Monday, March 24, 2003

A legitimate company is proud of its business

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

A friend (?) called me and talked about a business possibility in China and other Asian countries. I’ve not seen her for quite a while so I dropped everything and met with her that same afternoon. Cutting a long story short, it turned out that she is into NuSkin.

Another time, an HR executive of San Miguel Corp. called urgently for a meeting. He made me think that he was finally engaging our HROD (human resources and organizational development) consulting services. I hurried to the meeting. Guess what? It was a NuSkin recruitment meeting.

This is precisely the business plan of such people. They invite you—invoking friendship and regaling you with business possibilities—to tell you how they have successfully gone into business and that they want to share their business plan with you. They promise to make you rich. They wouldn’t tell you anything more outright. Being a friend, I didn’t smell the fish behind them.

What’s the big charade for? The business idea and the products are legal. But the manner by which they get you to listen to them smells of a scam, of a big decaying fish. They omit the very important information that they are from NuSkin. Aren’t they proud of their company? NuSkin is legitimate business. But pursuing such a business plan is starting a business on the wrong foot, on deception. Ron Semiao, head of X Games has this advise to such hard-sell artists: “Our customers can sniff through any kind of hard sell. And when they do, they’re gone.”

This business recruitment tactic is a big turn off. There are many such companies sel­ling all kinds of products such as tea, coffee, health supplements, insurance, plastic ware, skin care, cosmetics, jewelry and so forth. They call themselves networkers. They recruit you with a promise that you would earn millions just like that. They don’t share with you the trials and tribulations of a multilevel marketer especially nowadays. Competition in this line of business is fierce.

One of my friends resigned from a job she held for 20 years to concentrate on such a business. The first two years were considerably lucrative years. She literally worked day and night. She recruited a lot of members under her who were able to recruit others and sell the products. Nowadays, she wishes she never left her stable job or had gone into another kind of business instead. She did not heed the wise words of James Surowieki, author of “Too Much Information,” in the Fast Company magazine. He said that public information could sometimes turn investors and business­people from individual decision makers into a herd of sheep. Indeed, that is not being an entrepreneur because that is simply being profit-oriented. So when the going gets rough, it is rough all the way.

When you set out to be an entrepreneur, remember what Ted Benna, founder of the 401(k), wrote in the November 2002 issue of Fast Company, “You’re on a journey: you’re not going to arrive to where you want by accident.” This get-rich sa­les talk is what made people put their hard earned money into pyramid companies.

In the light of the current public outcry over business scams, I picked up some of these information from various people. Dennis Marlock, author of How to Become a Professional Con Artist, has this to say: “Actually if it sounds too good to be true, you’re probably dealing with an amateur con artist.” Beware of these scams:

• Business opportunities that are often pyramid schemes thinly disguised as legitimate opportunities to earn money that promise high returns with little or no effort or cash outlay required.

• They claim to have “secret” or “one-of-a-kind” pro­duct or service. They make wild claims or promises of great riches. They claim they are legal and cite certain laws or decrees. They use high-pressure sales tactics. Sometimes, they play mysterious and will not give you any more information unless you place an order. They offer no guarantee. They offer just one product.

• Chain letters that ask you to send P100 to the next name on the list then cross the bottom name off the list, replace it with your own, then forward the letter to 50 or 500 of your friends and relatives. This is definitely a pyramid scheme; it is illegal; and, therefore, could land you in jail.

• Health and diet magic pills or gadgets that will convert your overweight pear- or apple-shaped figure into a Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon shape faster than you can say Banger Sisters!

• Effortless income. You simply take life easy and collect your earnings. Ala Juan Tamad waiting for the guava to fall right smack into your mouth. If there is anything like this, everyone would be doing it and nobody would need to work anymore.

• Free products or money. Do you really think that Bill Gates would bother to read this kind of email or that your email will ever reach Micro­soft? The latest one is about Samsung.

• Investment opportunity. They promise high rates of return with no risk. They even get testimonials from senators and cabinet secretaries. This is now the subject of a dramatic Senate inquiry. Goodness, they are speaking of billions of dollars equivalent to lifelong hardships and savings converted to oceans of tears and regrets. I wonder where the inquiry would lead to. Ho-hum.

• They claim to be from a company in Nigeria, South Africa or some other exotic country and have chosen you to receive millions of dollars, etc., etc., etc. They ask for your bank account number so they could deposit the money in your account. Patay kang bata ka. I’ve been to Nigeria and South Africa and if they have all those millions, they don’t need to bring their money out of their country.

