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.