Business Today 14th January 2018 - Page 80

The Best Management Lesson I Learnt helped me the most was my rela- tive ‘inexperience’ in the field. At the outset, I decided that not only would Apollo Tyres come out of the red but it would also make a revenue of `1 bil- lion. I called our employees to put the facts before them – we did not even have the resources to pay their sala- ries. What would they like to do? Shut the factory down and move on? That was not an option I was keen to imple- ment. Better still, would they like to make the company a one-billion-rupee enterprise in the near future? Most of our workers laughed in my face. S It was open communication with all stakeholders that allowed me to get my ideas across to them and win their trust. It is often not talked about or is taken for granted, but it is critical in getting almost anything achieved ensing that it would be diffi- cult to achieve the target I had in mind with disbelieving co- workers, I decided the time had come to part company with those who did not share my vision for Apollo Tyres. Those who left parted as friends. Those who agreed to stay, folks willing to step be- yond the call of duty, were the ones who were excited about the new beginning. We decided to stop producing the tyre varieties we were manufacturing in the car and other segments and just focus on the big-ticket items – particular sizes of truck and agriculture tyres that were highest sellers. These went on to earn us our high- est margins. To begin with, we required money to restart operations – a good `25 million. So I hit the road and met the banks and financial institutions who had originally invested in the plant. Fate smiled upon me. I was able to raise the necessary finances after knocking on many doors. Eventually in October 1986, seven years after we set our sight on it, we achieved the `1 billion mark. With my team of believers, not only was I able to save Apollo Tyres from going belly-up but also cre- ated a successful new entity in the Indian industry. Looking back, I realise that one of the key things that helped me overcome this crisis, besides my rel- ative inexperience, was what Jim Collins calls the ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG)’. When the going gets tough, instead of buckling down, this management mantra dictates how you set bold tar- gets. That is exactly what I did, albeit unwittingly, when I decided to go for the `1 billion target, as ab- surd as it might have appeared from the perspective of conventional wisdom. When we were nobodies, we wanted to be the most trusted truck tyre brand in India. When we had no capability to produce passenger car tyres, we said we wanted to be the best in that cat- egory, too. When we were doing rev- enues of $500 million, we said that in five years, we want to be a $2 billion company. When India was the only market we knew, and nobody knew us, we said we wanted to be global in the next few years! G oals need to be simple and clear. They must be capable of reaching out to every single employee, all of them, no matter what function they are in, and aligning their efforts, thus drawing them to the magical world of organisational trans- formation. However, goals can only be achieved when the right steps are undertaken to realise them. We had learnt this the hard way, sometimes ending up with egg on our face when the goals were unrealistic. But that is how we learnt the importance of be- ing accountable for the goals we set for ourselves, as well as our employees. Another lesson I applied in that phase was transparent communication. In times of crisis, the tendency is to become secretive about developments. But it was open communication with all stakehold- ers that allowed me to get my ideas across to them and win their trust. It is often not talked about or is taken for granted, but it is critical in getting almost anything achieved. In the early days, I had no option but to be transparent. The banks knew their losses. The employees knew where they stood. The public was aware of what was transpiring. These days there is often an overload (but with information of the wrong kind) and hence, the need to communicate. In such situations, uncertainty leads to unnecessary panic. It is then best to update employees about ex- actly where the company stands. In conclusion, I think there were four key les- sons from my Kochi experience. • Have a clear vision/goal/road map of the things you want to achieve. • Share the vision with the people and get the be- lievers as part of your team. • Show consistency and commitment to the vision/ goals. • Continuous, open and frank communication should bind the team and the vision. 80 I BUSINESS TODAY I January 14 I 2018