• Cable descrambler kits that allow you access to all cable channels without paying a monthly fee to a cable provider. This is stealing a service from a cable company and, ergo, a crime. If these kits even work.

• Guaranteed loans or credits. You pay a fee, but end up with nothing. If your mother could not even lend you money, who else would?

• Vacation prize promotions. They are all over especially in malls. Careful. You might end up paying more just to get your preferred schedule and the kind of accommodations you want.

• Jobs for a fee. They ask you to fill up an “application form,” interview you and they hire you right there and then…for a fee. They tell you have to get a starter kit that is part of your training as “sales executive or manager.” Wow, executive or manager! Sikat! One more thing, they require cash payment because checks, credit cards and money orders leave a paper trail and could be traced in case you regain your sanity.

• In a short while, hundreds of thousands of new graduates would join the ranks of job seekers, in-between jobs, underemployed and overquali­fied. Plis lang. Don’t apply for a job for which you are not fully qualified. They will not even bother to look past the first few notes in your resumé. You’ll never ever get the opportunity to practice being interviewed. Saka mahal ang litrato ngayon, huwag mong aksayahin.

• If the job ad promises an outrageously high salary and perks, if the company hides behind a post office address and don’t even give a clue into their business, if the job description says, “no skills or experience necessary,” beware. A real company is proud of their company and business. They would even identify an office or even a person in their company you could reach to ask a question. A real employer wants to get the best qualified applicants and would emphasize this in their ads.

I’ve been watching CNN, Fox News and BBC News intently since 9-11. War in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Israel, Korea. Business scams in the USA and here. Indeed, as Tim Sanders, Yahoo senior executive, said: “In the face of war and recession, what the business world needs is less greed—and more love.” And as Andrew Oswald, professor of Economics at the University of Warwick, England, wrote, “Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, we’d all be much better off if we just compared ourselves to our grandmothers. Then we’re looking at real gains.”

Peace to the world!

Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., an HROD systems and training provider, and invites you to ask questions and share your insights via moje@my­des­

Monday, March 17, 2003

Keep adding creativity

BusinessTimes ppB5
Monday, March 17, 2003

By Moje RamosAquino
Keep adding creativity

“Entrepreneurs are not risktakers. The world in general agree that entrepreneurs are risktakers, yet entrepreneurs say they are not. Can anyone explain that?” wrote Wilson Harrell in his book For Entrepreneurs Only.

Harrell answers his own question, “Entrepreneurs are so sure that whatever project they are currently working on is going to succeed that, in their minds, there is no risk. They go back to the drawing board and keep adding creativity until risk goes away. If you think any project you’re working on is ‘risky,’ don’t do it. Just do what entrepreneurs do and keep adding creativity until the risk goes away.”

Last Monday, I told you about my experience with JTQ Securities Corp. When the manager challenged me that instead of listening and helping me solve my issues with him, he would just give me back my full reservation deposit to cancel my reservation for a stall, he took a risk. He was bluffing, I knew. He did not seem to know his customers and was not interested in their concerns. That is not entrepreneurial. So to this day, Sta. Mesa Mart has not officially opened or if they had, it doesn’t look like they have enough tenants. You can guess what happened with the other tenants.

I think that doing business with an arrogant manager is taking a big risk. So I took his dare. There are many better places I could locate my gift shop. It is not quitting; I still have my business intact. It is just one step backward or sideward to avoid risk. Entrepreneurs are flexible, ready to change strategy on a moment’s notice. The last thing we would do is to take a “risky” risk.

So when you are considering a location for your business, take a careful and organized approach. Whether you are buying or leasing, meticulously check the condition of the building or stall you are considering. Calculate the modifications required to meet your needs. Is the building in need of repair? If it is a new building, does it meet your local building code requirements? Interview the other tenants of the building or mall. Does the building have regular preventative and repair maintenance program?

Does the building have the necessary infrastructure to support your hightech needs? For example, if you are setting up an Internet café, consider your requirements for electrical and telephone facilities before signing up for a site. If you are in the food business, is a good water supply available in the area?

What about other costs? Who will provide janitorial and security services and what will they cost? What are the insurance rates for the area? Do you have to pay extra for parking—your own and that of your customers? What about the cost of utilities and security deposits? How will cost be allocated for shared facilities and utilities?

Also, ask yourself: Why is the site available? How long has it been vacant? Why did the former tenant leave? What is the success average of the other previous and current businesses at that location? What businesses succeeded in this area? This will give you the odds for your own success.

