Quality has to be a constant..
While in college Shyam, my closest friend, taught me my first lesson on how Quality and Professionalism combine with each other. When we all came for our first nets session for the college cricket team trials, he was the only one wearing creams. I looked at him and felt awkward, Shyam didn’t care what other wore, he was going to do what he knew was right, as that was what he was taught and he continued to always wear creams for net sessions or games. I always wore creams after that.
Answering calls / being on time – I was never a bright student. Somehow, I remember doing well till class 8 and after that my marks went south and remained there. However, as I grew up what saw me through was a determination to be good at what I did. If I did things well then I believed I was okay. I was very rarely late to work in my career even after I rose to become a CEO and a Managing Director. Punctuality is not a strong point in India and being punctual was my first conscious attempt at quality. My neighbour once asked me why I was behaving like a Clerk and always getting to office on time . I said, that it was ingrained in me and I was never comfortable with being late. This meant that, at VDB, we made it a point that everyone came to work on time and we made a lot of changes to office timings to try and help people reach office on time despite the various excuses trotted out. It worked for some it just didn’t work for others. When we changed the reporting time, they still came 5 minutes late, just like they came before. In the end I realised that we were going to fail with some, but I was glad that more made it on time than those who never could do it..
One of my strict rules at VDB was/ is that we answered all calls that we received. If, we were not in a mood or position to answer we should message the person that we would call back. The call back had to happen within 24 hours. A few minutes ago I got a message from an associate which said – “Very unlike you, you never called me back. Hope all is well.”. I just called him back. People who deal with me know about my obsession with being on time. Being on time shows your respect for the place you work in, your colleagues or the person you are meeting / visiting. If I am stuck somewhere due to unavoidable circumstances I do make it a point to call the person waiting and appraise him/ her of the situation. On this, I do not believe there is any compromise possible. I respect people who are on time too. It is an excellent quality and youngsters would do well to work on it.
Responding to e-mail / postal mail – is extremely important. I got into huge trouble twice when my company was dragged into the National Company Law Tribunal, because I wrote numerous letters in response to mails sent to me. These letters were used against me as admittance of my dues. I realised where I had gone wrong. I had trusted the other side to read my letter jointly with the letters sent by my engineers and my finance / legal team. Nowadays, my responses are more thought out and with clear reference to the various issues on hand. However, we have not stopped responding, just changed the way we do.
Taking notes – When I went to work in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, I went for an important meeting with no paper or book in hand to write anything. My Boss asked me to write the Minutes. I had to take some paper and jot down the discussions. I was embarrassed because I assumed that minutes were written by juniors. Also, the need to write down what we discussed at a meeting was something I learnt during this stint. As far as the Minutes are concerned, I learnt that the one who writes the Minutes controls the meeting. Also, our mind is no computer and when we go for meetings, however high we are in the organization, we must take notes. In VDB, I have books with notes from the day we were open for business. People who work with me often tell me which book or colour of book I had when we met and discussed something. More than that, they knew that what was not written down was not discussed. Period
Language – It is important to ensure that the language we use in our correspondence is correct both grammatically or otherwise as it reflects on the person / company that sent the correspondence. Even when I send SMS messages I use proper words and grammatically correct sentences. The same applies for my official WhatsApp messages too. No r for are or d for the. This will ensure that your habit of writing correctly is not compromised. Those who can use both well without interchanging are very few but they are lucky too.
That is it for this section….
( I know these habits may not be in fashion but trust me quality still means doing the right thing the right way and what I wrote is just that. I would love to hear from you.)