Father Sez

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Archive for the ‘Preparing for Entrepreneurship’ Category

Great Opportunities for the creative and the enterprising

Friday, February 27th, 2009

This morning I read a post by Bigger Pockets that talked about the opportunities in turning distressed properties around with different businesses. 

This is a thought I have long harboured in my mind. Malaysia still has a fair number of buildings lying empty and abandoned from the days of the Asian Financial Crisis. That was more than 10 years ago! And quite a number of factories have since gone vacant when we lost our competitive edge in manufacturing to Vietnam, Cambodia and China.

And now, with the present miserable economic climate, many more buildings are going to go empty. Buildings can go vacant or abandoned for any number of reasons. They can be unsold, or the businesses they were meant for fail to take off, or the owners go bust due to other problems etc.  

There is a building not far from where we live, which was custom built as a wet market. It was empty for several years. One enterprising guy seems to have leased the building and it is now a thriving sea food restaurant.  Another nearby factory building has been converted to an indoor futsal and badminton court, and appears to be doing well. 

Like Bigger Pockets pointed out, even if the unemployment rate is 10% (Malaysia’s rate is much lower, apparently), we should focus on the 90% who are employed and see what kind of a business can be created to serve this market. And the chances are that we should get fairly good deal on the vacant building. I also believe the Council Authorities will also do their bit. After all which District Council wants these ugly empty buildings on their watch? 

abandoned2.jpg

Abandoned buildings near Lukut

Last week, I saw this row of shophouses about 10 kms from one of our seaside resorts. I last saw them about 3 or 4 years ago and they were empty then. And they are still empty now.  

abandoned-shophouses.jpg

A closer view. Quite a lot of real estate for the taking. The question is what should we take it for?

I wonder when someone will come up with some creative idea for some new business there. A private school or a trade school perhaps.  An eatery, maybe?  Something that when we all finally get to see, will make us all go, “why didn’t I think of that!!!”

MLM – a way out for those wanting to make a change in their lives

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

There was a time when admitting to being an insurance salesman was a little shameful. This was despite the fact that insurance products were complicated and a very important  part of a person’s financial life. The industry has sort of rebranded and now insurance agents are better accepted as Financial Planners and such. There is also more regulation in the appointment of insurance agents etc. 

Not so for MLM. 

There is so much negative stuff written about MLM that most MLM’ers prefer not to admit their participation in the industry. I am quite surprised.  

I think that MLM is one of the best distribution and marketing channels any company can think of.  If not the best.  

Every business needs:

- to sell a product or service for which there is compelling demand and at a price that is competitive,   

- a set up to produce or make the product or the service, 

- a set up to distribute and deliver the product or service, 

- a set up to coordinate all these. 

These days there are many variations to all these, outsourcing, insourcing, internet marketing etc. MLM is just one of the ways to handle the task of distribution and delivery.  

So how did the MLM industry get tainted with such a bad image? I suppose it may because of some of those ne’re do wells who used the powerful MLM marketing/delivery system for their own shady intentions and along the way fleeced the distributors who had signed up. 

Well, these ne’re do wells and serial conmen exist in every industry and in almost all Governments. We don’t have to brand every MLM company as a con job just because of some previous bad experience or experiences.  

We are now living in dangerous and highly uncertain economic times. Whilst all of us should tighten our belts, we should not ignore the other side of the equation of increasing our income.  

And one way, say what you will, is MLM. 

And no matter what company you work for or own, if there is no compelling product or service to sell at a competitive price, that company is doomed anyway.  So if you are looking for a change in your fortunes, please add MLM to your list of options. But remember to do your homework well. After all, you are about to embark on your very own small business, that does not have many of the disadvantages of traditional small businesses. Here is one guide to help you choose if that particular opportunity is the one for you

I leave you here with one possible MLM opportunity, in which my wife and I have a vested interest.   