Look around your chosen location. What other businesses are located there? Will these nearby businesses enhance your own business, as in they attract the kind of customers who could be your potential customers, their employees could be your customers or they could be potential suppliers?

One good thing about locating in a mall or commercial area is the availability of goods and services that you or your employees would need. Such as a restaurant where you and your employees can have your snacks and meals. Naku, never mong gugutumin ang mga tauhan mo. Or a nearby beauty parlor, magazine stand, grocery or convenience store? Or a daycare center for your employees where both husband and wife work and don’t have maid or yaya?

Will your environment enrich the prestige and quality of your workplace and business? For example, our immediate neighbors at the night market last Christmas were a children’s toy store and one selling electric scooters. We were a perfect trio of stores for the whole family. The moms and teenage daughters shopped in our bags and gift shop while the children had a heyday completing their beyblade collection. Guess where the dads and sons went? Everybody happy; nobody is bored.

Compatibility test: winwin or winlose or nowin? A funeral parlor beside a medical clinic. An Internet café near a school. Boarding house just outside an industrial park. Laundry place beside a residential condominium. Water filtering station in a lowwater pressure area.

Check for any ordinances or zoning restrictions that could affect your business and the environment in various ways. You wouldn’t open a cocktail bar near a school. Or a piggery inside a residential village. Or an LPG dealership beside a restaurant. Or tilapia ponds within a certain distance from a coppersmelting company.

What about the days and hours of service and access to your potential location? In malls, for example, you can only enter or leave your stall at certain hours. You are not allowed to open earlier than the designated time or stay open after closing time. In some buildings that allow you to work overtime, to do your paperwork perhaps, will you have airconditioning facilities or security service available?

Locating near your competition could yield positive or negative results. If you are in the food business, it will be beneficial to locate within a cluster of food retailers. Diners will naturally go to these areas when they need food because they know that they could have a choice there anytime. How many times would a customer go to Antipolo from Makati on a hot summer or cold rainy day just to eat grilled food, even if the view is fantastic? Do you notice that businesses of the same kind flock together? The guitar and music store cluster along R. Magsaysay Boulevard, Manila. The group of home and office furniture shops along Aurora Boulevard, Quezon City. The antique shops in Sariaya, Quezon. The rows of clothing stalls on Ylaya, Divisoria. The bars and nightspots sidebyside in Malate.

Finally, for the issue of location, have an eye for the future, for growth, for expansion. It will not be advisable to immediately start with more space than you will use, but anticipate the success of your business and choose a site that could give you enough flexibility to maneuver and grow your business. If your present location is not big enough for your successful operation, you’re ready to branch out to another location. You’re getting big, Mr./Ms. Entrepreneur.

Next Monday, we will move on to another interesting topic in our Journey in Entrepreneurship. Stick around and tell us what is interesting to you.

Puedeng bumati? Hello to aspiring scientistsjournalists from the Manila Science High School: Wenchelle Berdin, Jerson Diana, Ma. Lauren Gallano, Jacqueline Joy Glumalid, Nicholai Noel Lazaro, Ricky Limlingan, Ray Bastien Silva Mayol, Ma. Christina Sendin. They interviewed me for a class project on media people.

Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., a communication and HROD consulting company, and invites you to send your feedback via

Monday, March 10, 2003

Questions to ask before signing a lease

The Manila Times
Business Times
Monday, March 10, 2003

By Moje RamosAquino
Questions to ask before signing a lease

I know that you have been going around looking for an appropriate location for your business. May I remind you of the words of Larry Zimmerman, chief financial officer of Xerox: “Perseverance and resolve are 90 percent of the battle if you want to accomplish anything of worth.”

You might have all the financial capital in the world, but without perseverance, firm commitment and creativity, it is hard to succeed in anything. Inder Guglani, cofounder and CEO of says, “Tap into creativity before you tap into capital. Capital is never cheap.” Creativity is free, a gift from God.

And so we shall go on with our Journey on Entrepreneurship. We are still in the issue of your business location, a decision that you should not make lightly or quickly. Looking for a business site is akin to a movie director or producer looking for the ideal location for a scene.

Rebecca Rice of DStudios, an independent film production company in Dallas, Texas, wonders: “Is the look going to be right for the story? The look is equally important to the quality of sound we can get. A lot of locations may not be noisy, but may have real bad acoustics, so we have to be cognizant of that. We have to know whether we have enough access to electricity to run the camera and the lights. Availability is a big issue. Can we get the location the way we need it, for as long as we need it?” Finding the right location is critical to the success of their filmmaking business.

