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Recently, I’ve been reading a book called “Blue Ocean Strategy” which I am sure some of you here have heard of it before. It’s a very good book with a lot of valid points on the businesses of today. A must read, if you’re very much into business and management stuff.

In the early part of the book, it talks about the 3 kinds of things businesses focus to create – things which enable us to go to work, things to help us at work, and things that we like to do after work.

Example of things which enable us to go to work is the car industry. Ford revolutionized this industry with its T model which enabled thousands of not-so-rich families to own their own car (though Ford is trying hard to survive in a battle against the likes of Toyota and Honda). Besides car industry, you can try to think of ways to create new values in any of the transportation section – public transports, light-weight transportations, or things that people can use while going to work such as mp3 player.

The things which help us at work should be quite obvious – anything related to the business. Computers, photocopiers, printers, projectors, telephones, etc etc etc. The list goes on and on and on….. and everyday, we’ll see at least few new items being added to that never-ending list. As long as the product can help to improve the business values – efficiency, quality, etc – then it can be considered a good product in this category.

The final category will be the things we do after work. I personally believe that this will be the place where most money is spent….and the target customers will be the majority of the world’s population. Why? Everyone needs to do something to relax or enjoy themselves after work…..the bosses, the leaders, managers, and even the normal low-income workers. As the competition in the corporate world becomes more and more competitive, workload will increase as well together with the amount of stress generated by these workloads. The higher the amount of stress, the more people will try to escape from it and “seek help” from this world of entertainment and relaxation. That is why the movie, music and gaming (including casinos) industry are earning big bucks now.

This post has briefly touched on the 3 categories which you should look into if you are planning to start something (a product, or even a company). I’ll talk about these 3 categories again (more in depth) in the near future.

Hope it helps. 🙂

I believe I’ve talked about this many times before in the previous posts. Here I am again, talking about this to stress the importance of it (after finishing a chapter of the book “Built to Last” on the same topic).

Time and time again, we’ve heard about companies aiming to cut cost and to be more efficient, or to increase the “numbers” (which means sales, in case you’re wondering). These companies will go to great extent in order to cut a little bit from the overall cost of running the business. Why? Well, it does make sense doesn’t it? The lower the cost of running a business, the more profitable it is! Well, at least that’s true for short term or for a narrow-minded person.

The point here is to think of long term….look towards the future. What will your company be like 5 or 10 years later? If it’s going to be big and successful, have you actually lay out the foundation or plans for your company to move towards that direction? Yes, you can cut all the cost you want, but is that really helping? Of course it would, if your company plans to stay for another few years in the industry before it got left out by the competitors.

The authors in the book “Built to Last” mentioned that some companies actually “milked” their future away to solve a short term problem. They cut cost (which means firing good employees/using materials with poor quality/selling the current state-of-the-art equipments in favor of cheaper and less efficient equipments/etc.) to solve a current problem…to get a short term solution. However, in most cases, it will only backfire after a few years.

On the contrary, some companies actually continue to spend on things such as R&D, employee training program, hiring good people, etc even though the companies are faced with some financial problems. Why? Because these companies aim for the long shot towards their “goal” (unreachable goal….I’ll talk about this sometime later).

Please don’t get me wrong. Cutting cost is not necessarily a bad thing to do. But it is something that everyone should plan properly before acting on it. If you are able to cut cost and at the same time, not neglecting the quality or the things you used to do (which made your company successful)…..then by all means, go ahead! You can always use the extra $$ saved from the cost cutting plan for other things.

So do think properly before your company start engaging any cost cutting program. Look towards the long term health of the company….not the short term gain. What’s the use of saving a few cents now when your company might face the possibility of losing a few million dollars worth of opportunities few years later?

In life, everyone has to go through ups and downs everyday. Life is boring if it’s a straight road…smooth n straight. It is the hills, slopes, potholes, etc that makes this life more challenging and, interesting.

