Pre-introduction: my portfolio
- manufacturer of Singapore Boys’ Brigade’s belts and ammunition pouches
The listed two is a fraction of my small business portfolio and experiences.
Please follow this link to see my life’s work.
The micro business has an indispensable place in society as a means of livelihood, as well as mobility for people who are left behind and who are disenchanted.
It is much less of the usual associations of prosperity and lifestyle, to many’s dismay. A fitting analogy of this delusion would be the expectation that one would ascend to become the CEO of a multinational corporation upon mere graduation from university.
By drawing on familiar experiences from one’s life in employment, aspiring entrepreneurs will be able to manage their expectations of the arduous yet exciting journey of starting a small business ahead.
What is business?
Business encompasses a wide range of models and activities. However, the ones we’re likely to associate with business are those that:
- require a business plan, thereafter investment funding or loans are sought out
- exhibit youthful exuberance
- are technology or digital related
- disrupt industry status quo
In order words, media worthy.
Fortunately, business isn’t represented by those.
What is business: Not as fancy as you will like
A quick mental note of the business friends in your life will suggest the level of grandiose of your start up.
The last time there was a sudden surge in personal friends entering business was the blogshop bloom at around the years 2008-2009, just as I was graduating from university.
If we go down various stages of business:
- Of those who started, how many survived?
- Of those who survived, how long did they last?
- Of those who lasted beyond 3 years, how many got their sales automated and used accounting software?
- How many of your friends’ businesses eventually become the ideal business model that is currently floating around in your mind?
ZERO… is my own answer.
The friends I have running medium to large businesses are those who had a family business to begin with. In Singapore, the age of a parents’ business would likely be anywhere between 10-20 years by the time the offspring enters it. The age of the grandparents’ business would likely be up to 30 years old or more.
Historical context, such as cost of land and price of labour, contributed to their growth, and the reasons for the high likelihood of failure of today’s start ups are best understood against it.
What is business and how to start up: Proper philosophical and mental approach
The past paragraphs dealt with challenging the myths of start up glory. From here on are broad principles that would get you there the soonest possible.
Consider the business scene in Singapore during World War Two. Consider a mother carrying her agricultural produce to the town centre to sell in a developing country or for that matter in Europe. Anything about business plan and the likes?
There that class of business persons who switches product range all the time from my Bazaar days. This is in contrast to the ideal High class business type that will exp
Knowing how much one is prepared to lose
Always start off with an amount you are prepared to lose. This is because the rate of business failure is extraordinarily high.
You would probably remember the celebratory small business launch of your friends’, which includes liking their social media business pages. Of these, you might like to check if they are still in business or out of business and back in employment.
Following your passion is not the same as commercialising your passion.
On the other hand, retrenchment of the employed occurs mostly during bad times.
Therefore, to begin, set aside a budget that you are willing to throw away. There is no sugarcoating it. Be prepared to lose that $5,000, or $10,000 or $20,000 etc. because you have a 99% chance of failing.
Engage in a business that concerns a subject matter that you love
The type of business to start is best understood against the amount of time one has to get the business off the ground.
One probably isn’t hard pressed for time if he or she was a student. On the other hand, a person in the mid 30’s, with a family and increasingly ageing parents, would have to bring home the equivalent of the opportunity cost of not working in the shortest amount of time possible.
With passion, you are an expert. Being an expert in your product and service reduces the amount of time needed to break even.
The best way to do that is to choose a product or service that you are passionate about.
However, this does not hinge on the misguided philosophy of “not working a single day in your life when you follow your passion”. Rather, the reason behind using your passion is that the learning curve is less steep. Understanding the nooks and crannies of your core product or service allows you to focus on the business part of things.
To understand this better, imagine starting anew when you change your major midway in university, or change jobs from one scope to a completely foreign one.
In case one harps singularly on the part about passion, this is the simplified equation:
Use your passion —–> reduce amount of time to get there / succeed / break even
Time, time, time, time, time. You don’t have it. You need to feed your family.
Blue collar entrepreneur or white collar entrepreneur?
My passion is not unique
I have a friend who started a dessert restaurant. It is neither new nor unique despite the creations. A cake is a cake.
I have a friend who collects scrap metals. It is not new and the trade has been around for at least two centuries.
Companies didn’t spend millions and billions on RND for a small timer to say, hey look I’ve got a truly unique product.
I have a friend who is a renovation contractor. I have a friend who is in the dim sum business. I have a friend who is a basketball coach.
One is likely to have at least a friend who has done tried his hand at business. You might like to consider if the product or service is truly unique.
To put things into perspective, RND goes on everyday in big corporations even as you are reading this. Companies do not spend billions of dollars on reasearch and development for a small business wannabe to say hey look, I’ve got a truly unique product.
Isn’t it great if I don’t have to find my own niche?
That said, for perspective, you wouldn’t have to if you were in a developing country. You can choose to sell rice cookers and still the demand cannot be completely fulfilled even if you sold all that you could deliver in a fully filled up pickup.
Who am I again?
In a new job, one slowly learns the various aspects related to the job on the security of a salary. Learning the ropes of business takes time too. You want to do it on net zero income, not on debt.
Consider the proportion of business owners to workers. It informs us of the rate of business success.
Insurance, wealth management, mlm, property. Structured organisation where one occupies the sales role with growth potential.
We don’t want to end up seek profits or seek forgiveness.
Private tutor, interior designer, main contractor, accountant, plumber, installer of car camera, website and app developer, YouTube star, instagrammer. Unstructured with choice for or without rental premises.
Herein lies the difference with free reign business. You take over the admin, the rental is.
Longevity of business and status as business person,