Reach out

At 7.00 pm, Sudha came out of the Conference Room after a meeting that had lasted 5 hours. There were 6 missed calls from her close friend Lakshmi. She called back immediately.

She was shocked when Lakshmi informed her that Neeta, their close friend who now lived in Europe, had lost her young daughter in a road accident the previous night.

“How has Neeta reacted? Is she OK?” she asked

“Nobody knows. I got the sad news from Neeta’s brother a few hours back. I informed all our friends, but none of us has spoken to Neeta. What will we say, anyway?” Lakshmi replied.

Sudha decided to telephone Neeta immediately. She didn’t know what she would say. All she knew was she had to share Neeta’s grief.

When Neeta answered the call, Sudha just said, “Neeta,” and started sobbing uncontrollably. After about 15 seconds, she mumbled “Sorry” a couple of times and disconnected.

Sudha was ashamed that, instead of supporting Neeta, she had added to her distress.

She thought of calling once more, but was afraid she would burst into tears again. So she sent a text message:
Neeta, I want to speak with you, but I know I’ll break down again. I’ll call when I’m sure I can be a support, not add to your distress.

A few minutes later, she received her friend’s reply:
Sudha, believe it or not, you are the first friend to reach out to me today. That’s all that matters. That’s all I need from a true friend. Words are neither important nor necessary.

Customer is king!

At 6.40 pm, I decided to leave for home. I closed the last file and shut down my PC, switched off the fans and lights, locked the door of the Sales & Service Department, and walked into the corridor.

Raj had locked the door of the Commercial Department just then, and we walked towards the lift.

Just as we reached the lift, we were enveloped in total darkness. When the lights didn’t come on after about half a minute, I remembered that the generator had had a breakdown the previous afternoon and was expected to be repaired only the next day.

Both Raj and I knew it was hazardous to walk down the stairs as some of the offices on the lower floors used the staircase to store the cartons containing their samples. We decided to wait till the electricity supply was restored.

“How was your trip to the Branch? Did you manage to collect all the outstanding payments?” I asked Raj.

“I managed to collect all outstanding payments, except for Victory Industries. Not only did the Proprietor flatly refuse to release the outstanding payment, he used the filthiest possible language against me,” Raj replied.

“What did our Branch Manager have to say about this?” I asked.

Raj replied, “This customer is expected to order 4 new machines a few months from now. The Branch Manager asked me to take it easy, and asked me to report that the Proprietor told me that they will look into this outstanding payment after they complete arranging the finance for the company’s expansion.”

“I think you should report the truth, including the fact that the customer used abusive language,” I said.

Raj thought for a few seconds, and replied, “You are correct. The Branch Manager won’t like it. Worse, our Managing Director will be upset if he learns about this. But I have no choice. I’m on leave for 2 days. I’ll submit my report when I return to work on Monday.”

Since the electricity supply had not yet been restored, we decided to walk down slowly and carefully down the stairs.

Raj returned to work on Monday. At about 11.00 am, the Managing Director called me on the intercom and requested me to meet him immediately. A few seconds after I entered the MD’s room, Raj also entered. As soon as we were seated, the MD said, “Gentlemen, I overheard your entire conversation on Thursday evening. You didn’t know it because it was dark, but I was seated in the Reception. That night, I told our Branch Manager that I know about this incident, and instructed him to tell the Proprietor of Victory Industries that, if he does not apologise unconditionally to Raj in writing within 3 days, our company would file a criminal complaint against him. Here is the customer’s apology letter.”

He handed a letter to Raj, and continued, “I have given them some time to release the payment. I am willing to accept a delay in payment, I am prepared to lose his next order for 4 machines, but I will never tolerate anybody misbehaving with my employees. The customer is king, but we are not his slaves!”