Or your business. As a location scout, you need to look for a location that is right for your business. That which will give your business, no matter what size, the power to attract customers and sell your products that will translate to profit.

As we know a lot of big businesses today started from the garage of their house, e.g. Microsoft and Your garage, your own house, your present office, your backyard, your kitchen—they all will do. They are there, available and won’t cost you extra. Good for start up for certain business like retail, baked products, distribution and others. At some point, you need to move out to a real business location before you start tripping on your baking paraphernalia or crowding every nook and cranny in your house with boxes of goods.

Will you purchase property and construct a new business structure? Will you just modify an existing building to meet your requirements? Will you lease a ready site? What are the issues to consider in making this decision? I suggest that you consult with, possibly, a lawyer, an accountant, and a real estate professional for assistance and information.

If you are leasing a site, take some tips from Alan Whitson, author of “327 Questions to Ask Before You Sign a Lease.”

• Does the lease specifically state the square footage of the premises? The total rentable square footage of the building?

• Is the tenant’s share of expenses based on total square footage of the building or the square footage leased by the landlord? Your share may be lower if it’s based on the total square footage.

• Do the base year expenses reflect full occupancy or are they adjusted to full occupancy (i.e. base year real estate taxes on an unfinished building are lower than in subsequent years)?

• Must the landlord provide the detailed list of expenses, prepared by a CPA, to support increases?

• Does the lease clearly give the tenant the right to audit the landlord’s books or records?

• If use of the building is interrupted, does the lease define the remedies available to the tenant, such as rent abatement or lease cancelation?

• If the landlord does not meet repair responsibilities, can the tenants make the repairs, after notice to the landlord, and deduct the cost from the rent?

• Is the landlord required to obtain nondisturbance agreements from current and future lenders?

• Does the lease clearly define how disputes will be decided?

The last is particularly important here in our country where false advertising and big promises are given during the selling period and are unilaterally modified or canceled after all agreements are signed.

A case in point is the new Sta. Mesa Mart beside SM Centerpoint. I signed up and paid for a stall. The advertisement said it would open March 1. Additionally, we were promised that we could actually open on February 15 without paying any rent. Also, they promised to provide the rollup shutter door.

I started buying goodies to sell. Everyday, I visited the site and wondered how we could open our business on time since construction seemed to be going very, very slowly. It was already February 17 when the Construction and Occupancy Guidelines were faxed to my office and only when I asked for it. Our particular stall was finished (ceiling and walls) only on February 26 upon our constant prodding. When we questioned them about the delay, they said that we were the only tenant in that row, therefore, they did not find it feasible to construct only one stall. Huh? Also, we were told that we needed to provide the door because they would only provide doors to the stalls opening externally.

I talked to the manager who was not willing to listen and who, instead, arrogantly offered to give me back my reservation deposit in full when I started to rattle off my complaints. That was last week but, until now, I haven’t gotten even a shadow of my money. Sta. Mesa Mart is owned and operated by JTQ Securities Corp.

No wonder that it has not formally opened until now and there are still a lot of vacant spaces there. Not that there are no tenants, but I understand that a number of tenants have quit for obvious reasons. They have been trying to get tenants since May last year.

In business, there are such things as commitment, respect and integrity. Arrogance has no place in it. In business, as in life, there is “karma.”

More power, A.I.M.! I attended the Asian Institute of Management alumni homecoming at the Greenbelt Park last Friday. It was like a grand meeting of prominent entrepreneurs, CEOs, COOs, CFOs and other business leaders from the Philippines and other Asian countries. The Madrigal Singers and the Apo Hiking Society provided songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Sayang, I did not see any of my classmates in Air Transport Course (ATC ’93). Mabuhay, A.I.M.!

Moje RamosAquino is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Corp., a business and HROD consulting company, and invites your feedback via

Monday, March 3, 2003

Location key not only for business, but also for community, client base

NOTE. This article was first published in The Manila Times - Business Section.

“Innovate daily, but obsess over the details of implementation unceasingly,” says Mark Vadon, founder and CEO of Blue Nile Inc. and a Fast 50 winner. “Building a successful business requires trusting your ability to execute an idea. We had faith in ourselves and believed we understood how to sa-tisfy our customers and maximize the business opportunity.”

