Archive for November, 2009

Today, I want to start coaching you again on becoming a greater success in whatever you do. I will share with you a simple but powerful truth: “If you want to increase your success, you must:

1.)    Know what you really want in life

2.)    Have the will and desire to go for it; and

3.)    Learn from the experience your journey will bring

So let me ask you: “Do you Really Want to Succeed?”

If you follow what I have to say, I guarantee that you will be successful sooner rather than later.

Tell me if you can relate: Too many times, we get distracted with all that’s happening with everything around us. We run around like headless chickens and most of the time we spend all our energies on things that get us nowhere. It can’t be helped, that is what Life does, it provides you with challenges and distractions which you have to figure out what to do.

What I’ve realized early on and what Life has taught me is that you can’t handle everything without going crazy.

So lesson number 1 to be successful is to “simplify your life”. Every now and then, when I begin to feel overwhelmed, I undergo a “Life simplification” ritual. This basically means, I remove and let go of all the things that are weighing me down. I choose what I really want to be doing and achieving and I focus on (at most) only 3 of them at any given time. I become obsessed with the things I choose to focus on and nothing else matters until I achieve the goals that I set.

Are you overwhelmed right now? Then it’s time to simplify your life and figure out what you want to achieve.

Once you figure out what you want to do. Here comes the next step: Have the will and desire to achieve it.

If there is one thing about me, it is that I will never give up a goal that I set in my head. If I “suck” at that particular area in my life, and I truly want to improve that area, I will keep at it until I get it right. I call it “Stick-to-it-ivity”. In other words, I finish what I start. I guess it was how I was brought up. When my mom would tell me “finish your food”, I obeyed. But kidding aside, it is a trait that you have to develop for yourself, there is one very successful entrepreneur who also has this quality and he goes by the name of Walt Disney. Disney did not start out as a success story immediately, in fact there were huge set backs in his life that if he did not “stick to it”, where would we be?

The trick with never giving up a goal for me is what I learned about life early on. Life will always test your resolve. Life will throw you obstacles and problems that you never thought of. You will be discouraged by people that you love. You will feel frustrated and ignored by the people that you set out to help, you feel that life is hard and are inches away from giving in and giving up. At this point I tell myself 6 very powerful words:

Never give in, Never give up.

Because the true secret about the hardships of life is this: “Life’s purpose is not to make you fail, life’s purpose is to make you succeed. (Even though it does not seem that way). Life is a great teacher, the obstacles are how it teaches you to be better. “when life seems to want you to turn around, it is actually a signal for you to keep going. When things get tough, it is the most critical sign that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing.”

Trust me on this because every time I achieve a goal, the larger the success I become.

Are you having a hard time with what you are trying to achieve right now? Remember NEVER GIVE IN, NEVER GIVE UP. I guarantee that if this is what you really want in life and you follow what I say, you will succeed sooner rather than later.

Now the last step is the most practical step of all: Be willing to invest the time and effort in increasing your skills to achieve what it is you are trying to achieve.

I’m a fervent believer that learning never stops in the classroom and that Life will teach you things that you never thought possible. However, the problem with learning with life alone is that it is learning by trial and error. So if you can avoid trial and error altogether and learn from someone who has achieved more than you, then that would even be better don’t you think so?

So before I get into something that I have no clue on, I always make it a point to “invest in myself” first. Meaning, I will never hesitate to buy and learn from books and seminars, learning events, and spending time learning with people more knowledgeable than me. And once I listen to what they have to say, I apply the lessons immediately and start to really learn through a little trial and error of my own. And although I will still make mistakes, I drastically reduce the errors and the time to achieving my goals.

So if you want to really succeed in anything that you want to do, follow the three things that I do. And you will see that you can be a success sooner rather than later.

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The week before I let go of my Makati office, I wanted to say goodbye to it by taking my wife (girlfriend at that time) there for a surprise candlelit dinner. I had my one remaining staff put up about 20 candles and a soft romantic melody playing in the background before she left for the evening. I had everything planned out and when we walked in, the candles took her breath away. I sat her down in the corner of the office where it overlooked the light-filled city below us. Needless to say the evening was picture perfect and utterly romantic, until the part when I showed her what was for dinner.

