, uptight world?
They go on to say:
The life of tea is the life of the moment.
We have only Now, and we each sip it in our own cups.
Imperfection itself is what we find to be perfect.
Life is impossible, and so what. It is in its very impossibility that we find our joy.
Tea Mind allows life to live us. It frees us from the hubris of trying to control what cannot be controlled.
Tea is Contentment. Tea Mind sees that contentment is love of content.
The secret of happiness, you see, is in accepting (dare I say wanting?) what you already have.
I think if we look at life from this metaphor, I truly believe the philosophy of the Tea Life is all we need to aspire towards, for a peaceful and happy life.

Business context:

I also believe that this book is a great book to learn about how to go about starting a business. The messages that go back and forth between the people discussing about creating a business very nicely captures the emotional upheaval that most founders go through before they start a business.
  • It captures the initial excitement about the idea itself and all the possibilities that it holds as a business.
  • Then comes the research phase, when we want to explore and try to find evidence in the market to validate our business potential.
  • Then comes the phase when we start doubting our own ideas as we find information contrary to our belief’s that seed doubt in our minds.
  • Then comes the phase when we need to decide if we are going to take the plunge or not.
  • Once we decide to go ahead comes the execution phase, where move ahead with whatever information we have in hand and tackle everything that get thrown at us.
One of the best things that i liked in the book is the entire discourse about the kind of company that the founders were trying to create & the kind of leader that they wanted to become.
Below is the what the authors talk about the company that they wanted to build:
A company that
  • has at its core a long-standing, open, and trustworthy relationship with my partners
  • provides a valuable, meaningful, and fun product
  • communicates a positive message through its products and way of doing business
  • is respected as a model of a successful socially responsible venture
  • nurtures employees and takes care of customers
  • develops its own creative spirit, culture, and way of doing business
  • has an infrastructure that promotes individual ownership, responsibility, and risk-taking
  • generates a healthy and ample return on investment
  • works as a team and makes decisions as a team
  • is aggressive, yet realistic in its goals and expectations
  • doesn’t use up its people
  • provides for innovative benefits and rewards such as child care and sabbatical
  • knows that it’s special

As the leader of the company I want to:

  • earn the trust, respect, and confidence of my employees, suppliers, and shareholders
  • build a team that shares responsibility for key decisions
  • set the tone for open and effective communication at all levels
  • act, think, and make decisions creatively
  • attract and motivate the very best people to be involved in this venture
  • recognise my own limitations and provide for a team that is successful and well-rounded
  • grow personally with the business and its employees
  • operate the business in a healthy environment (physical and mental)
  • develop good ideas into viable products and ventures
  • head up some remarkable and groundbreaking projects
  • be able to succeed
  • be able to make mistakes

These are great ideals to strive for a company as well as a leader of the company.

In Conclusion:

The book has a lot of nuggets of wisdom, both from a philosophical perspective and from a business perspective that all of us can learn from. I am truly grateful to Seth for having introduced me to the book by way of his recommendation.

The book has changed not only how I look at tea, but also how I look at life in general and a business in particular. I do recommend that you go ahead, buy and read the book, multiple times that I have done. Drop me an email if you would like me to share my notes on this book with you.

PS: Here is a T-Shirt designed inspired by this book.

Some interesting quotes from the book are as below:

life was much too pregnant with possibilities to bother with proving to anybody Click To Tweet the human journey is one that takes us from innocence to experience to higher innocence - William… Click To Tweet Tea is not just a beverage but a way of life, and what a way of life it is! #TRoT #Quote Click To Tweet One does not create a business. A business creates itself when the circumstances are ready for it.… Click To Tweet

There is nothing that water cannot overtake, and yet its nature is to yield. #Quote #TRoT Click To TweetA business Should be sufficiently capitalised but always a little hungry. #Quotes #TRoT Click To Tweet

 

 

Three Questions that matter the most for a Leader

Questions that matter the most by Mukesh Gupta

When we look at all the aspects of leadership, there are three core and fundamental questions that matter the most to the people whom we intend to lead.

