Monday, March 19, 2007

The Entrepreneur Spirit: Part 1

Recently, I had a conversation with a couple of friends on the possibility of starting a business. (I don't want to get into the specifics since my friends might still want to do it).This business idea was something that I thought was a viable option for a good and profitable business a while back. I liked it enough that I even wrote up a Western-style business plan of what was needed to do to get it started; what the minute details were to make it successful, how to get other people on board, ect. However, since I didn’t have the energy, time, connections and capital, I kind of just let it go and moved onto other things.

A few days ago, a couple friends of mine came to me wanting to do the same idea, I was happy that they wanted to pursue it and felt I could contribute a lot to the process.

Last night during dinner, we sat around the table eating Mongolian bbq and slowly discussed (谈一谈) the business. After 5 minutes of conversation, I knew we were not going to get anywhere. After the initial exchange of “wow, this is a great idea… I think we could make so much money,” I wanted to get down to the important details of the first step of concrete tasks needed to be done. All we had at the time were broad generalizations.

As I listed out the issues that needed to be addressed for me to succeed (on my end), I was given a feeling of hesitation and almost annoyance. My friends didn't want me to talk about the details. They just wanted me to say “yes, I’ll be awesome and everything will be taken care of.” In a perfect world, that would be the case. I would love to make a grandiose statement of what I will accomplish immediately without worrying about actually performing. However, in the real world, I want and expect to discuss the weakness and threats of the idea as well as the strengths and opportunities (thank you SWOT analysis).

Well, this didn't fly. So, instead of having a productive business meeting (in my eyes), we were all halfway annoyed and disappointed in the other side. Before finishing up this issue, my friends described how they approached business.

“You need to learn on the fly while you are doing your business. Forget all the details, worry about them when they appear. Go for it.”

Although I would agree with the adventurous spirit, as well the how useful learning by experience is, (I talked about this briefly in Money Money Money), one can only get so far with that approach. When a large amount of time, energy and capital is invested in a project, I will absolutely attempt to find all the potential problems and iron out all of the details before I get too far.

After I tried to explain this mindset (and hopefully other people’s mindset as well), I was still greeted with hostility from my friends. They didn't need or have to do this. It was almost like it was their destiny to succeed and be successful. They were unwavering and had the utmost confidence in their ability to deliver in whatever venture they set out to do. Nothing could and would stand in their way.

This got me thinking:

  • I can not believe how confident my friends were. Even though they were all relatively successful businessmen, isn’t too much confidence just cockiness?
  • Is their confidence real or fake? Chinese people, particularly northerners, (and especially my family… I was born in Harbin) love to boast (吹牛). We love to exaggerate when talking. It’s just how we do it. My friends that I was talking to were all northerners as well.
  • Is it just too easy to make money here in Shenzhen? If its true that 10% of Shenzhen people between 20 and 60 want to open up their own business in the next year, they must have a lot of success in doing business to give them the reasons for starting businesses. It could be the chicken and the egg.
    • Entrepreneurs come to Shenzhen to start businesses.
    • Business is good.
    • More Entrepreneurs come to Shenzhen.

I’m going to let this one marinate a little bit and come back with a couple of examples in part 2.

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