Wednesday, October 24, 2007

E-mail From A Reader About Entrepreneurship

Last week I received an e-mail from one of my readers and I decided to share it with the rest of you guys.

Now this is a very very text heavy entry (which is not really my style) so I know many of you might not really bother to read it.

But I get a number of these questions sometimes so I thought I'd just share it once and for all.

Hi Timothy,

How are you? I'm XJ and we met at the (was it?) last bloggers meet in KL. Do you still remember I wanted to pass to you some Mac software?

Anyway, if you still do not remember, I'm that guy in HELP doing A -Levels and it would be a great honour if you could spare me some time just to answer a question that has bugged me. To cut everything straight to the point without beating around the bush, I wish to seek the advice of an entrepreneur like yourself to weigh my options.

The question is:
Should I quit my studies to pursue business (work, not studies)?

If you don't have time then a yes or no would suffice for me. I would be grateful for your answer.

Considerations: (If you have time)

1. Mentors encourage me to quit.
a. My mentor evaluates that my character is more suited to employer than employee. I argue that his evaluation may not be accurate, and if accurate, then I shouldn't quit studying as a Plan-B in case my business fails I can still work. My mentor argues that I should start working immediately as I'm young and this is the time to make mistakes and gain experience. On the other hand, his idea of a Plan-B is to not have a Plan-B so that it will force me to think and innovate.

b. As I currently have a photography business where I'm self-employed as well as hire a couple of assistants and designers, my mentor encourages me to build the small business and gain experience rather than studying first as it would be a waste of time if business is the ultimate thing I want to pursue. I argue that I do not plan to run the photography business for long and merely use it as a stepping stone to pursue my other interests. He argues that all my other interests only interests profit-making.

c. My mentor argues that the hard way is the easier way to nuture an entrepreneur's mindset. As in, throw you into the deep end to force you to learn how to swim. I argued that I would drown as knowledge is lacking.

d. My mentor argues that studying may not be necessary if I intend to do business in the end. I argue that by going through university I will have acquired a set of knowledge and skills that may be useful. My mentor argues that the more I know, it would have a detrimental effect on my risk-taking spirit. I argue that I may be jumping off a cliff and not knowing it. He argues that better jump off that cliff when I'm still young so I would recognize it when I'm older.

2. Difficulties in financing studies
So far my results have been fair, as in fair enough to obtain scholarships. However, cost of living still has to be taken into account and if I do not manage to obtain a scholarship, I may have to resort to a loan. (For context, my parents refuse to finance my studies as they think it's a waste of time for me.) The problem of loan may be a pending recession and the availibility of jobs for me to finance repayment of it. Other than that, I would have much much less capital for whatever I want then. Another loan may solve the problem but credit restrictions may be even tighter by then, and a whole host of problems one could argue both ways.

3. Lack of direction.
There's no direction for me if I want to start a business. If I want to start a business, what business? If I continue studying, there is that definite course of studies normal people would go through- From A levels to a degree and after that an internship somewhere and a job at last. However if I drop out then I may be stuck with little idea what to do. The arguement against this is that the situation may cause me to think and be creative albeit in a hard way.

Thank you for your time and I'm sorry if this has taken up much of your time. If you have read until this point, my respect for you has really tripled. I apologize once more for taking your time if you had pressing matters. I value your opinion much.

Thank you very much.

My Reply to him

Dear XJ,



Hahaha no I'm kidding.

Here's my reply to him.

Hi XJ,

I am terribly sorry I took so long to reply your e-mail.

The truth is, I don't want to be giving you "YES" or "NO" answers, I wanted to take some time to draft out your answers so I needed to find some time between my days to write something.

Here are answers to your questions.

1a) Mentors Encourage You To Quit
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I finished my degree at university not really because I thought that was a better route to take but more because I never really knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur until a year before I graduated. All along I always thought that I was going to work in an investment bank like JP Morgan or Deutsche Bank.

That being said, my father who is a very successful businessman believes that a tertiary education is very very important. Not so much for what you learn from the books there but more on the character you will build there especially if you go overseas.


I'm not sure what you do here exactly so I'm really in no position to comment about this except that, whatever business it is, it has to be one that can make money. Robert Fong, the CEO of Mojikan once told me something that I felt was true to the bone: "Business cannot be built on passion".