However, in everything we do, it is important for us to stay flexible. Be it work, business, relationship, etc. Things don’t always go as planned……and when there’s a change in the things we do, we need to learn to adapt…to be flexible.

Just imagine you are walking on a road (your life) and you encounter a wall (obstacles) which blocks your path. Do you insist to walk against the wall (stubborness) or do you choose to walk around the wall (flexible) and continue your journey on the road? Well, you could try and break the wall by walking against it….you might succeed if you try hard enough. But, why waste your time due to their stubborness?

This applies to the business world as well. How many times have we heard that some big corporations disappeared in the world due to their stubborness to change. In this era, everything has to undergo some very serious changes…..and if you are slow to react to it, your company will suffer….or eventually becomes obsolete. The management team should always be flexible towards change. Embrace it, not withdraw from it.

There are also times when an opportunity comes knocking….be it in your career, personal life, or your company’s business. Good opportunities don’t come often. You should assess it fast and grab it before it slips away…even if it has nothing to do with your personal missions/ambitions or company’s mission statements. Be flexible. Boeing wasn’t producing commercial airliners…. they were producing military planes until the opportunity came knocking on their door. They decided to “be flexible” and take up the challenge even though their company’s goal at that time has nothing to do with commercial airliners.

Therefore, regardless of what it is…it’s always important to be flexible in everything we do. To be able to adapt to changes is a skill, but to be able to adapt to changes quickly and efficient…is a rare gift…..a rare gift which can be obtained by everyone if we work hard enough.

Since the time we (human beings) stepped into this world, there have been countless new inventions created by us. From cooking equipments to hunting equipments. From something which enables us to move faster (wheels) to something which enable us to fly in the sky. To have a new invention is always the dream of any entrepreneur……and perhaps any businessman who wanted to open up new market based on this new invention.

However, to invent something is not necessarily profitable. When you start a business, you want to be selling something which is profitable and which other people want. You won’t want to spend years and years of efforts… invent something which made you feel proud….but something which nobody wants or knows how to use.

Therefore, before you plan to start working on the design of your new invention, think of a few things. Ask yourself few questions such as:

  • What’s the purpose of your invention?
  • Who are the possible users/consumers/customers?
  • Do you think this invention is useful to them?
  • The cost of inventing this, is it too high for the invention to be feasible for the users?
  • Are there any other existing products which work like your invention?
  • Or is there already an alternative out there for your invention which has not even materialize?
  • Is the learning curve of your invention, too high for the current users?

There are other questions which you can use…but based on the above, i think you’ll have a brief idea of what to ask yourself.

To invent something new takes a lot of efforts and time…..which is precious. In this era, time = money…and the more time you spend on some “inventions“…the riskier it becomes. Maybe someone else will be able to come out with something similar while you’re “inventing” something halfway through.

Therefore…only invent when there’s really a need. Otherwise, try to look at existing ideas and be innovative. Change the way things work currently….create new business values for the existing ideas. By doing this, I believe you’ll be able to come out with something which can serve a similar purpose as your initial “invention”.

Remember, don’t reinvent the wheel. Improvise it. Add a motor…or a way to move the wheel faster and then sell this newly modified idea.

Today, I’ve had a quick discussion over the internet with a close friend of mine regarding the most suitable type of leadership for a business startup. I mentioned that I’m a strong believer of non-military style leadership whereas he believes that being harsh and stern at times are necessary.

True, and also false. To me, I’ll always try my best not to be harsh to the people I’m working with, or the people working under me. Believe it or not, nobody wants to be treated harshly by his or her superior. For example, your boss told you that if you fail to deliver a project component by today, your annual bonus will be deducted by 50%. That’s harsh. Or maybe you have an important appointment today which you can’t afford to miss. So you started to pack at 6pm after you’ve finished your work…and then your worst nightmare started. Your boss came to stop you and told you to finish this presentation by today…immediately. Why? Because he needs it for tomorrow. Sounds familiar? That’s harsh too…especially if you told your boss you couldn’t make it since you have an important appointment…and your boss started to feel angry and even threatened to cut your bonus.

