Monday, October 19, 2020

Will you remember?

Write it down.

You should know by now we are big proponents of writing it down. If you are the organized sort, it’s even better. You can systematize how you collect your information and file your ideas away. 

Some people feel it is a waste of time. We feel if it is not written down, it is not counted. Remember parking all your ideas aside? That is a good example of why you want to write all your ideas down. You can revisit them when you hit a wall. You can use them when you are going to attend a brainstorming session. It is especially useful when you need to see the areas of improvement that need attention. You can gain inspiration for new ideas that you can inject into the current operations from this file. Importantly as well, you can use this in your yearly planning process. 

We have written things down from years back that we only used and executed recently. Had we not written it down, we are quite sure we would have forgotten about it. Sometimes ideas are great but the conditions aren’t right yet. Having them written down helps the ideas resurface when the time is right. 

We have a list of books to buy and read. We even have a list of books we need to reread because we have forgotten the crucial ideas in them. Yes, we can read summaries online. But nothing beats flipping real pulp between your fingers and the discipline of sitting your ass down to read.

Writing things down is your knowledge centre. 

Have you built a reservoir?

Friday, October 16, 2020

Did you find parking?

Have a parking lot.

One of the biggest challenges of being an entrepreneur is the number of ideas that come to you. This is especially true if you have been working for people, and for once you are out on your own and have become your own boss. 

You have a googol of ideas. All screaming for attention. All burning with enthusiasm to be executed by you. Ideas, you have a lot. Energy, you may have a lot. Time that you have is finite. But priorities? You need to set a quota for priorities. So, saying “no” involves saying “no” to yourself and your initiatives and ideas. We are sure you have plenty of brilliant ideas. But we are also sure, some of those ideas are pretty crappy. Yet others are good but it isn’t time to say yes yet. 

The great ones? The great ones, you are working on them now. Focus on the work at hand. Make them great to serve your customers. As for the rest of the ideas? Buy a parking lot and park them there first. That means, write them down somewhere, where you can review them a year from now. 

You can keep adding to this list if you want. Interesting things happen when you do this. Over time, you will find even better ideas out of the juxtaposition of two mediocre ideas in your book.

Where do you want to start?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Who should you serve?

Serve your core. Be perfect for them.

Who are your core consumers or clients? Who is your largest group of loyal customers? Being an SME, chances are you want to do everything for everyone. 

You probably live with the mantra of “Fake it till you make it.” There is a time and place for this saying, just as there is a time and place for every saying and mantra out there. The time not to practice this mantra is when your biggest client asks you if you provide a certain service that you don’t. 

Don’t pretend that you do. Don’t think that you can scale, upskill, and employ to serve this client. And think that you can then sell this service to other clients later. 

All these go back to your company's expertise. What are you truly good at? What service is this client requesting? Does it even remotely orbit within your circle of experience and expertise? What are the opportunity costs? You already know these. But we can tell you, each time your biggest client suggests you provide that service for them, and it is additional money to make, you will entertain that idea seriously. Well, think seriously the next time it happens. Will you be excellent at it? Is it part of the grander plan for your company? Otherwise, it won’t work. You won’t be good at it. And you will be stuck.

What do you deserve?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Do you know your yes?

Your noes lead you to your yeses.

You must have the courage to say a lot of “noes” to a lot of opportunities, people, and prospects. Your commitment to your goals and ideals is often tested by your courage to say “no” to things that distract you. Seemingly good opportunities that can help pay the rent and more. It takes laser focus to know what you truly want and go after it.

Once you are seduced to walk down another path, your dreams will come to bite you in your ass. Learn to say “no” so you are clear on your pursuit of the kind of product, service, and company you want to build.

We are fully conscious of companies that have been built by saying a lot of “yeses” to all sorts of opportunities. In the early years of our company, we met a successful fellow SME boss. We asked him how he built a successful company like his? He told us he never turned down any opportunities because he was afraid no one would come to him anymore if he kept turning people down.

There you go. Another model that works.

You have to use your wisdom to make that choice between your “yes” and “no.”

Would you say no?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Do you know your enemy?

Forget Sun Tzu, for now.

You know that adage, know your enemy and know yourself, and you will win in a thousand battles? Yeah, that one. 