Because I was still in debt at that time, we dined on 1 order of Mc Donald’s French Fries, 1 box of Chicken Nuggets and a glass of Orange Juice.

That was literally all I could afford at that time, so rather than starve, I decided to go with it and give my best smile while I gave it. And before I could even show how deeply embarrassed I was, my wife without hesitation and with the most sincere smile looked at me and told me that this was the best dinner in her life. And that was all it took to make me want to give her better food and a better life for all her life. That night, she gave me the ultimate reason to want to be a “better man”.

Within 6 months from that night, my troubled business had turned around and we had recovered 90% of my losses thanks to the virtual office that my wife had recommended and the sales coming in. However I was still not making any money because I did not have the right attitude towards money

My problem was that I never really managed the money coming in versus the money going out. Up until that point, I just concentrated on the money coming in, and never really minded where it was going. And worse still, like many men, I was never comfortable talking to women about finances. Like many men, I preferred to keep it a secret.

But my wife would have none of this “male money secret” nonsense, she told me point blank “If you really want to marry me, you’ve got to shape up your finances. I’m willing to help you, but you have to get with it.” Now, when your wife speaks like that, you never argue, you just do. Besides, I really did want to marry her.

So together we explored what I was doing wrong and found solutions that guide me till this day:

1.)    I should have given myself a salary – I used to think that the business is mine anyway so why should I salary myself? My wife’s practicality made sense, she said: “Well even if the business is yours, you still have to eat right? How can you eat if no money from the business is going to you?” So I gave myself back then a small token salary of P5,000 per month. Today, I always make it a point to give myself a salary for all the businesses that I build. Even if it is my business, I’ve learned practically what it means to “pay yourself first”.

2.)    My credit card bills were through the roof – Every time my bill came, I only paid the minimum amount due and worse I would say yes to every single “insurance” offer from my credit card. So I was paying a HUGE amount in unnecessary expenses plus interest every single month. My wife almost freaked out when I finally revealed this to her. But calmly she explained to me that insurance is good, but the terms they gave me were 10 times more expensive than others. And when it comes to paying only the minimum—that was the worst sin of all for her –“Never ever do that” she scolded, “Did you know that when you pay just the minimum amount, you are just paying in essence the interest payment and only a very small amount is removed from your overall balance?” So I had the credit card company first remove all my “card loaded insurances” which immediately lightened my monthly bills. Since I couldn’t pay the entire credit card bill all at once, I did my very best to pay 4 times more than the minimum amount every month. This drastically reduced how much I still had to pay. When I finally had enough money, I paid off the entire balance. Today, all my credit cards are debt-free.  I always pay in full and ON Time. There are no “useless” expenses on any of those cards and my credit line is extremely healthy.

3.)    I never recorded my expenses – Who has the time, right? Wrong. It’s the most important activity in managing money. My wife once again pointed out, “How will you know if you are making enough money if you don’t even record what you are spending on?” So with lots of help from my wife, I started a simple recording system where I record money coming in, money going out, and how much money I have left. It helps tremendously because it makes you more aware of how much money you have at any given time.  Today, I am very hands-on in managing my personal funds, investments and business cash flow.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not know exactly my finances. All of my businesses are debt-free and profitable.

It took me 9 years to get to where I am today. But I wouldn’t have made it if I have not learned early on that: “All of your success in making money will mean nothing if you do not know how to manage your money properly. If you do not know how to manage your money get help from someone who does, better if it is your spouse.”

 

Mark So is the Chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy and Forex Club Manila.  He regularly holds seminars on Business, Finance and Investments.  To read about past articles from the BIZMAKER column, you may visit www.markso.wordpress.com.  For more information about his seminars, you may contact Tel Nos. 6874445, 6874645, 6873416 or visit www.businessmaker-academy.com or www.zerocapitalclub.com.