The MLM industry is going to boom

Monday, November 17th, 2008

With so many companies announcing cutbacks and many others freezing new hires it is no wonder that the unemployment statistics are so grim. So many of the laid off workers as well as new entrants to the job market will be looking at other avenues for making a living.  

And a common choice would be MLM. And why not? The advantages of MLM are many: 

-         a low cost of entry,

-         no hassles about keeping and maintaining workers,

-         no need for special premises,

-         no need to carry much inventory,

-         remuneration being closely related to the effort we put in,

-         training provided,

-         tremendous opportunity for growth,

-         being our own boss etc. 

Of course the basic rules of business must still prevail. The product or service being sold has to be useful and meet some clear need and be reasonably priced.  Still this industry seems to have acquired such a reputation that many just slam the door in your face or slam down the phone if you mention MLM.  Some may even be ashamed to admit that they are in MLM. 

I don’t think we should be. And I think MLM is an option that we should not simply write off. If it involves a product or service that we use ourselves and are happy with the price and results, then there is absolutely no reason why we should not recommend it to our friends and family. This is the foundation of MLM.  

Perhaps therein is the problem. Many of the participants are not truly convinced of the product and seek to push it only for the lucrative returns that we get in the form of all those commissions. The low entry barriers also allow for many uninspired participants to get in, try to push the product, fail, and move on to some other MLM company or outside the industry.  

And MLM companies too have had their share of black sheep.  

It’s not surprising that some people have such strong views against the MLM industry and their participants.  

Here is one such view, well written and very well discussed.

Despite all the bad press, I still feel that MLM is an option that is worth considering. As with any other investment or business, we have to do our research and seek appropriate advice if necessary.  

And if you are happy with the company, its product or service, the results that the product or service produces and the price you paid for the product or service, you have a basis for a business.  

Bliss Moments - Delicate Handmade Accessories

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Jewellery, crystals and semi precious stones occupy a special place in the minds of many people.  They associate different stones with certain powers - powers for healing, for happiness, for inspiration, wealth and love. And even for warding off “black magic”.  

The crystals and stones are also often linked to birth dates, where the correctly chosen birthstone would give great benefits to the person with the appropriate birth date. However it’s not easy to get dependable advice on what stones would be most suited for us. This is important as a wrongly selected stone might enhance the negative powers rather than the positive.  

Picture Source: Google 

Thus I am very happy to announce that a dear friend together with her friend has launched an online store, Bliss Moments, selling personal jewellery and accessories using these stones and crystals. All designs are unique and delicately handmade. The key characteristics of the semi precious stones used are also explained so that the buyer can make informed choices by matching the design with the stones. 

Do drop by and have a look at the Store.       

 

The narration of the Arab and the Camel

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Image Credit: Flickr.com 

Most of us might have heard the story of the Arab, the Camel and the tent. This can   perhaps be best described as the Arabic story form version of the saying “Give him an inch and he asks for a foot.” 

The more relevant story to me currently is the one with the same players minus the tent. 

The Quran is the primary source of guidance for Muslims. The secondary source is narrations of what the Prophet pbuh said or did during his lifetime.  

One of these narrations goes like this: 

“A person came riding his camel to the mosque. Upon reaching the mosque, he dismounted, left the camel and walked right into the mosque. The Prophet pbuh saw him and asked, “Why are you not tying up the camel?” To which the man replied, “I am leaving him in the care of the All Mighty.” And the Prophet pbuh told him, “Tie the camel to the post, and then leave him in the care of the All Mighty.” 

This hadith (as we refer to the narrations) has left a very strong impression on me.  I have no doubt that ultimately all that happens and all that do not happen are exactly as how the All Mighty wanted them to be.  Hence despite all that we plan, test, and do, the final outcome is not in our hands. So, theoretically we can just sit and gaze at the sky, ceiling or wall or whatever, do nothing and the outcome will be just as ordained.  

My thinking on this has, (ever since I read about this hadith)  been strongly influenced by the hadith of the Arab and his camel. We are required to do all that we can and then and only then should we leave it in the hands of the All Mighty.  

