It was my first ever job in life.
I had just come back from the US after dropping out of my PhD. And the first thing I did was look for a job, because I really needed to earn money.
Thankfully, a dear friend referred me to a job at her current company. After a series of interviews, I made it to the final round, where I was asked (much to my surprise) what my salary expectations were.
I had never worked before. I didn’t even know if this was an allowed question.
How does it matter what my expectations are? You must have a budget, no? So just give me that! Because I am starting from zero!
Anyway, the role did come to me. And I was now earning 15K per month, which was frankly more money than I ever thought I would make.
I was to join the R&D team for a corporate training company. We were to get a mandate from a client around a training need (say, sales training for on-ground sales team), research about it extensively, and then develop the training curriculum that would be imparted via our trainers.
It was a lot of fun.
Lots of research and writing.
Life was really good for the first 2-3 months.
And then came the big one!
One of India’s biggest FMCG companies wanted us to design a sales training program for their field staff. These were individuals who most likely did not even have a college degree and their job was to go to every possible shop in their area and make sure they were ordering the products of the company.
And we had to train them how to do it best.
I was given the project.
And I had NO IDEA where to even begin!
Forget everything else, I was surprised that the team of the largest FMCG company required training. Shouldn’t they be training the others? I mean, what do they not know that we can tell them? What can I tell them?
So I spent the next one week, trying to get the answer. I went on “beats” – which are sales trips during the day, for these sales folks. I just observed them. Their mannerisms, their conduct, their selling skills, their morale, what they tracked, how they recorded.
I did this in Delhi, in Meerut, in Agra, in Ahmedabad.
And boy, was I surprised?
Some of them were SO GOOD.
And some of them were visibly bad!
And that is when I understood the need for this sales training – it was to elevate the average. To make the not-so-good learn from the good and even a small difference per person will add up to a big difference for the company.
The training programs we used to design until then were PPTs with exercises. The usual training program that you would have experienced as well.
And I was sure that this crowd would hate that.
Imagine, not even going to college, spending your day moving from shop to shop, selling purely on relationships and now made to sit through boring PPTs with font 14 text on it!
I love movies.
Have I told you all this before?
I LOVE movies.
Not every movie.
The good ones. But I love the idea of a movie. Of stories, summarized in 1-3 hours.
So what I decided to do was to create a movie.
A day in the life of Ramesh.
Ramesh was my hero. My Shah Rukh Khan.
He was the best performing sales guy in the company.
And I decided to chronicle his day, from start to finish.
How he got up and made a plan for the day.
How he kept a record of his sales.
How he approached the shopkeepers.
How he formed a connect.
How he handled objections.
Everything that I had learnt observing the best folks in my sales trip, was part of Ramesh’s world.
And I used PPT to make that movie. Because I knew nothing else.
For a week, I worked 16+ hours, creating a movie on PPT, using animations.
It was exhausting. BUT SO MUCH FUN!
I was convinced it would work.
And it did.
It was loved by the client.
And by the sales teams I was trying to help.
I was suddenly a hero.
I was Ramesh :))
But then, something weird began to happen.
I began to get a LOT of such work.
And a LOT of other work as well.
And back then, I did not know how to say no.
So I said yes, and was instantly burdened.
I was working crazy hours, clearly not doing a great job of my work either and was still getting a lot of work.
And I could see my peers chilling. I mean, relatively chilling.
It felt that some people’s work had been taken from them and given to me.
I just couldn’t understand this!
Was I not supposed to be the one who does quality work? Why am I being made to do quantity work now?
Frustrated, I set up a meeting with my manager.
I was livid.
I couldn’t quit because I needed the money.
But I wanted to make sure she heard my anger and frustration.
The meeting started and I vented. And vented. Blaming everybody, including the Prime Minister of India!
She listened patiently.
When I was done, she took off her glasses and said:
“Good people pay a far higher price for being good than bad people pay for being bad.”
Did you just dump some motivational garbage on me?
“Ankur. The world is selfish. It just wants what it wants. So when it finds people who are good with what they do, the world decides not to risk it any further. And begins to give ALL the work to those good people, while taking it away from the bad ones. So, if you find yourself overworked, it is because people know you can do it. They wouldn’t trust anybody else, except you.”
“So, you have 2 choices in life. Be good with your work and thus get a lot of work. Or suck at your work and not get any work. What do you want to choose?”
That day and this.
I have never forgotten her words.
So, the next time someone comes up to you and says “I have a new project for you” realize that they are giving it to you because they believe you can do it.
Else they would have given to someone else who could have done it!
Only responsible people are given more responsibilities.