Thursday, November 8, 2012

Raju Mandhyan on ExPat InSights

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pitbulls and Entrepreneurs

Pit Bulls and Entrepreneurs

I know, I know! Many of you will be a bit taken aback by the comparison and then there will be some who will say, “Oh, yeah!” The chances are those that will be taken aback may be the ones who do not know your dogs and do not know your entrepreneurs. Then there may be some who will go into a state of shock at the mention of the word_pit bull. Well, for those of you who do get taken aback or, worse, go into a state of shock, you have my apologies and my compassion. You also have my invitation to come and stroll through these stories and allow me to help you discover a world of clarity, creativity, conscientiousness and a raging passion towards achievement, self-fulfilment and self-designed excellence. You will see and learn how many of the wonderful traits that make one species ferocious and wonderful make the other rugged and ragingly successful.

Between the pit bull and the entrepreneur there are certain nuances that similar and different. Placing these two species together highlights the strengths of each and the possible areas of study and synergy for growth, for learning and becoming ferociously effective and brilliantly tenacious as an entrepreneur.

For those of you who went “Oh, yeah!” You know and love your dogs plus hold the pit-bull in reverence then this comparative study will make you smile and revalidate the beliefs you might have had about the secrets behind entrepreneurial success and excellence.

There are several kinds of pit bulls and most all of them are a cross between the English Bull Dog and any one forms of the Terrier. The bull dog’s lineage goes back to the ancient, huge and ferocious Mollosian of the Greek era which, like a bull, was a working dog. Over the years, this crossbreed between the bull dog and the terrier travelled to America in the 1800s and were carefully, further, cross bred to increase their speed, their playfulness and, thus, their intelligence. Today’s pit bull, and the one referred to in this book, could be any one of the several breeds of the American Staffordshire Pit Bull or the American Pit Bull Terrier.

One of the most popular pit bulls was “Pete” from the movie and the series of “Little Rascals.” Other popular pit bulls were owned and loved by famous people like inventor Thomas Alba Edison, President Theodore Roosevelt of the USA and Helen Keller. Unfortunately and sadly, the pit bull has mistakenly acquired a notoriety that runs up chills and hysteria in many people. On the contrary, owners and lovers of pit bulls swear by the intelligence and gentleness of a pit bull. Statistically, they claim, the French Poodle is more vicious, vindictive and prone to attack human beings than a pit bull. The negative media hype has been created based on the looks of a pit bull alone. The strong, aloof and the independent look of the pit bull misleads and gives no clue to its intelligence, loyalty and loving nature.

The pit bull stands apart from most other breeds because of its keen sense of self-identity and self-pride. It rarely bothers to be moved or influenced by the presence of other smaller animals around him. Merlin, my friend Tiny Defensor’s, nine year old, 140 pound pit bull has never bitten anyone its lifetime and it allows Tiny’s pet pussycats to swarm all over him all the time. “He cares a cat’s foot for the pussies!” exclaims Tiny. Brownie, my friend Pinky Sandoval’s, six-year old, 120 pound pit bull constantly lets himself be bullied and barked at her half a dozen pomerians and chihuahuas. The pit bull’s normal reaction to frenzy and nastiness around him is to stand tall, stand apart, walk its walk and completely ignore the riff-raff that surrounds and nags it. It’s like he’s saying to them, “I know exactly who I am and I am totally at peace with who I am.”

Besides having a high sense of self image and self identity, the pit bull of all the known 140 known breeds of dogs in the world also has the rare ability to duplicate the human gesture knows as the “smile.” All other dogs express their joy and satisfaction by barking, jumping or waging their tail excitedly. The pit bull seems to have evolved and stepped ahead of the curve. The pit bull, to express its joy and satisfaction, will raise up and wrinkle its muzzle, display a toothy grin and make his eyes twinkle. This in his imagination is a smile, an expression of approval and happiness. To those that love their pit bulls and know their dogs this is amazing and to those who do not know their dogs this eerie and terrifying. Yes, you can say pit bulls have imagination. This is a rare ability among a few, rare, individual_people who can imagine, duplicate and morph existing facts with new ideas and other non-tangibles. It is for entrepreneurs a rare ability to connect facts from the past with the unseen, unheard and the un-experienced things from the present and create a picture of the future. A future that is possible and filled with productivity, progress and profits for all.

Pit bulls are also known to be really high on love and loyalty for their masters. There are numerous stories about the bond between dogs and man but of all the breeds of dogs, the stories of the pit-bull stand out for strength, sturdiness and fierce integrity. Of all the stories about the pit bull’s image, identity, imagination and integrity the ones that are terrifying are about their fierce tenaciousness and persistence. They say that when a pit-bull, if deliberately abused and angered, gets mad and gets a hold of you then it’ll take an army to pry him apart. This is non-give-up-ness is a core trait of a pit-bull. This is a powerful characteristic ad the ultimate brand image of the pit bull. There is a lesson to be learned in this for entrepreneurs. This trait of a pit bull, from a positive perspective, is a shining lesson in tenaciousness, persistence and hardiness for entrepreneurs.

Now a little story about entrepreneurs before I start highlighting their traits;

Many years ago, I had failed at two attempts at starting and running my own business. The first time, I had failed at putting up a trading business with a partner from the Middle East. The second time I had failed at making success of a small retail business with my spouse as a partner. Sometime in the late 1980, I was in the middle of nurturing a third enterprise. For this third time, before I ventured into it, I spent years understanding and experiencing the trade. I spent years in knowing the supply side and the demand side in the industry. I spent years saving up money and building up other resources and connections in the industry. I’d also spent years in learning the rights skills and competencies to help me become a self-dependant, and a complete entrepreneur.