This is the hadith, I reflected back upon as I driving home today. My last day at work has been agreed as the 31st of July 08, the day after tomorrow. 

I have planned for this eventuality. I have lined up what I should do to ensure that my family is provided for. I even have a back up plan (i.e. to go back to the life of a working stiff - not a good one, but still a back up).   

And I believe that I have done all the above with all sincerity and given them the best that I have in my arsenal of knowledge and experience. 

Now as I wait for the moment to take the big leap into the unknown, I do so with the conviction that it is now in the hands of the All Mighty.     

Getting ready for a different rhythm to my life

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Image Credit: Google  

Madison dropped a nice bombshell last week. She declared that she was quitting (or taking a leave of absence) and focussing on her priorities. I have been sort of expecting something like this ever since she wrote some about some of the “pulls and pushes in her life” way back in January and February 08. 

Her life is going to change in more ways than one. She’ll have to find a new rhythm as opposed to the “go to work, come back from work” kind of thing. 

This is what I have been going through the past few weeks. Finding a new rhythm at least mentally. Unlike Madison, or Ms. SVB over at the Digerati Life or Trent at the Simple Dollar, my exit from the 9-5 working life has been a little involuntary. It was also not quite the same as the Snarky Chica’s walking away from corporate life.  

My case is a mutual parting of ways.  

A wise friend told me a long time ago, that a salaried guy would have to be sacked before he can do something worthwhile on his own. Well, I am finally getting the chance now.

For the longest time, I have wanted to be on my own. Independent. Not subservient to any of the more often than not, silly corporate rules and regulations. In March 08, I wrote a guest article in Free Money Finance (my first ever guest post) on how I intended to quit the rat race. Looks like it’s time to put the plan into action.   

I have now crossed the door. The actual day to carry my things out of the office has not been fixed yet and I am quite frankly eagerly waiting for that day. 

My wife, my in-house motivator and a practical optimist says that this would probably be the best thing that has happened to the Fathersez family.  As I look for my new rhythm of my life, there will be effects on the children. Though the family knows of this, details have not been discussed with the kids. 

This coming Saturday, I’ll have to talk to the youngest two girls. Then the boy. I am scared, as all salaried bozos would be if they were to lose the security blanket of the monthly pay check.

I must thank Ms. SVB, Trent, Snarky Chica and now Madison who have clearly shown that life will go on. 

As Winston Churchill said, “Most of our fears will never come to pass.” 

I’ll keep you posted.

If we are sellers, let’s do the right thing

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Perhaps a simple definition of business can be as the art of providing the buyer what he wants at a price that is acceptable to both parties.  Between the buyer and the seller come the dazzling array of weapons both parties use to get a “better deal” for themselves. Advertising, marketing, logistics, studying of product reviews, blah, blah…blah 

And when the going gets tough, some people from both ends resort to not so moral tactics. These are a couple of my recent experiences. 

a)  My attempt to sell my Timeshare 

I wrote about my Timeshare and my intention to get rid of it a little while ago. First I advertised on a free buy-sell internet portal and though there were some people who viewed, there was no interest. Then I advertised in a local paper’s classifieds. Two responses are memorable. One called up and told me that the price should be one sixth of what I had listed, as this was the price she had been offered earlier. I told her that that would be a good deal and she should take it.  

The second was a lady with 5 children. She had recently signed up for a holiday package and she had been “advised” to buy a Timeshare. So she called me and I told her (honestly and truthfully) about the reasons why I was selling the Timeshare. Clearly convincing her not to buy! 

b)  To pay down loans or invest 

I also wrote about this a little while ago. My daughter and my wife went to the bank to deposit her windfall into her savings account. (Next week, I’ll be going with my daughter to do what we planned with the money.) My daughter got a call from a bank staff, “advising” her not to pay down her loan at all. Rather she should use the whole amount to invest! 