This post, based on a true incident, is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

Questioning

One day, when I questioned the technical correctness of a particular inspection procedure being followed by my client, he replied that the procedure was definitely correct because it had been recommended by his customer, a world-famous automotive parts manufacturer. I replied that the world-famous automotive parts manufacturer could be wrong, and explained to him why I thought the procedure was not technically correct. He conceded that there was some merit in my line of reasoning, and said he would discuss the matter with his customer.

Later, he asked me why the fact that the inspection procedure had been recommended by the world-famous manufacturer had not prevented me from questioning its correctness. I replied that I always question any information that is presented to me, irrespective of the source.

“Would you question some information that is given to you by God?” he asked.

I replied, “I would definitely question any information even if I knew it had come directly from God.”

“How can you question God? By doing that, aren’t you dishonouring God?” he asked.

I replied, “Assuming God exists, and assuming that each one of us has been created by Him, it means each of us has been given his brain by God. That God expects us to use the brain given to us by Him. By using my brain to question information given by God, I honour God. If you don’t use your brain to question God, you dishonour God!”

My customer had no answer.

Dear reader, what do you think?

Principles

During an informal discussion, our Professor advised a few of us that one could not be truly happy unless one lived one’s life according to one’s principles. As an example, he said that he dabbled in the stock-market, but he never traded in shares of companies connected with the alcohol and tobacco industries since he was strongly opposed to the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

When one of us asked him why that was such a big deal, the Professor revealed that, six months earlier, his Investment Analyst had advised him to sell his shares in an engineering company and buy shares in a cigarette manufacturing company, but he had refused to do this as a matter of principle. Both company’s shares were trading at about Rs. 200 then. Now, the engineering company’s shares were trading at Rs. 210, while the cigarette company’s shares were trading at Rs. 240. If he had sold the engineering company’s shares and bought the cigarette company’s shares, he would have been richer by Rs. 30 per share! But he had absolutely no regrets.

In the process of adhering to his principles, our Professor had willingly given up the chance to earn a profit that was more than half his annual salary!

What a refreshing change from owners of alcohol businesses who remain teetotalers due to the ill-effects of alcohol, owners of tobacco product businesses who don’t consume their own products because they are carcinogenic, and religious leaders who gladly accept donations from alcohol and tobacco businesses despite preaching against alcohol and tobacco!

“Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.” – Abraham Lincoln

“There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.” – Stephen Covey

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots.” – Victor Hugo

Open-minded

“You are inheriting our company’s worst-performing Branch. Your sales guys are all quite good, but the team has been performing badly because of your two Assistant Managers. Not only do these old bandicoots create all kinds of trouble, they also demotivate their juniors. They are big liabilities on our company,” the General Manager told the newly appointed Branch Manager who was taking charge on the first working day of the year.

The Branch Manager asked, “If they are that bad, why haven’t they been told to either correct themselves or quit their jobs?”

The GM replied, “They’ve both worked with our company for over 20 years. They worked very well in the first 12 years or so, but after that, as our sales and our staff strength grew, they started misbehaving for some reason. If we take any strong action against either or both of them now, the other employees will feel that we exploited them in the early years and are now dumping them because they’ve slowed down with age. Anyway, I wish you good luck in handling them!”

The Branch Manager was an open-minded person. He decided that he would not allow himself to be prejudiced by the GM’s feedback. Within the first few days, he realized that both the AMs, who had no professional qualifications, were frustrated and insecure about the fact that their career growth had slowed down considerably since the company’s ‘professionalization’, resulting in their having to work under professionally qualified bosses who were younger than them. While he couldn’t immediately do anything about this situation, the Branch Manager decided he would try to reduce their frustration and insecurity. During personal and group interactions with them, he gave them implicit but unmistakable signals that he genuinely valued and respected their experience and seniority.

After initial skepticism, the AMs responded positively. They worked sincerely and did not “create all kinds of trouble” as they used to earlier. They started participating enthusiastically in the weekly review meetings instead of sulking silently as they used to in the past. This had a very positive impact on the other members of the team. For the first time, the team started working unitedly.

