Wednesday, September 23, 2009

All Business is about Selling

Do you agree that business is about selling? It’s logical to think it is true, since you can only generate income if you sell something, be it a product or service.

How to build a successful business? First of all, you need to sell, and be very good at it. Then, you need to have a team of people to help you sell. Not only that, you need to teach them how to sell even more. So it’s all about selling and teaches people how to sell for us.

What if I am not good at selling? Am I doomed to start a business?

If I try to sell Credit Card, Insurance, Unit Trust or MLM Plan, then I would need to be an awesome salesman in order to succeed as I deal directly with the consumer. If I am the master franchisee for a particular product such as Soft Drink or Soap, then I would need to sell my product to dealers, distributors and shop owners, so that they would sell my product. If I sell classified space like Star Classifieds or JobStreet, people actually call me up to buy my things, given that people know and trust my brand.

In terms of selling, I actually have 3 choices
  1. Sell the things to the customer directly
  2. Appoint dealers and distributors to sell my things
  3. Create enough advertising and awareness so that people would actually knock on my door and buy from me

What is Entrepreneur?

Having been an entrepreneur wannabe for the past 10 years or more (I still considered myself self-employed as of now), what do I know about entrepreneur? Who are they and what they are supposed to do?

I try to Google around and found too many un-inspirational official definitions, which are not what I am looking for. I am looking for something with more Ommmph, straight to the heart and make me stand up and say, “Nicely said”.
  1. Entrepreneur sees the opportunity to create new values. The most common things that we walk pass everyday could be the source of wealth.
  2. Entrepreneur dashes into hope, dashing into future and hoping tomorrow would be better.
  3. Entrepreneur is the creative force of economics. Without them, the economy is dead.
  4. Entrepreneur is a risk taker, and could loose it all, and they would do it over and over again.
  5. The first farmer is an Entrepreneur, as he makes city, commerce and civilization possible.
  6. Entrepreneur is determined and never gives up.
  7. Entrepreneur may be poor in money, but they are not poor in ideas and passion.
  8. Entrepreneur is thinker, innovator and doer.
Can you be an entrepreneur? YES. What is stopping you? Money? Opportunity? Risk? Idea? Or Yourself?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Entrepreneuring One More Time

I know that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, because I believe I could do better than the person who employs me. When I enter the world of business, I realized that I am not good in a few things: taking risk and doing sales. I started a zero cost freelance business and didn’t take the initiative to look for more business. I manage to gather a handful of customers, but the business didn’t flourish due to obvious reasons. As time passed by, I realized freelance software development is just a temporary solution. To gain long term financial freedom, I have 2 options: to develop a software product or web media.

I realized there is a lot which I need to learn. Though I had left employment for almost 3 years, but I had fallen into another comfort zone. I had managed to create a decent amount of income, but not enough to gain financial freedom (just like employment, but with more freedom); which means I need to breakthrough to the next level.

Whenever I know I had some weakness or problem, I can choose either to go around the problem or face the problem directly. I know I am not good in sales, so I choose to become a passive freelance software developer; waiting for people to knock on my door, and I don’t advertise or do cold call (which is really bad, some to think of it). Somehow I managed to live by in this delusion, probably people know that I am providing such services and I got repetitive business as well. It’s okay, but not great. Then I thought of another brilliant idea which does not require sales effort, which is web media: to develop a useful and informative website and collect advertising dollar from Google Adsense. I just need to focus on creating the web platform and content, and Google Adsense will help me look for advertiser. It took quite a few mistakes and a few year to make it work (and some money), but it just started to pay off in a small manner. Basically, I avoided doing things I am not good at.

Lately I engaged a few people and realized how a few of them actually become an entrepreneur. Software people like me always start with zero cost, and we provide our services (much like a house contractor). Most people out there are traders, where they bring in products with potential and try to sell it out in the competitive market as fast as possible (high risk high return). How do they succeed? They probably need to be familiar with the industry, so that they know who to sell it and how to sell it. They can try selling cheaper or at lost, just to penetrate the market and get people to start using it. They need to appoint as many dealers and distributors, thus mass email or faxing is required. What ever products you try to sell, there are already existing competitors in the market. The key is how are going to get people interested in your product, most probably by similar capabilities (or better if possible) and a cheaper price. Let’s say a Shell Lubricant is RM 100 per liter, what if I can offer you a lubricant made in Singapore for RM 90? There will always be people looking for similar product with a cheaper price. Once you can penetrate yourself into the market, then you would need to develop your brand name and appoint more reseller to strengthen your position and increase exposure. For most business, you don't need something exceptional and unique, just something useful and affordable. To tell the truth, most people would fail in their business; but, you will never succeed if you didn't do anything.

I realize in order to succeed in business; I need to take risk and do sales (or talk to more people about my idea, product or services). I need a marketing strategy on how to penetrate the market, or even be number one. I start talking to an old friend lately, and he makes an effort to introduce some business to me. Even though I don’t do much of sales, but at least I should talk to more people to increase my exposure (better start calling my old contacts for a drink).

For long term prosperity, I would need to focus more on a flagship software product and web media, and be more aggressive in terms of promotion and sales (telling more people about it). Age of 30 might be a bit too late to relook into the idea of entrepreneurship, as more commitments shall be coming in the next 5 years. Hopefully I had learned all the lessons required, and it’s time put my mind into full swing action one more time.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

How to make the number one product?

Everyone knows it sucks to be No. 2, as not only No. 1 is at least 100% better than No. 2, no one remember No. 2.

How to create a number one product? According to a pretty "boring" presentation by Joel Spolsky at Business of Software 2008 on being number one:
  1. How to make people happy
  2. Obsess over aesthetics
  3. The Culture Code (or Emotion attachment)

How to make people happy? Rather than the computer or software telling the user what to do, the user should have control on what they want to do. Don’t force them to install updates or restart computer, or go through a wizard of 10 steps. The user needs to feel in control and do exactly what they intend to do. Don't bother them with technical and administrative details.

Obsess over aesthetics.
Basically things need to look super cool and nice. Decoration might be non-functional, but people like it. People don’t pay top dollar for a powerful and ugly car. Your product need to looks much prettier and cooler than the competition.

The Culture Code.
Why is OS X cooler than Windows? Why Ruby had more passion than Python? Why do you feel safer in a truck vs. a sedan, while the truck is higher (less stable, more prone to rollover) and heavier (higher impact and less control)? The product needs to portray a certain feelings, be it simplicity, power or safety.

How do we compete in the market which is already crowded with hundreds or even thousands of similar products? Does the product with the cheapest price or best functionality wins? How do we know which one is actually better? Besides words of mouth, probably the product which looks pretty, simple and happy would win.