I feel that this advice was tinged with quite a bit of “this approach will be better for the Bank.” Luckily for me, my daughter had made her decision after reading Mighty Bargain Hunter’s article. His graphic descriptions of piggy banks, made a powerful impression in my daughter’s mind. Something the bank officer could not even begin to match.

The point is that I try to ensure that all my earnings are “halal” or “kosher”. It should be earned from halal sources and I should have no fear in disclosing my sources of income. And I also want to leave behind people who would say good things about me. 

I am sure that had I tried harder, I may have convinced the nice lady to buy my Timeshare. She would then regret it and I am sure will spend a little time at cursing me.  

So if you are a seller, have the well being of your customer in mind. This principle may be lost somewhat in this age of mass production. However this principle thrived in the old days, when neighbourhood shops provided what we wanted and the shopkeepers had a genuine interest in what was good for us. 

I shall live by this principle when my goat farm is launched!

Spotting and seizing opportunities

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

We must all know someone who is always chasing some opportunity or other….someone who is able to visualize opportunities from something he or she hears, sees, reads about or has sensed.

A friend of mine, who had a full time job, did not think twice about driving a couple of hundred kilometres if he heard that there was a car available for sale at a price he believed he could make a profit from. Yet others will continously try to connect people with needs to people who could satisy the need.

These are people who have the entrepreneurial streak in them. People willing to go the extra mile just to check out the opportunity and just chalking it up to experience if that something did not work out.

Some do it professionally. I know of one young man with web design skills who balances a full time job with multiple freelance web design projects. Of course, he is BUSY!!!

Some others are unprofessional. They try their hands at projects that they have no knowledge of and more often than not end up damaging their credibility. This includes guys who hear from third parties and hawk this information without having verified anything.

How do we rate ourselves at spotting opportunities and seizing them?

My friend, Kalai, once described a mutual friend as follows.

“You give this guy RM5,000 a month and ask him to mine for gold for you at this mine, and you can rest easy, knowing that he will be bringing in the moolahs for you. You tell him that there is gold in the mine and ask him to mine, with no monthly salary but a share of the profits and he’ll say “no”.”

This mutual friend is a “salary” mentality guy. There is a strong need for security and a confirmed source of regular income. This overrides everything else.

Real entrepreneurs thrive on uncertainty, says Rita Gunter McGrath, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and co-author of book, “The Entrepreneurial Mindset.” Subtitled “Strategies for Creating Opportunity in an Age of Uncertainty,”. The co-author is Ian MacMillan, who teaches at the Wharton School.

McGrath and MacMillan list 5 common characteristics of Entrepreneuers.

1. They passionately seek new opportunities.

2. They pursue opportunities with enormous discipline.

3. They pursue only the very best opportunities.

4. They focus on execution — specifically, adaptive execution.

5. They engage the energies of everyone in their domain.

(Extracted from review by Ms. Barbara Fox.)

Trent at the Simple Dollar and Ms. SVB over at Digerati Life have both announced their decisions to quit their full time jobs to pursue their dreams.

I congratulate them for their courage and also for the astute planning they have done to prepare themselves for this move.

I also fantasize about leaving my job and pursuing my dreams. I have yet to find the courage to make this move. My mind set is only slightly less salaried minded than the mutual friend that I described earlier.

I have turned down a couple of profit sharing offers earlier in my life, where the salary offered was much lower than what I was getting then.

Presently I have two business opportunities that I am incubating. Both of them look good and I have a reasonable sense of control over the projects. The next few months are going to be very important for me as I work together with my partners on growing the projects.

As I work on preparing my mind to cut the safety harness of monthly remuneration (my grateful thanks to people like Trent and Ms. SVB, who have often written on this), I also want to keep reminding myself of the habits/characteristics of entrepreneurs.

I have let opportunities go before. This time, the opportunities have been taken on. They are being worked upon and improved. And this time, I intend to make the best out of them!

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