By the end of the year, not only had the Branch achieved the year’s sales target, they had surpassed it by 50% to become the company’s best-performing branch! All because the new Branch Manager had chosen to be open-minded, not prejudiced!

No

One day, I was visiting customers in another city with the Dealer for that city. After completing the meetings scheduled for the morning, we stopped for lunch. Just as we were about to enter the restaurant, my Dealer received a call on his mobile phone. He requested me to enter and be seated while he attended to the call.

When he joined me a few minutes later, he complained, “This mobile phone has made my life miserable! With around 15 customers having called me in the last four hours, I’ve not been able to concentrate on my work. I think I should switch off my mobile phone. Don’t you agree?”

I replied, “You and I have been meeting customers since yesterday morning. In some of your telephonic conversations yesterday, the callers requested you to send them quotations yesterday itself. You knew that you would be busy visiting customers with me yesterday and today. This means you can start sending quotations only tomorrow. You should have told yesterday’s callers this. Instead, you agreed to send them quotations yesterday itself.

Today, the same customers called, expressed unhappiness about the fact that they have not yet received the promised quotations, and demanded that you send the quotation today. Again, instead of telling them that you will send the quotations tomorrow, you agreed to send them quotations today.

Tomorrow, the same customers will call you and blast you even more for not sending them the quotations today despite promising to do so.

My friend, your misery has not been caused by your mobile phone. With all due respect, your inability or unwillingness to say “No” is the only cause of your misery.”

The word No is a negative word, but the ability to say No when one means No is one of the keys to happiness.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. – Mahatma Gandhi

Matrudevo bhava (Mother is God)

My colleague was scheduled to visit a factory in an industrial town about 300 km away on Friday to discuss the customer’s requirement of equipment for their expansion project. He was to leave by an early morning train and return by an evening train.

Three days before the meeting, the customer’s General Manager telephoned me and cancelled the meeting. He told me that their team would meet us in our office the next Friday since they would be in our city for some other work. I informed my colleague and requested him to cancel his tickets.

The next day, my colleague applied for a day’s leave on Friday, stating he had to attend to some personal work.

At the meeting the following Friday, the customer’s Purchase Manager told my colleague that he had seen him in a taxi near their factory the previous Friday. He enquired whether the elderly woman with my colleague was his mother.

My colleague clarified that the woman was not his mother, but his neighbour, who had a brother living in that town. When she had heard that my colleague was travelling to that town on work, she had told him that she wanted to visit her brother for a few weeks, and hesitatingly asked my colleague whether she could travel with him to that town. She was extremely apprehensive about travelling alone because, till her husband’s death a couple of years earlier, she had always travelled only with her husband, never on her own. My colleague had readily agreed, had booked her onward ticket along with his, and had offered to drop her at her brother’s residence, which was located quite close to our customer’s factory.

When the meeting at the customer’s factory was cancelled, my colleague realized that his neighbour would be disappointed about her visit being cancelled and would feel extremely miserable about her inability to travel alone. Since he didn’t want that to happen, he didn’t tell her about the cancellation of the meeting, but only changed his return booking. They travelled that morning as scheduled. After dropping her at her brother’s house, he returned to the railway station and returned to our city by the afternoon train. His neighbour was blissfully unaware of this. In fact, if the Purchase Manager had not seen him that day, nobody else would have known.

My colleague explained, “Most people think ‘Matrudevo bhava Pitrudevo bhava’ means ‘My parent is God’. So, while they have a lot of respect, love and concern for their own parents, they are indifferent to other elderly people or are sometimes disrespectful towards them. I believe ‘Matrudevo bhava Pitrudevo bhava’ means ‘Every parent is God’.”

The Taittiriya Upanishad, Shikshavalli I.20 says: “matrudevo bhava, pitrudevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava, atithidevo bhava.” It literally means “be one for whom the Mother is God, be one for whom the Father is God, be one for whom the Teacher is God, be one for whom the guest is God.”: Wikipedia

Please also read Paid in Full (With High Interest), a truly touching post written by a mother.