Passion starts you off, but sooner or later when you learn the ugly side of things and you will, you may begin to lose your passion for it. The only thing that will keep you running by then is whether you make money or not.

It really depends on what your business is all about. Some businesses like property, I imagine will be impossible to start on your own if you don't first work for people and understand the basics.

Others like internet businesses are so new that you're not going to learn much from any other existing company. People like to say work experience is important but so is the experience of being an entrepreneur.

Every year you spend working for others is a year that you gain by learning from your bosses and also a year you lose by not learning from yourself by making your own mistakes as an entrepreneur.

Before I took the leap to become and entrepreneur. I asked a few successful businessmen I know for some advice.

One of them is a very very rich man who started off working for a few years before he became an entrepreneur and made millions.

His path has taken him from a nobody to a very rich man, then back to a nobody again after failing in business and today... he lives in a huge mansion with supercars that will make Jeremy Clarkson take his hats off to.

When I asked him whether I should work first before I jump into business, he said
"Tim, during my time, you had to WORK first to be able to see opportunity. Today, with the internet age, opportunity is everywhere and you don't need to work to see it which is why you see so many young entrepreneurs.

The difference however, is that during my time... 1 out of every 10 entrepreneurs actually make it. But in this time and age... only 1 out of 20 will ever make it. Do you like those odds? If you do... go for it


I agree with your dad but your way is not wrong as well. Like i said earlier, there is no right or wrong answer to this question.

2. Difficulties in Financing Studies

Having no money to run a business is an excuse that I see too many wannabe entrepreneurs use to get away from their complacency.

Take a simple example of Nuffnang for example.

Numerous venture capitalists have come up to us to ask if we need money, not just local venture caps but venture caps that have flown in all the way from China or Hong Kong just to see us to see if they could invest. Now we're not talking thousands or tens of thousands here... we're talking millions and millions that these venture caps are looking to put in.

My point is that today there is so much money floating around this region.

You just got to make sure people believe your dream as much as you do.

Whatever you do, don't take a bank loan though (even if you could get one). Especially if you're running an internet business and expect little revenue in the first two years... the interest will kill you.

3. Lack of Direction

If you don't have an idea of what to do then it's best to wait until you do. Why the hurry.

One thing though, you have to be sure about what you're getting yourself into.

Being an entrepreneur or being self-employed is not about enjoying the luxury of working whatever time you want, keeping all the money you earn for yourself and having all the glamour of being called an entrepreneur (Believe me, there is NO glamour in that and chicks don't DIG entrepreneurs... no they dig investment bankers and lawyers. Do you see me with a different girl every week?).

The truth is, in the past 7 months since Nuffnang started not too long ago, I have experienced the most traumatic stress that I have ever had to deal with in my life.

Nights go by when I can't sleep whether because of the stress that I'm faced with or whether it's because I have so many things on my mind I can't wait for morning to come so that I could go get them all done one by one.

Sometimes I may be out having fun with some friends and I may get a sudden call from a client or from someone with a problem at hand, and my whole night will be gone with me thinking deep inside how I can go about solving the latest crisis I was just handed.

It may be fun having employees and fun having a big team. But you can't help but worry that every move you make now is important because your life is not the only one at stake, you have people who depend on you for their pay cheques to come at the end of the month ON TIME.

Sales & Marketing is an essential part of any business you may run and it is also the most difficult. It is from your sales & marketing efforts that you will face the most degrading experiences in your life with people rejecting you because you are a NOBODY and like it or not, YOU are a nobody to them.

I've had it fairly easy because I got lucky and because I love sales & marketing, I LOVE pitching and I enjoy the rush... but if you don't feel the same way that I do... you're in for a very very hard road.

Imagine this, my partner Ming and I started off without knowing a soul in the advertising industry. The only way we got our advertisers is by cold calling people and begging for a meeting or a chance to pitch.

For every 10 calls we made, 9 turned us down and it is only after perseverance, hope and a lot of LUCK did we eventually manage to land advertisers from the likes of Nike, Air Asia, Nokia, Nestle, HUGO, Media Prima and the list goes on.

Whatever you choose to do.

Going into business is something you have to think about very carefully about.