Well, Sun Tzu told me in a dream; if you believe me. He said the problem with most people is that they focus too much on one side of the equation. They focus on the enemy too much that they lose sight of knowing themselves. They spend so much time obsessing over the competitors they forget to concentrate on themselves. 

We have so many competitors in our category that we don’t really care. Don’t ask us what they offer and how much they charge. We don’t know and we don’t care. Really. Is this the best way to run your business? Well, no. For now.

It has worked because we focus on being the best we can be for our prospects and clients. We do our best by being unique. We have a small audience we dance for, and we craft our dance for them. If our competitors want to do a striptease to seduce our clients, that’s up to them.

Remember, focus on yourself. For now.

When you are strong, nimble, and able. Then, we can look at the main competitors.

Do you truly know yourself?

Monday, October 12, 2020

Is this one size smaller?

Do Less. Offer Less. Be Better.

Some businesspeople love the word “scaling”. Almost everyone wants to be big. Almost everyone wants to offer more services and more products. To beat the competitors, they get into the competitors' games. All in the name of making more money and becoming bigger.

There is another option. The challenge sometimes is becoming smaller and making better margins. Notice how some small companies want to be big, but big companies want to be small? Think through what you can and will offer. Sometimes stripping things down and offering less means you can focus on getting better and being known for it. 

Our suite of services is a total of six. Nothing more. We keep it that way because it allows us to focus and do what we do well. We want to be the best in what we do, and that doesn’t have to mean bigger.

Is it all about being bigger?

Friday, October 9, 2020

Who wants to be you?

Be Yourself.

Throughout life, you were told to be yourself and no one else. That you are unique. Why then would you create a business that is a replica of another?

Look at your business the way you look at how unique you are. Put your heart and soul into your business. Let us feel it oozing out of the deepest recesses of your operations to your frontline to us. Transfer that feeling to us. Sure, be inspired by other more successful business people but have your own spin. All else being equal when it comes to who to work with; you can almost bet the client is choosing the company they can connect with the most.

We have had our website copy stating “Our Don’ts” namely, “We don’t pitch, we are not an assembly line and we don’t do cheap” being copied by business associates and competitors. We think the way we said it and perhaps the gall of us to say it is pretty unique. We didn’t do anything. We let them be because we are sure they won’t be able to live it.

Our copy aren't just words. They are how we run our business. Our unique spin. We live it daily. When clients engage us, those words come alive. They are no longer word counts. They are words that count.

Be yourself. Let it come through in the company you founded. There is only one you.

What is in your soul?

Thursday, October 8, 2020

When do you fight?

Take a Stand. 

Bill Bernbach has a famous saying, “If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.”

It is important to draw a line in the sand that says, “This is who we are.” What is your purpose? What is your fight? If you are standing on this side of the sand, then who is standing on the other side?

For us, we have always been on the side of proven classics. For example, we believe in the 4Ps of marketing even though there are newer, sexier marketing mixes. The 4Ps have been around and have served many marketers for over 60 years. It will likely work for the next 60 years. We believe in integrated marketing and media integration. Digital is but one medium for reaching out. We don’t believe there are magic bullets. We don’t get too excited about the new and fancy because we know tried and tested is best. We believe small and medium enterprises (SMEs), when given the right counsel and system, will become bigger more efficiently and effectively. It’s one reason we teach a masterclass to SMEs almost every month of the year. These are some of the things we believe.

These things and some others define who we are. It alienates us from some clients. We get ostracized by some in the industry. It’s OK because if we were to sell tom yum, not everyone will appreciate the sour and spicy tom yum we serve. We aren’t going to sell watered down tom yum just because some people don’t like the heat and acidity that we serve.

Who would believe you?

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

What did you schedule?

Eat. Sleep. Lift. 

Business people don’t talk about this too much. It probably doesn’t fit well in most books about entrepreneurialism. As business owners, there is a tendency to wear a lack of sleep as a badge of honour. We will let you know it is a bad idea. You probably already know this. But worth repeating.

You can google up all the bad effects of the lack of sleep. We won’t stimulate your cortisol further here. You need to take care of your health. And it starts with sleep. Otherwise, you won’t have a chance to enjoy the wealth you've accumulated in the long term. 

