1 October 2014

*5 mins read*

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I am officially one month into my new job.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m the same old horrible time manager. The plan to do a weekly post didn’t seem to materialize but seeing the 2000 views from my 1 September post, I figured people would be curious about my progress as an entrepreneur one month in. So thanks to the mental motivation from you guys, here’s my report.

I am proud to say I’ve learnt more than than I ever did a month in business than working in a bank. I’ve talked to more strangers, customers, gotten positive and negative feedbacks from investors than I ever did in the bank.

Just to digress a little, I’ve also picked up a couple more books to read and listened to more podcasts. I finished reading Delivering Happiness, a story of Zappos, a US shoe company which got acquired by Amazon and I highly recommend everyone to read it. In fact, I think all business/team leaders should buy this for their staff. It’ll be a leap into learning about positive customer experience and building a successful & happy culture. (disclosure: I’m trying out amazon affiliate program so the link above will provide some revenue if you decide to purchase)

One thing for sure. I’ve looked back at the cushy lifestyle I once had and have never regretted being out here. The constant act of  struggling, fulfilling, serving, selling to customers, potential employees, investors made me feel… very much alivereal.

Some lessons I’ve learnt in the past month.

Keep your emotional state constant

A good news is never as good and a bad news is never as bad. One day you could have a random investor calling to know more about the business that gets you all excited. Another day you could have a potential lead turning cold. It’s a roller coaster ride dealing with all these and I’ve learnt not to over think too much about it.

The saying  hope for the best but expect the worst which just means averaging your emotional state all the time when you are starting a business.

Starting up takes up a lot of time

I have come to a realization that this is going to consume more time than I thought (even though I was mentally prepared for it.) My good friend, Wee Meng (who is a sociologist at heart) gave some great advice.

“You should be more mindful about the time you spend because you’ll tend to work harder since you know it’s own business and your effort will translate directly into results.”

Unfortunately, that’s the truth. Starting up takes up a lot of time. As much as people don’t want to talk about it. It’s hard and it’s an insane amount of work. Balancing work and fulfilling responsibilities as a husband, boyfriend, etc…it’s impossible to do that without tradeoffs.

For those who say it’s about having better time management, sorry but that’s a story they are telling themselves.  As much as I’d like to tell myself to manage my time, I know in my bones that’s not going to happen. I listed down some of the things thats in my job scope

Web design & development
  • Wireframing
  • Website Design & Maintainence (Strikingly)
  • Website Design & Maintainence (Shopify)
Sales
  • Sales Lead Follow up & Closing
  • Vendor relationship
  • Customer relationship & experience
Marketing & Product Design
  • Box & Web Design
  • Newsletter Write up & Design
  • Discovery Card (Design, Print, Cut)

Logistics

  • Packing of boxes (Pack, Label, Seal, Stamp, Send)
  • Delivery (B2B)
  • Delivery (B2C)
Product
  • Snack Sourcing
  • Snack Curation for B2B
  • Product Photo shoot
  • Box Design & Printing
Business Administration
  • Fund Raising (I underestimated this)
  • Administration fillings and general office keeping (licensing, permits, secretarial)

and really, it’s alot of work.

Get your sh** together with your co-founders early

There is no doubt Andrew & I have arguments and differences & I’d be more worried if everything was smooth sailing.  We constantly need to balance our personal commitments and prioritize the business in our lives. Both of us don’t spend enough time working together (twice a week) and I realized we needed more commitment, accountability and time to work together to make the business work. It’s not easy and we’re still sorting it out.

If you are starting something with your co-founder, get the hard questions sorted out early. Talk about equity, talk about commitments, talk about clear roles and responsibilities, talk about values right at the beginning and commit on a paper napkin or in contract. It’s easy to say let’s see how the business goes and take it one step at a time but when you are at the cross roads or when sh** hits the fan, that’s when all these homework will save you.  Our acceptance into JFDI was a reality check on our commitments and a lesson.

Bottom line is It’s not just good for the business, It’s good for both of you. The discussion is gonna suck now but it’ll just suck even more down the road.

Be selling, always.

Not the cold selling or harassing your friend sense.

But it’s important to have conviction in what you are doing because everyone, and i repeat, everyone, is gonna ask how BoxGreen is going and if I dread answering the question, they can tell. Even my dog knows when I’m lying to him.

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Nobody likes to hear a sad sobbing story of your business failing. People want to be inspired, challenged and to a certain extent, entertained.

Customers want to believe that a snack revolution is coming their way, that tong gardens and camel branded peanuts (Big snack brands) are for 40 year old guys who drink Tiger beers.

Investors want to believe you can be the next snack brand to be in all of Asia and ultimately be bought over by a big company.

Suppliers want to know they are riding on the next wave of snack craze.

These ultimately may or may not happen but it’s ultimately the founder’s job to communicate the vision to them, so always be selling.

People are out to help you (& themselves) succeed.

The truth is, everyone wants to succeed. Everyone wants to support the up & coming underdog. Everyone wants to believe and be part of something big.

We’ve gotten a term sheet to join JFDI & I am very very grateful they  see something in us (2 guys from banking with no domain or technical expertise trying to break into the F&B industry?) but on the other hand, I really respect what they are doing and want to be part of them to do them proud.

Vendors are interested to build a long lasting relationship, while making money along the way.

Customers appreciate our effort in curating different snacks every month and are backing us on a 3-12 months plan.

Friends are chipping in to help when we are paying them literally, peanuts.

This win-win relationship has gotten us very far and is something I’ll always bear in mind – never sacrifice long term goals for short term gains, especially when it’s at the expense of others.

The Business so far

BoxGreen has grown and signed up 30 more subscribers this month on the B2C end and are moving towards the 200 subscribers mark.We’ve also signed up another small company thanks to Andrew’s contact.

That put us a step closer to our target of 1000 subscribers in 6 months. 3 more months to go to make that happen.

Fundamentally,  the business is profitable. but is it gonna make us 10x the return? I don’t have an answer to that. I think it’ll depend on how big the founders want this to be, our definition of success and what do we want to become down the road.  We are afterall, our greatest obstacle & enemy.

Being Transparent 

Why am I being so open about my experiences? Simply because I think there is so much more to gain by sharing than keeping it all to myself  – especially in starting a business. I received emails from businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs wanting to know more about BoxGreen and how to start a subscription business and it gets me excited to see new ventures happening and possibilities ahead. More often than not, I’ve benefitted more from the people whom I’ve shared these information to than the other way round. So here you go, feel free to comment or drop me a message. Let’s make October count!