(Continued from last week’s article… if you have not yet read Part 1, please click here)

One month before I met my wife, I started to work and turn my troubled business around. So I did what I should’ve done a long time ago, I fired my non-producing General Manager and her cohort but kept one staff who was loyal to me.  That reduced my costs tremendously. I could now afford to pay that one staff to continue to chase after the deals that we were supposed to close and I could start to pay off the debt that had piled up.

But cutting costs wasn’t enough.  I needed to get more sales in so that I could get out of debt faster.  So I made a few phone calls and I was referred to a person who could probably help.  I called and arranged a meeting with the person and she mentioned that she would introduce me to her business partner so that we can discuss the matter thoroughly.  I did not know it at that time, but the business partner was destined to be my wife.

When I first met my wife Jhoanna, I was immediately attracted to her. She was radiant, elegant, beautiful, and little did I know then, a genius. After a minute or two of introductions, I explained what I thought would be the best deal ever and handed her a 2 page proposal.  After looking through it, she simply said: “Your deal doesn’t make any sense for us to get into it.” Bam! I thought I had the deal in the bag, where did that left hook come from?

Although the deal did not push through as planned, my wife made me realize one of the most important traits a successful entrepreneur should have. And that was to think about action and results, not fluff. You see the deal that I was proposing was to outsource 100% of the work of my company to them and I would take 70% while they got 30%. And how I went about pitching the deal to them was with nothing more than charm and fluffy words. My wife saw right through that and showed me with her matter of fact statement that handsome and charming I may be, that would get me nowhere. A lesser man would have just walked away, but not me.  I got even more attracted to her. She gave me another reason to turn the business around.

Well, back to the drawing board I told myself. The one staff I had kept was making little progress, there was still NO income, and the debt was still piling up. I had to do something more drastic.

Now at that time, Jhoanna and I were already dating and she became my sounding board, business advisor and more importantly, my source of strength.

One of the most crucial ideas that she gave me during those times was to get a “virtual office” to lessen my operating costs yet make my company still professional looking.  A virtual office is a business center service where you pay a minimal fee to rent the office address including the phone line and a receptionist without actually staying in that office.  With my wife’s help (she called up all the virtual offices in town and got me the best deal), I got one that charged only Php900 per month.

Armed with this solution, I decided to let go of my Makati office and phone lines to save more on costs. I made a deal with my staff to let her bring home the computer and printer and to use her home phone temporarily. I would pay for half of the phone bill and whatever excess electricity she would consume because she’d be working from home.  She agreed.

Interestingly, the Virtual Office was the key to getting our first client in. This was the next crucial lesson my wife had taught me about business:  You need to package yourself well. Perception is key. The Virtual Office allowed me to look extremely professional, yet lessen my overhead.

On our calling card was printed:

Office Address: …West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange Center, Exchange Road Ortigas, Center Pasig City, 1605 Philippines.

Phone: (632) 6873416; Fax: (632)6874645

I instructed my staff to call all our prospects and inform them that we were moving to a better office. When my staff started calling our prospects telling them that exact line and of course our office address and phone numbers, guess what?  Most of the prospects’ reactions were very positive and that immediately increased their perception of us.  In fact, one of the comments that my staff relayed to me was “Wow you guys must be doing really well, because that address is expensive”.  Little did they know that it only cost me P900 / month!

And sure enough, after a couple of weeks, we closed our first major deal. It was for a Million Pesos Gross and that was the first sigh of relief I had in 10 months. Finally, the business was turning around.

The projects were now coming in, and in the next 6 months, we had recovered 90% of the losses which was truly remarkable. However, I was still not making any money at that time from the business, I was still in debt and for some reason, I could not pay it off. Now this is where my wife truly helped me out. The turn-around of the business was just a small victory for the real problem that had to be fixed was my unhealthy attitude about money which my wife, through tough love, patience and practicality taught me to turn around as well.  (To be concluded next Sunday, Nov 15, 2009)