But the good news is... as much as you will have many ups and downs... the downs will make you feel really really bad...but the ups... the ups will give you a feeling so good that I just can't explain with words.

I can't make this decision for you dude. You have to make it yourself. What's important is.. once you make the leap, don't ever look back.

Also, try to make it a point to ask advice from a successful entrepreneur. I may be a start, but I'm also young, inexperienced, still learning and far from successful.

PS: I get quite a number of these questions, you mind if I clean this up and publish this on my blog? (He said yes obviously :P)

Ok tell me honestly... how many of you actually managed to read this far? I say not more than 30...


Horny Ang Moh said...

Ha! Ha! U r correct! I more or less glance through this post! But I think I am excusible as I am lowly educated so quite 'hard' for me to 'understand' what this post is about!
We are living in internet era so education is a must! Yes I agree with u, u can't started a business base on passion ( ur r different, as ur passion for blogging just happen to be profitable ). After all all passion without money cannot feed ur stomach!
So educated then poke around for opportunities!
Best of luck to this fellow & to bossy have a nice day!

Horny Ang Moh said...

Oh! Yah! Should I be jumping up & down as I am the first to comment??? Ok! Ok! I AM FIRST!!!!

kariette said...

Well said =) And I did finish reading to the very end.

It is usually those who have nothing to lose, that have everything to win.

Best of luck to you as well as this budding entrepreneur to be.

Mic. Tham said...

Kinda surprise at first to see this entry, and proudly to say, I finished reading the whole entry, mainly because it concerns about a respectable friend of mine.

To cut the story short, I think you have had a very well reply for him, I suppose, at least inspired me to a certain level at the same time.

Frankly speaking, if not until today I read this up I will never understand any bits behind this success. (Or perhaps you don't call this a success yet?) Oh well, nothing is easy but nothing is difficult either.

Boss, keep up the efforts and of course the passion, be the leading figure! LOL =P

Boss Stewie said...

hor ny: hahaha u are so cute dude... at least you did reach a bit :P

kariette: yes... well i do have a lot to lose actually.. at least in opportunity cost :P

mic: well I really really won't call myself a success yet.

小咪 said...

i finish it. ;) very well said.
i'm not struggling to be or not to be an entrepreneur, but struggling what kind of job to look for, and to take up... guess life is all about choices, and you will never know the answers/ results, until you really take the first step.

I have no way to add nuffnang ads to msn spaces :(

Bernard Yap said...

XJ, take education as a test for yourself. See are you able to challenge and beat it. If you can't do it well, what's more about the tougher business world.

ShaolinTiger said...

Heh I read the whole thing too, interesting.

And I know who asked the questions, and who his mentor is.

Anyway I personally think he's had some bad advice, when you're young it's time for study, when you still have the brain physiology to absorb all the information.

University is not about learning hard skills, it's about soft skills like commitment, time management, teamwork, presentation skills, documenting skills, writing skills, prep admin and general life skills.

It's something everyone should complete, even if the course is not relevant to what you want to do it surely helps a lot in terms of general aptitude

I'd say finish your studies first XJ then see what you want to do, Photography doesn't require full time so you can do that to finance your studies...shoot weddings every weekend and you'll be earning more than most people's salaries anyway :)

Save well and do a year of studies overseas, it'll open your eyes.

Alexandrea said...

Interesting... Though I have to say that tertiary education, although desirable, is not everyone's cup of tea.. It all depends on the person and his/her inclinations.

From the sounds of it, XJ may already know deep down what he wants/what suits him and he's looking for reassurance from a more experienced person...

Wilson J Q Quah said...

lol i know your pain boss

plus if u didn't study here how the hell would u meet ming?

Sour-Choc said...

yup...a veyr encouraging post indeed. I read till the very last words without missing any line. As im abt to give up running my part time business...your post cheer me up..and throw me queations and situation to re-evaluate my self. Thanks.

Boss Stewie said...

amy: hehehe it's okay amy... well.. whether it's in business or in a working career path, we all face similar challenges and decisions

bernard: yah... well here's the thing about education. exams is one way of measuring whether someone is smart or not... but because everyone is different, obviously not everyone will score there.. btu that doesn't mean he's stupid.. it just means that you need another way to measure his intelligence for him to shine...

shaolin: HEAR HEAR!!

boss: yah that's true :P hehehe

sour: don't give up dude... never do...