Do You Know What You Are Talking About?

The most important aspect of leadership, then is competence. Do we know what we are talking about? Do we know what the ground reality is? Do we understand the process enough to make sense? Do we know where we are going? And why? This competence creates a level of respect for us as leaders, without which there is no leading. If the people we follow don’t respect us and our competence, they are not going to follow us. We would have failed even before we got started.

Can I trust you?

Once they respect us as individuals and for our competence, next comes trust. Do we do what we say we do? Do we have double standards or gold standards? Do we live up the values that we expect others to live up to? Are we transparent about our intentions? Do people have to second guess everything that we say? Is there enough trust amongst both sides of the leadership equation that honest conversation about difficult topics can be had without any personal repercussions?

Do you care about me?

Once people respect our competence and trust our intentions, they need to see that we care about them and their needs. A leader who only cares about himself and his growth soon finds himself stuck and all alone. Leadership is all about people. Leadership and leading people is actually a misnomer. There can only be people following someone and not someone leading a set of people. Following is an act of independent will. Anything else, will not last. Anything else doesn’t matter. So, if we want people to follow us, we need to show them that we care for them and also show why it is important for them to go in the direction that we want to lead them towards.

Conclusion:

Irrespective of whom we want to lead (team at work, spouse and children, a community, a nation), the three most important characteristics that we need to develop in ourselves are competence (that gets us respected), sound character (that elicits trust) and learning that it is not about us but about those whom we intend to lead (to show them that we care).

The ability to communicate well, the ability to think big and every other leadership skill needs these foundational traits to work.

 

Guest Post: Three Mindsets of a Great Sales Coach

3 mindsets of a great sales coach by Mukesh Gupta

Intro:

This is a guest post by Kevin F Davis. Kevin is the founder and president of TopLine Leadership, Inc. which provides customized sales management development programs and services.

He is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top”. I had the opportunity to read his book and was impressed with the thought process and the approach to sales management that he shares in the book. I was so impressed that I thought it would be best if I ask him to write a guest post on the topic of sales coaching for my blog. What follows is the post that he has shared. If you are a sales manager or lead a sales organisation, this book should be a must read for you.

Guest Post:

During a recent webinar I delivered for sales managers, nearly half (46%) of the 150+ participants said that they struggle with focusing too much on results. Sounds odd, doesn’t it, for sales managers to think they are over-focused on results?

Not really.

One person who knew a lot about winning was famed college basketball coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden and his historic UCLA dynasty won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, including 88 straight games!

Wooden once said, “Competitiveness must be focused exclusively on the process of what you are doing rather than the result of that effort.” When coaching, Wooden was focused on the total effort of his players – he constantly urged them to strive for the self-satisfaction that always comes from knowing that you did the best you could do to become the best you are capable of.

Here are three great sales coaching mindsets inspired by John Wooden’s teachings. If you commit to these mindsets, your sales team will get better:

Mindset 1: Winning is the result of excellence, not the other way around.

Too often we recognize and reward only outcomes – deals won – and thus miss out on the opportunity right under our noses to help our salespeople become truly excellent by improving their processes.

You cannot help your team improve if all you know is the final score. You don’t know what decisions they made along the way, what actions they took or didn’t take that led to poor outcomes, what skills they did well and what skills need work.

There’s a famous saying that you can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself. Something similar applies here: You can’t directly manage results. You can only manage the processes and skills that reps use to produce those results.

Ye many sales managers seem to believe that monitoring weekly, monthly, or quarterly numbers is enough to help lead their team to excellence. It’s understandable, given the daily time pressures they are under. But the flaw in that thinking is that paying too much attention to end results actually makes it harder for a manager to improve results. How you do that is the subject of Mindset #2:

Mindset 2: When it comes to coaching, the strongest link to high revenue growth occurred in organisations where sales managers spent a lot of time “identifying skill deficiencies”

That’s a quote from research done by the Sales Management Association. The report found that in companies with the highest revenue growth, sales managers made time for understanding what a rep did well and what needed to be improved (“identifying skill deficiencies”)… and presumably working with the rep to improve in those areas.