Fast Company introduces the winners of their Fast 50 companies thus: “The Fast 50 is Fast Company magazine’s annual readers’ challenge, a worldwide search for ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Our goal is to remind the world of all the good that’s created when passionate people with big ideas and strong convictions are determined to make a difference. Powerful ideas and personal commitment are what propel industries, companies, and individuals into the future. The winners ­demonstrate the power of persistence, the thrill of invention, the value of values, the rewards of sol-ving problems, and the business of culture. It’s been a brutal few years for business. These champions of ­innovation show what it takes to build a brighter future.”

These winners are all manufacturers, producers, ideators, innovators, makers, creators, trail blazers. None of them is a copycat even as they are in an overly saturated industry such as the call center business. They succeeded because they did something right in a different way.

Gil Alinsangan writes in Sambuhay, “The Lord is doing something new. God is a God of surprises, of new beginnings.” Scientists confirm that there are no two snowflakes alike. There are millions of species of plants, animals and minerals. Aren’t you amazed that even the makahiya makes cute little flowers?

Your Journey on Entrepreneurship is replete with a daily dose of serendipitous challenges, problems, questions and opportunities. One important attitude of an entrepreneur is having an open mind and sharp senses for something new always. You have the power to ideate and create. You are made in the image and likeness of God.

As you start a business or revisit your existing business, you need to consider your choice of location in a big way. Location can have an advantageous or disastrous effect on your business. Finding the best location calls for purposive planning, serious research and thoughtful decision-making. Particularly for a retail store which is a favorite initial venture of Filipino business babes, location should be given utmost consideration.

Last Monday, we discussed the specific needs of your business, e.g. space, kind of products, etc., and the customer base of your prospective area as critical factors in choosing a location.

Today, let us continue to talk about your client base and give it serious thought to help decide where to locate your business.

Given your products and services, where are your target customers located? What is the type of your business? If you were in the business of school supplies, you wouldn’t want to locate in a residential area even if it is heavily populated by students. Sales would still be brisk in a school zone. In like manner, if you are into household supplies like canned goods and cleaning implements, you would have a better chance at success in a residential area rather than in a school district. The business area is also a good location nowadays with many moms and dads dashing to a store to buy urgently needed supplies during their lunch breaks.

Go around or get a map and mark them. It is pretty much like Messrs. Bush, Powell and Rumsfeld marking their war table with dot pins to track the location of the elusive Mr. Hussein before planning for their next move. I heard Saddam has so many doubles that look very much like him, moustache and warts, making it hard to identify the real one. In business and in war, it is best to know where your real targets are actually concentrated.

Next is to determine the traffic count. How many persons or cars pass by your intended location? Do you need to locate in a heavily populated area or will your customers find you wherever you may be or do you have the proper distribution system and channel to reach out to your customers? MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) or your local government traffic engineering office would, cross your fingers, would have data on the traffic passing your potential site. Consult them.

If you want to locate in an out-of-the-ordinary area, consider accessibility. How will your customers reach you? Is there public transport to and from your place? Are the roads passable for private transport? Is the area—leading to and around —your intended spot safe for people and properties?

Speaking of safety, in many places in Metro Manila, particularly in communities like Sta. Mesa, Manila, there are practically no parking spaces available for customers. Sidewalks are allocated, without an iota of consideration and respect for the rights of pedestrians, as private business parking lots. Along Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, near V. Mapa, pedestrians wait for their ride standing on the street. The five-meter wide sidewalks, including the bus/jeepney waiting shed is being used and abused by delivery trucks and other vehicles of establishments in the area, particularly LPG dealer Valram Marketing. The vehicles of their customers and their trucks are oftentimes double parked on the sidewalk and on the street. So pedestrians are forced to walk on the second lane of R. Magsaysay while the MMDA traffic enforcer stands nearby, uncaring. They even use the waiting shed to repair and repaint their old LPG tanks and as garage for their employees motorcycles— with not a bit of regard for the safety of their customers, and the residents of the area!

Establishments like them are profit-oriented and self-centered, not entrepreneurial. They do not offer value to customers. They pose a threat and problem to society. They could be another Rhode Island disaster waiting to happen. Unfortunately when that happens, the owners might be someplace else enjoying their profits.

Entrepreneurs are mindful of their customers and the community that hosts them. You don’t want to bite the hand that feeds you. Your location is a critical consideration not only for your business but also for the people who live there. As I often see in bathrooms, “Please leave this place cleaner than when you first saw it.” Social responsibility baga.

Ms. Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Corp. and invites you to e-mail your feedback to