Posts Tagged ‘Beating Failure in Business’

Hello Everyone, It’s been a while hasn’t it?

Well, today I want to teach those who have a Business or those thinking of starting a business a very simple, very powerful, and almost effortless way to increase profits. And although what I will explain is pretty obvious, most businesses would surprisingly go the complete opposite of what I will share. You might even be practicing this in your business or are planning to do this when you launch your business.

So if you want to increase your profits with minimal effort, then my dear reader, please read on.

Almost all businesses I know at one point in time will resort to discounting as a way to increase their sales.  In fact, this practice has become ‘gospel’ to starting and even growing businesses that it becomes the ‘go-to’ tactic when they want to get more sales. I myself have discounted a lot in the past and even though it gets additional sales, I slowly and painfully realized, that it does something that you will not immediately notice, it will inevitably decrease your overall profitability.

So over the years, I have learned how to increase sales and profitability without resorting to discounting. And believe me, this will be a lesson you would want to take to heart and try on your business soon. But first, let me share why you should take this simple lesson seriously by showing you the math.

Let’s say your product’s selling price is P50 with a profit margin of 30% or P15. Now, the number of people buying that product is 10 per day. So, if we do simple multiplication, your total profit for the day will be P150 (10 people X P50 X 30%) or ( 10 people  X P15 profit ).

Now you feel your sales are low and you want to increase it, and what do you immediately think of?  “let’s give a 10% off promo” or let’s do a “Buy 1 take 1 promo”, etc.  Am I right? Of course I am because I’ve done it myself many, many times 😉

So, let’s take a look at the 10% off promo. 10% off your selling price means your P50 now becomes P45 (P5 discount).  Now, let’s assume that your promo produces 1 more customer or 11 customers for the day, then your total profit will now be P110 (11 people  X  P10 profit). P10 because it used to be P15 but I discounted P5 so my new profit is now P10.

If you get 2 more customers for the day, then profit becomes P120 (12 people X P10 profit)

3 more customers, P130 profit

4 more customers, P140 profit

5 more customers, P150 profit

So what can we conclude in this simple example? If I give a 10% discount, then I would need to add at least 5 more people or 50% more buyers just to have the same profit of P150! What more if you do a buy 1 take 1 promo or a 50% discount? Well, you do the math and you’d be very depressed I assure you.

So here’s my first lesson for you to increase your profit without any effort at all. STOP giving discounts if you really dont need to.

Easier said than done you say? Well, read on as I’m not yet done. In fact, in my businesses, I will go a step further by doing the complete reverse of what most of my competitors will typically do, I increase my prices by at least 20%. Now I know what you are thinking — yikes! Less people will buy from me if I do that — Not necessarily true, but for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at the math again and see what happens when you start losing some customers:

The original profit = P150 with 10 people @ P50 @ P15 Profit. I increase my price to P60 (add 20%) @ P25 profit from P15.

If my volume drops by 1 person to 9 people/day then, my profit will STILL be P225 (9 people X P25)

8 people/day, P 200 profit

7 people/day, P175 profit

6 people/day, P150 profit still

Now even if I lose 4 people or 40% of my volume, I will still get the same original profit.

Okay and I know what you are thinking, increasing prices are in many, many cases viewed by a lot of businesses as “Taboo” or “Evil” or “Un-filipino-like”. And I would agree in some cases, but I do not in many. I do not agree that businesses have to resort to “I’m-a-good-guy-so-I’ll-price-it -just-to-get-by” pricing or “Buy-from-me-because-I’m-the-lowest-priced-in-the-universe”. Thinking that way will surely run your business to the ground sooner or later.

If you are worried about those very thoughts, I want to assure you that you do not have to be a Bad guy when you raise your prices. Far from it actually, and you certainly do not have to be the lowest priced for you to have top sales. What I have learned throughout the years is that price is NOT the only thing that the customer is concerned with.  Customers for the most part are  concerned with 2 other things and sometimes even more so compared to price. 1.)  Quality /assurance and 2.) if it solves their problem.

And so, the 2nd lesson I will leave you with in this article will be this: have the courage and the strategy to increase your price by communicating and even going so far as to guarantee the quality of your product and making sure that it solves a problem that the customer is willing to pay a premium for. If you can do that, you are on your way to increasing your profits with minimal effort.

Author Box:

Mark So is a fervent businessman, Investor and educator.  He is the Chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy—a business, finance and corporate training center.  He is also the Founder and Chief Trainer of the Philippine Franchise Institute which specializes in training and growing existing Franchise businesses.  A sought after speaker for business, investing, Sales and Marketing he is inviting you to attend his 2 day course on Proactive Sales and Marketing to give solid strategies on increasing your sales through practical, no-nonsense marketing. To register for this please go call (632)6874645 or 6873416.  You may email your comments and questions to:   mhso@businessmaker-academy.com

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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.)