Mark So is the Chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy.  A sought-after Business Trainer & Consultant, he has taught thousands of people practical insights and strategies to win in business.  On November 14, he is scheduled to conduct his signature seminar on Capital Raising and Cashflow Management.  For more information, you may contact Tel Nos. 6874445, 6874645, 6873416 or visit www.businessmaker-academy.com or www.zerocapitalclub.com.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article entitled “The Best Advice I could ever give you about Money”.  I received a lot of feedback for that article and I thank everyone who read and wrote back. If you were not able to read that article yet, please read it here

This post is the story about how I started in business, the hardships I faced, how my wife was instrumental in making me succeed and the most critical decision I made in my life. If you are in debt right now, facing a failed business endeavor or starting to feel down, don’t give in and never give up.  Instead, read on as I hope that through this, you and others like you may know what it takes to win and succeed in anything you do.

In my “Best advice” article I mentioned that generating money for me was as natural as breathing. But after college, I decided to work for someone else and the pay was very good. I put my entrepreneurial ways aside because the salary, benefits and perks were just too convenient and hard to let go. As a result, I became complacent, over confident and cocky which made me careless about managing whatever I made. I spent it all on useless stuff. I never thought about the future because I honestly never saw that far. I was single, lived like there was no tomorrow and always thought, “I’ll spend my money now because I do not want to scrimp and save and be a slave to money. There is no reason to start thinking of the future. Live today because tomorrow you may die.”

I was a fool. I became careless and my debt began to pile up.

Then I decided to revert to my old entrepreneurial ways to augment my income. I thought that because of my high pay, I now have capital to start a serious business. Never mind if I was getting deeper and deeper into debt, never mind that I didn’t know how to manage the money that I earned, I’ll just do it.  I was young, handsome and stupid.

At that time, I was working full time in a multinational company. Because of the time constraints and pressures of my day job, I decided to just “let my money work for me”. I could not personally oversee the business on a day to day basis, so I hired a general manager and she convinced me to hire her cohorts with disgustingly high salaries. BIG MISTAKE. I ended up putting in 90% of my salary and bonuses into this business. Within 8 months, my debt had soared to close to a million pesos.

During the 6th to 8th month, I was already feeling the money drain away from me. I was always waiting for payday to come, this time not to enjoy the luxuries of life but to pay off whatever debt I had accumulated and the needs of the business which up until that point did not produce a single cent of income. My General Manager and her cohorts were milking me for all that I had and although I knew it, I was too arrogant to admit it at that time.

It was exactly like a dramatic movie scene where the room was dark and only the faint moonlight was peeking in, and in the corner of that room was me sitting, crying, and feeling the world falling apart. I couldn’t even think straight, I was close to a million pesos in debt. My job was my only lifeline and I was getting really tired of seeing all my hard earned money go away. Why and how did I get into this mess in the first place?

I asked myself repeatedly if I should close down the business and just pay off my debt slowly through my salary or if I should continue it and try to turn it around. The easy way out was the first option, and it was very, very tempting to just give in, to just give up.

Now I rarely find myself wallowing in self pity, it has never really been my style so after a full hour of drama alone in that dark room I made the most critical decision in my life.

I said to myself in a stern, scolding voice. “Get up, fix this and get it done. You have never been a loser Mark, don’t you dare start acting like one now” That night was the first turning point in my life which no one else could do for me, except me. So I got up, washed my face and started to feel better. So for those who have serious financial problems: “Get Up, Fix It and Get it Done. The first step is for you to first help yourself.”

HOW I GOT UP AND FIXED THE PROBLEM.

1 month before I met my wife: At that point, I had made a decision to fix the business, turn it around and get it done. Problem is, you will never get it done until you find a good enough reason to. For a month, the only reason that was driving me to fix the business was my ego but it was not enough. I found myself ready to give in and take the easy way out again.

I needed a stronger reason to stick to my decision. I prayed religiously for a month, and on October 9, 2000, that prayer was answered. The reason came in the form of my wife. You see I met my wife because I wanted to make a deal with her company to turn my business around. She was an entrepreneur herself and being more seasoned than me, she quickly turned down my business proposal. These were her exact words: “Your deal doesn’t make any sense for us to get into it.” That line, harsh as it may seem to you right now was actually the start of a beautiful relationship. …(Click here for the continuation.)