I can still recall the once popular and hyped ONE.99shop retail stores, and how rapidly one store sprang up after another. Just when everything seems to go smoothly, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak arrived and eventually caused the downfall of ONE.99shop. The author, Nanz Chong-Komo, is the founder of ONE.99shop and wrote this book based on her experiences as an entrepreneur. ONE.99shop was actually a second venture after her first successful boutique business, which she sold it less than a year for $80,000. In this book, she shares tips on starting and running a business, problems and difficulties that a typical entrepreneur would face, and the aptitude that an entrepreneur should possess in a gruelling business environment. She cleverly coined the title of the book (one business 99 lessons) in relation to her company name (ONE.99shop) and indeed, it was all about her experiences and lessons learnt from that business. The content is simply organized into 99 chapters = 99 lessons and categorized in 5 major parts. It is an easy to read book, and definitely useful for any budding entrepreneurs, either learning from someone’s mistakes or seeking inspiration. After the failure, Nanz has not given up her entrepreneurial spirit, and in fact, she had used this failure as a source for other ventures – writing a book and serving as a business consultant and motivator. A true entrepreneur indeed!
As there are 99 lessons in this book, I shall not share everything. I picked out some lessons that I feel are important and perhaps, interesting.
Lesson 5 – Never hire someone you cannot fire
Family members and friends are difficult to handle in work when they do not perform their jobs to satisfaction. It is very difficult to fire them but at the same time, you cannot show double standard in protecting relatives as compared to other employees. To avoid such awkward situations, hire the right people in the first place.
Lesson 11 – Outsource!
Outsourcing has 2 advantages which are cost and time saving. In her example, she outsourced warehouse operations which saved her 20% off the costs, and instead of overseeing the operations, she could channel more time to other areas of her business.
Lesson 20 – Turning an idea into the real thing
Ensure that you have done a thorough thought process and research such that you are very clear of how your idea will work out. To quote: “It is only when you can answer every difficult question anyone might ask you, become aware of possible pitfalls, and find that you still want to do this business, that you will suceed.”
Lesson 23 – Find your mentors
You can learn the successes and failures from your mentor’s experiences and it would be a much quicker and smoother journey to your goals.
Lesson 26 – Can you be responsible
Have the courage to make a decision when the need arise and do not procrastinate. “…it is not so much about making right or wrong decisions but able to make a decision.” If the decision turns out to be a wrong one, be responsible for it and do not blame on others or bad luck.
Lesson 27 – Emotional qualification
You need to handle people in the correct manner and your level of EQ is crucial. During situations where there is dissatisfaction and division among employees, it is paramount to resolve these issues with great sensitivity, and unite the team to move on together. This demand high EQ skills.
Lesson 32 – Hope alone is not enough
Hope without action is false hope and is plainly waiting for something to happen. Hope can only be realized if you take action and do something about it.
Lesson 35 – Quick thinking and a dash of daring
There are times where you simply do not have the luxury of time to think and make a decision that involves some risk taking. Quick thinking and a dash of daring would allow you take the rare chance, and it would be a choice you would never regret.
Lesson 46 – Passion is the secret ingredient
“… a true entrepreneur cannot be lukewarm about his ideals or feelings. If one is less than passionate, it becomes very easy to just let things go.” A passionate entrepreneur will demand the best out of him and be a source of motivation that propels him despite the obstacles.
Lesson 47 – Money is good!
Making money is the primary motive of doing business and thus, do not be shy to admit it. Do not lie to yourself or others that you do it because of your passion or interest. Money is great, it can do alot of good to other people once you have control of it.
Lesson 51 – The rewarding art of giving
Instill giving into your business as “it is a our moral duty to give to society, especially to the under-privileged”.
Lesson 57 – Getting your “E” up
The 5 Es cycle: Excitement, enthusiasm, eagerness, energy and excellence. When you are excited about an idea, you would do something about it and you can sense the enthusiasm within you. You will be eager to produce the results and hence, self generate energy to work towards these targets. As you feel the heat of the competition, you tend to offer the best of you which enables you to achieve excellent results.
Lesson 59 – Removing limitations
People usually tend to be affected and limited by fear and “what ifs” – what if the product do not sell? You need to stop worrying and remove these fears and limitations from your mind, to “break free from the trap of my own mental prison”.
Lesson 62 – Take stock every three years
Every three years, entrepreneurs should spend time to reflect about their businesses – evaluate the status of the business; check alignment with the goal that was initially set; review the relevancy of the strategies as business environment is always changing. Basically, entrepreneurs need to assess their business and make plans for the future so that the business will continue to survive and grow.
Lesson 66 – Time multiplication
Time is precious and it is important to invest it wisely. Nanz would invest in her inward qualities by reading books and listen to tapes. She would save time by reading in flights.
Lesson 77 – Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Nanz had the whole family invested in her business and when it failed, her whole family was affected. “When the boat sank, it took my family and I, and all our resources down with it”.
Lesson 78 – Cash is king
As business grows, it is important to manage cash flow and cash projections. Inventory replenishment should not overtake daily sales as surplus stocks would depreciate in value overtime. Writing off such excess is equivalent in throwing cash into the bin.
Lesson 79 – Plan for a rainy day
Optimism in business is good but realistic financial projection is necessary. Nanz was too optimistic about her business and went on to expand it – signing more rental contracts to acquire more shop spaces, without factoring contingencies like a possible drop in sales. In the end, the market was saturated, new stores did not meet expectations and old stores’ sale performance were affected. SARS gave the deadly blow to her business as sales dropped tremendously.
Lesson 85 – Loss-leaders, the cleverest marketing tool
Loss-leader is a marketing strategy to attract customers by offering goods below their cost prices. Nanz’s loss leaders were more effective than advertisements. Moreover, her research found that happy customers tell 4 to 5 people about the reasons being happy. Thus, it was a good word of mouth advertising at the same time.
Lesson 88 – A clean cut
At times, when things do not work out properly, it is worthwhile to cut losses rather than trying to work around the problem. More often than not, you would incur a greater loss if you do not end it early.
Lesson 93 – Learning to walk away
An entrepreneur is full of ideas and sometimes, certain ideas may not be fruitful to be carried out. Thus, an entrepreneur must learn to walk away from such ideas.
Lesson 96 – Bosses must delegate
Delegation is necessary so that the boss can focus on the bigger picture. In order to do a proper delegation, effective communication is crucial to allow the employees to understand what the boss really wants. Initial personal coaching of staff may even be essential. In addition to that, Nanz would bring her staff for a meal twice a week for discussions.
Lesson 98 – Set your goals
Set goals so you can be focused on where you are going. Once you know the direction, stay on track and work towards it.
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Co-Founder. Believer of the Factor-based Investing approach. Running a Multi-Factor Portfolio that taps on the Value, Size, Profitability and Momentum Factors. Quant at heart. Believe the financial industry can treat their customers better. Wants to change the world.