Manila Bulletin:  BIZMAKER Column – By Mark H. So – October 11, 2009

During countless business seminars that I’ve conducted since 2003, one of the most common concerns of people in starting a business is about the risks involved and the fear of failing. A very valid concern indeed, one which to the inexperienced is incredibly intimidating and very limiting to a person’s full potential.

So in this article I’m going to explain in very practical terms how entrepreneurs like me beat failure every single time. Let me take you now to one of my seminars and I want you to imagine that I’m talking directly to you with a calm, soothing, and handsome voice.

“My friend, let’s talk about why you are afraid of failing, (Tell me if you can relate)

  •       Is it because you are afraid of losing the money that you worked very hard to save up for?
  •       Are you afraid of all the horror stories that your friends tell you about business?
  •       Is it because you have tried it yourself and almost lost everything you’ve got?
  •       Is it something else?

If you answered yes to one or even all of these questions, let me tell you now that you are not alone. Millions of people all over the world feel exactly the same way. Do you know that 95% of start up businesses fail in the first 5 years, and then for those who survive, another 95% may also end up failing in the next 5 years? (This isn’t exactly encouraging I know but continue reading as I assure you it’s worth your time).

Let me tell you the number one reason why the 95% fail, it’s because they’ve never really discovered the true secret of an Entrepreneur. And that secret is not talent, it’s not  just connections or customers, and it’s definitely not about capital or the lack thereof…It’s something far more basic — It’s about knowing how to totally eliminate the  risks right from the start.

Repeat after me:You can never fail if you have nothing to lose in the first place.

Now let me explain in very practical terms what I mean by this (Please feel free to write down some notes). Okay, let’s first quantify what failure really means. 99% of failure in business is about losing the money you put in, correct? And the 1% is about losing face or a deflated ego. So let’s talk about the 99% or losing money. Many, many times people put way too much emphasis in having start up capital first (I discussed why this is wrong in my article in Manila Bulletin last Sept 23 – How to Make Money with Zero Capital). And the problem is, most of the time people put in capital that they can never really afford to lose.

So what happens, if the business closes up? They’ve lost the money and most of the time, end up devastated. Is there a better way you ask? Yes and it’s far more simple than you think.

Before you start any business, ask yourself if there is a way to start it without putting in any money first? This is called starting with Zero Capital. If your answer is “Yes” then proceed with your money making venture, and if the business closes up, did you really fail? Not at all, you might experience a deflated ego or hurt pride, but that is really nothing if you think about it. Again, you can never fail if you have nothing to lose to begin with.

Now, if the business really needs start-up capital, like a coffee shop or a grocery where you need to invest some money into it, then ask yourself 2 simple questions:

1.)    How much money am I willing to put into this business?; and

2.)    Am I willing to lose this money if ever the business does not succeed?

Now if you come up with a peso figure to the first question and say “yes” to the second question, then congratulations, right there and then you have beaten failure yet again.

Now if you answered “No” to the second question then go back to question number 1, ask yourself how much money are you willing to put into this business that you are willing to lose.  Repeat this as many times as possible until you get the answer.

So now you ask— if this is the only amount that I will put in, then I can’t start the business yet…what do I do? Should I get a loan to cover the difference? No, not even close, the first answer I’ll give you is simple and uses common sense – If you cannot afford it, then scale down the business that you want to get into. Just learn to modify your plans a little bit so that it fits your budget.

Okay, so that answer is not going to stop you right?  In your mind, you adamantly say “ I want to put up a coffee shop even if I cannot afford it”.  You are head strong and stubborn I’ll give you that, but I will also tell you that’s the spirit and here’s what you should do:

Learn how to get Capital without getting into Debt. This is called learning how to raise capital using some technical know.

Is that even possible? Of course it is. I teach this in my Capital Raising and Cash Flow Management Class where I share what I have done successfully and it’s not just something you read from a book. Life has taught me well and the lesson I am sharing with you is a jewel that I picked up a few years back.

Now I’m not yet finished with our one on one discussion. This is just the start of our journey together, what I’d like you to do now is to continue reading my future articles in Manila Bulletin every Sunday in the Classifieds section (usually C or D section). If you have missed my previous articles, you can always come back here and leave a comment. Talk soon and more success to you.

Mark So is the Chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy.  A sought-after Business Trainer, he has taught thousands of people practical insights and strategies to win in business.  On October 17 and 24, he is scheduled to conduct the ZERO CAPITAL BUSINESS WORKSHOP, a two-day intensive seminar with four one-on-one coaching and consultancy sessions to help you get started in business.  For more information, you may contact Tel Nos. 6874445, 6874645, 6873416 or visit www.zerocapitalclub.com.