Ideas about Building a Great Company and Being a Great Leader …

I picked up and started reading the book “The Republic of Tea“, based on a recommendation by Seth Godin as a must read book. I am an avid Tea lover and so reading a book about Tea and a business around tea was an interesting proposition by itself.
The book is a collection of fax messages that were exchanged between the people discussing the idea of starting a business selling Tea in the US with little commentary by the players giving some context when needed.
I read the book as two separate books weaved together into one.
The book talks about the way of the Tea life. In the words of the authors

Tea is not just a beverage but a way of life, and what a way of life it is! Slow down. Pay attention. Be grateful. Enjoy what you have. Take pleasure in the wonder of being alive. Can you imagine a better prescription for our tense, overdriven, hyper-acquisitive, uptight world?
They go on to say:
The life of tea is the life of the moment.
We have only Now, and we each sip it in our own cups.
Imperfection itself is what we find to be perfect.
Life is impossible, and so what. It is in its very impossibility that we find our joy.
Tea Mind allows life to live us. It frees us from the hubris of trying to control what cannot be controlled.
Tea is Contentment. Tea Mind sees that contentment is love of content.
The secret of happiness, you see, is in accepting (dare I say wanting?) what you already have.
I think if we look at life from this metaphor, I truly believe the philosophy of the Tea Life is all we need to aspire towards, for a peaceful and happy life.
I also believe that this book is a great book to learn about how to go about starting a business. The messages that go back and forth between the people discussing about creating a business very nicely captures the emotional upheaval that most founders go through before they start a business.
  • It captures the initial excitement about the idea itself and all the possibilities that it holds as a business.
  • Then comes the research phase, when we want to explore and try to find evidence in the market to validate our business potential.
  • Then comes the phase when we start doubting our own ideas as we find information contrary to our belief’s that seed doubt in our minds.
  • Then comes the phase when we need to decide if we are going to take the plunge or not.
  • Once we decide to go ahead comes the execution phase, where move ahead with whatever information we have in hand and tackle everything that get thrown at us.
One of the best things that i liked in the book is the entire discourse about the kind of company that the founders were trying to create & the kind of leader that they wanted to become.
Below is the what the authors talk about the company that they wanted to build:
A company that
  • has at its core a long-standing, open, and trustworthy relationship with my partners
  • provides a valuable, meaningful, and fun product
  • communicates a positive message through its products and way of doing business
  • is respected as a model of a successful socially responsible venture
  • nurtures employees and takes care of customers
  • develops its own creative spirit, culture, and way of doing business
  • has an infrastructure that promotes individual ownership, responsibility, and risk-taking
  • generates a healthy and ample return on investment
  • works as a team and makes decisions as a team
  • is aggressive, yet realistic in its goals and expectations
  • doesn’t use up its people
  • provides for innovative benefits and rewards such as child care and sabbatical
  • knows that it’s special

As the leader of the company I want to:

  • earn the trust, respect, and confidence of my employees, suppliers, and shareholders
  • build a team that shares responsibility for key decisions
  • set the tone for open and effective communication at all levels
  • act, think, and make decisions creatively
  • attract and motivate the very best people to be involved in this venture
  • recognise my own limitations and provide for a team that is successful and well-rounded
  • grow personally with the business and its employees
  • operate the business in a healthy environment (physical and mental)
  • develop good ideas into viable products and ventures
  • head up some remarkable and groundbreaking projects
  • be able to succeed
  • be able to make mistakes

These are great ideals to strive for a company as well as a leader of the company.

In Conclusion:

The book has a lot of nuggets of wisdom, both from a philosophical perspective and from a business perspective that all of us can learn from. I am truly grateful to Seth for having introduced me to the book by way of his recommendation.
The book has changed not only how I look at tea, but also how I look at life in general and a business in particular. I do recommend that you go ahead, buy and read the book, multiple times that I have done. Drop me an email if you would like me to share my notes on this book with you.

PS: Here is a T-Shirt designed inspired by this book.
Some interesting quotes from the book are as below:

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