Sunday, November 11, 2007

Coffeeshop Millionaires

KPIs be damned! Spread sheets begone! Budget/excel sheets/assumptions away with thee!!!

I met an old friend in Seremban the other day. A scruffy feller with the dress sense of an '80s bodybuilder and who was only recently just mullet free. And yes, he WAS wearing purple colored MC Hammer 'parachute' /body builder sweat pants. He's a trader, mainly in raw materials in construction. Money is in the bag.

As we were chatting he brought up some project he was doing and he was looking for an investor. I then realized that I had another friend, part of a conglomerate who was looking for exactly what my buddy had in mind.

"Hey do you have a business plan?"

What? Yeah just call my business partner, this is his number.."

"No. no, projections of revenue compared to the investment you want la, your distribution channels, etc"

"Aiya, just call my friend, he's doing the sales, then this feller does the transport, and then..." followed by him thumbing through his phones for phone numbers to send to me.

The other friend i wanted to hook him up with was a senior executive in an Indonesian conglomerate. He lived and breathed business plans and projections and data.

So I tried again:

"Look I have this company that is quite large. They can invest in this thing but you need to give them what they are want."

"But why la? This is sure go. There is a shortage now and he can re-export." came the slightly exasperated reply.

"Because how he works is he'll send it to his business development team to study it and his finance guys need to look at the projections and they payment schedule compared to the returns...."

Then it all dawned on me....

The difference between 'Mr. T' sitting in front of me, a self made man who scrapped his way up by taking risks and my other slick friend with an American degree, in his Boss suits who travelled on first class flights - the one who plays badminton with friends twice a week at his leisure and the other who lives at the whims of the market or the next big deal peeping out from endless corporate functions and events, hiding among the other suits who just might have what he's looking for:

Mr. T had all information in his hand. He knew the very process of extraction of raw minerals, the logistics of moving the cargo, the issues of transportation, the import/tax duties in every Asian country, he knew potential buyers even, and probably where their mothers keep their false teeth. He just wanted to concentrate on what he was good at and find partners to handle the other areas of the business. He had all the information in the palm of his hands plus he doesn't really like to interfere with his weekly badminton sessions you see.

Mr. Boss on the other hand was in charge of a large force, his business development Directors, his sales team, finance team BUT would have to refer to them to make a judgement call. He knew a little of everything but NOT everything like Mr. T.

I sat there looking at T, comfortable in his ways. His was a simpler life. Doing his own thing because he knew where every step would take him. Not bogged down by larger issues which slowed the decision making process but working at his own steam and letting his abilities serve him.

He would never be able to deal with large companies. His style would be that of decision maker to decision maker and done with a handshake over a Nescafe in a food court. Something that's dying out as fast as we can kill our environment in the name of progress. His business partners are people have worked with him for almost 15 years. Some even 20.

He quietly goes about his day to day work, bypassing tolled roads, eating in coffee shops and taking the train around KL because parking and driving is expensive compared to Boss Man who travels and dines first class on the company expense account.

Whose life would you want?

Mr. T is made up of 3 friends of mine. That conversation with T actually took place in a food court in Seremban. T actually exists and he's 70% of what I've described but the other two share almost all his traits and more importantly they don't run unshaven around Seremban in purple parachute pants.

They work hard and fast. Their loyalties are strong and unwavering. Their word is their bond. Their LIFE IS THEIR OWN. They have time for what counts - family and themselves and more importantly they will not compromise on the fact that eating at any fancy restaurant in KL is the worst return on investment compared to a good Old Skool coffee shop or a outdoor mamak under a tree somewhere! Oh, and there must be time for the weekly badminton knock about with the lads. That's something that can't be compromised.


Nex said...

He he...I see a bit of myself in your 'Mr T'. Not the 'millionaire' part unfortunately but the lifestyle part...

Let me go try and find my MC Hammer pants. Its not Purple but I think did have one :P

Chindiana said...

Dude, principal is th same wether you're a millionaire or not. You're still doing what you want to do.

You're supposed to burn those pants by the way as they will take over your soul and pretty soon you'll be walking around with pastel jackets and dress shoes with no socks on!

Nex said...

Ha ha ha...if by 'pastel jackets and dress shoes with no socks on' u mean Don Johnson Miami Vice attire, then I've been there done that.

Off white jacket with matching pants, tangerine t-shirt, and turquoise slip-on canvas shoes. Had them all! :P

Chindiana said...

And now you have Jedi robes in your closet. You've come a long way since then!

Han Solo said...

the only way you can do what you want to do is to be your own boss, simple as that. Your friend has obviously started his company from scratch, that's why he knows everything rather than have to rely on people with fancy titles. I really envy him!

Wak This Way said...

I'm with Hans Solo on this. Defo envy your friend but I respect him even more. Someday, when I set myself free from the whims of my employers, hopefully I too will be able to play badminton whenever I feel like it.

Chindiana said...

Solo and Wak, you know deep in our core that's what we know is our calling. I more or less know the profile of the readers of this blog and there is more than an independant bone in all of you. You're neither followers nor the office politician (who would instead be surfing animal porn sites this very moment). All it's going to take us is just that one incident or our exceeding the bullshit quota to drive us into the arms of independance. Nex has done this, although not a millionaire(all money spent on replica lightsabers and robes) but lives out a good life. He gets to do as he pleases and still has time to leave work at 4pm and take me out for tea in Tanjung Aru to watch the sun set over the ocean.

Its just that we have to give up a little of the old probably more comfortable life to get a bit of the new one.