This was my 1st time participating in such an event. Truth to be told, I was expecting quite an uptight session similar to corporate meetings. I thought that they may be as distant as politicians behind TV screens.
Lo & behold, they turned out to be our everyday you and I.
And this is crucial in the establishment of a healthy ‘Entrepreneur Ecosystem’. For those who are involved in one, it becomes a defining factor to the success of their venture. What is offered is more than angel investors to help with the start-ups, it is the soft support which every start-up business would die to have. It comprises of mentors & networks which are vital to the survival of any businesses which want to survive past 4 years (A daunting fact: 56% of businesses fail within the 1st 4 years of business in Malaysia).
And having at least a dozen of speakers who were willing to share their experiences, this set foot to the foundation laying of such an ecosystem which I believe BFM is pioneering. Success is to be shared, not kept. Now let’s take a look at what struck me most:
Bootstrapping: The self-sustaining model without external help
Reality #1: Not everyone gets an angel investor.
Most of the speakers came to tell the tale of bootstrapping. Sometimes (or most of the time), it is a detour needed to be taken prior to your destination. Do other things to help fund your own business, find an effective model to run your business, give yourself a timeline of 3 years to try out the business and be flexible.
It is an opportunity especially for those who are new to a certain business. Bootstrapping often build you up in unexpected ways. When your business starts working, the angels will come quite naturally.
The Power of Soft Support
Reality #2: Not everyone gets to meet business consultants, let alone hiring them.
The 2 winners of Pimp My Biz were given 2 choices by Shanker: $100m or soft support for the business. Do keep in mind, being self-employed and operating a business are 2 different business models. Both pointed out the vitality of the support which enables them to transform their business to a more sustainable path.
7 aspects were looked at:
- Branding & Marketing
- New Media
- Personal Leadership
- Legal & Accounting
- Customer Service
So, experts were providing to guide the 2 winners. And looking at Reality #2, since Malaysia is yet to be ‘entrepreneur ecosystem’ friendly, I would suggest tuning into BFM to listen to more strategies for SMEs.
Recession: An Opportunity
Reality #3: Who said another person’s ‘trash’ is not another person’s treasure?
Well, trash not in the sense of something that is not needed, but let’s just put it into a context of what is needed to be ‘disposed’ off. Think in terms of stocks, during recession, many are forced to ‘abandon’ their stocks, leaving the prying eyes to eat them up once the stocks are laid down.
So yes, few entrepreneurs lived off recession to tell the tale of success.
1. Picking up the ‘trash’: It maybe utilities, businesses etc., recession is sometimes like a Boxing Day sales. Time to shop maybe?
2. Resetting the scenes: Recession is like a ‘Game Over’ sign with a ‘Restart’ button for some industries. A lot of companies seek new affordable vendors. It is time to grab some businesses and acquire some market share.
3. Never overgear: Nuff said, if you have no money, you can’t buy bread even if it is worth a dime a dozen.
Value, value, value
Reality #4: Cheap things are no good, good things are not cheap
Yes, we know. There are still many customers who are price-centric, but SMEs may need to be more value-centric.
SME, the small and the medium, may not be able to achieve economies-of-scale like the BIG. Price wars are disastrous. So never throw price (you are likely unable to win anyway), offer value.
And this has been the strategy of many successful entrepreneurs. For the price tag of value, you may very well have a handsome amount of profit margin.
I love you, I love you not
Reality #5: If there is no love, there is no gain
You really need to love what you are doing, because money maybe gone (during your bootstrapping days) but your passion persists to bring you through.
This needs not much explanation. It is the golden rule for entrepreneur & crucial for talent retention.
The Volunteer model of business was explained in such that entrepreneurs volunteer their money, employees volunteer their time. So the only thing that gels this together is the love for the work from both ends.
For entrepreneurs who have problem maintaining staffs, it is time to help them love what they are doing.
Belief that resonates
Reality #6: You are what you called yourself to be
Branding is important. Could you put a price tag on it? It is so intangible that so many neglected it.
I see it being comprised of 2 elements: A brand & a belief. A belief that resonates is like a stream, and your brand (your logo or whatsoever) is the cup of gold which embodies that living water.
The impact of a great brand:
- Quality branding enables quality recruitment
- Brand differentiation in a saturated market helps you stand out
- Invest in the intangible, brings you tangible results- Good ROI, sales increase, staff engagement etc.
Who says the big boys always win?
Reality #7: The bigger sized they are, the easier they get hit
There are a lot of people who say, “HOW TO COMPETE WITH THEM WOR? THEY ARE MNCs YOU KNOW!” So long you are able to get in the scene (overcome barrier-of-entry), there is always a way.
You know the story of David & Goliath? I believe many may lose to Goliath, but David defeated the big man. Why?
Here are my thoughts:
- He did not play the game Goliath is good at: I doubt David can win in a game of swords; big corporate boys are usually very good with money, mind you.
- He used a sling and some stones: Different, innovative, something you are good at. Provide value and you will have your market as everyone has different taste palate.
- Goliath is BIG: No one big business can cater for everyone, very likely the only reason people stuck to them was because there is not enough choices around
- A good strategy: A sling and a stone, I am sure David did not stand two feet away from Goliath to throw the stone. There must be good distance, good position and good skills. Strategy is needed in handling the big boys. Offer what the big boys cannot offer or forget to offer. In most cases, it is often the trivial things that are being neglected.
That’s all folks!
These are my take-outs which caught my eye. My wish list for next year will be: –
- A guide for start-ups: Crucial basics to pay attention in (For newbies & bootstrappers)
- What, where & how: Obtaining soft support needed for SMEs (For the surviving)
- How do we set ourselves in the angel investors’ radar (For the pitching)
- Guide to be an angel investor (For the veterans who want to give back)
To end this, here are my 2 cents. The entrepreneur and the angel communities are not big. Attending forums such as this should not be wasted. Learn, network and stand out. You will never know who is seated right next to you.