Don’t you think the above examples are like a soldier in a camp who made a small mistake and ended up getting punished severely?

True, this kind of mentality is good to train the employees to be disciplined. However, do you seriously think this kind of method can be used in this era where it’s extremely difficult to retain good employees in your company for more than few years?

Your company’s top management is not that harsh? Fine. There’s also place we can check if your company is being run by a “military styled” leader.

In some companies, there are people who behave like a military commander. A stern, serious, decisive and commanding figure reflects the characteristics of a commander-like leader. He likes to give orders and expects nothing but excellent results from his subordinates. He controls, strategize and lead the entire company by himself….much like a military commander leading the entire battalion of soldiers by himself.

So, what’s so bad about this form of leadership? One thing for sure, a normal commander-like leader is a very good tactician who knows how to plan far into the future. However, the company he is leading will most probably last as long as he does. By giving orders (only) and expecting nothing but result, he is not encouraging the participation of other employees in the decision making process. This will only create the so-called “followers” and not “leaders” which the company needs the most.

What happens if this commander-like leader suddenly disappear one day? How will these “followers” proceed without him? Just think of the battlefield…….a military general was leading the entire battalion to war when he was killed by a sniper in an ambush laid by the enemy soldiers. With their commander dead, who will these “followers” turn to? If after all this while, the orders have been coming from the commander and him alone…..there is a high possibility that there’s no 2nd leader who knows what to do. The consequence? The battalion got dispersed ….or slaughtered…since they didn’t know what to do.

It applies to every company out there. It’s the same concept. No matter how good a tactician, it’s useless when the tactician is gone and nobody is there to carry out the plan.

You might disagree with me, like my friend did….. If that’s the case, do feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.

Thanks for your time and hope it helps. 🙂

Finding the right person for a job is never an easy task for anyone to do, not even for a psychologist. Why?

Some people are very good with words and ‘selling’. They can tell you what they know confidently, even though the fact is they have no idea how to do it. These people are good, but only if they’re applying for a sales or marketing job. On the other hand, there are people who are creative, smart and talented…yet, they cannot present or express themselves in a proper way. BUT, this doesn’t mean they’re not good in their job.

There are few things you can do to test whether the person is the right person for the job….and avoid getting fooled by the confident sweet talker. 🙂

Firstly, ask the person about his passions. What he likes to do during his free time. You should be able to see whether he is trying to cook up stories…or he’s sincere. If someone is talking something he is passionate about, you should be able to see it from his eyes. Try to see if the things he claimed he’s passionate about, has anything related to the job he is applying in your company….or is it something which promotes creativity and innovation?

Second thing you can do is to ask him about his plan in the next 10 years…his ambition. This is a very common question to ask in the interview. See whether his ambition(s) has anything to do with the job. If it contradicts the job he applied, then you might want to advise him to reconsider his application…..since it doesn’t align with the direction he’s heading.

Third….try to see his interest in the job by the way he speaks and presents himself. If he’s serious, he should be wearing formal and should be well prepared – with the proper knowledge such as company history, profile, job scope, etc. Make sure he’s interested, and not desperate for the job. If he’s desperate, he should be nervous and panic when being asked questions he couldn’t answer. Being desperate is not really a bad thing though. If he’s desperate, it means he really cares about landing the job and being serious in it. However, try to avoid lowering the salary of this guy just because he looks desperate. 🙂  Give him whatever he deserves.

Last but not least….follow your feelings. I don’t trust those personality tests conducted by some companies. IQ and logical tests, yes….those are useful….but not personality test. If you’re experienced enough, you should be able to judge the person’s value by communicating with him for few minutes. Try asking him some questions like those I gave above….and see what are the answers given, and the way he gave the answers.

