(Business Mentor Notes: Chit Juan is a serial entrepreneur who has started many businesses from cafes to restaurants, a convenience store, a laundry, a green and organic store and lately an organic vegetable farm. And she keeps going.)
Change is happening everyday and economists predict that even Fortune 500 companies may suffer a shake out and completely change the landscape of listed companies in the next five years. The company you invest in today may not be around five years from now. Now that is scary. While new start-ups can soon join the Fortune 500, some old companies who do not change nor adapt may find themselves out of the race.
The publicly listed companies usually have a retinue of financial advisers and a team of technocrats who ensure they are on the right track. But with change happening everyday that would have thought Uber would change the transportation landscape? Who would have thought Airbnb would change the hospitality industry? Who would have thought that the biggest car service does not have to own a single car? And the biggest hotel company does not own any room?
These are different times now. Even the likes of Howard Schultz of Starbucks have had some misses. Even Bill Gates had some mistakes. Why? Because sometimes change comes ahead of our launches or we are way ahead of our time.
Further, change is now affecting everyone regardless of income, education, family background or even political position or power. Things can change overnight.
So to be ready for change we must remain always aware that someone else may be thinking what we are thinking. And someone else may beat us to the idea.
Know when to change gears.
If something is not working, stop it and change course. Do not be overly sentimental about an idea just because it is your idea. Learn to eat humble pie and tell your team you thought wrong. Then move on to the next bright idea.
Read up on competition.
Always do a market check. Get down from your ivory tower and check the market. Do not ever believe you have no competition. If that is true then your business idea may not be sustainable. A good idea does not have to be original. It can be an innovation of an existing good idea in the market. But remember that a sustainable business must have competition.
Look for what the market needs.
If there is a product or service that you need and you cannot find the provider, then you can start a new business idea. Find a need and fill it. If you need that service so does someone else.
Think of what the market might need.
In the words of the late Steve Jobs of Apple, if you think of what market needs, they may not need it anymore when you are done with product launch. You have to imagine what they could need that even they do not know yet. Now that is truly revolutionary and reserved for a gifted few, like Steve. But who knows, we may yet think of something the market has not expressed a need for just yet, but will soon want and need. Keep thinking.
Applying new ideas and innovating .
I came across an ad in Instagram for a massage service using the Uber and Airbnb “traceability ” concept. You can choose your masseuse and even heck what time she will be coming to your doorstep. Almost as predictable as Uber and traceable like Airbnb.
Learn to use social media
Other people shun Facebook and other social media sites for reasons of privacy. But did you know Facebook could now give you a “secret group”? You can keep your privacy at least to others (but not to Facebook). Facebook is a compendium of information shared by other people. Even famous executives have Facebook accounts, albeit managed as to contain only public information and nothing too personal. Or maybe the settings are so tweaked as to hide confidential information (to the public).
Use Linked in to connect to professionals and to update your digital profile for future business connections. You have to change your impression about social media. It may connect you to business opportunities that otherwise may not be available to you because people do kit know what you do. Linked in could be your face to the world.
Change your attitude towards technology.
Learn to use apps to make life less complicated.
Viber and what’s app are simple ways to create groups for family or work. They are simple ways to connect to people despite physical distance between participants. They save on expenses for text messages and can send and receive photos and messages almost instantaneously… for free.
Know the macroeconomic environment.
What industry do you belong to? What is happening to importations of the same product you are selling? Will the Asean Economic Community affect your industry in a positive way? Or will you not be able to compete when our ASEAN neighbors join the field of competitors?
Is franchising or licensing the way to go?
If you have not yet built a business, and you wish to invest, do you start on your own or do you borrow someone else’s idea? If you find the marketplace confusing and crowded, it is best you change your ways and adopt a successful business idea instead. Take stock of your successes—maybe it’s market information of your local market. Then use that to start a licensed or franchised business in your locality.
Read about the future.
What will happen with climate change? Will your business of conventional hardware still exist? Or will you be taken over by energy-efficient technology?
Read about the future of your industry. I remember a family who was in cameras films and film processing. They made their fortunes on exactly that business like Kodak. Then digital technology came. The family shifted to another business and left their now white elephants to be metal scrap when they used to be cash machines. Times change. Did they foresee the future of their industry? Apparently not.
Long-term investments are for the brave; unless it is agriculture.
Even big companies now do short or midterm planning. No one can see what will happen in ten year’s time. The planning now is for three to five years. Investments are best put in businesses where you can make a quick exit or a change in directions. Except agriculture; because even if everything changes, people will still have to eat. And the best part is, you and your family need food all the time. So it is best to make an investment, however small or modest, in agriculture.
Buy land and plant a tree.
This must be the only tip that will never change. Real estate is almost always a good long-term investment—for future generations. Not just condos or homes, but land that can be planted to real food. Not food for cows or trees for selling. Buy a small piece of land and plant some trees. Indigenous trees. Then plant some fruit trees and vegetables. This way you would have secured your family’s food supply. Plant camote instead of rice. Plant a long-term fruit tree like coffee or cacao and coconuts.
The change you are apprehensive about can all be abated and mitigated with a balance of going natural and going anti-urban for some of your investible funds. Not everything must be invested in technology that changes overnight.
If you are ready to change, keep Nature in mind. A diverse investment is always healthier than a “get rich quick” scheme. We cannot eat money, after all. We need to eat food. So change your attitude too towards rural development. Leave some money to invest in a farm or a piece of property where you can plant.
Now that is a change you can truly embrace. And eat something while you’re at it.