Why I Stopped Wearing my Socks, by Alok Kejriwal, founder of Contests2win.com (Disney bought one of his companies), is a memoir that is very easy to traverse. His life journey, business insights & lessons are put across astutely. I have been following him on LinkedIn for his #DhandheKiBaat and this book does complete justice to any reader looking for insights into the journey of an entrepreneur. Below is my interpretation of the book –
PS – A great first book for anyone who wants to start reading/reading nonfiction!
- I grew up with the feeling that we didn’t have enough money. I believe that my drive, restlessness and ambition spring from this fear. This paranoia made me constantly compete with myself, even when not needed – This paranoia of money can act as a huge boost if channeled correctly. This exact feeling makes a lot of kids being derailed in their purpose & outlook towards life. Channelization is the key here!
- How dare you call me ‘Yaar’!? There’s a story in which ONGC inspector who didn’t like Alok calling him ‘yaar’ and started taking his case (bullying) till Mr Shashi Ruia (Essar family fame) stepped in for help – Yes, it is important for the elder to forgive and mentor the junior (always ask for help. Ask!). But it is as important that the young learn the basics of business, language and present-ability unless they’re pretty sure they’re the next Steve Jobs. (Disclaimer – even Steve Jobs did perhaps the best work of his life in Pixar and then at Apple in all humility. The egotistical Steve only got fired from his own company)
- Try your hands at basic and simple businesses to get a real world feel of ‘Dhandha’. Business is just connecting dots between opportunities and people. Like Alok trying his hands on banking, leak proof drums for Henkel. The idea is to just do & gain experience which can be life changing!
- If you get used to cheating and manipulating people and businesses for quick, selfish gains, it quickly becomes your nature. If you pursue pure unadulterated businesses, the goal of the enterprise then becomes excellence, not the management of lies
- Costing is the lifeline of a business and must be appropriated, reviewed and actioned upon by the owner or founder directly. This exercise of costing requires a granular business understanding – Alok did this exact exercise for each SKU (socks) that they manufactured
- Awareness of micro and macro business matters is very critical. This helps in identifying opportunities. But seizing the opportunity requires hard work and patience. Life teaches you about the sales funnel (Read the similarity between Sales Funnel & Coho Salmon fish here)
- Seeing is believing and believing is buying. An entrepreneur must always look for ways to improve margins. This coupled with honesty will give you the best results. The owner of a business knows his machines inside out. That is how they’re able to innovate. Don’t be afraid of being termed as a mechanic
- Meet people. It is not for “networking” as few people perceive. It is about knowing more, expanding your horizons in true sense – I have been talking to B-School students about this way of “expanding your horizons” in its truest form. Always try & be the dumbest person in a room at least once a week!
- Many of us have ideas (some genuinely brilliant), but very few of us do something about them. The important thing is being proactive, leveraging people around you and initiating the execution
- To get a new business off the ground, it takes hard, gruelling, undying, maniacal effort
- If you want to create something unique and valuable, you will have to learn to please and seek. It’s a cruel trade-off between your ego and your ambition. You must have the ability to wait endlessly outside people’s office waiting for them to call you inside
- When an entrepreneur starts doing something innovative, disruptive and compelling, capital begins to chase the entrepreneur. But the entrepreneur must choose the VC prudently. The strategic guidance, hiring insights, connections, and business assistance far outweighs the money they invest
- Though fame, fortune and glory are important, it is utterly futile and silly for an entrepreneur to sacrifice precious personal moments to chase transient business events
- Why was contests2win not generating revenues – because Alok never asked for it! This is a classic case of entrepreneurial passion blindsiding the logic perhaps. Opposed to what he did for his dad’s socks business (executing & then advocating a detailed costing & then pricing for the socks), Alok did not ask for money for the services fearing he might lose clients & subsequently business will close. This is where the right VC is needed for the strategic business guidance (The same helped Alok)!
- Cultivating partners and trusting them is vital and crucial to creating long term value in business
- Never underestimate the power of ‘creativity of naivety’
- For a successful sales person, sacrificing profit margins, underselling, competing blindly (often to prevent someone else from getting the order) should never be an option. You must boldly say ‘not interested’ and move on
- Never lose or compromise your self-respect for anything, leave alone a business deal. Losing dignity means stopping below the threshold of purpose, intent and effort. Sales and ego never go together (Read more about Sales here)
- What the entrepreneur must do is keep building his business hour by hour, day by day, year by year. When doing becomes more important than succeeding, everything falls into place. All things start small! – I remember an interaction with Mr Sanjiv Bhikchandani, founder of Naukri.com, that left a lasting imprint: “Dream Big! But it’s not too bad to start small”
- Key insights on selling –
- The third sale is the real sale. Awareness and observation are a salesperson’s best friend
- The art of storytelling is important for sales. The art of listening is as important. Solid sales rehearsals before any meeting are a must
- Be original, interesting and genuine. Your demeanour must be everything but that of a seller
- When things go better than expected, don’t hurry. Keep your composure on how the client intends to use your product/service and then price it for a win-win
Do share your views/feedback in the comments section