I remember one morning, six months and a year into it, I was in the middle of strapping some cartons for a shipment when an officer from the Department of Labor and Employment came knocking at my door. He was conducting a random, spot inspection for unfair and inhuman treatment of employees by small business owners.
“As an owner of this company, I wouldn’t mind answering a few questions would I?” he asked.

“Sure! Go ahead and be my guest.” I replied.
“How long has this business been operational and what is it that you do?”
“Well, it’s now been a year and half. We are in the business of trading soft goods like house decor, apparel, handicrafts and stuff. We buy them here, in the Philippines, and then we ship them to clients across the world.”
“Hmm, that must be quite lucrative and how many people do you have working here?”
“Two. A girl and there’s this bloke.”
“Can you please describe the job of the girl?”
“Well, she answers the phone, takes messages, files loose papers, types a letter a day, once in a while makes weak coffee and every fortnight runs to the bank to draw her salary.”
“Right, that sounds like she is the Office Assistant. Awful supporting aren’t they? Does she put in any extra effort for the business?
“Oh, yes, yes! She takes time to fix her hair, powder her nose, file her nails, and chat on the office telephone with her girlfriends on weekdays and her boy-friends on Fridays. Then there are also days when she doesn’t have a boyfriend, she spends her days crying and eating chocolates in the office. Poor little girl!”
“Oh, that’s quite sad. How many hours a week, would you say, does she suffer like this in here?”
“Oh, the poor thing, she comes in a bit after 10 in the morning to avoid the morning traffic and leaves just before 4 in the afternoon, to beat the evening traffic on weekdays. On Saturdays, she drops by for a quick brunch and then leaves to get her hair done.”
“Gosh! That’s over 30 hours a week and does she get a fair pay, social security, health insurance, all the prescribed holidays, annual vacation and sick leaves too?”
“Oh, yes she does get all that plus another three days every month.”
“That’s quite okay. Now about this bloke who works here what exactly does he do?”
“This “bloke” as you call him gets the orders, draws the contracts, does the purchasing, chases the mills for delivery, drives the truck, manages the inventory, packs the shipments, does the billing, cleans the car, answers the phone and makes coffee when Jane is not around.”
“Sounds like quite a handy man. What are his working hours around here?”
“He’s here before the break of dawn on Mondays and then stays till all the work is done for the rest of the week.”
“That’s amazing! Does that mean he also sleeps over here?”
“Yes, on that wooden bench over there by the dog-house.”
“That looks quite inviting and warm. Now, does he get a fair pay for his hours, social security, medical and health insurance, annual vacation and sick leaves?”
“Oh, yeah sure!" He gets two square meals a day, a daily cup of weak of coffee, a pack of cigarettes every month and he is also allowed to sneak off early on Christmas eve and come in a bit late on New Year’s Day.”
“That’s preposterous and inhuman! Sneaks off on Christmas Eve! I think you, Sir, you are an animal, a monster and a slave-driver! Please call that man, here, right now! I’d like to see the poor slob!”
“Sir,” I said quietly, “you are looking at him!”

Though that story, in its entirety, is not at all true, it does come close to putting across the point that an entrepreneur; a business owner has to work, eat and sleep like a dog. He has to put in atrociously obscene amounts of time, effort and dedication for the success of his business. It is all a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

Entrepreneurs do not get born, they are made. In my early teens, I was surrounded by a large, close and distant, family of entrepreneurs. Most all of them either owned a store, a trading business or a small manufacturing or service business. During our family get-togethers they would talk shop, compare notes and share tips on how to start something new or, improve and expand existing businesses. All of them considered owning a business was the most proper and decent way to live. “Working for others?” Well, it was “working for others” and it was looked upon with disdain and shame. There was, and is, pride, honor and freedom to earn and grow exactly as one wished for in a self-owned enterprise.

One of the many, very Indian, catch-phrases my grandfather used to nag me with was, “Apni ghott to mazaa aaye!” Literally translated, it meant, “The fun lies in brewing and grinding your own.” Metaphorically, it meant, “If you want to amount to something, if you want to make it big and be fulfilled then start and build something on your own.” This kind of subtle and consistent programming of our minds by our elders was our family’s culture. The young ones, in response, had no choice but to constantly think, explore, talk and dream business opportunities and ventures. This influence and programming by the elders of the family was quite intense. The long-term results of this culture building were resilience, tenacity and the ability to save, survive and build from scratch. These entrepreneurial habits got seeped into our neuropsychological systems for life.

A large percentage of my family members are still private business owners and continue to breed their offspring into the same atmosphere and culture. I, personally, moved in out of the corporate world and the world of the rugged, resilient and resourceful entrepreneurs. I regard both the breeds with respect and reverence for their skills but here, in this book; I pay homage to the maverick, the jack of all trades—the enigmatic entrepreneur!

Yes, you already know, I am also a deep-hearted lover of dogs. In my life-time, I have been scared by a lot, chased by many, bit by a few and have owned only five but, yes, I love them all. I find dogs to be the intelligent, imaginative, loyal and backed up by a burning desire to succeed and excel at whatever they wish to achieve. All the traits which are necessary for success and excellence in the field of entrepreneurship.

In the ensuing chapters, I will share several stories, secrets and strategies of several successful entrepreneurs I have known personally. I will compare and contrast their traits, their talents and their tales to those of a pit-bull. A dog which, in spite of all the negative media and hype about its character, in reality is a breed that stands slightly taller and slightly apart from the rest of the dogs in the world—just like successful entrepreneurs do amongst other ordinary people.