If you knew me well, you would know that I love running (other than playing badminton, of course). While I can’t say I am a good runner, I do enjoy the process of just going out and about, letting the mind wander whilst breaking out good sweat. Going for a short run in the morning also helps me stay focused throughout the day (but I will leave this for another post).
Through this little hobby of mind, I have participated in a few long distance races and it usually go something like this:
Gets very excited to sign up for it > Stays motivated while training > Show up during race day > Start strong > And half way through the race, I start asking the question…
“Why did I put myself this torture?”
Did that sound a little like you, too?
The truth is, it is very easy to start something, but it is never easy to see it through. Be it starting up a new business, going to the gym, breaking a habit, or just sticking to the new year’s resolution you’ve written.
We give ourselves really good excuses like having a busy schedule, commitments, circumstances… but the one that takes the cake has to be – luck.
“I’m just not as lucky”
Yes, that is an excuse. I believe that this thing called ‘luck’ is merely a result of hard work, perseverance, relentlessness… and you being present. Most people ‘miss’ out on opportunities to be ‘lucky’ simply because they are unequipped, unprepared or simply not present to take up what it takes.
Our definition of luck is warped. We want to enjoy the final outcome without having to go through any of the process, expecting for it to literally just present itself at your doorstep – but it does not.
Imagine completing a full marathon without training, preparation, conditioning or actually showing up for the race – you will never complete it, let alone receiving the finishing medal. Luck will not auto-magically teleport you to the finishing line of the race! You will need to show up, run, and create possibilities for yourself. Maybe the weather will be great, maybe you’ll find a buddy to cheer you on, maybe there’ll be some special drink that will boost your energy along the way, and heck, maybe they’ll even give you a ride to a finish line and still award you anyway.
The thing is, you won’t get to experience the ‘luck’ or opportunity if you’re not even there to begin with!
So if you’ve been wondering why you haven’t got that physique you’ve been aiming for, or that dream career; you haven’t been exhausting your options to be in a position for that opportunity or ‘luck’ to happen.
Startups are a trend these days. Most people, especially students dream to live the seemingly exciting life of an entrepreneur, working whenever and wherever they want, making money by the millions as VCs pour in the cash. Ah, what a dream. I don’t blame them though, not when the spotlight is often on individuals that raised millions and have “been there, done that” and universities that are riding the wave by throwing in such courses to help produce entrepreneurs. But do they really work? Now, I don’t mean to generalize every entrepreneurship courses out there as they are some good ones around. I’m referring to courses that are taught from a classroom environment, through a series of textbooks and case studies, gearing up towards their final assignment in creating a business plan, followed by a ‘pitch’. So why NOT a degree in entrepreneurship?
#1: These degree courses are usually led by academicians
With that said, you need to understand that most lecturers (at least in Asia) are true-bred academicians that spent their years inside the academia world. In short, they probably have not started a business, nor worked in a startup-like environment. The result? Textbook based classes that you can get off a book or an article somewhere.
#2: You learn skills that you’ll probably never use again
Okay, I’m 50-50 on this one. You do go through some pretty important sessions learning being forced to learn how to work with numbers, finance and accounting that can really help you along the way. I for one do regret not paying much attention to that bit during my degree but hey, I managed to pick it up years later on my own, too! Then again, I also remember being stuffed with theories and learning technology that were already (or at the brink of being) obsolete like flash, COBOL, ASP and the list goes on (mind you, it was the world of HTML5, .NET and PHP frameworks at that time).
#3: In the end, it’s the grade that counts
Like it or not, the academic system focuses on grades, which means you will actually need to ‘do well’ in your attendance, quizes, assignments and exams. I know it sounds pretty harmless, but until a real subjective marking scheme is introduced (i.e. with no right or wrong answers that support multiple different outcomes), students generally have to provide ‘the right answer’ to achieve good grades – and the truth is, there’s hardly the right answer in starting or running a business.