Finding the right person for a job is never easy. Always remember that finding someone passionate, is better than someone knowledgeable but without passion because someone passionate can always make the extra miles to learn up new stuff related to the job. 🙂

I’ve been a video/computer gamer ever since I was 5 years old. I can still remember my first game was Karateka. Quite a cool game (at least, it was a very cool game at that time). Since then, my parents have been supplying me (with constant nagging from my side) with countless gaming stuff – from a 286 PC386 PC…the first Nintendo video game….Nintendo Game Boy….Super Genius (some unknown brand)….Super Nintendo….P133 Computer….Pentium II and III computers….and lately (i bought for myself) a Playstation Portable and PC’s World of Warcraft. I’m planning to get Playstation 3 and maybe Nintendo WII in the future. 🙂 Yea, I’m a pretty serious gamer.

Well, I believe most of you people out there are gamers yourselves. And as expected, most gamers would want to be involved in a game development job…including myself.

Game development companies are rare. You have the famous Blizzard, EA, Bioware, the new Obsidian, Square Enix, Sony Entertainment, Irrational, etc… but other than that, the rest are basically unknowns. It’s pretty hard to get into these companies as a game developer since their requirements are pretty high (expected, since they’re the elites in gaming industry). However, you do have smaller game development companies… our Malaysia’s GameBrain and Phoenix Studio.

Anyway, let’s get straight to the point. I’ve been thinking about starting something for myself…my own business/company (not anytime soon.. maybe after 2 or 3 years, just to assure my boss in case he’s reading this) and I’ve given some serious thoughts about starting a game development business in Malaysia. However, I realized that it is no longer practical no matter how much I love games.

Think about it if you’re like me, a serious gamer. Do you like to develop games, or you like to actually play games? These are 2 different things. I can tell you, developing a game is very tedious. You need to go into very detailed stuff like stage design…UI design…character design…etc. It’s never easy. If you want, you can try to get your hands on SDK provided by certain games (for example, FEAR, Half-Life 2 or Neverwinter Night). Try creating some custom mods and see whether you enjoy the process. To be honest, I don’t. I’ve tried the Aurora toolset provided by Neverwinter Night…….and it’s a bit too tedious for me. I couldn’t even create a single map.

I gave up.

My passion lies with playing the games (and maybe designing the games), but not developing them.

Furthermore, the gaming industry is one heck of a competitive industry. You’re fighting with the likes to Blizzard and Sony Entertainment….Hideo Kojima…and even Microsoft. How competitive can that be? They got the cash, the budget…and you don’t. A normal game development project costs too much $$ and can take too much time…it’s never easy…and it’s never cheap as stated by EA Montreal boss in this article. Sooner or later, you’ll get eaten up by these companies.

Well, on the bright side (or not-so-bright side), game developers are not really well-paid. So you can possibly hire some good, passionate but cheap game programmers. 🙂 Game programmers talk about passions more than money. It is their burning desire which keeps them in this industry. But…ahem, you won’t want any of your game developers to quit since game developers are quite rare in the market.

Overall, I don’t feel that starting a game development company is practical for me. Maybe it is for you…but it’s definitely not my cup of tea. Try it out, and you might find that it is something meant for you (but do take into consideration the points I’ve stated above). 🙂

Remember, passion is one thing…..but to die of hunger due to your passion, is foolish. Be passionate, and be practical.

Why do we want to start our company? Besides being our own boss, is it to earn more $$$ for ourselves? Is a business or a company all about money?

Face the fact, it IS about money but not all of it. People work for other people in order to earn $$. People start their own company, also to earn $$. Money is needed everywhere. This is how our world works today.

However, based on several books I’ve read…..including Built to Last, Good to Great, Success Built to Last, etc….the experts said that a successful company is not all about money. Yes, you need money to run a company…and you need money to make the company profitable, etc. But, it is not the will to earn money that keeps the company going. It is the will power of the management team (or the pioneers) and the core values they’ve implanted in the company’s people…which keeps the business going, stronger than other mediocre companies.

