This is a guest column by Amrutash Misra, the co-founder at Life Online which runs The i love read.in’ Library. Before that, he worked at Hindustan Unilever. And before that, he was a student at IIT Madras. For Amrut, the glass is never half empty. It’s always half full.In a previous avatar, I happened to be a management trainee at HUL. An ID that says ‘management trainee’ is pretty much an all-access pass over there. An MT can ask any one anything; from the mundane, everyday stuff to the larger questions of life. Every senior was also invariably asked: How can we get to the top quickly? (And how much money can we earn in the process?) But, one of the questions that stayed with me is this: What separates a manager from a director? The supply chain director, Dhaval Bhuj, answered in one word: discipline.
His answer has haunted me ever since. Partly because it is 100% true; partly because it’s hard to be “disciplined”. I, for instance, have really had to struggle to bring discipline into everything I do. I envy people who are naturally disciplined: for whom being disciplined is effortless.
From my experience, here’s a check list of things to be disciplined about. I am sure you can add a hundred items to it. You’ll notice that most items on the list actually have nothing to do with starting up.
Good health: Don’t fall sick. Whenever I fall sick, my company loses money. No exception. Hence, I try my best not to fall sick. The perfect way to do it is to be disciplined about your body.Sleep well. Must wake up by 7; must sleep by 11: business happens in the DAY. Unless you have clients in other countries. In which case, sleep such that you are awake when they are awake!
Good food habits. Bad stomach and bad timing can mean bad customer experience. Moreover, bad stomach can really dip productivity. Eat home-cooked (preferably self-cooked) food.
Good drinking habits. Customers don’t care if you have a hangover. And customers do call at 1 am (“I’m sorry if I woke you up, but my credit card got rejected on your website...”) and 6 am (“Can you send my books before 9 am...”)
Exercise: keep everything oiled. There are a hundred parts of the human body that can unexpectedly give trouble: back (long hours of sitting), feet (half-clutch and half-accelerator), teeth (really, do they even need a reason), eyes (shifting power), sinus, etc, etc. Go to a gym, do yoga, live healthy.
Cleanliness. Wear a clean ironed shirt to work (no tee-shirts). Cut your nails and get a haircut regularly. Shave often, if not every day. It makes a difference. It also forces all your employees to do the same. (This is a rather silly point – but I’ve met so many entrepreneurs who are shabbily dressed that I had to write this down.)
Money. Spend wisely. Be pound-wise and penny-wise. Tally your accounts regularly and file your bills properly. Keep your P&L statement disciplined.
Communication. Reply to all emails, sms and calls. Keep all communication to the point – don’t beat about the bush. Keep your emails nicely arranged.
Appointments: Use a diary to mark appointments and to take down notes. Always carry your diary with you.
Time: Be disciplined about time. Don’t waste time, don’t watch TV. Be on time for meetings; if you are running late, inform everyone.
Bottomline is this: if you are your boss, then take the extra effort to be disciplined. About EVERYTHING. It makes a difference.