The ‘conference room’ was a corner of the studio floor with big glass windows, seven bean bags, and toys scattered around. Raman Ronadhona had taken a bean bag next to a stuffed bulldog. The Founder-CEO, the 30-something Chaman Chaturkumar, stomped in and plonked into a huge tan bean bag shaped like a throne. He had a frown on his face and didn’t look happy.
‘So, Raman, what’s this about? We don’t have time for frivolous one-on-ones. This better be important!’
‘Sir … I mean Chaman, I can’t do this anymore!’ said Raman, choking on his words.
‘What do you mean you can’t do this anymore? What can’t you do?’ Chaman was puzzled and annoyed.
‘Can’t you see I’m burnt out? These 18-hour days are killing me! I haven’t slept well in weeks. I haven’t had a proper meal in days. I last took a bath five days ago. I haven’t hooked up with my girlfriend in a month—and she works in this office! This is unsustainable! You’ve got to help me out!’ Raman had clasped his hands, pleading.
‘Help you out how? Reduce your work hours? Are you nuts? Then everyone will ask for it!’
‘So, why can’t you reduce the work hours for everyone? This is too much! And I never see you work this long!’
‘Now, why would I do that? The whole idea behind I hiring you is so that you work, and I don’t. Put simply, you slog, and I take the big decisions, look important, enjoy the name, fame, and money!’
‘What? No! Surely this isn’t the best way to make money?!’
‘But this is the easiest.’
‘Hain?! I don’t understand!’
‘Look, Raman, I like you, OK? So, I’m gonna give you the gyaan my grandfather gave me when I was a kid doing susu in his lap. This is going to be in the form of a Socratic dialogue. So, pay attention.’
The easiest way to make money is to employ people. That’s it. It’s that simple. Employ people.
But employ them to do what?
OK. Whatever we do to make a living involves working. And work involves providing something in return for money. It’s a transaction. You provide some value, and in return, the other person gives you money. That money could be in the form of a salary or revenue. You get a salary if you’re an employee, and you get revenue if you’re a business owner. But in either case, there is a transaction that involves a give-and-take. Essentially, you’re selling something—your skills, your expertise, your time, your attention, your labour, a product, or a service.
So, employ people to—sell.
But sell what?
Anything! Think of any product or service. Then employ people to sell it.
But what’s in it for me, right?
Now, here’s where the making money part comes in.
I employ people. They sell the product or service. That brings in the revenue. And out of that revenue, I give them a salary. The beauty of the entrepreneurship model is that the revenue that an employee can bring in usually far exceeds the salary that I’ll pay them! That’s how businesses work!
Let’s see an example.
Say I’ve identified a product to sell—let’s say, lollypops. Now, either I can manufacture it myself or get it from a manufacturer. Let’s keep it simple and get it from a manufacturer. I employ a person to get it from the manufacturer and sell it. The sales proceeds come to me; I pay the employee their salary from the proceeds; the balance is mine. Plain and simple.
Now, let’s talk numbers.
Suppose I promise the employee a daily salary of Rs 100. A lollypop costs Rs 5 and sells for Rs 10, giving me a profit of Rs 5. So, for me to afford the salary of the employee, the employee should sell at least 20 pieces. That’s my break-even point. For this example, let’s say I give the employee a daily target to sell 100 pieces. That earns me a revenue of Rs 1,000, and thus, a profit of Rs 500. I pay a salary of Rs 100 and pocket the rest of the money—full 400 rupees—as my own! Now, imagine how this would look if I employed 10 people … 100 … a 1,000! That would be a shit load of money, right? And I haven’t even lifted a finger!
But hey, nothing makes a person greedy like easy money. So, now, I’m greedy and want to make even more money. But the thing is, I also don’t want to spend more on salaries—it’s a cost! I mean, why can’t I make more for myself without spending more on others’ salaries? Isn’t that what capitalism’s all about—maximum revenue at minimum cost?
So, how do I do that? Simple. I ask the current employees to work more! If they work more, they sell more and bring in even more profits. If they work 8 hours a day, I’ll ask them to work 10 hours. If they work 10 hours, I’ll ask them to do 12. Heck, I’ll go all the way and ask them to work 18 hours a day! After all, the business cycle is 24×7, right?
Of course, they’ll protest or “quiet quit”. I’ll just give them inspiring speeches about how one needs to work their ass off in the start-up culture. And free pizzas. Usually, that’s enough. But if that doesn’t work, I can always threaten to fire them. Or just fire them and hire a replacement. That’s the beauty of mass unemployment!
So, Raman, here’s the essence of the gyaan my grandfather gave me: The world isn’t divided between those who work 18 hours and those who don’t. It’s divided between those who own businesses and those who don’t. Capeesh?
You know, Raman, what’s the difference between you, an employee, and I, the business owner? You’ve chosen the certainty of a salary over the uncertainty of revenue, whereas I’ve chosen the chance of becoming insanely rich over the certainty of a salary. In any case, seeking certainty, in a world like ours, is highly misguided. Wasn’t it Taleb who said that “the three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary”? I honestly don’t know why people do monthly salaries, but it’s good coz I can be their dealer and become rich. Bwahahaha!
‘So, Raman, now do you understand why I need you to work 18 hours a day? Stop the rona-dhona and get back to work. And shave off that five-o-clock shadow before you begin. Use one of our demo razors.’
Raman had been listening to the spiel with rapt attention. Deep in thought, he twiddled his chin with his thumb and index finger, but no longer distraught. Chaman looked smug, pleased about his leadership skills. Just as he heaved himself out of the throne bag, Raman spoke out.
‘You know what, Chaman? Bless your grandfather—he’s so damn right!’ Then jumping off the bean bag, he announced, ‘I quit! Okkay bye!’ and walked off, inadvertently kicking the bulldog as he went.
As Raman walked towards the exit with a spring in his steps, Chaman texted the HR manager, ‘Fired Raman. Bad seed. Onboard replacement ASAP.’