#4: You graduate to find a job
So 3 to 4 years have passed and you’ve acquired your degree in entrepreneurship, what’s next? Not many universities provide a good network of mentors, investors or follow-up programmes for your degree. More often than not, you’re left alone.. and you eventually get a job because the norm is as such – to graduate and to get a job.
#5: It’s a huge investment of time and money
Those years are a long time and it costs quite a fair bit these days, too! Some argue that the time and money would’ve been better spent on starting up your first businesses, hit some walls and learn what really matters on-the-go. Others argue that your university days are the best to network, build relationships and to discover yourself better. I don’t have an answer to this, but regardless of which path you take, make sure you get your investment back (that’s your first business lesson right there); be it tangible or intangible, you need to make the most out of it.
Don’t get me wrong.
I am not advocating dropouts or belittling education. In fact, it is the reverse. I am a believer of education and the importance of going through a series of structured education as they do help in one way or another, especially if you have yet to discover your passion.
But the question has always been, “how structured or unstructured it should be for it to really work, especially for degrees like entrepreneurship?”.
The year came and went by so quickly this time around. I still remember how 2014 started but eventually lost track of time somewhere from June, and only being able to feel the year again during Christmas.
Much has happened, both good and bad. Instead of putting together a long list of things, here are my top 3 entrepreneurship lessons from 2014:
#1: Not everyone is built for startups
Many people are fascinated with startups but that does not qualify them to join one, let alone start one. I say this not only because a startup environment is harsh and challenging to keep up, it also requires one to have different qualities to remain in it. Individuals that prefer stability over uncertainty, structure over flexibility and consistency over adaptability may want to reconsider being a part of a startup; simply because it is always the latter in a startup, especially in its early years (first 3-5 years).
#2: There will be no time unless you make time
I suffered from this greatly in 2014. I’ve always considered myself with pretty good time management skills but the year has proved me wrong, resulting in severe lack of sleep on many occasions that caused a negative domino effect to productivity and relationships in general. You need to make time by purposefully setting aside dedicated time for things that matter – stick to it and throw or delegate the rest. Prioritize! If it’s not working for you, you’re doing it wrong.
#3: The power of saying “no”
Many times we try to play the good guy a little overboard, leaving you overwhelmed, causing you to under perform, compromise and leave you frustrated. No, I’m not suggesting for you to be ruthless and unhelpful, but to pick your fights in your capacity. Saying “no” when you’re already stretched is not only fair to person (since you many not be able to deliver to your fullest anyway), but also to yourself as you won’t be burning yourself out. Evaluate opportunities and requests and weigh them against your time and priorities. If you can’t put your best to it, say “no”.
Apart from those above, I believe that God has a big part in my life this year too! Some calls it an instinct, a gut feel, universal power or just luck; but I believe it’s beyond that.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt in 2014? Do share them with me too :)
How often have you wanted to harness the potential of social media but been too unwilling to commit to the changes required (i.e. still holding on to your previous mindset)? I managed to come across this Dilbert comic strip that somewhat resembles what we looked at previously about the mindset of today’s business owners and entrepreneurs in Malaysia regarding social media:
Although the comic strip may seem to have exaggerated things a little (especially when we now know most people associate social media with Facebook and Twitter) but it does carry some truth in it. Perhaps it may happen like this instead in Malaysia (adapted from above):
True, isn’t it? Most traditional businesses sees social media as merely a trend that they wish to participate in but yet unwilling to accept it fully. Little did they know that social media has grown beyond just a trend or a technology – but a lifestyle, an integral part in consumer engagement, extension of networks, and it is here to stay.
Still skeptical? Apart from just pumping you up with the potential reach of people you can be connected with, here are 5 simple reasons on why you should get started with social media for your business if you haven’t already:
1. Public Engagement
Now before you turn around click away saying that you’ve heard of this a million times already, listen to this once more: engagement builds trust, a bridge towards your brand, it creates a perception and an emotion towards it. This can become your brand’s distinguishing factor against your competitors. Like it or not, people already have perceptions towards your brand regardless.
