Considering his company sells coffee, it’s not surprising that Arman Sood, co-founder, Sleepy Owl Coffee, calls himself a coffee connoisseur. A law graduate, Sood realised in college that law was not his calling, but entrepreneurship was. In his second year of law school, the 30-year-old started an e-commerce company that sold bar and party accessories. He co-founded Sleepy Owl soon after he graduated, and now handles operations and customer support at the company.
In this interview, New Delhi-based Sood speaks with Lounge about how his school teacher left a deep impression on him, on focusing on solutions rather than problems, and his favourite podcasts. Edited excerpts:
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
I would say my middle-school class teacher. She never lost her cool and never pointed out a problem in her students. She always addressed a problem with a solution. As a kid, I always wondered how she remained so calm and wise.
One major change you implemented with your mentor's guidance?
Since I lead the operation side of the business, I was always conflicted about how to react to a problem at the factory. But what I imbibed from my mentor was that an entrepreneur has to cultivate patience. Also, you cannot dwell on problems or find someone to blame for them, instead focus on solutions.
What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?
Being a mentor means not just acknowledging hard work and effort but also rewarding it. We have two members in our team, Deepak and Sareen, who have been promoted to supervisors. Their journey has been the most interesting. They had moved to the factory to help out with operations during the lockdown as their role as sales representatives at the retail stores became redundant. They came to my team from Ajai's (our co-founder) till the time market opened up again. However, the two handled the factory so well, that three months later, I refused to send them back to Ajai’s team. It’s been a year since then, they're now supervisors in my team making sure operations run smoothly. I trust them with the factory.
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What’s your morning routine like?
I usually wake up by 5.30 am and spend the first hour with my pets. I have eight cats and three puppies. I take them for some fresh air at a park near my house. This is followed by 15 mins of meditation. It helps me clear my mind and focus on the next big thing. Since I enjoy cooking and consider the first meal of the day to be extremely important, I whip up breakfast for myself after getting ready. I punch in at work by 9.30 am, making it a point to come in a little before my team walks in, to get my to-do list in place. We wrap up work by 7.30-8 pm after which I head home to my wife and pets. I get to bed by 10.30 pm.
What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
I have started following a system where I try to achieve 45 minutes of work with undivided attention, followed by 15 minutes of distracted work.
What are some productivity tools you've relied on over the years?
I would say, the alarm clock. I don't think it gets enough credit for existing. If it weren't for the timely reminders of the loud buzzing and annoying tone of the alarm clock, I wouldn't be able to get to places on time, or to get work done in a stipulated time.
How do you unwind?
My home and my pets are my sanctuary. I relax and destress as soon as I step into my space. Apart from this, football is my go-to sport. You'll find me playing football every Monday night, without fail.
Any book/podcast you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth? Why?
I've started listening to a lot of Indian podcast hosts like Arjun Vaidya (Direct to a Billion Consumers) and Suchita Salwan (Think Fast). They are focused on businesses, growth, hurdles, and success stories. My all-time favourite is still How I Built This with Guy Raz. I would definitely recommend Raz's podcasts for people who're looking to get insights into the world of hustling, struggles and being passionate about something to make a successful business out of it. He offers anecdotes and stories from his life and learnings that seem extremely relatable and motivating.
What's your favourite beverage, anything that you have mastered making?
My wife Rebekah deserves credit for this answer. She is a business owner herself and she's an expert at making kombucha. Over the years, I also have perfected the right process and ingredients that go into making a delicious, effective, and gut-friendly kombucha. That too in different flavours. Now, I fancy myself as both a coffee and kombucha connoisseur.