To get to that long term, you need to eat healthily, sleep adequately, and move daily. Moving means walking, running, biking, swimming, lifting, and the likes. Get your body moving. A healthy body breeds a healthy mind. Get your seven to eight hours of sleep, cut that processed food, reduce the alcohol, and make sure you get regular workouts. 

A healthy body helps your creativity. Creativity is one of the biggest advantages you have as a business owner. You need it to solve your business challenges. You can better manage your mood and temper too when diet, sleep, rest, and exercise are aligned and in balance. At the very least, get your diet and rest under control.

We aren’t angels ourselves when it comes to all these three. But we do our best daily.

Is it a heavy responsibility?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Should we stop seeing each other for a while?

It’s not you. It’s me.

Don’t be afraid of losing some business. We remember very clearly each major account we lost. Either out of our own conscious decision to part with the client or the client decided that we were not the right consultancy for them. Each break-up is painful whether we made the decision or the client made the decision. Each time, there is anxiety. After all, it is a major account. 

Interestingly, each time this happened we became better. We got better at managing our business, we became leaner and meaner. Ready to hunt more effectively and efficiently. We got stronger too. One day, a very wise SME owner told us, “The more turmoil you face, the faster you will learn, the more challenges that you overcome, the bigger you will grow.” Perhaps, this is an entrepreneur’s growing pain. 

That night we heard the advice was like enlightenment to us. We no longer complain as much about challenges. Hey, we are still humans. Of course, we still complain, just less. We look back and it’s true. Each major account lost created turmoil. We went through the losses faster and we were able to handle it better. We became stronger and other accounts grew as well

There have been occasions where we would find a calm and collected manner to part with some of our bigger clients. It hurts. But it needs to be done for the good of both parties. Sometimes we get thrown off too. Sure, it hurts. But if each break-up only makes you stronger, I suppose it is good pain that is to be embraced.

We like to say, “Let go and fly.”

Do you miss me?

Monday, October 5, 2020

Did you win big?

Don’t underestimate small wins and small accounts because big wins and big accounts don’t come often. 

If you keep focusing on that big whatever, sooner or later you will be burned out. Getting a big account is exhilarating. Who doesn’t covet a big contract? But big contracts are marathons. It takes time to plan. It takes time to execute. It takes time to wait it out. It takes time for the opportunity to arrive, follow up and close. 

Sprint sometimes. Get the small accounts, the mid-sized accounts you can secure in the short run. These can be celebrated often and they keep your company going. They keep your company going monetarily and motivationally. These keep the momentum for the marathon when it appears. 

We are humans. We need to see results now and then, no matter how small. Don’t focus too much on the big stuff that you lose sight of the smaller stuff. A bunch of small and mid-sized accounts also means you rely less on the big account that will hold you by the balls. 

Your destiny should be in your hands. Not someone else’s.

Do you love tiny victories?

Friday, October 2, 2020

How fast can you do it?

Offer your products at the right price and deliver them as promised.

We have a saying in the industry that between the options - good, fast, and cheap; you get to pick two. You want it good and fast? You can’t have it cheap. You want it fast and cheap? It can’t be that good. You want it good and cheap, then it can’t be fast. You get the idea.

While it is a joke and talked about often, embedded is a truth.

As an entrepreneur, you need to think about the product you are offering the market. Does what you offer makes sense? Of all the things that you say you are good at delivering, does it make sense? Can you truly deliver or are you just faking it? 

Once you know the right product to offer, then price it. Does it make sense to offer it at this price? Aim to make money without draining your time and energy. Two things that you can’t issue a purchase order to buy. Guard them selfishly.

What’s on offer today?

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Who’s calling?

Park time aside for productivity. You will be interrupted because you are a decision-maker. It took us a few years to learn this. Often, we would feel we need to be with the team, say yes to the client’s request for a meet, answer that email immediately all in the name of service.

Your eight-hour day gets torn into 15 minutes here and 45 minutes there. Soon eight hours becomes 15 hours of work. Before you know it even after 15 hours of work you have nothing to show.

We learned that parking time aside is important. Uninterrupted time where I get to write my opinions and papers. Even this book, time was parked aside for it. Time to be parked aside for Wan Hoon to complete checking the invoices and cost estimates before they go out. These are our important and productive work. Work that impacts the business very directly.

Friday mornings are generally parked aside for us to discuss operational and financial issues and plans. Uninterrupted. 

You need productive time.

What did you produce?