Father Sez

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Archive for the ‘My goat farm’ Category

I must really guard my multiplier effect. After all, it all starts at a micro level first.

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Recently a friend sent me a link to an International Herald Tribune article that talked about Dubai spiralling downwards. Not too long ago, Dubai was more in the news for the highest and the most posh buildings. And it was unthinkable that the party would ever end.  

Now the IHT reports that cars are being abandoned at the airports as the owners flee the country leaving a trail of debts. Property prices dropping 30% in 2 – 3 months. Well, the party seems to be coming to an end.  

I read this IHT story not long after reading Brip Blap’s “Trickle Down”. BB wrote about how as the heavy hitters got laid off or had to tighten their belts, they would in turn let go others lower down the food chain like nannies and maids. Small business gets hurt and so on. The Trickle Down effect. 

Almost 90% of Dubai’s population are foreigners. Indians, Malaysians, Europeans and God knows who else. I expect that many of the Indians and Malaysians working in Dubai could be considered relatively “upper middle class”. Getting paid in Dirhams and in amounts far higher than those working at comparative jobs back home. They and their families might or might not have adjusted to this upper middle class life.  

I think most Asians working in Dubai would gave lived a fairly frugal life, and not extravagant lives. But some might have been unable to save because of having to support a large extended family back home. These people will be badly affected by this “trickle down” effect if they lost their jobs. On the other hand some of these families might have stashed away significant amounts of this income in the form of savings. Some might have invested in property or businesses back home. When they are sent back, there might likely be a “trickle up” effect as they start small businesses back home. 

The Fathersez family also has this responsibility. We have 3 people earning their livelihood from our goat farm. Two are Indonesians whilst the third is Malaysian, my partner. I am sure the lives of my two Indonesian workers’ families have improved many fold since they started working with us.  

I must try my level best and guard the business of our farm.  

One for reasons of getting a return on our investment.  

And two, more humanly and more importantly, to prevent a “trickle down” effect being caused by me.

We just launched our farm’s website

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Yesterday, our farm’s website went live. 

It’s going to be a simple website, in fact more along the lines of a blog.  

There are a number of blogs put up by goat farmers all over Malaysia. Some of these blogs seem a little overloaded with advertisements and some others have music clips. 

Our blog will just focus on the activities of our farm. No ads, no music, no distractions.  

We just bought 5, yes 5 houses!

Friday, August 15th, 2008

I better qualify this statement before someone applies to be my apprentice thinking that I have just become the Donald. 

Yes, we did buy 5 houses, but not to rent out or to flip or to live in. Rather we bought these houses to cannibalize them.

The principal material of our goat shed is wood. For our first shed we bought wood from the timber guys and paid a fortune. Now, with petrol prices up 41%, cement and steel prices up and fertilizer prices up, the timber guys have also upped their prices. (I am not sure of the connection, but it’s a take it or leave it situation).

So we had to look for alternatives.  

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An inside view of one of the houses.  

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 A view from the outside.

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Another view

There are thousands of wooden houses in Malaysia, some really magnificent, others run down. Some of these houses have been abandoned for years and are in states of complete disrepair. But they do have solid wooded planks and beams which can be salvaged. 

The trick is identifying the houses, finding and then getting the owner to agree to sell. And, of course, we don’t get the deeds to the house. Just the rights to all the material we can dismantle and cart away.  

We have now found 5 such houses. Whilst they look quite inhabitable, the wood can be put to good use. The 2nd goat shed is going to be almost twice the 1st shed’s size, so we can do with all the savings we can make. 

We have also found the team to dismantle the houses. The work should start next week and hopefully the wood can be safely transported to our farm within ten days after work starts.  

Let’s see how this project goes.       

Applying 5 S Methodology, the cornerstone of Japanese lean manufacturing strength in our daily lives – The Final Part

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

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A 5S poster hanging in our goat farm. (We have 6 of these all over the farm). We got the posters from the Malaysian National Productivity Corporation, a Malaysian Government body first set up with the help of the UN and which lists amongst its objectives ”the promotion and dissemination of productivity related information and issues”.

Note that the poster is in Bahasa Malaysia, and the MPC has also used suitable words to maintain the 5S acronym.  

Continuing our series on 5 “S”….. as consistent practice and application of the Japanese “5 S” Methodology helps to form a strong foundation for our journey into continuous incremental improvements in our workplace, homes and lives.   Seiri – the first “S” 

Seiton – the second “S” 

Seiso – the third “S” and the fourth “S”, i.e. Seiketsu. 

The fifth and final “S” in the chain is:

Shitsuke        

“Shitsuke, means ‘Discipline.’ It denotes commitment to maintain orderliness and to practice the first 4 S as a way of life.  The emphasis of shitsuke is elimination of bad habits and constant practice of good ones.  Once true shitsuke is achieved, personnel voluntarily observe cleanliness and orderliness at all times, without having to be reminded by management.”

Once the 4 S are ingrained in us, the 5th “S” calls for us to make a commitment, implement the rules and make the practice of 5 S an ingrained habit.