Observer said...

Hahha... I finished. True. Tertiary studies shouldn't be the only lead for career opportunities. Foreign exposure means a lot

*MysL* said...

haha. I didn't manage to read it.
However, your helpfulness is really appreciated.

Ryudiculous said...

*hands up* I read it ^^

I agree with Tim's dad on studying overseas... it's not the knowledge from uni, but literally how you survive that is important XD

Chocoanut said...

i managed to finish reading...True education is important in our life.....Intelligence plus character,that the goal of true education.....Qouted from a movie...

kelly said...

yup. finished the whole thing alright. without missed.
i like it, and thanks for sharing.
should i be expecting a book from you? haha.

rinnah said...

I'm commenting simply because I read thru it till the end and I thought it was pretty insightful. You give good advice for someone who's considering the leap to becoming his or her own boss. *grin*

Boss Stewie said...

freethinker: it's not just that.. it's not just what you learn in school but how it develops your mind to think analytically in your decision making

mysl: hahaha!!! i knew it :P

rk: yeah that's another point :P

clement: which movie is that?

kelly: hahaha.. only if you'd like to see a book that sells NO copies.

rinnah: ohh thank you :P

Jason Lioh said...

I read the whole text too.

TheBeerCrusader said...

Dei.. Boss !!

I made it to read all !!

HaHa.. regarding the Japanese AV queen's name.. Suddenly i can remember li.. Soli har...

*oh ya.. I like your karangan titled " Saya Sebatang Kotek "


Super Gentleman said...

i gt read all lehh... hahhaz... im thinking of sum business i can venture into oso bt still hav no idea... hmmm... any ideas??

giap said...

I have read until the end as well! Nothing much to comment. But i would say tertiary education definately very important in one's life if he has the ability to do so. As what previous posts had mentioned, the reason we need to study in university is not because we need the cert to be able to find a job in the future but it's because university life is a "mini world" that reflects the true working life you are going to step in after graduation. It's the time you start to learn how to communicate with different kind of people and how you handle the time, the course, the relationship between lecturers, friends with different background, club members. It's can be said that the campus is your testing ground for you to do thing right and to do right thing. And it does give the opportunity to correct your improper thinking or behavior before you step in to the real world. By that time no one will give you a single chance when you did something wrong. Please.. my advice.. enjoy your school life while you still can.

Lynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn said...

Simply leave a comment here bcoz I've finished the whole text + the comments above!!
I say, there will be more than 30!

giap said...

Btw, boss.. your post really inspired me as i always dream to be a succesful entrepreneur but there are too many aspects that i need to consider about and it makes me stumble. Perhaps I should write another mail to you personally some day to ask for suggestions? :p

eeyiz said...

hey...i read the whole thing..hehe....

eeyiz said...

hmm...i am taking degree here in malaysia as my parents cant afford
to send me overseas....studying overseas really can learn many things???

Stella said...

I am commenting because i finished reading!
I believe that any kind of experience is a learning curve, and exposure to different environments would make us hopefully more mature and level-headed. We will learn in a controlled environment. :)
Sure working life is different, but the lessons learnt would be invaluable in the management of business and people.
Good luck!

Stella said...

I am commenting because i finished reading!
I believe that any kind of experience is a learning curve, and exposure to different environments would make us hopefully more mature and level-headed. We will learn in a controlled environment. :)
Sure working life is different, but the lessons learnt would be invaluable in the management of business and people.
Good luck!

slacker said...

good post and i read it thru till the end.

i guess there's no right and wrong in terms of decision making but the advice XJ is getting just doesn't seem right in my opinion (at least). shaolin pretty much sums it up in his comments above. especially if you don't know what business to embark on now.

taking a cue from rich/successful businessmen who had no formal qualifications/high eduction.. they've always insisted that their children excel in their studies.

emyoon said...

i finished it... also, like st, mainly because xj is a close friend of mine...i couldn't agree more, there is so much to learn in uni and only half of it happens in class, besides, uni, so far, has been the best time of my life!

kahpeng said...

i finished reading this! it seems that i'm 33rd comments ? means i'm out of boss stewie's expected reader ? :P

princessladyjane said...

i am prolly the 34th person to finish reading this... u lose boss!

