Malaysia Entrepreneurship

The Focus Dilemma

That’s one piece of advice I am sure you have been given many times by successful entrepreneurs and in many business books- stay focus.

I am saying it’s good or bad advice but allow me to elaborate a bit on that advice. Telling someone to focus is like telling someone to work hard. It’s a very vague advice and can potentially do more harm than good. Why is that so?

From the point of the recipient, the well-intended advice of working hard can be interpreted as unless you are willing to work your ass off, there’s no chance you will succeed. Unfortunately, you can be working hard your thus far but you might just not be achieving the results that you want.

Yet, there’s nothing wrong with working hard. Every successful entrepreneurs I personally know truly worked very hard, especially in the beginning phases of their ventures. To put things in context, by successful I mean the venture is making profits and the company’s culture is healthy with a team of great people working together to grow the company. However, the critical difference here is not just working hard but rather what are you working hard on?

You can work hard in ensuring every one in your company washes their hands after using the bathroom but that would hardly create any positive impact in your company’s bottom line.

Therein lies the most important piece of puzzle that you must figure out. You may have the talents, perseverance, discipline and even the passionate drive to succeed. But if you are working on the wrong stuffs, you will only be ‘rewarded’ with the results you don’t want.

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Slow down or even stop whatever you are doing just to gain clarity. You cannot see very clearly with all that noise that’s constantly seeking your attention 24/7. Re-calibrate your compass and regroup your soldiers.

Speed is important but speed in the wrong direction can sometimes be fatal.

2017-01-18T02:57:49+08:00January 18th, 2017|Entrepreneurship|0 Comments

This versus That

Ever since we started setting up e-commerce stores 6 years ago, we’ve been using OpenCart – one of the most popular open-source shopping cart systems. And the more we use OpenCart, the better we get at maximizing the features it has to offer. We also realized some of the stuff that OpenCart doesn’t do very well.

And then it comes to a point where you start evangelizing the product you use. Because you now understand the products much better, you become more attached to it. Which is a good thing, in my opinion.

However, it only becomes not-so-good when you start to spend time trying to convince someone who’s using Shopify or Magento (both of these are also shopping cart systems) on why OpenCart is superior than theirs. It’s like the whole Android vs Apple thing. Pointless. A solid profitable e-commerce business depends not just on the shopping cart system, but a lot of other factors as well. You need a good selection of products, photography skills, copy writing skills,  inventory system etc.

Just a few minutes ago, out of curiosity, I attempted to setup my first WordPress-based Woo Commerce store. I am actually quite impressed with the whole setup process. There’s a lot of things I think Woo Commerce has got it right. Of course the Woo Commerce team knows what they are doing- they got bought over by WordPress and I don’t remember any other theme or plugin developer who got to that status.

So, instead of cheer leading for just one particular product, your perspective will be expanded much more when you attempt to solve a problem with a variety of other solutions. Sometimes, this also forces you to look at the problem from a different angle, which you’ve never thought possible. Let the fanboys fight among themselves.

It’s what you ultimately produce that really matters.

2016-11-26T03:06:28+08:00November 26th, 2016|E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship, OpenCart|0 Comments

Not Good Enough

We can never be good enough. The bar gets higher all the time.

The moment I published a post or submitted the final draft for a product description, I always get that annoying feeling that there are better ways to write it. Each time we sent the product catalog to print, I always felt that I could have spend a few more minutes fine tuning it (there’s surely a better font for the title!).

They say you are your own harshest critics. Of course, you should always set high standards for your work. The quality and outcome of your work speaks a lot about you and your values.

But don’t let that paralyze and hinder you from starting a new project.

The key is to make sure the next version is always better than the last one.

2016-11-25T03:48:02+08:00November 25th, 2016|Entrepreneurship|0 Comments

Charting the Future

Though not much of a business plan writer, I recently realized the importance of having a plan for what you want to achieve in your entrepreneurship journey. While it’s true that we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, that doesn’t mean we can use it as an excuse not to chart the path of where the enterprise will be 10 years down the road.

And while I was fantasizing about where to bring the company, I begin to think along the line of life goals and business goals. I believe we should always put the life goals before the business goals. Not that business goals are less important, but if your business goals are not supporting what you want to with your life, what’s the point then?

To create a valuable business, at least in monetary terms, it could easily take anywhere between 5 to 10 years. And if I am to live to 60 years old, that would be about 8% of my life allocated into this pursuit. My grandpa lived to a ripe age of 98 years old though. So, it becomes pretty obvious that there should be some correlation between what you want to with your life as well as your business.

If one of my goals is to travel the world, it would make sense that my business would allow me to do that at least once every year. It could be a business trip or just a simple getaway, but if my business cannot allow me to even take a few days off, perhaps I am building a business that my life will hate.

I am going to put off my business goals for now while I work on the check list for my life.

2016-01-21T00:37:35+08:00January 21st, 2016|Entrepreneurship|0 Comments

Malaysia Online Marketplaces

It seems everyone wants to play the markeplace game. Who doesn’t?