Probably many of us are actually practicing the tenets of 5 S, based on what we have seen elsewhere, without actually realising. Some simple examples of 5 S in daily life are given by Dr. Chao-Hsien Chu of  Pennsylvania State University, USA. 

We have instituted the practice of 5 S in our goat farm. I am confident that consistent application and practice of these simple words of wisdom can only be of benefit to us.

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A place for every broom and a broom for every place. 

Photo Credits: Zai, my partner at the goat farm

Alhamdulillah, We have had the soft launch of our goat farm - finally.

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Last Saturday, the 12th of July we officially launched our goat farm. 

The opening date had first been set for April. This was postponed to June due to my mother’s demise. Then the June date was postponed due to another reason. The 12th of July launch went just fine. 

We had a small “kenduri”. I suppose the closest translation would be a thanksgiving feast.

The festivities were all handled by Zai, (my wife’s cousin brother and our partner in this venture) and his family. True to the Malaysian kampong (village) tradition, almost the whole village turned up to help. As this is the standard practice in almost all Malaysian kampungs, this did not result in many cooks spoiling the broth, rather it was many hands making light work. 

The occasion was made all the merrier by the inclusion of the “aqiqah” ceremony for my nephew’s daughter. The local imam read a short thanksgiving prayer followed by a delicious lunch prepared by the village team led by Zai’s mother, Puan Rokiah(who is more often called Unggah (short for Tunggal or only child).

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Ungga planting the neem tree. Picture taken by my son, Abang.

       

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Picture of my sister in law planting the Neem tree. Picture taken by my son, Abang.

To mark the opening, my eldest sister in law (the matriarch of our family now that my mother is no longer with us) and Ungga planted a neem tree each. God Willing, the farm should thrive, grow and provide for all of us varied benefits just like a neem tree is believed to do. 

My eldest girl could not make it as she was not well. She has been given a blow by blow account by her Mama, and I am sure her best wishes were with us. 

We now have one goat shed up, 45 goats + one Indonesian worker to help Zai operate the farm. The current objective is just to get into and understand fully the rhythm of the operations and to get used to rearing and looking after the goats. Issues such as looking after their health, their feeding rates, cleanliness of the shed, etc. Another worker is expected to join us shortly and then we would start on our second shed.   

The website for the farm is still in progress. Our plan is to get this website launched by the second week of August, and after that all the goat posts will be shifted there.  

God Willing, this farm shall now be a major focus for the Fathersez family.    

Applying the Bengkang Theory on our goat farm

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Some years ago I worked for a boss who was one of the best communicators I have ever known. He could colourfully describe almost any management fad or theory in such a simple manner that anyone could understand.    

His description of getting ISO certification was his “Bengkang Theory”. No Malaysian can profess not knowing what a “bengkang” is. It is a local Malaysian delicacy served at almost every function, and we have busloads of functions all year around.  

A Malaysian delicacy……..a bengkang cake.  For a recipe, please check out this site.

My former boss’s theory was that: 

If the correct and required amount of ingredients are listed, and the way to mixing them up shown clearly, and the temperature setting of the oven and time needed in the oven are stated, then any body could make a “Bengkang”. 

So relatively complicated tasks can be simplified in such a manner that novices can produce the desired results on a consistent basis. 

And for our goat farm, we intend to implement and practice this Bengkang Theory.  

The farm will be manned by workers who do not have degrees or diplomas. The workers would be just normal people with basic intelligence and perhaps a lot more street smarts than the most of us who read blogs like this one. 

My intention is :- 

a)    Sit with the workers and prepare simple drawings of the basic work flow and processes. 

b)    Go through with the workers on these processes until there is complete and clear understanding. 

c)     Prepare checklists for the repetitive work to be done daily, weekly and monthly. And let them have the freedom to simplify the work processes as they go along. These simplified processes, once agreed upon to be re-documented and the process repeated.  

The primary goal is to keep the goat sheds scrupulously clean, and the goats well fed, healthy and reproducing profusely.  

If we get this right….the rest should be easy.  Time will tell.        

Progress Update – My goat farm

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

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Our first goat shed 

I have not updated all of you on the progress of our goat farm. 

Upon completion of the sheds and other ancillary buildings, we were scheduled to have our “kenduri” in early April. My mother’s untimely demise put paid to this plan and now a new date has been scheduled for the 22 June 08. 

Development Progress 

The first goat shed has been completed and is ready to receive the first goats. We have built a small open shed where the Napier grass would be shred before being fed to the goats.  

We are also growing other fodder trees, namely, Petai Belalang and Geti all around the farm. These trees have just been planted after being incubated in our house in poly bags for the last month. It’ll be about another 6 months or so before they’ll be reasonably well grown. 

The construction of the farm house to accommodate the workers is underway now. This house should be completed by the end of the next two weeks.  A chicken coop for about 100 free range hens is also under construction. This should also be completed at about the same time as the farm house. 

Electricity supply is in.  

Water supply will be from 2 wells. This week the water pump will be fitted and the water reticulation checked out for pressure and leakages. These two wells will be the source for the goats’ drinking water, cleaning of the sheds (another 3 sheds will be built over the next 6 months), watering the garden and for the workers sanitary needs.  