Anyways, u replied him really well.. I used to have this kind of dilemma when i was in college... but then i ended up in uni finished my degree 3 years after... im taking the degree for insurance purposes... heheheee..

hey boss! U going to the the Revelation Party this Saturday at A-Famosa in Melacca???

Nicole said...

best post u had so far... seriously

Philip Pang said...

timing is just, Crazy.
Great timing for this entry.
just great!

Suet Li said... *big wet eyes
eventhough it's 4.40am now but i read everything are you proud of me wtf (actually it's 4.40pm here haha ditipu)

i know i'm damn nonsense la but i'm so proud of u boss *big wet eyes again wtf

Jess said...

Good advice~ I actually did read everything :P

If girls study to become lawyers or investment bankers do you think they will have many hot guys to choose from ah? :P

Evil Chica said... internet down so i cnt check tis out earlier..
but anyways, i finished reading de whole way through..and i find tat tis XJ is bit indecisive..i like him becos he is very determined but still his direction are bit vague for his ambitious self..hopefully he will digest Boss punya answer very well, or there will be no point. Boss, u came a long way..u shld be glad tat u even make de step to start frm de 1st plc..=)

Jun King (JK) said...

yea i read it till the end too. do we all get a prize?

tracychong said...

I read all the way too :) Thanks for an insightful post.

pinkpau said...

boss i'm so proud of u. i'm having one of those very rare moments of loving you! oh and ya i read the whole thing too.

Boss Stewie said...

Ok i'm really not sure how I can go about replying one by one of you guys but... thank you so much for your opinions. read them all!!!

Twinkle said...

Good posting....

ms.bulat said...

this is really beneficial. Thanks to the person who emailed you and you whom took the time to reply: )

kimfei said...

i have to admit this is the 4rd or 5th entry wish such long wording that i can finish up..the info you are sharing absolutely helpful actually as I am goin to grad and thats the time i should think of what I am goin to do after all the studies ..

coinpapa scam said...

"Do you see me with a different girl every week?"

this is so incorrect la. :)

a good post.

Evelyncyl said...

hey, i actually read till the end! And, well said indeed!
I personally believe that tertiary education will bring you further than you can imagine... it depends on how you handle it, i guess~

Michelle said...

wow.. been reading ur post for some time d. enjoying it.

seems like a good reply u gave him..
hmmm.. are u this good in handling love problems? hhehe =P

this is a good post anyway.
read it all.

Boss Stewie said...

twinkle: thank u

ms bulat: aww glad u thought so

kimfei: aww thank u :P

yothemans; Eh ! that's rubbish!

eve: yes yes hear hear!

michelle: thank u michelle.. and no i'm not good at handling love problems :P

HK said...

whoa boss that's a great reply. And more than 30 people managed to read this far hahaha =)

Pookyma said...

The best post i day BOSS...

I was thinking like him too last time...But I see things differently now after reading this post and all the comments...

miszmilk said...

I've read till the end! And thumbs up to your reply :D

BumbleBee™ said...

I finish it :D
Anyway, Timothy can I have your email address ? Would like to ask some help from you too as in advise method as well.



Genova said...

thats really a very good piece of advise from you. what could be better than a down to earth honest opinion from the one who experienced it himself. :)

ps : OMG, i am getting addicted to this blog.

kc said...

yay.. i manage to finish it to the end =) u rawk =)

Jen said...

its great to read the opinions of an entrepreneur who has (and still is) going through the trials of setting up his own business venture. i find it quite inspiring too since i'm doing a marketing degree and i've always been rather curious about this sort of thing. thanks for posting this up!

p.s. you really should stop underestimating your readers. we managed to make it to the end of the post! hah! =P

Hasan said...

Dude, I read it all. And if you never went to uni, you never would have me. And quite frankly that would have been unacceptable.

Jane said...

i'm one of the few 30!

i like ur answer.. in my opinion one could just go ahead with what they wan after making sure the pros and cons of the decisions to make.. no one can predict the future.. one may fail or suceed on any decision.. just that once the decision is made..must have no regrets and if there are problems and difficulties.. just bite through it.. :P

i've been reading of ur blog for quite some time.. i like vry much :D

TheBeerCrusader said...