If they’ve never heard of you before, chances are, you have to give it double the effort to convince them as compared to a brand that is already well engaged with the public and this is something traditional marketing (or advertising) can’t do.
“Traditional advertising is a 1-to-many, one-way relationship while social media is a 1-to--to-many, two-way relationship. It takes two hands for a brand to clap and that  makes a difference. That  is your tie to the mass, and also your brand advocate, your key for an applause.”
2. Earned Media vs Paid Media
Which do you prefer? People talking about you or paid to talk about you. Don’t get me wrong, paid media isn’t wrong by all means as advertorials, reviews and the likes DO WORK, even better if you have a strong influencer on your side but some business owners or entrepreneurs do have their hands tied when it comes to budgets, especially for a startup and earned media is well, free!
A little bit of time and effort will get you a long way. Think about it, where else do you have the opportunity to share your knowledge, thoughts and expertise in articles or in any other media form at no cost, with a huge base of potential non-geographically constrained readers? That’s the World Wide Web for you and all you need is just a little dedication to maintain and to promote your masterpieces!
“It is beyond just a ‘following’ online, but the credibility you build for yourself / brand / business along with it.”
3. Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Apart from just communicating with consumers, receiving feedbacks, support, sales and promotions, social media can also be used as an avenue for your customers to tell their story i.e. testimonials. Nothing beats a first-hand story, whether good or bad that comes from your existing customers as it will be able to attract new customers along the way!
Yes, this also means that your existing customers will be ‘selling’ your brand to their networks on your behalf, without having you to spend extra time and money to try convince everyone on the street on how good you are. It will now be customer-get-customer rather than brand-get-customer. Sharing – that’s how information travel on the social media, and it happens with just a click.
“They say sharing is caring. On social media, sharing is business.”
[PAUSE:] If at this point you’ve still been wondering:
1. On how this social media ‘thingy’ can actually do ALL of the above, or
2. Is the social media ‘idea’ too confusing? or
3. You find that I’m no longer speaking in English, then:
Check out this video I found on YouTube – explaining social media in plain, simple English and how social media can benefit you, your brand, your customers AND your prospects!
Hopefully that cleared things up better!
Okay, back to business: On to the fourth!
Unlike traditional advertising, results can easily be measured on social media. With the availability and free access to various tools such as Google Analytics, Feed Burner, number of fans / followers / friends / likes and more, one can generate a detailed report about their reach as compared to traditional means.
For example, Google Analytics (to the left) will be able to indicate the amount of page views, average time spent on your site, where they are from, how did they managed to land on your site and other information that helps you understand your readers more. This is definitely one thing you’ll never be able to obtain out of traditional means. In other words, ‘success’ is now determined based on your influence rather than reach, quality over quantity (but then again, quantity is also achievable on social media).
5. It Works
Yes. It works! Businesses all over the world have implemented and integrated social media into their business modal do have results to show! Whether it is sales, higher traffic, enquiries or feedback, it worked for them. No reason for it to fail, if you’re committed in making it happen. And no, they did not pump cash to make it work. Social media made it work for them.
Want to know how others implemented social media in their business? Hang in there as I’ll be revealing some of them right here, at janwong.my in the coming days! You may be surprised to see how these brands and businesses used social media to drive results up their doorstep – powerful yet simple. Chances are, you may just be able to replicate their success in your business!
There you go, 5 simple reasons on why social media should be implemented in business operations and marketing efforts. There are of course, even more reasons on implementing social media but in the end, the key is your mindset, perception and how far a brand is willing to go with it.
Remember, only you can determine whether social media makes or breaks your business… why go with the latter? :)
… many have made it, what say you?
How else do you see social media impacting your business / life?