This past weekend (starting Friday 17th June) I have been at BadLadz resort in Puerto Galera on the Philippines island of Mindoro, enjoying the #TMBAParty with a load of cool entrepreneurs & people interested in lifestyle design.
To say I’ve learned a lot over the course of two/three days would be an understatement. The weekend wasn’t full of people walking on hot coals and motivational speakers directing cheesy team building exercises; instead it was 30 or so smart men and women sharing their business and personal strengths and pain points through group and casual discussion.
We went snorkeling, ate some awesome BBQ food on a private beach, sat on the picturesque harbor porch at BadLadz hotel and discussed specific businesses in depth, shot blow darts at maps (wtf?) and went to the town of Sabang at night to party it up a bit.
My main takeaways from the weekend were simple and thought provoking:
- There is nothing more important, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, then talking with, providing value to, and just generally connecting with people doing different and interesting shit.
- Wheels don’t have to be re-invented: if you are looking to start your own business you don’t necessarily have to find the next groundbreaking idea. In fact it seems beneficial to choose a model that has been proven to work before and just apply your own unique skill set to it.
There are two sides to this: first of all I learned of the massive value that having a partner can bring to your business venture. Second, I established that people locked up in dark rooms that don’t put themselves out there and connect with people don’t build successful businesses.
With partnerships, I have always operated under the assumption that I can do it all by myself. Accounting, design and development, product sourcing/manufacturing and whatever else, I thought I could do it all on my lonesome. After all, if I did all the work then I get all of the payout right? The Austrian powerhouse, David Hehenberger, answered that question quite plainly “It’s better to own 50% of something [valuable] then 100% of nothing.”
When I was building and running HairandBeautyDirect.com full time I discovered that spreading yourself thin and trying to manage too many different variables of a business can quickly diminish your energy and passion for a project. I discovered then, and verified this weekend, that having a partner with skill sets and, more importantly, a mindset similar or complimentary to your own can be a game changer. Its something I will keep in mind going forward.
Before this weekend I also had problems understanding how new and growing (particularly service based) businesses got their first few clients. The answer was given to me this weekend through listening to the stories of others who have been there and done it: start talking to people. If you want to sign up some new clients for your software development company, throw together some demo software that could solve a need specific to a potential customer, call them up and arrange to demonstrate the pain-point-solving application over a couple of beers or on a Skype call. This old-school method of gaining customers seems so much more logical then developing a ‘social media development’ campaign that may never pay off.
On Not Re-inventing the wheel
This is something that I have known for some time but I have to keep reminding myself about: trying to come up with the next big, unique idea is not the only way to a successful online business. Going this route can actually cause problems rather then resolve them due to no proof of market demand and similar issues.
Most people I met this weekend operated businesses within established, ‘old school’ industries. That’s not to say that some people weren’t selling unique shit within those industries or in a specific way that gave them an advantage, but they weren’t trying to create the next Youtubes and Twitters of the Internet.
There is a brilliant article by Venkat at Ribbonfarm.com called “Ancient Rivers of Money” that explains this concept well using the analogy of rivers as time defying markets and industries:
“Some rivers of money are very old and very stable. You can at most fight to displace others from prime positions along the banks. Others are new and unstable and may change course frequently, creating and destroying fortunes through their vagaries. Others may be maturing, with dams being built to stabilize them. People have always bought food and clothes. They are only now beginning to buy iPads. They are starting to not buy CDs.”
This is all to say that instead of chasing the next ‘unique’ idea, an easier and more successful approach is to take an already proven concept, idea, market or product and inject it with a bit of you – apply your own personality, angle or skill set to it and differentiate yourself from those already out there.
I’m going to be in the Philippines for the next month at Badladz in Puerto Guelera, working on a lot of backdated tasks until the 15th of July, maybe longer. I have started making tentative plans to visit Davao city and maybe Cebu or Manila next month. Hit me up on twitter (@lewisquartey) if you’ve got some info, or a couch, in these places to share.
I’m quickly falling in love with the Philippines and I definitely plan to spend a lot more time here. Expect to see more posts over the next month documenting my stay.
I’d love to hear your opinions on my takeaways from the weekend. Am I just stating the obvious? Do you have any similar thoughts? Maybe you were at the #TMBAParty this weekend and you took something completely different away? Whatever the case – leave your comments below, you sexy beast you!
Images courtesy of Simon Payne & the Badladz Facebook page
Hey Lewis, good stuff, was great to meet you last weekend. I came away with much the same sort of reframing of my assumptions. And I realized more than ever that there’s a huge demand out there for this stuff we’re doing if we just get out there and make an well defined, clear offer that has value to our market.
I don’t think you pissed off my wife :), so I might be able to talk her into a day or two of couch surfing.
Hey Mike, you’re spot on with the demand comment and steaming ahead & putting something valuable out there is the next step for a lot of us I think.
I will get in contact with you in the coming weeks and take you up on the couch surfing offer if that’s OK, glad to here the wife is not mad about the late nights and alcohol :-D.