Article 39 – Money or advice?

by Tan Thiam Hock

AS a parent, I do miss my two boys when they are studying overseas.

Always worried whether they have sufficient money to spend and sufficient memory to store all the good advice given.

Whenever they do whatsApp me, it will most likely be on issues concerning money and occasionally seeking advice.

At times asking for money to pay for tuition fees and sometimes giving me a heads up on some supplementary credit card charges coming my way. When it comes to money matters, my two boys are extremely polite and write beautifully as if their livelihood depends on it.

Once in a while, they ask for advice. Like choice of subjects, universities and internship. Maybe just to make this old man feel needed. Well, definitely no complaints from me as advice is free.

And it gives me an opportunity to connect with them. Which means an excuse to Skype. Having a face to face chat on anything and everything which inevitably ends with me asking them whether they have enough money left in their bank account.

Just a gentle reminder that they can always depend on their old man whenever they need advice. And money.

So when you are on your own, what do you really need at this juncture of your business cycle? Money or advice?

For a new startup, my advice to you is to get proper advice from sincere people with relevant and preferably substantial experience. The older the person, the better.

Business people who have been cheated before and survived through business failures, partnership break ups and financial crisis.

Let the devil’s advocate honestly tear your business plan to shreds, telling you all the possible pitfalls that you will encounter and watch your beautifully crafted dream evaporate before your misty eyes.

If you are able to take all these harsh and negative comments objectively, revisit your business plan, discard the potential pitfalls and insert positive corrective steps into your new business plan. You now have a fighting chance that your new startup will survive its formative years.

Then you start worrying about money.

So what happens when you have nobody to turn to for advice? Are you gungho enough to still proceed and take the risk, gangnam style? Putting all your energy and money into that one song and dance and hope for it to be a big hit?

Should you dance by yourself or should you get back up dancers? If you need partners, what do you want from your partners? Money or advice? Or complementary skills?

My favourite example of a wildly successful partnership has got to be the Tony and Din duo act of Tune and AirAsia fame.

One, the consummate showman with charismatic leadership. The other, an actuary, brilliant in crunching big numbers and an astute statistician.

Both started with little money, lots of guts and a perfect blend of complementary skills needed for the low cost airline business. Massive capital expenditure to be paid for by massive sales of low cost tickets which requires accurate forecasting and inspirational marketing to convince the masses to fly. In this case, two big heads better than one.

There will be instances when you need partners with money and easy access to more money. Partners who can help you leverage for growth and have the trust of bankers.

Are you prepared to give up a big chunk of your business? Partners with skills and no money will not be demanding as advice is cheap.

If you are involved in serious money talk, be prepared to let your new partners have a bigger share of profits just as you expect him to contribute a bigger share of financing.

A smaller share of big profits is still better than 100% share of zero profits. Just bury your big ego and get your business going.

Most young entrepreneurs do not realise the importance of money… until they run out of it. Money makes money. Small investments make small money and big investments make big big money. Cash is king and Talk is cheap. But absorbing relevant sound advice before making key decisions will help you to reduce losses or hopefully make more money. So learn to listen. Attentively.

There are no statistics available as to how many new startups actually survive the initial years. And how many more actually survive and win big at the finish line. My gut feel is one big success story out of a thousand.

If all of them received solid sound advice before they start, 500 of them will probably not start, the 499 stubborn startups will probably survive and there will still be only one big winner at the end.

At least, there will be 500 less casualties of empty wallets and broken dreams.

Bringing up your children to become productive and upright citizens involves huge capital investment with a lifetime dosages of advice and love.

With no monetary returns expected. All you can hope for are the occasional moments of being needed when they need advice. Or money.

If they shower you with love and kindness in your twilight years, consider yourself blessed and your investment justified. May all parents be blessed.