In the corporate world there is a lot of emphasis on mentoring
and its impact on preparing the next set of leaders.
While not taking anything away from the high profile mentoring programs,
I would like to present another angle to mentoring, where the budding
leader or a seasoned one, takes the role of forever-a-student
and learns from the real world. Suddenly he would find mentors
everywhere; some might stick him with for a life time and some might
disappear quickly, but leave with him a learning for a life time.
Here is one mentor of mine.
For years now, I visit the same barber. He operates out the of
the same shop as he did when he first started about two decades
back. This is not to say that nothing has changed. His
SOs (Service Offerings) have kept up with times and at any point of time
they are 60-70 percent close to any fancy men-only salon. While
expanding his service portfolio,he made sure that his core offering
that of a simple and straight forward hair cut is intact. This has helped
him to retain people like me and also cater to the first timers accompanied
by their fathers.
He still does not have an appointment system and you are served
on a first come first serve basis. If you are a few heads behind,
you could sample his magazines or savor his television set, in the comfort
of an air-cooler that has made it into his salon in the last few years.
Though I love to devour his film magazines, out of time constraint,
I visit him on off-peak days quite early in the day. And when I do,
it is always a pleasure to watch him come on his old motorbike sporting
a vermilion bindi, acknowledge my presence first, bow to his deity photo
in front of his shop before going through his daily motions. Finally, when he is
all done and the stage is set, he requests my presence on the big chair.
Unlike most other barbers, this guy does not talk much, thankfully,
coz he chews pan:)
You could argue that I am just used to the guy and settling for less,
when I could make use of the best that is out there.Or that I am just
paying cheap:) But, let me tell you, my hair has never felt
so good in his hands and I have had barbers all over and of different
nationalities—Greek, Italian, American, British, Chinese—to name a few.
And he never hurries this simple hair cut of mine, even when a customer
with a higher ‘revenue per visit’ waiting in the queue. Well, even if he felt it,
he never let his fingers show.
Over the years, I have come to admire his simple qualities like treating his work and workplace as a
place of worship, his one to one interaction with his customers as the most important service offering
and his genuine acknowledgment when he is paid for the service as his ultimate reward.
This admiration has grown over the years, as I made my way into corporate jungle.
Most of my colleagues in the IT and ITES industry might be earning much
more than him, but I haven’t found them paying a little more attention
to their tools or acknowledging the satisfaction of a hard-earned pay packet.
For them pay check is a routine, a fruit that has just fallen into their hands or
a set of EMI payments that have just hit their bank accounts enroute.
And, as the crowd becomes younger, the reverence factor shrinks further.
It is difficult to say, what would happen to this friendly neighborhood barber
when the biggies like Reliance makes their presence feel in this sector too.
It would be interesting to see his move and dunno what would happen
to customers like me. But for now, he is kicking ass, with his shop
listed in the Google directory. A nice color printout with his Google
listing adorns his wall, just besides his rate card.
Whatever his move and wherever he goes, I am sure he will have a
learning or two waiting for me. And, I am all ears and eyes!