About a year ago, www.thesocialjeep.com was still a concept, an exciting beehive in the minds of the teams behind Third Team Media and The Memoriter Writing Service. While the project was still a mental larva, the crew started deploying writers to start-up and marketing events with the behest to snatch slabs of wisdom from already great people for potentially great people.
One of these already great people is Cebuano businessman Wilson Ng, president and chief executive officer of Cebu-based computer solutions company Ng Khai Development Corp. He spoke to students and entrepreneurs in a Cebu Start-up Day organized by TechTalks.ph in December 2013, about the same time our crew raked Cebu’s streets in search for good stories.
With our system now in place, we decided to tell Ng’s words of advice, even when they are a year old, for they contain heaps of lifelong lessons for starting entrepreneurs as well as slick reminders for successful businessmen.
Ng is one of the business icons in Cebu; many people I know look up to him. This GoNegosyo 2007 Most Inspiring Entrepreneur Awardee, while he has been in his line of business for so long, considered entrepreneurship a “recent phenomena”.
In the old days, people did not talk about entrepreneurship because they know of only two economic strictures: the capitalist and the laborers. These days, he noted, being an entrepreneur—being your own capitalist and laborer at the same time—seems like the talk of the town.
The big question now, especially among the young people pondering on what college programs to take, is do you need a degree to be an entrepreneur?
At an advantage
Ng, 2004 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Small Business, said business is something that needs to be learned, starting with learning the right attitude. He said that what we have often been told in school are not-so-ideal role models, citing Bill Gates and Lucio Tan who did not finish college but somehow made their businesses successful.
“I’m not saying that you cannot make it if you don’t do well in school or you don’t graduate. But statistically speaking, you’re at a disadvantage. The odds are against you. In school, you can learn the right things that you will need in managing a business, apart from common sense,” said Ng, who is also a teacher.
He pointed out that if you want to be successful, you would want to learn and do, for instance, Math and make it one of your tools for your business to grow.
There is more to managing a business, he said, citing Entrepreneurial Myth author Samuel Gerber who said, “Many people are of the wrong assumption that if they know the technical side of the business, they know the business.” Does this mean that if you know how to cook or program, you can already have a restaurant or software development business? But Gerber also pointed out that “you need to know a dozen other things.”
“I’m not saying that you cannot make it if you don’t do well in school or you don’t graduate. But statistically speaking, you’re at a disadvantage. The odds are against you. In school, you can learn the right things that you will need in managing a business, apart from common sense.” —Wilson Ng
Ng gave an example: Can you make a better burger than McDonald’s? Almost every company says that their hamburger taste better than McDonald’s. But then, you cannot deny that McDonald’s is a global fastfood brand with more than 30,000 stores the world over.
“Obviously, their success is more than just great tasteful burgers. It also has to do with finance, proper marketing, logistics, market positioning, operational efficiency and all that. These are the things you can learn in business school. Do not underestimate these courses. If I am more successful than many of my classmates now, it is because I studied in school to learn how to operate a business, not just to pass a test or get a degree,” the Cebuano businessman said.
This right kind of attitude towards entrepreneurship has given Ng a lot of advantage, manifesting that to become an entrepreneur is not really difficult as long as you take the opportunities to learn the basics early on in school.
You often hear statements from the government presenting entrepreneurship as a solution to the high unemployment rate in the country. For Ng, this is a misguided notion.
“They say to unemployed people not worry about finding a job for they can go into business. How stupid can this be? If you don’t have the skills to get the job, you don’t have the skills to maintain a business. If you cannot even get a job, what makes you think you can manage a business? A business is much harder than getting a job. For me, it’s that simple,” he said.
He advised graduates to get employed, learn from their experience as employees and beef up their skills. Then go into business for the right reasons, not going into it because they can’t find a company who wants them in.
“If I am more successful than many of my classmates now, it is because I studied in school to learn how to operate a business, not just to pass a test or get a degree.” —Wilson Ng
For Ng, an entrepreneur is a self-disciplined person who does something bold or different, driven by a need for achievement and a sense of competition, possessed with internal low cost of control and unafraid of a little bit of risk-taking.
More than a businessman
“An entrepreneur is somebody who I think is more than a businessman,” Ng said.
To be an entrepreneur, the most important thing is to believe in yourself and to believe that “you are the primary determinant of outcomes”, he counselled. This means that if a thing needs to be done, you are responsible for it. You cannot be an entrepreneur if you keep blaming the circumstances or other people.
To start-up entrepreneurs, he advised that if have a great idea, remember that 10 other people have thought of it but they just thought of it. The important thing, according to Ng, is not the great idea but the great execution that goes behind it.
“You win by being able to execute your idea faster and better than anybody else,” he said.
“An entrepreneur is somebody who I think is more than a businessman.” —Wilson Ng
Here are some more pieces of advice from Ng: Don’t think all good ideas are opportunities. Don’t search for an idea that will revolutionize the world. Don’t go for a market that is too small or too big.
“Try to choose a niche that is not too small so that you will earn enough money, but not too big so that you will be competing with the giants,” he added.
You also have to ask yourself why you want to be in a start-up. “And you have to be there for the right reasons,” Ng said. “When you decide to become a start-up entrepreneur, you’re actually investing in your future.”
Before you embark on an entrepreneurial journey, remember the wise words of one Cebuano businessman and know that it would best to check your skills and attitude first for they can determine significantly how far you can go and how far you will go with your business. #
(All scene images are taken from www.pixabay.com.)
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