Monday, February 09, 2009

Back in Manila After a Year

I am back in Manila after exactly an year from my first visit for Rutledge.I came last time on February the 12th, 2008, I am reminded, and since then, we have successfully started a centre and now discussing how we can take the business forward and spread it all across the country. In Philippines, I see an excellent opportunity to offer the training programmes. This is actually not very unlike India - there is a high level of English proficiency on the street, and the economic divide largely corresponds with Language divide too. The market is price sensitive and English training is largely commoditized, and therefore, we shall need to do packaging and branding with a whole new perspective.

I am an optimist, as always, that we shall be able to do this in the next few months, and the effort will be worth in the context of rewards it will bring. I am somewhat worried that the time is running out - my self-set timelines are as close as ever - and in the recession prone world, everything seems to be moving slower than it should.

I actually quite like Manila. It is cosmopolitan, and have great people - friendly and polite. I actually quite appreciate the filipino work ethic, though some people have suggested that I am wrong on that count. But I am already feeling sad that my work here is may be close to over: I shall possibly come once or twice, but it is unlikely that I shall see this operation in full bloom, which it will surely achieve in a few years time. It seems that I am running out of patience - how absurd - and trying to push ahead with things which require more attention and caution. It is interesting to see how set timelines are working on my psyche.

I have set a target date for exit, but not decided what I shall do next. I have never done that before in life, so this should count as a change. I have always had something in hand before I decided to exit; so this is an indication that the last five years have actually helped me boost my confidence a bit. I think it is that sort confidence which tells me that I can possibly work my out even if things are tough; I am obviously aware of the sacrifices I have to make.

The question also is why I am so decided about the exit. Two reasons, primarily. I am not enjoying what I do these days. This isn't about the stress, issues with people or anything: It is just that I am not getting the intellectual satisfaction that I have sought from all my assignments. I am not getting that satisfaction because the culture divide in this current assignment is far too wide, and my efforts to bridge them has been futile so far. I have also noticed that instead of creating solutions, I have actually become the problem - lots of time, my presence, and my peculiar attitude towards work, is obscuring the entrepreneur of his real responsibilities.

Apart from this, of course, I wanted to put myself under pressure and get things done. And, trust me, I have set myself a steep deadline even if it is almost an year away. That was, of course, the most responsible thing to do - allow time for everyone concerned to adjust to the realities and put in place a clear plan for succession. I do think my plan is working well so far - I am far more focused than I was earlier and things are getting done. Since I have also acknowledged that I shall eventually exit, I am much more responsible in structuring the deals, and ensuring that the structure of the operation become sustainable quickly. I also feel happy that I have informed my employers well in advance, for them to make necessary adjustments in their planning, and also to some of my key customers, so that they are fully aware and responsible for the purchases they are making.

Overall, I feel incredibly light and stress-free. I no longer have the burden of the future, so I am concentrating on the present. My sense of responsibility has actually increased - I have never shortchanged people who worked with me or who trusted me with their purchases - and I am feeling very good indeed that I have chosen to fashion my exit in such a deliberate, open and responbile manner. I do think my current state of mind is peaceful, and this is allowing me to do a better job.

I am indeed so comfortable with this decision that I have chosen to speak openly about this, with my employers as well as in this blog. I have not an iota of guilt as I shall leave this operation in a very good shape, and in responsible hands. Now, do I have a regret? Yes, a little - I would have wanted to see this business bloom after doing so much of hard work. But then it is too much of a compromise - it will take away a good slice of the prime years of my life, and because there is insufficient appreciation about the business we are in, the rewards will never match the efforts. I am better off putting my energy somewhere - but I know that my time of wandering around is over and all I want now is to work somewhere long term and build something worth building.

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"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt

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We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

- T S Eliot

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