These managers didn’t just look at the numbers that reflected behaviours long past. They didn’t just focus on closing the deals that were already in the pipeline. They focused on diagnosing sales performance problems through observation, and then developing skills that would help reps over the long-term.

When you work on developing rep skills, you’re improving the input side of the results equation. The team’s attitude – and their commitment to both you and your company – get better too.

Mindset 3: The daily goal should be to develop the mastery of your sales team. 

Coach Wooden believed that the “final score” is not the final score. Instead, he believed that his final score as a coach was how effectively he prepared the team to execute near their own individual capability of performance. To Wooden, it was about maximizing the performance of each person on the team. That was his final score. What will yours be?

Conclusion:

One of the most important “Q2” activity that a sales manager needs to work on is to improve the effectiveness of his sales team. He can only do that by enabling his team to get better at the sales process. The only sustainable way to do that is by identifying where each one of his sales team needs coaching, understand if they are open to coaching and if yes, providing the right kind of feedback and coaching. This is as much an art as a science. Kevin in his book does a great job of covering all of this.

Sales managers are like sports coaches. They don't play but determine the results of their teams Click To Tweet

 

5 Rules to Follow – Simon Sinek

I came across this video where Simon Sinek talks about 5 rules to live by. He shares these lessons through some very interesting and compelling stories. I highly encourage to watch the video below (about 18 mins). If you don’t have the 18 mins and want to know what are the 5 rules that he talks about quickly, they are as follows:

Go after the things that we want:

There are two ways to see the world – to see what we want or to see everything that stands in the way of what we want. Rule is – We can go after any thing that we want. We just can’t deny anyone else what they want. Let’s focus on what we want and go after it rather than focus on what is in the way of what we want.

Two ways to think of the world - see what we want or see what stops us from getting what we want… Click To Tweet

Sometimes we are the problem:

Let’s take accountability for our actions. There are times when we are the problem, our belief system is the problem, our mindset is the problem and at times our actions is the problem. Let’s own it up. Without accountability comes no responsibility and without responsibility comes no success. Let’s be accountable.

Without accountability comes no responsibility and without responsibility comes no power… Click To Tweet

Take care of each other:

Its not about how tough, smart or how fast we are. It is about helping people to the left of us and the people to the right of us. Its about accepting help when we are offered and learning to to ask for help, when needed. Help is available for those of us who seek help. Remember, we can’t do it all by ourself.

Asking for and accepting help is a super power. Lets develop it @SimonSinek Click To Tweet

Learn to be the last to speak:

Lets learn the skill to hold our opinion till we have heard everyone else. Empathise. Lets try to understand not just what are the opinions of others but also why they have the opinion they have. Lets sit in a circle (no power play) and be the last to speak. Its the smart thing to do.

Holding our opinion till everyone else has spoken is the wise thing to do. @SimonSinek Click To Tweet

Its not meant for you but for your position:

Lets learn the lesson of humility. Lets learn that perks of success is for our position and not for ourselves. We  deserve coffee in a styrofoam cup. Lets not allow success and the perks that it comes with, go to our head.

We deserve our coffee in a styrofoam cup. Everything else is not for us but for our position… Click To Tweet

Here is the full video.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I think these are simple yet profound advice for not just students or youth of our nations to follow but for all of us to live our lives by. What strikes me the most about the video is the stories that Simon shares and how each of the story leads back to what he wants to talk about. Also, what shines is his optimism. I do share that with him, even today. Humanity has survived a lot of tests and I am sure that we will survive the current tide as well.

 

Read This if You are A Sales Executive or a Sales Leader: Best Among What I Read – Sales Edition

Best Among What I Read by Mukesh Gupta

If you know me at all, you would already know that I read a lot of stuff – right from business topics like (Sales, Innovation, Leadership, Marketing) to personal topics like philosophy, religion, psychology, habit formation, economics and the lot.

