Hungry like a pack of wolves, but patient like a python

Looks like I haven’t spent the time to write in the past few months or so. I’m going to put down a couple of thoughts from the past few months all in one jumbo post here.

Don’t make an industry based on promises

Most don’t realise but as an SME / self proprietor I spend a lot of time chasing for payments. We hear this phrase “I promise to pay” a lot, and most of the time, if the phrase has to be used, it’s never on time. Fortunately, at least for Singapore customers, it’s also never completely a bad debt, just … takes a loooong time.

With that I am going to change some of my practices. I will start with my music arrangement business. From now on, music arrangement services from me will be pre-paid. You know what, since my team of arrangers has never failed to deliver, and since off-the-shelf scores are already sold C.O.D., I don’t see why this won’t work?

After this I will try to work this concept into other lines of business as well.

* * *

Actively say no to 50% of the opportunity

I remember reading Jack Welsh about dropping the bottom 10% of the customers, cultivate the top 30%, or something like that. Basically something along the bell curve.

After 5 years of running life on my own, living off savings and scrapping by, I realise that’s a luxury that run-in businesses can afford. For the rest of us, we actually need to drop the ball a lot. A lot. So that we can have CRAZY focus on the top 10% customers.

These are the customers who don’t necessarily pay the best, but pushes you to grow with extraordinary speed. The present opportunities that are sometimes scary, but will lead to step wise growth for the company.

The next time I sit on the fence, I will KIV. I just need to create a good KIV mechanism for revisiting periodically to see if the state of the world has changed.

* * *

Don’t give up hiring the best

If there’s any fatigue I’m suffering, it’s from hiring. It’s incredibly hard to get the best people to the table. After that, it’s also incredibly hard to give an offer that can’t be refused.

But we can’t relent and take in average people, not now, not in the near future, maybe never. I believe everyone worth their salt is strong in something, that means, if we didn’t take you in even though you have something to offer, it simply means the company just isn’t big enough or ready to absorb a talent like you.

And for the record, the mismatch in interest with recruiters (they call it agency cost I think in Econs) is enormous. Any recruiter who can’t at least articulate (regurgitate) your company’s vision or mission or focus or hiring priorities should just move into other industries. Everyone’s trying to automate away the hardest part of the industry and push the hardest part of the work to the end customer (“Good morning, here’s 1000 new resumes that my beta AI algorithm thinks are suitable candidates for you, would you like to interview all of them?”) Reverse job fair is another stab at this.

Don’t believe? Speak to the 500+ linked connections I have who are recruiters peddling the same intro blurb.

* * *

We all try to succeed within our own bubble
Sometimes we say: 瞎子摸象

Last week I chanced into a panel during a new programme launch to speak to a group of what I would like to coin as the “Singapore-Startup-Scene-Sympathizers” (S4). There were some questions about “what do I get” or “what’s the catch” if they join the said new programme, which are fair enough since it’s always good to clarify the facts, benefits and catch.

Then we got into the regular “Singapore bitching” segment. As usual we have the “Don’t be afraid of China, we can do it here too!”, or “Think global from day 1, use Singapore as a testbed”, or “The domestic market here is too small, it’s so hard doing business with Singapore companies due to them insisting on lowest cost”, and so on…

Talk is cheap (well ok it was a panel, we were supposed to talk)

So I chimed in and echoed the sentiment so that I don’t draw attention to my unconventional ideas. But inside my head I’m just wondering, what kind of background these people (including myself) have, to draw sweeping observations on the ecosystem? And more importantly, what privilege did they have running their business, to allow them to call out such stereotype?

For example: you say Singapore domestic market is small – so you’re done with Singapore market? No one else gonna buy your wares here? Or in fact your product does not fit the use cases here?

Or for example: you say Singapore can never beat the hardware ecosystem in Shenzhen – so you know both the hardware ecosystem in Singapore and Shenzhen well enough to draw that comparison? Or is it that the high quality end product that gets sold for peanuts coming out of Shenzhen makes your legs tremble, and thus you distribute the cause of your mediocre success to the environment in which you operate?

兵不厌诈. You have to create that unfair advantage, and lacking that you just need to line up your army, no matter how small, such that they are most effective against the oncoming horde. And you fight your small battle. The free market will adjust itself to take into account your efforts.

Patterns will eventually emerge for the innovation observers to write their consultancy papers, despite the fact that all battles would have been fought it in their own unique circumstances. You might win a customer from China that the Shenzhen company couldn’t. Who knows?

* * *

We all procrastinate when we burn midnight oil

Ok I shall stop writing. I have code to check in…

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