Money The Necessary Evil

The only issue with money is either you use it or it uses you. How does that happen you might say. In reality, it doesn’t. It’s just an excuse we use when we couldn’t control ourselves when it comes to money. We are always in control, money is not.

Have you ever thought about how much money you can make? Or will make?

What about how great business will be if it makes ten times more than it does now?

It is the main currency used by most advertisers. It is how we measure our success, our dignity, our legacy. It is why we rank people based on their wealth.

Let’s face it money is addicting, probably the most addictive substance in the world.

We forget there are other more important things. We forget that money is temporary. We forget that money is only a means to an end. We forget that money is not the end goal.

But talking about a small business we cannot argue that money (or we prefer to call it ‘cash’) is necessary. We must not forget though that it is only necessary to a certain extent. A good business is not focused on cash, albeit it cannot function without it.

So how does this intricate relationship work? We need cash but we don’t want to focus on it? But if we don’t focus on making money how on earth are we going to build a great business?

In every great business, the focus is always on the customers. They exist to solve customers’ perceived problems. These problems do not have to exist – they only need to be perceived to exist. So if you ever felt ripped off by certain businesses, most probably because you are being ripped off. And this is how certain products command such high prices – because they solve ‘perceived’ problems that might not exist in the first place.

Anyway, back to our original discussion.

Regardless of how much you can rip off your customers by creating certain perceived problems and then charge an exorbitant amount to solve them, the focus is still on the customers. The exorbitant amount is the after-effect. Once you start focusing on the money your effort will shift to short-term activities such as reducing operational cost, renegotiating with suppliers, and so on. Not that these activities are bad – they are necessary but they are not the main focus. Your customers will figure out quickly if your business is solving their problems or not. They will sense very quickly if your only interest is their hard-earned cash.

Focus on solving their problems and they will never feel that they are being sold to.

Money is required to fund all these operations but it is never the focus. Never let the temptation of making money pull you down into never-ending addiction.

The Matter of The Heart

It is true that running a business is akin to sport. It is the ultimate 24/7 sport. We have players, opponents, rules, field conditions, luck, and so on. Those who have done a little bit of sport or are fans of sports would know an all-important aspect of winning. At the end of the day during a tough match, it all boils down to one thing: mental strength. It is the matter of the heart.

It is common that a weaker player beats better one because he could handle himself well during difficult times. He has nerves of steel.

Running a business has its ups and downs with nice and nasty surprises every day. However, most people forget that these ups and downs, these surprises – they don’t just happen in the business world. They happen after hours too. They happen at home. And quite often they transform themselves into problems in the business.

A meltdown at home can go a long way if not handled. It could accumulate and explode. The damages are not immediately seen. They slowly build up and then they go all at once. Each issue at home adds fresh petrol – it only takes a small spark to ignite the whole thing.

So what can we do?

Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

Guard your heart and guard your family’s hearts too. Peaceful hearts at home will translate into peaceful relationships in the business. Calm heart and mind will produce high-quality decision making and execution.

How do we guard our heart?

Learn to recognize troubling signs early and try to be more pro-active to prevent bigger issues from emerging to the surface. Do not leave any issues unresolved, talk about it, find solutions. It will not be perfect but every little action counts. Remember, it is not a competition we try to win, it is a relationship we try to build.

With all the stress in the business, why do we want to add problems and issues from home?

Those who could guard their hearts will have the winning edge.

They possess the mental strength required to fight in the marketplace.

Focus On One Point

Small businesses often found themselves competing with much larger competitors. Sometimes the amount of money these competitors spend on their operational expenses alone is enough to acquire several smaller businesses. They are so big it is futile to compete head-on. So how do you compete? How do you win in the marketplace?

Well, as large as any company can be they cannot serve everyone. There are pockets of customers they are simply not interested in or they are not perceived good enough by these customers. The issue is then how to identify these pockets and how to dominate them.

It is not possible for any small business to conduct in-depth market research to identify these little gold mines. So what they can do instead is to narrow their search and focus on certain type of customers they can serve better based on their competitive strengths. These strengths can be anything from unique products, locality advantage, similar cultural background, excellent customer relations and etc.

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Lee is a cabinet maker who has been struggling to make ends meet due to the onslaught of cheaper imports. He used to make at least 10 units per month and now only down to 4 or 5. His skills mean he could make any type of wooden products from budget version to the most sophisticated one ever built. In fact the more sophisticated the design the more energised he is.

In addition to his cabinet making skill, he is also an avid gardener with real passion and a very green thumb. Not only he has a vast collection of plants he also builds all sort of wooden boxes, benches, garden beds and so on. He magically transformed his humble backyard into a place of serenity with such artistic touch of a master carpenter.

Of course, like any good inspiring story – Lee then realised how he could use his carpentry skill to transform boring ordinary backyards into majestic gardens. He started to work with landscaper and garden designer to come up with unique designs in Continue reading