Archive for December, 2009

A few months ago, a friend of mine requested if I could help her nephew (an undergrad student from an Ivy league school) with his business practicum project that he was becoming frustrated with. Their business practicum’s goal was to produce and sell as many “uniquely different” T-Shirts as possible and she requested if I could just help him out a bit and get him back on track.

When we met, I asked him what the problem was and he said “well you see, my team mates do not want to shell out the capital that the group needs to produce the T-Shirts”. So I asked him how much capital he needed.  He said, “Well, we need 200,000 pesos…” I raised my hands to stop him in mid sentence and said: “Whoa, back up there a little bit, 200,000? Why do you need that much money to produce and sell T-Shirts?”

“Well sir, because to ‘market test’ and produce the shirts, we’ll have to purchase the machine to print on the shirts…”, “Who said that?” I asked. “My adviser” he replied, “Does your adviser have a business?”  He said, “No, but she’s been teaching this course for a while now, and she says that in order to know if your business venture will make money, you must learn how to do a break even analysis, and to do that, you must know the costs…”

“Okay”…I said, “…now I understand why your team mates are not willing to put up the capital. Well for one, you are asking for P200,000 and two, because it is not necessary. Let’s simplify things for you, forget the costs of the machine for a while, how much is the cost of a plain non-printed T-Shirt?”

He grabbed several spreadsheet print outs from his bag  and began searching for the costs of the T-Shirts.  Five minutes later he still could not give me an answer and said “Sorry sir, to get the costs, I have to reverse-engineer the calculations that I did…”  Needless to say, I was a bit surprised to hear that he had to “reverse-engineer” anything to come up with the costs because in my mind, to know the price of a T-Shirt, you simply have to ask the price from the supplier of the T-Shirt. Apparently, he did not do that but instead was taught to calculate costs based on some sort of theoretical model.

After a few more minutes of waiting, I said “Okay please listen for a moment, I’m going to estimate right now that the price of a plain white shirt is about P100 give or take, so to get you and your team started, you don’t need P200,000. All you need to do is to buy maybe 10 shirts x P100 = P 1,000 then add the cost of printing of whatever design you have. So I’ll assume that printing the design will be another P100 give or take, so with these top of mind estimates your initial costs will be about P2,000, not P200,000.”

“But 10 shirts only, that’s pretty small isn’t it?” he asked. “Well I said, since you are ‘market testing’ the shirts, you just need samples of the shirts initially. Then what you do is to get pre-orders and get a down payment for those orders from your customers. You can also sell the shirts immediately and produce more of them after, based on demand.  Once you get the down payment, you can then purchase the materials (shirts) needed to produce and deliver the T-shirts.”

“But how do we go about producing the T-shirts when we don’t have the machine to produce it” he asked.  I then answered, “there is no need for you to buy the printing machine yourselves to produce it, doing so would be ridiculous because this is just a project for you. Also, we are no longer in the Industrial age where you have to produce everything yourself.   We are at an age of outsourcing jobs to avoid huge capital investments.  You can simply outsource the printing of the shirts to a company that does that.”

“But Sir, what about the design and price of the T-shirts? We were taught that we have to have a unique design and that we should price it very low so that we can sell a lot of shirts.” I responded “If you can come up with a unique design that people want, then I do not recommend that you price it low, in fact quite the opposite, you should price it at a premium because of its uniqueness.”

“Listen,” I said to the student, “Business is simple.  It need not be based on theoretical mathematical models, nor does it have to be over analyzed and over complicated.”

Even though this story just involves a college business practicum, the common misconceptions about business is just as true with most start up businesses. A lot of times, people feel that if they are doing something “sophisticated” or with big capital, or with common phrase clichés, that they are doing it right. The fact is, Business is not complicated at all.  Just find the simplest way to make a profit. If it is simple, trust me, it is right.

Authorbox:

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

A long time ago, I used to think that the true way to success is to outwit and outmaneuver competition. Truth be told, I am a very competitive person by nature and I hate losing to competition. And I’m sure that a part of you feels the same way deep down inside, it’s called the “competitive spirit”.

In fact I would wager that a lot of people who want to venture into business have a very healthy dose of competitiveness and most of the time think of starting a business as similar to going to war. You start to buy and read books such as the “art of war” and numerous business strategy books to beat your opponent(s). You have in your heads that to be in business, you must focus on “Killing Competition”.

Through the years of teaching business, I’ve encountered a lot of start-up businesses and even growing businesses that do not focus on what is really important, and that is learning how to make profits regardless of competition.

A lot of businesses that I’ve encountered will typically price their products lower than competition so that they can “steal” the clients from them. They feel that the more clients they are able to take from other businesses, the more successful they become.

For Example: You just opened a water refilling station just a few blocks away from an existing one who sells their 5 gallon jug at P50 each, you decide that for the opening promo you are going to price your 5 gallon jug at P45 each so that the customers of the existing business will switch to buying from you.

If you are starting to think this way, let me say right now that this is faulty thinking. Why? Because:

1.)    Your competition will most probably match or even price their products lower than yours and a price war may start. A price war is never good for business, not for you, not for your competitor. If you go down this path I guarantee, no one will win.

2.)    Competition will ALWAYS be there, even if you manage to destroy one or two today, 10 more will spring up tomorrow. It’s a losing battle that you will never win. Plus, this is the sure fire way to attract more enemies and possibly bankrupt you.

3.)    You are not acting in your business’ best interest because your profitability suffers and you are running your business not like a merchant but like a warrior.

So instead of thinking like a warrior let me give you now a few insights that will help you think more like a merchant whether you are just starting a business or have been in business for a while.

First, let’s re-focus you, repeat after me: “Businessmen are merchants, not warriors”. Business is not about going to war with your competitors, it’s about being profitable first with your customers.

There are many methods for pricing your products and services to be profitable with customers which I discuss fully in my Business seminars, but for this article I want to focus on a very important philosophy of profitability and that is to start learning how to

“Price for Profit, never for war”.

Here’s a real life example on how I did that. A couple of years ago I was invited to speak on “How to Start and Manage a Food Cart”. At first, the organizers wanted me to price it at P500 / seat since their other speakers (talking about other topics such as catering and baking) was offering that price. I said no to P500 and ended up negotiating the price to P2,500 / seat, 5 times higher than what the other seminars were going for. Though the organizers were reluctant at first, they finally said okay. You should have seen the poster. My seminar was the only one that was priced at P2,500 and the rest of the seminars were all P500. It stuck out like a sore thumb.

When the seminar day came, there were three seminars going on at the same time, mine and 2 others. The other 2 seminars were jam packed with about 60 participants each, mine had only 30 participants. Here’s the math:

Seminar A had 60 participants x P500 = P30,000.

Seminar B had 60 participants x P500 = P30,000

Sub Total                                              = P60,000
My seminar had 30 participants x P2,500 = P75,000.

Even if you add up the sales of my 2 “competitors” I still produced P15,000 more. Another way to look at it is that even if I only had 12 participants, I would have made the same amount compared to seminar a or b’s 60 participants, in my example above I only had half of what they got but I won over them in profits by an astounding 150%.

So you see, as businessmen, if you focus too much on increasing your customers by lowering your price, it is not at all as profitable as getting a smaller number of customers at a much better price. I never try to steal the customers away from my competition by lowering my price, instead I focus on giving more value to my customers with the price that they pay, regardless of what competition does.

Knowing this is the most important first step to becoming a merchant and a true Businessman.

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.