Article 49 – Timing is everything

by Tan Thiam Hock

THIS year, for a change, I decided to take my family to Hokkaido for a cool holiday. It is getting more difficult to get my grown-up kids excited to travel together as a family, so I have to sacrifice my personal preferences and pander to their needs.

I can assure you that it is not an enjoyable experience for cigar aficionados even if accompanied with a Cohiba Behike when you have to stand outside the hotel in minus 8°C windy conditions.

The last five years of my life has been all about adapting to changes. In business, from the loss of a partner to having many new partners. From the Chinaman’s DIY style to private equity, and then from pro-style to current retiree-cum-columnist wannabe. However, no style yet.

On the family front, there were worries about the boys’ first overseas stint, and then relief when they manage to get into universities of their choice. Two years back, the inevitable happened. White hairs and back aches appeared simultaneously. Luckily, a healthier bank balance manage to soothe the ego and calm the nerves. As the saying goes, my only constant was change.

It is a much tougher business environment now than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Technological advancements disrupt daily lives, cultures and industries. There are more significant economic and consumption shifts in the last five years compared to the combined 20 years before. Product life cycles have shorten dramatically and sometimes at the mercy of a little button that says like or dislike.

It is now unavoidable that you have to change first before the market changes you. You need to have a much higher level of awareness around you, and have to forecast on forthcoming changes that will disrupt your business. But that’s easier said than done.

When you are on your own, the first thing you should do is to open your eyes, your ears and your mouth. Once you are aware that you need to seek changes, read as much as you can about your industry/supply chain. There are tonnes of information available on the Internet.

Talk to the knowledgeable people in your industry and along your supply chain; ask for fresh viewpoints and forward looking ideas. Are there any surprises coming your way?

Listen attentively to the remotest new ideas even though you think that it will not happen so soon. Just remind yourself that changes that took 10 years to happen before will now take only 10 months and a click away. Will you have enough time to react?

One of the toughest decision to be made by most businesses is whether to disrupt your current successful business model. Most of the time, businesses take precautionary pre-emptive decisions to change with half-hearted investments that will not rock the boat. To me, this is a waste of time and resources.

If you are certain that the new way is the way to go, then set a practical timetable to make the change, put all your resources behind it and reset your business model to welcome the future. For small and medium enterprises, this could be your game changer; your ticket to the big times.

But do be careful. Sometimes, for changes to happen, the market must be ready. Timing is everything. You will not be able to change the market on your own, so be patient. When the big wave comes, paddle like mad and surf like the wind.

Just five years ago, mobile phone usage was skewed towards voice, SMS messaging and ringtone downloads. 3G and 4G data bandwidth would be under utilised as there was just not enough smart phones and smart appliances being used. With the introduction of thousands of wonderful data hungry apps, coupled with the mass adoption of 3G and 4G mobile appliances, 2013 will be a watershed year for 4G data utilisation.

E-commerce operators in Malaysia have been failing to find volume traction for many years. Over the last 12 months, due to major investments by a few big players, the e-market suddenly came to life. The supporting industries are aligned.

For example, courier service operators are able to deliver small packages from RM5 onwards. They are able to pick up returns and resend the packages. The momentum created will drive e-commerce forward at a faster pace now.

If you want to join this e-herd, just remember a few key words. Reliability, quality assurance, responsive customer service, secured payment gateway, good website engine and loads of great buys. Attractive offers draw traffic, efficient operations draw long-term consumer confidence.

And watch out for the inventory. It will be a waste of time if all your profits are stuck in the warehouse. This is similar to virtual profits – can see, cannot touch.

Everybody is looking at the next 2013 General Election as the year of sweeping changes to our local political landscape. To me, which ever side wins, Malaysia still loses as long as we continue to vote in narrow-minded and incompetent politicians with low intelligence.

Besides insulting my intelligence on a daily basis with their incoherent justifications, these double-faced politicians violate my basic constitutional rights by imposing their personal, religious and moral values onto our multi-racial society.

I will not vote for parties but instead look at individual candidates. I will vote out the dumb, the morons and the racists. I will search for higher intelligence. I know it will be a difficult task but if I want a change, I must start now as the timing is just right.

2013 will definitely be an interesting year with major disruptions, both economically and politically. May you forecast correctly and your changes bring positive outcomes. Happy New Year!