Monday, January 20, 2003

Journey on entrepreneurship: Paying the price of freedom

NOTE: This article was first published in The Manila Times - Business Section, and also at the following web address:

Hello! I am very happy to be writing for The Manila Times and to be touching your mind and heart, dear readers. Some of you, perhaps, have read my column, “Recipes for Learning,” in another newspaper these past two-and-a-half years.

“Learning” is basically a learning column, a seminar-workshop. It is a virtual training program. Our basic objective is to start you thinking and open your minds to possibilities about certain aspects of your balanced life. We shall not focus entirely on your business and career life. We shall also relate these topics to your social, personal and spiritual life. We shall not tell you what to do. Take note, I said, “start you thinking and open your mind to possibilities.” We shall be helping you clarify, define, acquire, deepen and develop your competencies or your knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to enable and empower you.

We shall employ me­thodologies such as discussions, caselets, paper and pen exercises, personal assessments/inventories, even structured learning exercises. I shall also write “lecturettes” or my own views, experience and insights on the topic at bar and quote as many authorities/experts as possible. We shall make this training program as interactive as possible. Please don’t just sit there and read. I shall appreciate your participation and reaction through snail mail or email.

I also suggest that you consider having a learning buddy. Somebody whom you could engage in a live discussion, pick each other’s brain and challenge each other’s ideas, concepts and even ways of thinking, reasoning and expressing feelings. Or you could form your own learning group. Could be your family, workmates or friends. The more, the merrier. The more fun you are having, the more you are learning.

Now, for this our first outing, we shall embark on a Journey on Entrepreneurship. Please have paper and pen on hand.


Recently, I had the opportunity to put into practice my entrepreneurial knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. My friend Rene Mayol and I put up a store (H13-Gifts Unlimited) at the Eastwood Night Market last Oct. 1, 2002 to Jan. 5, 2003.

We lost quite a sizable investment. Money-wise, it was a losing proposition from the very start. The expenses were too high (stall rental of P2,500 per night, plus electricity of P60/night, plus, being HR people, we gave our saleslady a handsome pay), our profit margin was too low (10 percent to 30 percent), and Filipinos were in no mood to splurge and spend their hard-earned money or they didn’t have extra money to spend during the holidays. Many went to the night market to look and be seen. This is an interesting study of the Filipino consumer. We’ll take this up next column

Luckily for Rene and myself, we are both dreamers. We are true blue entrepreneurs. Our motivation is to discover and use our potentials unshackled by formal organizational rules and routines. We were willing to pay the price of freedom. Initially, there were three of us. But when our resources were running empty and the expected income was not forthcoming, our third partner left “to cut her losses.” She was motivated by money and saw no enjoyment nor future in the venture. She lacked that entrepreneurial spirit.

Dean Nieves Confessor of the Asian Institute of Management dropped by and asked the oft-repeated question: “How are you making money here?” Our answer was simply, “This is better and cheaper than enrolling in an MBA or entrepreneurship course. We are learning a lot about business and about what we can, we cannot, we should and should not be doing. We are learning a lot about finance, marketing, selling, operations, administration and more.” After a lively discussion, Nieves and her husband Rod ended up buying a lot from us. One lesson we learned is that people buy on the basis of emotions, not price or reason. Let us discuss this further later.

I am gladdened to read Seth Godin, author, marketer and entrepreneur, writes in the magazine Fast Company, “In retrospect, people will say that 2003 was the best year in a decade to start your own company. Even better, the people with the guts to do it fast or the perseverance to do it slow will be happier, healthier and more in control of their lives, their ethics, and their contributions to the world.”

Having learned from my night market experience, I am now restructuring my financial resources and I shall open a regular store soon. Watch out for it. I am a born entrepreneur. Are you?

In his book, Attention Deficit Disorder, A Different Perception, Thom Hartmann wrote about that time when all our ancestors were “hunters.” They hunted to live. Then farming was discovered and made lives more secure and stable. Farming replaced hunting as the way to put food on the table. Hunting is only a sport for us now.

Hartmann listed the dominant characteristics of a hunter. The hunter is likened to the entrepreneur. Take a stock of yourself and see how entrepreneurial you are:

• Constantly monitoring their environment

• Able to throw themselves into the chase on a moment’s notice

• Flexible, ready to change strategy quickly

• Tireless, capable of sustained drives, but only when “hot on the trail”

• Results-oriented, acutely aware of whether the goal is getting closer now

• Visual/concrete thinker, clearly seeing a tangible goal even if there are no words for it

• Independent

• Bored by mundane tasks; enjoy new ideas and excitement

• Willing and able to take risks and face danger

• No time for niceties when there are decisions to be made

Hartman also listed the farmers’ traits, the opposite of hunters. They are also the ones afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

• Distractible

• Attention span is short, but can become intensely focused for long periods of time

• Impatient

• Poor planners; disorganized and impulsive (make snap decisions)

• Distorted sense of time; unaware of how long it will take to do something

• Don’t convert words into concepts adeptly, and vice versa. May have a reading disability.

• Distorted sense of time; unaware of how long it will take to do something

• Have difficulty following directions

• Daydream often

• Act without considering consequences

• Lacking in the social graces.

Do you have what it takes to become an entrepreneur? Or are you a contented farmer who simply marks time languishing in ADD? Being an entrepreneur does not mean that you should quit your job (if you are currently employed) and set up your own business. You can be an entrepreneurial employee. Think about it.

I shall be with you Monday hereafter. Join me on this first leg of our learning adventure, our Journey on Entrepreneurship.

Mushi-Mushi. I am one of the speakers at the HRD Japan 2003 Conference this Feb. 4 to 7. Please join me. Visit their Web site for the program details, schedules and registration procedures.

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Corp. and welcomes your participation through

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