Article 46 – Making tough decisions

by Tan Thiam Hock

BY the time you read this article, the person responsible for getting me to write this column has officially left Star Publications (M) Bhd.

Ho Kay Tat has decided to rejoin The Edge Media Group as the publisher and a partner.

He has decided to become an entrepreneur.

I am sure leaving Star Publications (M) Bhd was not an easy decision for him but he made his choice.

In career or in business, all of us travel through a journey of 30 to 40 years.

It is a long and winding road with many a twist and turn and you will find yourself having to make difficult decisions from time to time.

The many choices before you complicates the decision making process as you are unsure where each road will lead you.

But once you have made up your mind, stick with it and live with no regrets. Life goes on.

Lately, I have been evaluating a few business proposals from entrepreneurs who either need financing or simply need a second opinion.

I am not sure why they choose me as my opinion is second rate and I am not a bank.

Maybe they are left with no choice as commercial banks will not lend to new businesses without at least a two-year track record and the government agencies have put them on a strict no-loan exercise regime.

Running around in circles until they give up exhausted with not a penny in sight.

Since I am no Santa Claus, I put them through a Gestapo style of searing questions.

Being totally negative, I try to punch holes in their business model and their ambitious forecast. I search for levels of commitment, passion, ego and beliefs.

I want truthful answers. If they pass this test, we can now move on to the next level of discussion.

Never mind that your business model is not perfect; that can be tweaked.

If you accept me as a partner, I have the experience, the contacts and the financial capability to help you.

I am an angel investor and I hope I have made the right choice by choosing you as my partner.

To entrepreneur start-ups, unless you have your own money, you really do not have much of a choice if you do not qualify for government loans.

Meeting an angel investor might be your best bet.

If you are lucky, a genuine angel investor will give you his two cents worth of truthful opinions.

If he likes you, that’s a plus point because he now believes in you. If he disagrees with your business plans, let him tell you why.

Agree to disagree. If he is not interested in your project, chances are your project is not viable or he does not see any profit potential.

Or you are just not right for the business.

Which means you should reconsider your options. You have the choice of a deflated ego or a deflated wallet.

But if you are a male hairdresser in Kelantan, you really do not have much of a choice.

You can only cut short hair which is about as exciting as shaving bald heads.

Be careful not to stare or drool at the lady customer with the long flowing hair lest you are prepared to be given another summon by the ever present moral enforcer.

As an angel investor, I will not invest in your hair salon even if you promise me a heavenly profit.

Malaysia is now considered as one of the best countries for foreign investments. We now get to choose the type of foreign direct investments that will be beneficial to our goal of achieving high income status.

We should be selective and not allow investments that brings safety and environmental risks to our beloved homeland.

Like nuclear power plants, we do not need investment projects like Lynas.

Just as the Government can reverse the cross investments between MAS and AirAsia, it is still not too late to ship Lynas back to Australia. As an entrepreneur, you have a choice in deciding the type of business that you would like to invest in.

So please, for the sake of your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, choose wisely.

Such issues aside, I was pleasantly surprised with the high level of innovation and creativity seen in the business presentations.

Their basic business model looks solid and viable.

The narrow income base project needed a deeper understanding of broadening income potential across the value chain. Another project needed restraint from doing too many grand projects at the same time.

But both entrepreneurs have great passion and a good understanding of their business which speaks volumes of our Malaysian SMEs.

As we move to the next level of discussion, I will face many tough choices.

Angel or devil? I might just need to flip a coin and pray that I will not live to regret my reckless consideration.

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