A marketplace is extremely scalable. You don’t own inventories, you don’t need to spend money on warehouses and security. You don’t need to hire people to pick and pack. A wonderful business model. But like any businesses, if what you offer is pretty much the same thing your competitors offer, it won’t be long you start playing the price war game to get market shar. That’s when you start racing your way to the bottom of the food chain.

If you have been selling on Etsy, you would realize these people are not just out to make money on your transactions or to use your sales data against you (marketplaces are known to source products that are hot-selling and compete against their own sellers). Etsy is serious about helping sellers make a living.

Etsy made a compelling product for the supply side of the marketplace, the supply then unlocked the demand through white hat social media. Etsy’s incredible organic channel is the entrepreneurial drive of its sellers.

The underlying strength of this organic channel is evidenced by Etsy’s repeat purchase rate. That is, the majority of Etsy’s GMS is generated from repeat purchases. Incredibly, in 2014, 78% of purchases were from repeat customers.

Higher revenues for sellers => Higher seller retention => Higher seller personal promotion through social media => Higher visibility for Etsy’s products => Higher GMS => IPO

Nicolò Ungari, What Etsy’s S1 Filing Taught Me About Marketplaces

I totally agree with >Nicolò. And from my experience, eBay is exactly the opposite of Etsy and that’s why eBay is becoming irrelevant in today’s e-commerce marketplace.

On another note, Etsy has seldom, if ever asked their sellers to offer their products at deep discount to attract customers. They understood the economics of things. You cannot keep giving discounts and expect to run a healthy long term business. Let’s face it, all business needs profit to survive and thrive. But marketplaces in Malaysia doesn’t seem to think so- they are always offering vouchers, deep discounts and pricing gimmicks just to get the transaction, often at the expenses of their merchants.

If you are doing your business so you can win the title for ‘The Most Popular Merchant on ABC Marketplace’, by all means keep offering discounts and reduce your margins. If you are like most of the other normal business, then I strongly suggest that you be very careful with the marketing campaigns these marketplaces are requesting you to participate.

You should continue to sell on online marketplaces as long as it justifies the resources you invest in them.

I have been selling on major marketplaces, and the good ones will make sure sellers can thrive using their platform. Because in the grand scheme of things, as an online marketpalce, your merchants are also your customers.

2015-10-11T18:18:52+08:00October 11th, 2015|E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship|2 Comments

Am End Cees

First, we read that JVC is quiting Malaysia and relocating to Thailand.

About 500 workers from consumer and professional electronics devices corporation — JVCKENWOOD Malaysia Sdn Bhd — were laid off as part of the Japanese company’s plans to relocate its operations, shutting down its plant here.

News of the factory’s official closure today had been making its rounds over social media, attracting netizens to lament on the workers’ plight and the state of economy.

While some described the sudden closure as being unfair to the workers, checks by The Rakyat Post revealed that this was not the case.

“The workers were not laid off suddenly as they were already notified of the closure earlier this year,” a factory worker said.

While some of the staff were retrenched, appropriate compensation was paid and JVC had also assisted others to secure employment elsewhere.

“They told us that the factory operations were moving to Thailand,” said the worker.

Source: The Rakyat Post

And then we read about the possibility of Shell’s winding up their IT operation here in Malaysia.

Around 850 jobs could be at stake at Shell offices in Cyberjaya as the Anglo-Dutch oil major consolidates its IT functions at a new base in Bangalore, India.

While no decision has yet been made, a senior officer dropped this bombshell during a town hall meeting with staff in Cyberjaya late last month, said sources.

The Bangalore move could also affect some 1,000 third party contractors if they are unable to relocate to India, the sources said.

Source: RoyalDutchShellPLC.com

And we always read about how our government provides tax rebates, free trade zones and many other perks to get these multi-national corporations (MNCs) to setup their operations here. These MNCs provides job opportunities and brings money to invest, so goes the logic.

Anyway, I’m rather amused by the way these MNCs just close shops like that, citing higher cost of operation as their main reason. In a way, as a business strategy, I totally agree that when the environment becomes hostile, a business should always relocate to a more business-friendly environment, e.g. cheaper labor, lower tax rates etc.

But bear in mind, these corporations do not have any loyalty to the Malaysia, or it’s likely they pledge no allegiance to any countries. They will stick around as long as the countries are conducive to their operation. Instead of spending resources to attract these MNCs, I suggest that we put more effort to build up the local businesses in Malaysia, specifically the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These local businesses are the ones that faithfully contribute taxes and keeps the economy going even during the worst recessions. They are also likely the business segment that is responsible for the majority of the employment in Malaysia.

They are a lot of reasons why we should boost local businesses. Perhaps you can name a few.

While there’s nothing wrong with making Malaysia a lucrative place for foreign corporations to setup shop, but I really think that there’s nothing much being done to make life easier for local businesses.

2015-07-06T01:54:31+08:00July 6th, 2015|Daily Observations, Entrepreneurship|0 Comments