Circa 1999.\r\n\r\nA man, a dream.\r\n\r\nAnd not much else \u2026\u2026\u2026\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThese were the intriguing lines that nudged me to pick up the small book that unveiled the lessons learnt during the \u00a0interesting entrepreneurial journey of Sushil Mantri, the man who took Mantri developers from scratch to a billion dollar valuation in seven years flat!..... a truly remarkable achievement by any standards.\r\n\r\nThe book is sprinkled with a lot of nuggets of wisdom written in a very down to earth manner.\r\n\r\nWhen asked about the \u201csecret of his success\u201d, he quotes Mark Twain, \u201cTo succeed in life \u2013 you need two things \u2013 ignorance and confidence\u201d. The examples from his life are numerous: He entered his family textile business at age 16 without really knowing much about it. He then moved on to handle a loss-making family share brokerage business without knowing how the stock market functioned! He played a major role in revamping a listed forging company \u2013 again with zero prior experience in manufacturing. He then went on to build India\u2019s largest shopping mall in 2010 without having ever undertaken such a huge construction before. If you read between the lines, the lesson is clear: We sometimes place too much of weight on prior experience. Ignorance is never a handicap as long as it is compensated with an intense sense of curiosity and personal confidence.\r\n\r\nWhen asked about his management philosophy, Sushil Mantri talks about a rather unique acronym that sums up his philosophy, which is: PQRST \u2013 which stands for: Punctuality, Quality, Reliability, Speed and Transparency. Especially in an industry (construction) notorious on most of the above parameters, to live by almost a contrarian philosophy like this and succeed spectacularly, teaches an important lesson, which is: Regardless of which industry one operates in, we should always question the rules of the game. \u00a0 \u00a0\r\n\r\nThere is a very interesting anecdote he relates about the challenges faced during the making of The Mantri Square \u2013 India\u2019s largest shopping mall at that time. The celebrations for winning the 20 acre property (on which the mall was finally built) were rudely cut short when he was summoned to the Bangalore City Corporation office a few days later, to be told in typical bureaucratic straight-faced style that the proposed metro station and a metro line will run right through the property. I was a mighty shock \u2013 and as he says, it took him eight days to come out of that shock. But how he handled that situation is a master class on how to turn an unfavorable situation into an advantage. While the whole world expected him to turn to lawyers, he instead made a counter-intuitive proposal: He proposed a PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) model to the government, where he would give the land free and build the metro at his cost, but would also build a commercial and residential block, some of the revenue and rentals of which he would share with the government. This turned out to be a master stroke because it was more than the government expected, and so quickly accepted. Now that Mantri Square is making money under two years of its operations, the footfall and expected turnover at the mall is expected to go up by another 22% when the Metro station is expected to come up in July 2013. The lesson for us is best summed up in his own words: \u201cIn life what you get most of the time depends on how much you are willing to give and how much you can give up of what belongs to you\u201d. It also has another important lesson: Every cloud comes with a silver lining! \u00a0 \u00a0 \u00a0\r\n\r\n\u00a0The book has another very interesting narration of his start-up days in Bangalore. Those were the days when the biggest talking point in Bangalore was the new airport coming up at Devanahalli in North Bangalore. Not surprisingly all builders headed that way. Sushil Mantri though took a contrarian stand \u2013 and went in the opposite direction to South Bangalore. To cut a long story short, that worked out very favourably too. Similarly, years later when he proposed Mantri Altius at the heart of Bangalore in Cubbon Park at a whopping 6 crores per apartment \u2013 it was largely seen as a risky, foolhardy move. The whole development was sold out in no time. The lesson really from Sushil is: Don\u2019t follow the herd \u2013 follow your own voice.\r\n\r\n\u00a0The book has a separate chapter devoted to a few very practical tips that he recommends from his own experience:\r\n\r\n\tTime is money \u2013 a reputation of keeping deadlines, timely execution & fast decision making converts in a very tangible manner to bottom line performance\r\n\tBuilding a business that is process-driven and NOT person-driven is the biggest insurance for business continuity.\r\n\tHave clear quantifiable goals so that subjectivity has a minor role during appraisals, makes for a transparent culture\r\n\tPay before being asked \u2013 and consciously allow a certain margin for your vendors.\r\n\tIts good to have pride in what you do, but an ego can only hurt you and others.\r\n\tLearning is future capital \u2013 entrepreneurial ingenuity and intuitiveness can take one only a certain distance. To build a dynamic company, we need the wisdom of others too.\r\n\tIn business people often focus too much on, \u201cThings to Do\u201d and rarely on, \u201cWhat not to do\u201d. When organizations articulate the boundaries that their employees cannot cross, greater creativity emerges. This is because the focus is a lot sharper and time & effort is not wasted in trying the wild stuff.\r\n\r\nSushil Mantri comes from a Marwari business class family that has been in business for a long time before his generation too. Much of his practical wisdom, he attributes to his grandfather, who passed on many a gem too which he has listed as below:\r\n\r\n\tDon\u2019t run day-to-day expenses using capital; they must be met only from the profits of the year\r\n\tMatch spending to earnings. That is, don\u2019t spend beyond your capacity to earn.\r\n\tA wise man starts his business in a deep recession, because recession teaches the value of every rupee.\r\n\tWhatever you start, complete it.\r\n\tBe an investor, not a speculator. Consider losses an investment and always expect good returns on your investment.\r\n\tNever say die; keep struggling. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.\r\n\tTake blessings, never ever take curses.\r\n\r\nIn all, the book is an inspirational read for anyone who picks it up \u2013 but especially so, for anyone dabbling in his own business.\r\n\r\nHow many of these lessons do you relate to? Do share your thoughts.