When a management team focuses too much on making a profit for the company, they neglected their long term plan – to build a lasting and successful company. Someone who focuses only on money-making activities, will regard things like Research & Development as nonsense. To be honest, how many successful corporations out there is without a R & D team? You tell me (ahem, since I didn’t do my survey or research on this…so I’ll have to wait for someone to tell me the answer).

Also, having a set of core values for the company is something very important to do. Most companies do not have this since they are focusing only on earning money. But most successful companies have these so-called core values. They know why they existed….maybe to contribute to the society, to help out customers in their businesses, to improve the nation’s infrastructure, to provide cheap and useful medicines for the people, etc. These core values or mission statements are ways to keep everything (you, your board of directors, your partners, your employees, and your company) going. It provides a sense of satisfaction for the people involved in your company’s operations or activities.

If your company does not have these core values or mission statements…..perhaps it’s time to look at them? Chasing after money is not a wrong thing to do….but sooner or later, you’ll realize that you and your company can’t go far by doing that. Don’t neglect money…..but also don’t neglect the more important things around you. Focus on how you can help the others (customers, people in need, society, etc) AND earning money at the same time.

Therefore, it is necessary for your business to have a set of core values….or mission statements to keep everything going. Believe it or not, when you focus on such core values, the money will eventually come to you. I’m not sure about you, but I seriously believe in this because to me, money is not the driving force behind everything.

In Malaysia (and probably in other parts of the world as well), we have a lot of entrepreneur-wannabe individuals who have plan (or plans) to have their own business (or businesses)…including myself. But, what does it take to start a business? Do you need a great idea to start a business? According to the book Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Poras, you don’t necessary need a great idea to start off. In this post, I’ll look at the pros and cons of starting a business with a great idea.

Many of us want to start our own business. It could be based on a franchise license, a business idea (or business ideas) or it could be based on purely the willpower of the creators. Funny? Ridiculous? Nope, it’s true. Throughout the history, we’ve seen the likes of Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Sony etc. which started off with basically …nothing…not even a good business idea.  The pioneers of these companies started off with one thing in their mind – to create their own company which will be successful in the fields which they are going to venture into. What kind of fields? They have no idea….they used the concept of “trial and error”. None of the above companies (who are few of the most successful companies in our world today) succeeded in creating something in their first try.  They needed some time before finally decided on a field (or fields) which they wanted to concentrate on.

The key point here is that these companies are started by a bunch of “right people” who have the company’s interests in their hearts. What they did was to have brainstorming sessions..again and again and again…on what they could do to be successful. They kept repeating the same thing until they managed to achieve a result which they considered as SUCCESSFUL.

Why do these companies are better without a great idea? Well, if you started off with a great idea…..there’s a possibility that the idea will sell very well…..providing your company a lot of needed $$. It’ll be hard for you to change that idea (thus lacking innovation)….or even let go of it (stubborn and ego will come in). In the end, your company will be sticking to the few business ideas you initially started with……and not adapting to the ever-changing market. Face the fact, no company can be successful without proper change. Your company will be left out.

However, I do understand that in most industries, a great idea is needed to start off a business. You’ll need a great business idea to convince the venture capitalists…the possible investors…the banks, or even your relatives and friends. Without the idea, most people would label you as “foolish” or “immature”. I’m in that situation right now. It’s something inevitable in our world today. Everyone wants to see something concrete and reliable, before they can trust you.

Conclusion, I feel that to start off a successful business, you don’t need a great business idea. You need good people, and commitment to make the business a successful one. It is the process of developing the business which matters, not the single business idea. However, if you can have some great business ideas…and start a business/company based on these ideas with the right people and the right commitment…..and most importantly, stay innovative and not tied down to these ideas…then congratz, I believe you’ve found the correct formula in creating a successful business. 🙂

Again, open to comments. 😀

Check this article from CIO Insight titled The Future of I.T.: What’s on Tap for 2007 and Beyond. Gives a picture of what to expect in 2007 and beyond.