OMG... already 60 comments ~

It seems that this post is going to hit the "popular entries" tab !!

Unknown said...

yay! i read all too. any prize? hehe. oh ya, good reply. *wink*

Boss Stewie said...

hk: hahaha thanks thanks..

pooky: really? so this is what you guys want to read? not my daily life with pictuers? hahaha

misz: thank u!1 didn't know u read my blog

bumble: cann..

genova: hehehe i'm glad you like whatever rubbish i have to write :P

kc: :P thank u

jen: hahaha okokok!!!! you guys win

hasan: yah! love u dude! u're my best friend

jane: yay! one of the 30! thank u for reading whatever i haf to write

gila: hahahaha maybe maybe :P

eileen: hahahah lucky i din commit a prize or i might be in trouble

Encik Jay said...

I'm amazed at the summarized emotional feeling you wrote to that dude..Are you planning on writing a book about it? Hehe..

Killl_Roy said...

Dear Boss Stewie,

Im an avid fan of your blog site but this is the 1st time I feel compelled to comment.

Well, all-in-all I just want to say "thank you", for sharing your insights regarding XJ's letter (Thank you too XJ) as right now I am quite troubled as well.

Tho my situation is quite different from XJ's, the ultimate question- is the same.

And although after reading this I still cannot come to a conclusive, satisfying decision, there is no doubt it has given me a deeper understanding of the possible endeavors I might embark upon.

Thank you once again.

Geli Tifa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geli Tifa said...

I certainly respect ur courage to plunge into entreuprenuership and agree with most of what u said...

Only one thing I disagree with... "Not so much for what you learn from the books there but more on the character you will build there especially if you go overseas."

ESPECIALLY IF YOU GO OVERSEA..? It'll be a great experience to be able to spend a period of time overseas but please remember how much money has to be dump into education. I would say at least RM100,000 for a years education oversea which will only cost one tenth if in local uni throughout 3-4 yrs of education. If meeting with people from around the world, local uni do have international students which I've befriended people from france, china, somalia, nigeria, pakistan and indonesia...

I wouldn't say life would be as exciting and fun in local uni but there r surely different exposure comparatively... U will feel it not as bad as u tot and the things u heard about other races, i feel most are fake. Even chinese have their bad apples same goes for every other race. U'll learn to love our multinational country...

Hui Yi said...

look like your guess was wrong, number of comments have reached 66 now when i read it. Anyway, it is a good blog for me, and i think a good blog is not must be a humour blog, right?

Charlie said...

hahaha, I'm one of the 30 who actually finish reading. Interesting answer. I'm sure it would help inspire lots of entrepreneurs.

cutebun said...

I did read this post from the start to the end...

adverlets said...

good afternoon, ,

i have something to say ,
nuffnang never pay attetion to my blog , i feel very sad and dissapointed , before i full confident with nuffnang, and take out other ads, after join Giltterati 3 month "No any ads", my blog 1 day 600 to 1800 visitor but cannot get any nuffnang ads more than 3 month , send email nuffnang staff said depend on traffic, no ads until now 3 month already!!, if still cannot get any ads , i will withdraw from Giltterati program and take out nuffnang ads
bye nuffnang

Raph said...

I also liked your entry about entrepreneurship dude. I myself am a product design student and was about to look for a graduation project when i realized that I did not know what to do afterwards. So now I just read a lot and try to somehow get experience outside the university before I completely finish my education. You really have a way with presenting your thoughts X), got me all inspired again. You should write more of these "tips" blogs.

And (offtopic) looking at all these comments I wonder how many different nationalities you get on your blog. You already have a dutch chinese one over here X)

Unknown said...

Dude. Awesome.

I have been thinking (dreaming?) about, somehow (but apparently not magically), starting my own company for way too mindnumbingly long now.

Especially your advice on being an entrepreneur and experiencing it for yourself is a great personal development and may not be any worse then having work-experience is a lesson I will certainly never forget.

As my friend above me who gave me the link to your blog is feeling, I too have been inspired by you.

yinkoon said...

Well, this post is good. Sometimes I think the learning in university were out dated and the lecturers had no experience in the real thing.

But I guess the only good thing is the industrial training and the final year project.

I am just an agriculture student