Just last week I recalled the time I was working with a local non-governmental organization in India. As I was reminiscing one afternoon came back to me with renewed clarity now I am a small business owner.
I lived in Bhubaneswar, the state capital of Odisha (then called Orissa) and tried to go to Puri on a regular basis. Puri is a lovely beach town that provides people a lovely weekend get-away.
As a beach town tends to attract travelers, there are a variety of tourist shops, jewellery stores and restaurants. The first time I went to Puri, I was sauntering through the street not far from my hotel and decided to pop into a tiny jewellery shop. An eye-catching necklace was displayed in the window and I quietly opened the door.
The place was tiny, colourful and packed. As I looked around, the shop owner started asking me the usual questions and we started a conversation. When he realized I wasn’t a tourist and lived in Bhubaneswar he beckoned me to sit down on the floor and to relax.
Getting to know each other
Ahmed, the Kashmiri owner put up the closed sign, called over his brother and asked him to make chai for us. “Come, he said, we shall acquaint one another”.
Before I knew it I had sat, cross-legged, three hours in the middle of the shop and I had seen every single item Ahmed had for sale. He had told me about his family and shared a family picture. His brother talked about running the shop while Ahmed would be away for 6 to 8 months every year. They spoke about the joy of touring their country for stones, clothes, and other materials they could sell.
Ahmed explained he would return for two or three months to his native village in Northern India and care for his elderly parents. In the mean time, they would ask their cousins in England to check the latest fashion. And while in his village, Ahmed would create his amazing necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets. A family friend would sell him traditionally made Kasmiri clothes.
I was sharing my difficulty in learning the native language and how odd it felt to wear a saree. (I have since mastered the art of wearing this beautiful clothing, though I must admit wrapping it and making straight pleads is challenging.)
I spoke about my parents and friends supporting my move to India. We soon realized that our countries are not that different when you exclude language, customs, religion and weather. We care for our parents, we feel a strong national pride, and we were both the first generation of receiving academic education.
Ahmed taught me a valuable lesson in his shop. It’s called patience. Patience teaches you to develop a relationship and get to know one another. It helps you look beyond the initial “assessment” of the situation. Since last year, I have used patience and consistency while using social media and it is starting to pay off.
At his shop, I also remembered the meaning of persuasion. Persuasion is advising and influencing another person, two powerful and positive actions. (It can be negative, yet this experience was constructive.)
Both teachings in patience and persuasion were focused on building a long-term relationship. We didn’t focus on the here and now (although we did negotiate about some jewellery items), instead we dedicated time to the future.
After spending hours in this tiny shop, I would rave for years about Ahmed’s jewellery to everyone and bring interested friends to his store. Often, I just stopped by to say hello and check what he or his brother had been up to.
Our passion for our work and beliefs had brought me to India and Ahmed to his jewellery and his travels. Our passion made me comfortable enough to put aside initial reservations and “just go with the flow”. Passion made us explain everything twice when needed as we faced a bit of a language barrier and drink many cups of chai.
Since I have become a fulltime entrepreneur, these three P’s – patience, persuasion, passion – have kept me going. In slower times I remembered the virtue of patience, when building my community I recalled persuasion and at any given time, you hear my passion shine when I am a guest speaker.
The three P’s have helped me become a successful entrepreneur, and will help you too.
Image Credit: By Lisette Andreyko