In February 2017 I took on a business development role with Basilur Tea Australia. By not drinking tea, everyone around me said that it didn't make sense and seemed strange that I would be involved with the company - I didn't share that view. Nine months on and I manage part of the company.
Belief In The Product Is Only Part Of It
I am the type of person who is usually waiting in cafes for my cappuccino, not an English breakfast. What I figured out was that I didn't have to necessarily enjoy consuming the product to find enjoyment in my role - I had to instead have trust and commitment with my team members to ensure that they had the level of enjoyment I should have had consuming the product. I am fortunate to have a team around me, domestically and internationally, who are supportive and have decades of experience in the tea industry. The lesson I've learnt has been that although you may not necessarily enjoy the product, there must be passion within your team environment - it will always be the people over any product.
The other part of belief is the confidence in which customers instill in your brand, and your business's ability to fulfill and exceed their purchasing expectations. In working at Basilur what I have found is that our customers have faith in our brand; they believe in our people because we prioritise transparency and trust over any transaction. Instead of lying to customers when they ask for suggestions regarding product selection, I always share the comical truth that I don't actually drink tea. Customers don't need to know that you necessarily love the product, and what my dad has taught me by working in retail management for several decades is that customers will always see higher credibility in a seemingly misplaced truth, rather than a fake support statement.
Clear Communication Must Be The Priority
I always start with listening when it comes to communication. If you can't listen to your people, customers and subordinates, you have a very slim opportunity to build any receptivity in what you intend on saying. My experiences with Basilur to date, especially by communicating with our team in Sri Lanka, is that although there are routine barriers to effective communication, one's intention and motive to build the necessary rapports is critical. Engaging in informal communication speaks greater volume than any product information. Not only have I seen the importance of this from personal experience, I have also seen how informal communication has a greater influence from a sales perspective than formal communication or product pitch.
As part of our national team, we presented a stall at a trade show in Darling Harbour last month and it was fantastic to meet members of the Sri Lankan Tea Board, Sri Lankan Consulate and distinguished individuals from the industry. What I found specifically interesting within the show were the various processes and types of communication present - simply walking around you were able to witness the types of communicators. If you ever need to practice your communication skills, or would like to understand communication in an extremely practical learning environment, enter a trade show and practice your rapport building skills with individual stallholders.
It's Your Life, Choice and Responsibility
The most important lesson I learnt a while ago is that although as individuals we are often challenged by guidelines and frameworks to ensure that we converge towards a common route, there is no harm in taking the detour, if you are willing to take full responsibility.
In my role as Managing Partner or Basilur Tea Australia, I continue to live by this principle. Working in this business has been a wonderful opportunity, and I am confident that the work we are doing as a global organisation, and also on an interpersonal basis, is critically important towards the growth of our domestic base and international position within the industry.
I may not drink tea, but I hope this article gave you insight towards why I find it irrelevant in my pursuit of learning and developing as an individual.