Identifying the Workers  

This has also been completed. The two young men are now back in their hometown in Indonesia and sorting out their travel papers. My wife is coordinating with the Malaysian Immigration Department for the necessary work permit papers. This may be a little convoluted process, but I think this should be sorted out before the end of this month.

Then there is the Indonesian side to sort out.  Hopefully the boys will be in by early July.  

Buying the first batch of goats 

The first batch will be 40 goats, 2 male and the rest female. These goats will be bought locally and only after the workers are in. In the meantime, Zai (my wife’s cousin and our partner in this project is identifying local sources. 

So far the plan seems to be on track. 

The critical path is the arrival of the workers at the farm. There are still a number of   things that have to be sorted out.  The biggest of which would be the waste disposal method. 250 goats can produce almost 10 tonnes of waste and we intend to dry the waste, powder them and then pack them for sale as organic fertiliser.  

I am going to enjoy this!    

My business start up – the area where costs must not be the primary consideration

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

I have written before about my farm. The farm is expected to have its trial runs next month and begin operations in September / October 08. As such, I have been keeping a sharp lookout for tips, suggestions or advice on aspects of running a business.  

I read Jason Calacanis’s post on a list of 17 tips on how to save money running a start up. Though I did not find anything that would be of special interest for me, this post appears to have raised a storm on how the post addressed the issue of workers.  

Ben Yoskovitz of The Instigator Blog went deeper into the issue of whether to hire workaholics for a start up, and lists his choice of character traits he would want his workers to have.  It is clear that we would all want workers who are :- 

-         Honest,

-         Can and want  to work hard,

-         Passionate about the business,

-         Team players,

-         Willing to go the extra mile for the business. 

I’ll certainly need to find such people to work with me on the farm. I am sure, with some adroit searching, I should be able to find someone with most of the above requirements. 

On the other hand, what would the “potential worker” be looking for? Would working in a small goat farm excite anyone enough to be willing to go the extra mile?  

Farm jobs are generally low paying ones. They also have limited scope for upward mobility and none of the usual perks found in working in a city office. In addition, they involve long hours and hard physical work. The usually lowly educated farm workers are easily enticed into other jobs by small increases in pay. 

Mistakes or carelessness may result in death of livestock. And reliable farm staff are not easily available, so when a worker walks off, it is quite painful. 

Considering all these, this is my plan to get workers who fit the “ideal worker” profile.

 a) I have to look for them in places where low pay by Malaysian standards is not too bad a deal. 

Indonesia, Myanmar and Indian workers are quite common in a lot of Malaysian farms, factories and even households as maids. Many of them come from rural background where they’ll have some idea of farm work. 

I have no intention of just getting my workers from the employment agencies. I’ll have to invest time and effort to make sure I get workers whose backgrounds “father authority” figures I get to know.  By “father authority”, I refer to his local leader whose opinion he would respect and obey.  

I plan to visit Indonesia for this specific purpose of finding suitable workers. Before the visit, I’ll get the process of short listing done by asking assistance from our Indonesian partners for the tower project as well as some other Indonesian elders whom we know.  

 b) I have to look out for them just as I would look out for my children.

These workers would have dreams that are not too different from mine. They would want to provide for their families as well as they can. They would want a good retirement fund. They would want to provide better education opportunities for their children than they themselves had.  I have to work out a way where the free funds they would be able to save from their wages would be better than whatever they have legally tried so far.  I would have to provide them with decent accommodation and food. I would have to guide them on some savings strategies such that they see a fund growing. 

c) I have to train and motivate them well 

This will be a little tricky, as I myself do not know much about goat rearing. However, I am confident that the training methods applied in Ghana with my Ghanaian colleagues will work in good stead.  The system I followed then was :-

-         being open with them,

-         discussing with them on what would be the best way to do something,

-         documenting the process in simple diagrams,

-         continuously reviewing this process with them to ensure their comprehension,

-         allowing them free room to improve on this base process and

-         documenting the new improved process and so on. 

Motivation on the other hand is not something where a standard template can be applied. On this I’ll have to tread carefully. I believe that if there is mutual trust and if I can show him that there is a great bright light ahead, I should be on the right track. 

d) Still, I cannot expect to keep increasing their wages as time passes. 

Some years ago, I was working in a hotel chain. The Hotel Staff Union of Malaysia has a good employment contract, with yearly increases in wages. This got to a state, where the bellhops, after working for umpteen years, were earning salaries on par with graduate workers with a few years of experience. Eventually this proved unsustainable and the hotel chain closed down. 

I am planning to open mirror operations, where I put up the finances and they run the farms on a profit sharing basis. Say, after 5 years. By then, both of us should be able to gauge our respective sincerities and trust in each other well. 

This way:-

a) My most experienced and trusted workers have a chance to run their own businesses,

b) I should be able to provide a way out to the problem of high cost people in low cost jobs and,

c) allow me to embark on the expansion path. 

Looks to me like a good win-win situation.  

In the final analysis, I believe that the employer should take care of the employee well and the employee then takes care of the rest.  

The human aspect of my start up is where cost considerations will not be my primary focus. 

 

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