Once I was asked by a business aspirant what the basic requisite for starting a business was. I smilingly replied, “Elementary, my dear friend! If you know the value of money and are able to count it, that’s sufficient.” Perhaps he thought that I was joking, but the answer was actually a manifestation of my past experiences.
When I started my career in business, I was only a high school graduate. I would often visit our client companies and meet the officials there. I would think myself inferior when I found that they were highly educated and some of them even had acquired their management degrees from reputed business schools or overseas universities. Because of this complex I would prefer to talk as little as possible. But one incident dispelled my fear.
One of our clients in Dubai was a big trading firm. The proprietor of that firm was an elderly millionaire. I would visit his office regularly to collect our payment cheques. I noticed a strange thing there. The officials would make a mockery of their employer behind him because of his illiteracy. Wonder of wonders-The owner was a primary school dropout.
In one meeting he asked casually about my educational qualifications and I replied that I was a high school graduate. He exclaimed in an appreciation, “Fantastic! You have learned a lot. Please do me a favour.” He handed me a bunch of cheques and asked me to read the amounts written on them slowly but aloud. As I was reading the amounts, I saw him verifying the figures counting on his fingers. It surprised me and I asked him the reason. He candidly replied, “Young man! I have not learned much. I can’t understand the written amounts so I calculate on fingers and tally them.” I realized at that moment why his office staff had the habit of mocking him.
“Education alone is not the yardstick to evaluate a person.”
As if he had read my mind, he smilingly said, “I know what comes to your mind. I am fully aware that my employees laugh at me for my illiteracy but it makes no difference to me. I don’t fall prey to this inferiority complex. My business runs successfully. Education alone is not the yardstick to evaluate a person. The important are his skills are. Think the other way round. If I am a subject of mockery, why do all these highly educated people remain complacent working under a dropout person? Whose business administration is superior? Let me tell you. I am not the only one in this city to be called an illiterate millionaire. We are many and some of us are billionaires and can’t even write words. They have only learned to trace their signature on cheques and documents and still fetching a fortune.”
He then gave me a precious piece of advice. He said, “I don’t underestimate the importance of education but practical experience is much important than bookish knowledge. The basic requisite of business is knowledge of money.”