I used to share a collection of articles that I really thought were well written or were thought provoking for me, almost everyday till a few months back. Some of my readers have indicated that they miss those collections in place, that it saves them time and requested that I start posting these collection of content again.

So, here we go. Below is a list of posts that I think were really the best among a lot of content on sales that i read in the recent past. So, here we go:

Things I Admire In a Sales Force

In this blog post, Anthony Iannarino shares a list of attributes that he admires in a sales force. I really think that if there were a sales team that wanted to create a team manifesto for them to live by, this list would be a great starting point. I particularly like the attribute about helping their team mates succeed.

This is something that is not very common in sales teams at all, but can play a significant role in the overall success of the sales team. I did write about it earlier myself. You can read my post here.

If you are a sales leader and want to inspire your team and get them to rally around together, this is a set of attributes that you should aspire your team to achieve.

Dealing with Your Irrational Competitor

Another blog post by Anthony (I seem to really like his posts, of late). In this one, he shares his insights on how to deal with your irrational competitor. Every sales team faces some irrational competitor who wants to take away market share at any cost, who is willing to go to any lengths, give irrational discounts, make promises that they already know that can’t be fulfilled and take your customers away.

So, how do you deal with such competitors? Not the usual way. For Anthony’s insights on this, read the post here.

Is ignorance the problem?

In his inimitable style Seth Godin brings forth a very important question that all of us as sales executives or sales leaders need to address. Whenever there is a customer who stalls or questions the value that our solutions bring to them, we default to providing them more information – more use cases, more business case, sharing more examples of how and where your solutions have succeeded.

We are assuming that the customer is stalling due to lack of information. What if that is not true? In my experience, most of the times it is not true. The reason the customer is stalling could be because they are not sure, they are afraid of making the commitment required on their part, they are afraid that you might not deliver what you promise to deliver. The issue could be trust or something else.

Mostly, ignorance is not the problem. You can read his really short blog (maybe even shorter than my preamble here) here.

Why You Need An If-Then Storytelling Strategy

Once you have identified that ignorance is not the problem and shoving more information will not help, what do you do? This is where, I really liked a blog post written by Bernadette Jiwa. In this post she talks about having a if-then (storytelling) strategy.

This strategy can be helpful in any environment, retail or otherwise. Can we identify certain situations or triggers in our sales process and have a ready story to tell in those situations. These emotional triggers need emotional responses and stories do it really well. Great sales executives do this intuitively, but this is really a skill that can be learnt and taught.

Do you have a if-then story for emotional triggers in your sales process.? If not, try and develop one. It’s your job as the sales leader to do this.

Stop Complaining That You Have Clients

Once we win customers, then it is time to deliver our commitments and promises. As a sales executive, it might not be you who delivers what was promised. But you are indeed the person who committed the deliverables to your customers.

They trusted you and now it is your job to ensure that your commitments are honoured. When they are not being honoured, either in spirit or in letter, customers will hold you responsible and accountable.

They will write to you about the issues they have with the service standards, about challenges that they have working with someone on your team or about any other random thing that irks them. I have seen sales executives continue to complain about all these emails that they keep getting from their customers, the expectations that the customer is having off them, even though they realise that its not part of their job.

In this insightful and critical post, Anthony (again) shares a perspective that all sales executives who complain forget – which is complacency, neglect and Entitlement kills a sales executives future. Read the post and honestly think about your behaviour towards your customers.

Are you complaining that they are your customers? If so, think again? And more importantly, CHANGE.

Conclusion: 

I do hope that you liked this collection of blog posts that I really liked on the topic of sales and selling. I will see you soon in another edition of the Best Among What I Read on a different topic sometime soon.

PS: Here is how you can follow the people I have quoted in this post.

  • You can follow Anthony and his phenomenal content here.
  • You can follow Bernadette Jiwa and her insightful thoughts on branding and brand storytelling here.
  • You can follow Seth Godin and his insightful commentary on his random observations here.